We Tried New ‘Instant’ Grocery Delivery Services And This One Was Worth The Price

We tested Instacart and InstaBuggy to see if the convenience was worth the extra dollars.

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Green bag of groceries.

Get groceries directly to your door. Photo, iStock.

It’s never been easier to go grocery shopping online. Why leave the comfort of your warm bed when you can simply press a few buttons and have your full order (produce and all) delivered to your home in under an hour?

If you’re familiar with Grocery Gateway, you’ll know grocery delivery services come with a price. Not only do you have to tack on delivery fees and a tip to your bill, but you also have to get comfortable with the idea you won’t be choosing your produce yourself — are you ready to trust a stranger to choose that perfect watermelon for you and your family? Grocery delivery startups InstaBuggy and Instacart say go for it.

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Beyond having similar names, the two companies offer a competing service: they both aim to get groceries to you fast — within an hour or two (and if you don’t need your food in a flash, you can order in advance and schedule when you’d like your food to arrive).

The Instacart vs. InstaBuggy test

The nearest supermarket to my Toronto apartment is about a kilometre away, so I usually shop multiple times per week to avoid lugging too much at once. While I already use Walmart.ca to stock up on household items, I was eager to test out these services to see if they’d change how I do groceries. I created accounts on both platforms and filled my online shopping carts with the following staples:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Canola oil
  • White vinegar
  • 2 Royal Gala apples
  • Soy sauce (Kikkoman brand)
  • Bounty paper towels

I placed my orders at approximately 1:35 p.m. (via my laptop, though both services have mobile apps), sat back and waited for my grocery store goodies to arrive.

Instacart review

Its headquarters might be in Silicon Valley, but Instacart’s founder is Canadian Apoorva Mehta. The University of Waterloo grad started his company back in 2012 and launched it in Canada (in partnership with Loblaws) late last year.

Where is Instacart available in Canada?

If you live in Ontario or in and around Vancouver, you’re in luck. Right now, Instacart is available only in these areas, but hopefully it’ll be expanding its reach soon.

What’s the Instacart delivery fee?

The delivery fee for your first order is waved, but after that, it jumps to $7.99. However, for a limited time in Canada, Instacart is offering a discounted delivery fee of $3.99 on all orders. If you think you’ll be a heavy user, you can sign up for Instacart Express ($99 yearly or $9.99 per month), which guarantees you free delivery on orders above $35.

How does it work?

In downtown Toronto, Instacart offers delivery from Loblaws and T&T. I went for Loblaws. While checking out, I chose my delivery time (within two hours) and I was also able to tip my personal shopper/courier. Right after I submitted my credit card information, I got an email and text message confirming my order and later, status updates from my shopper, Coleen, as well.

At 2:20, Coleen texted saying she’d arrive at my office — and I didn’t even pay extra for one-hour delivery! After I brought my haul upstairs, packed in plastic Loblaws bags, I checked each item, and inspected my two Gala apples. Both looked perfect (they were probably nicer than the one’s I’d choose for myself).

InstaBuggy Review

This Canadian company promises to deliver more than just groceries. It’ll also make stops at places like the LCBO, Rexall, PetSmart and even Kitchen Stuff Plus, if you break a glass or two an hour before you’re having guests over. Unlike Instacart, it doesn’t have formal relationships with any stores.

Where is InstaBuggy available in Canada?

InstaBuggy is currently delivering food and alcohol in the GTA, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver.

What’s the InstaBuggy delivery fee?

It used to mark up grocery items, but now InstaBuggy charges a flat delivery fee of $19.98 and tacks on $9.99 for each additional store included in a single order. Plus, the delivery fee for LCBO is $19.99.

How does it work?

I had a slew of stores to choose from, but I ordered my list of basics from Sobeys. Unfortunately, the store didn’t carry the soy sauce I wanted, so I left it out. InstaBuggy promised my shopper would be at my office between 3 and 4 p.m. Like Instacart, I could have added the tip in-app, but instead, I opted to tip upon arrival since the tipping options were pretty rigid.

At 3:34 p.m., I got a call from my shopper, who said he was a few minutes away. Ten minutes later, he arrived in an InstaBuggy-branded SUV and handed me my groceries in Sobeys plastic bags. Everything looked great, except one of my apples was weirdly dented, but that could have happened in the car.

The Instacart vs. InstaBuggy verdict

Total at Instacart: $38.40 for seven items (including tip and tax)

Total at InstaBuggy: $50.26 for six items (not including tip)

The two services are super similar, but on price alone, Instacart wins. It also exceeded my expectations and got me my food nearly an hour earlier than I expected it. While InstaBuggy offers a greater selection of stores, its $20 delivery fee (plus $10 for extra stops) seems a little steep.

If you’re consistently shopping for the same set of staples, both services have a convenient re-order button. As a bonus, Instacart lets you give family and friends access to your cart, but you have the final say before submitting your order.

I could see myself using Instacart again if I was in a huge time crunch — like if I ran out of ingredients while in the middle of cooking a special occasion meal. Besides that, I’d still rather save money and continue schlepping my groceries home via the heel-toe express.