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Online grocery shopping: 7 tips for securing online groceries on Amazon and Instacart

Need online groceries STAT? Try these tips and tricks that we've actually used.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

It feels like as soon as we were asked to stay at home, the entire country collectively signed into its favorite grocery-delivery app and started ordering whatever they could find. The virtual checkout line hasn't let up since, and it can still be difficult to snag a coveted delivery window on apps like AmazonFresh and Instacart.

But don't give up hope just yet. We consulted the Time Out staff and gathered a handful of tried-and-true tips for cutting through the noise and getting your groceries—no wizardry involved. May the odds be ever in your favor!

1. Keep a full cart at all times

First things first: You must be ready to go at a moment's notice (more on that below), which means that your digital shopping cart should always be loaded with everything you need for the week ahead, including that pricey frozen pizza, instant yeast, a few bottles of wine and—if you're lucky enough to find it—toilet paper. If you can, now's the time to note suitable substitutions, as some products will inevitably be sold out by the time your shopper gets to them.

2. And while you're at it, know what's in your cart

As items go out of stock, they're removed from your cart—often without any notice. As you can probably imagine, this happens all the time when hoards of people are trying to order groceries at the same time. There's nothing worse than spending hours of your day trying to nab a delivery window only to find out that half of your wish list has vanished. Keep tabs on what's in your cart by taking a screenshot of its contents or listing out ingredients on your phone's notes app. Before you check out, quickly confirm that everything you need is still there and find alternatives for the stuff that's gone missing.

3. Try, try again

The online grocery game is competitive as hell right now, but if you're patient and persistent, it won't take long to score a delivery window. We recommend checking your app of choice several times throughout the day—early in the morning before you roll out of bed, at random points throughout the workday and again late at night before you hit the hay. Though this sounds like a lot of work, it only takes a few seconds to see if a delivery option has opened in your area.

4. Be quick about it

As soon as a delivery window appears, you must be ready to take it—no dilly-dallying or getting picky about the available times (you should be home all day, anyway). Be aware that even after you've selected your window, there's still a small chance that by the time you get through the checkout process it will have been snatched up by another shopper. Be patient, go back to your cart and see if there are any other options. Repeat steps one through three until you're successful. 

5. Pick an early-morning delivery if you can

Yeah, yeah, we know we just said that you can't be picky about your delivery spot, but if you have the option to select something early in the morning (say, between 8 and 10am), you should take it. Stores will have just opened, and chances are good that your shopper will be one of the first people through the doors, which means less competition and fewer sold-out ingredients.

6. If all else fails, build a bot?

If you're technologically advanced, we'll just leave this here for you to consider. TL;DR: Apparently, you can build a bot that instantly notifies you of AmazonFresh's new delivery slots so that you can skip step three altogether. Who knew?

7. And for the love of gouda, tip your shopper generously

This one's self-explanatory, but there's never been a better time to throw your shopper a few extra bucks for their time and patience.

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