Instacart price comparison, how much does grocery delivery really cost you?

A basket of groceries on a grocery check-out conveyor belt
Photo from Flickr Creative Commons: qmnonic.


Instacart, a grocery delivery service especially marketed to busy young professionals such as myself, has started offering their services in Houston, Texas. I was curious how much it really cost to use their services. Luckily, I had my last grocery receipt, so I decided to do a comparison. In short, to use Instacart would cost me about $30 more for $70 worth of groceries, so a 43% increase!

Additional observations:

  • Instacart did not have quite a few of the items I regularly buy. Apparently they will grab anything not listed for you, but I have no idea how much more that would cost. 
  • They did not have the full selection of produce, which would cause me to make some adjustments that included buying much more expensive options (such as the organic cucumbers below).

 Details of the comparison:

Item H-E-B (Alabama St. Houston) Price Instacart price for same store
Clear Care Lens treatment 20.97 25.39
Hill Country Body Wash 3.23 3.99
Orti Di Calabria Marinara Sauce 5.99 7.29
HEB 1% ½ Gallon Milk 1.98 2.69
HEB Sparking Water 3.29 Unflavored not offered, only lime.
Frozen Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts 6.98 Not found
Tandori Naan Bread 2.88 Not found
6 pack Central Market Dried Cranberries 1.49×2=2.98  2.09×2=4.18
Cherries (.85 lbs) 5.98 6.09
Fuji Apples (7 apples) 3.81 5.95
Clif Bar 1.00X2=2.00 Not found
HEB Brie Double Crème 4.98 4.89
Chobani Greek Yogurt, individual plain 1.18 1.49
Poblano pepper (1 lb) 1.78 Not found
Red seedless grapes 3.12 4.79
Asparagus 2.98×2=5.96 4.89×2=9.96
HEB baby carrots 1.48 4.89
Cucumber .68×2=1.36 Could only buy organic, at 4.89 eachx2=9.78
HEB Pumpernickel Bread 3.48 3.09
Farmhouse Cage Free eggs 2.69 3.29
Taxes 2.00 Included
Delivery fee None 3.99
Total (only including items found on InstaCart) $71.19 $101.75

Questions to ask before posting to social media


I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with social media, but after taking a 40-day Lent hiatus from Facebook, I came back with a new perspective. During that time, I had time to reflect on how I was using the tool and what I wanted to do differently. From that came the 5 question test.

A .jpg of 5 rules for "before I post to social media


1. Who will benefit from this post?

If you can’t think of a single person on your friends list that will legitimately gain a benefit from your post, don’t post it.

Benefits could include:

  • Making someone laugh.
  • Inspiring someone.
  • Encouraging thought and positive and meaningful dialogue.
  • Giving a far-away family member or friend joy by giving them a glimpse of what is going on in your life.
  • Giving someone support.


2. Is this post attention-seeking on my part?

This is a big one and is heavily related to the other question, “Who will benefit from this post?”.  If you can’t think of a single person your post will benefit, other than you, it’s probably an attention-seeking post.


Attention-seeking posts can take several forms:

  • Seeking-out praise/encouragement.  Example: “Here’s my project, isn’t it awesome?”
  • Self-pitying. Examples: “Feeling sad today :-(“ or “I can’t believe I’m sick again” or “Why does this always happen to me?”
  • Photos. Photos deserve their own attention under this category. Posting a nice photo of you as your profile pic is great, changing it often to seek praise on new photos is not. Similarly, selfies, photos with friends, etc. that serve no purpose other than to seek comments, favorites, or likes are attention-seeking.


3, Will anyone be harmed by this post?

Our posts can cause harm, whether we mean them to or not. For this one, you have to think beyond your immediate friends and think of friends of friends, who might see your post when it is liked, shared, or commented on.  You also have to think about self-harm.


Ways your posts could harm include:

  • Posting pictures and making someone feel bad that they weren’t included in something.
  • Posting negative or hatred posts, such as unfounded criticisms of political figures. This one not only spreads negativity (which harms others) but also harms you by harming your relationships with your friends.
  • Posting disturbing images or text.
  • Posting information that someone else might not want shared, such as announcing a friend’s pregnancy before they get a chance to or travel plans (more on this below).


4, Did I ask everyone’s permission to tag them?

Some may argue with me on this one, but I think it’s important. Some people don’t like to be tagged. A good rule of thumb is to ask the person, “ May I tag/mention you?” prior to tagging them.


Examples of how this could go awry:

  • Law enforcement experts, time and time again, have said not to post to social media if you are away on a trip. When I’m traveling, I will never post anything prior or during the trip that indicates that I’m away from home. I realize others may not feel as strongly about this as I do, but some do, so you should always ask.
  • Although they shouldn’t do this, a friend may have turned-down other plans with a white lie or called-in sick to work to spend time with you. It could be disastrous if you tag them in a photo or with details of something you are doing with them.


5, Am I avoiding a conversation that needs to happen?

Often, I see or hear about people posting things to social media that can be categorized as passive-aggressive and an avoidance of a conversation that needs to happen.  If you find yourself tempted to do this, stop, and have the conversation instead.



  • Having just went through a bad break-up, you have the urge to post updates about how happy you are or post a higher-than-usual amount of photos with people of the opposite sex in order to make your ex jealous.
  • “Oh! Those flowers you got are so pretty! I wish someone would give me flowers.”
  • “I wish certain people would learn how to not talk crap behind other people’s backs!!!”


What would you personally add to this list? Is there anything you would take out? 

Dear Houston: “The rent price goes up $200 per month”

On March 25, 2014, I wrote the City Council of Houston a three part letter that included my thoughts on improving the city’s transportation, health, and economics. This is part three of that letter.


“The rent price goes up $200 per month”

My realtor and I worked hard and we found a place that was “semi-walkable” by my definition but that would allow me to walk to work. When I first toured the complex, it was $1,260 for a 700 sq. ft. one bedroom. A week later, when I went back to sign the lease, they informed me that they would only allow me to sign a six month lease at that rate. “What happens after that?” I asked. “The rent price goes to $1,460 per month,” the leasing agent replied.


One of the key selling points for young professionals to move to Houston (and, often, to accept a lower salary in doing so) is that it’s an inexpensive city to live in compared to the North. This isn’t true. Housing prices are rising steeply and quickly because of limited supply and increased demand.


Skyrocketing housing prices and stagnant salaries mean less money to donate, to spend at restaurants and during social activities, to invest, etc. and that doesn’t bode well for the city overall.  If this balance isn’t changed, it’s going to be much harder to attract people to come and live/work in the City of Houston and those of us who do live here will spend less due to being “rent poor.”


I applaud your efforts thus far, but wanted to write you to encourage you to do more. We need commuter rail, we need more living areas that are permanently walkable, and we need housing options that are affordable relevant to our salaries.


I will also be publishing this letter to my blog, not as a means of social pressure, but in hopes of gaining additional thoughts on the subject.


Thank you for all you do for our city.



Nicole Finkbeiner

Dear Houston: “I want to live somewhere walkable”

On March 25, 2014, I wrote the City Council of Houston a three part letter that included my thoughts on improving the city’s transportation, health, and economics. This is part two of that letter.

Part 1: Dear Houston, “Where’s the commuter train station?”

Walking stick figures walking away from the hazard sign to a sign that says "walk more"
From Flickr: Walkable Neighborhood, Mike Licht

“I want to live somewhere walkable”

Using Chicago as a lens in my life, I’ve always wanted to live somewhere where I could walk to work. Or, at the very least, walk to shops and restaurants.  So, when I decided to move into “the loop” I explained to the apartment locator that I wanted “to live somewhere walkable.” Unfortunately, we found that there were very few options in Houston that fit my “walkable” definition and those options were well beyond my budget (defined as 25% of my take-home pay with utilities not factored). That is, unless, I wanted to relive my college days and live in 570 square feet.

Imagine the health benefits if we got in our cars less and, instead, could find affordable housing in truly “walkable” areas.


Part 1: Dear Houston, “Where’s the commuter train station?”

Dear Houston, “Where’s the commuter train station?”

On March 25, 2014, I wrote the City Council of Houston a three part letter that included my thoughts on improving the city’s transportation, health, and economics. This is part one of that letter.


Dear Houston City Council,

I recently read the article in Culture Map about the new Sunday Streets program and would like to share my thoughts on reducing obesity, increasing health, and making Houston a more attractive place to live.


For context, I’d like to share a little about me. I’m a young professional in my early 30’s. I moved to Houston two years ago for work, living first in Tomball/Willowbrook and now in the loop. Originally from Michigan, I frequented Chicago quite often. I am in very good health and work out six days per week on average. While the below comments are constructive, I’d like to emphasize that overall I absolutely love my adopted city of Houston and these are provided as suggestions of making the city even better.


“Where’s the commuter train station?”

One of my first questions when I moved to the Tomball/Willowbrook area was “Where’s the commuter train station?” which lead to some puzzled looks but mostly polite laughs of my ignorance. Having only visited Houston once before moving here, I hadn’t caught on to the fact that transportation isn’t like Chicago, there is no commuter train and you need a car to go practically anywhere.


The City of Houston has made great strides in the past few years to incorporate public transportation into the city, but a lot of work still needs to be done. Adding more lanes, or another tollway, isn’t a long-term solution. As painful as it is, we need to invest in serious commuter rail. That is the only significant way to reduce the congestion.


Not only will it reduce the congestion, but it will also improve the quality of life for many of us. For a while, I was spending an average of 2 1/2 hours per day commuting. Imagine what else I could have been doing with that time.


Unfortunately, however, the project couldn’t end there. The problem still exists when you do arrive in the city. I was shocked at the lack of taxi options and public transportation options within the city.  The trains you’ve built have helped, but there still needs to be more transportation options in the city.


Hotel Derek: How a water bottle can leave a lasting impression

A water bottle with a label with the Hotel Derek logo, a card around the top with the word enjoy on the envelope
Hotel Derek water bottle with the enjoy tag
The card that was inside the envelope. The card reads, "Hotel Derek invites you to return for a second "mixer" of your choosing with this $25.00 dining or hotel accommodation credit. Valid through June 31, 2013
The card that was inside the envelope.

This past week, I attended a CultureMap mixer on behalf of the Houston Holocaust Museum’s Next Generation group. The mixer was at Hotel Derek, a very stylish classy hotel in the Galleria area of Houston. The hotel pulled out the usual marketing tricks to appeal to young professionals; they brought-out samples of their best food, hosted us in a small event room, discounted our valet parking etc. But they did do one thing that I didn’t expect.

I got home and starting gathering my things to go into the house when I saw a water bottle. That’s pretty common in my car, but I didn’t remember putting one there, so I looked closer and realized Hotel Derek did, and it had a card on it that said, “Enjoy.” Inside the card, was an invitation of $25.00 credit, to come back and visit them again soon.

Using the vehicles that came out of the garage before mine at the valet stand as a barometer (not fool-proof logic, but good enough for this), the young professionals who attended the event were mostly affluent, they have discretionary income, and they like upscale and trendy atmospheres. This makes them a perfect target audience for Hotel Derek. The hotel knew it and took the initiative to go the extra mile and leave a lasting impression.

Congratulations to the marketing department at Hotel Derek. You did a great job!

Household income is not a good measurement of discretionary income

dollar bills with scrabble pieces on top that spell "spend"
Photo from Flickr: 401 (K) 2013

This month, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American housing survey will begin. As part of this survey, census workers will be collecting demographic data including household income.

Household income is a staple in marketing for selecting areas where people are most likely to purchase products or services as well as other uses. For example, if you own a luxury car dealership, you probably want your dealership located in or near an area with a high household income.

Although household income is a quick way to assess an area, it doesn’t really tell the whole story. Consumer discretionary income can vary significantly based on a wide variety of factors that are unmeasured by the simple household income measurement.

Consider the following examples:

Example 1: Number of people in the household factors greatly in the amount of discretionary income

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000. The house consists of a husband and a wife, two children, and a live-in mother-in-law.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000. The house consists of a single female with no dependents.

Example 2: Other monetary factors such as debt play a huge role

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a young married couple. They have no debt.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a married couple. One attended a private college and now has student loans plus other debts (car, credit card, etc.) totaling $150,000.

Example 3: Cost of living is a major factor

Household 1 has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a retired couple. They live in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Household 2 also has a household income of $75,000 and consists of a retired couple. They live in Chicago, IL.

According to CNN’s cost of living calculator, the equivalent of $75,000 in Kalamazoo is $98,539 in Chicago.

In each of the examples above, do we really expect household 1 and household 2 to have the same amount of discretionary income available? It just isn’t the reality. There are additional factors that, coupled with household income, can give us a clearer picture. But then, of course, there are behavioral factors to consider. My point is, household income is a start, but the only way to get a true picture of discretionary income is in-depth market research.