If you have a Kroger-owned store in your area, you may have seen ads for the Boost membership program. And you may have wondered what it was.
Even those of you know that Boost is Kroger’s version of Instacart may wonder how Boost stacks up again Instacart.
So I thought I’d write a post breaking down the differences between Boost and Instacart.
How it started
Up until mid-June, I’d pretty much ignored the Boost membership ads and offers. After all, I’d signed up for the Instacart card (for its $100 credit and year of free Instacart+ membership). So I didn’t need another delivery service.
Or so I thought.
But when I saw a $15 off $75+ delivery or pickup order and that I could get a 30-day free trial for Boost, I figured I’d give it a try.
And I’m so glad I did, because Boost saved me a lot of money while I was stuck in the hotel for 11 days.
Because one of the two biggest differences between Boost and Instacart, is that with Boost you get…
Yup, with Boost you pay exactly what you would if you were in the store yourself.
Comparatively, the general consensus is that Instacart prices are 15% to 20% higher than in-store prices. And with the size of grocery bills these days, that’s pretty painful!
Even for my singleton self, using Instacart would increase my food bill by $20 to $40 more a month.
And let’s not forget another important part in-store pricing: weekly specials.
Instacart is pretty hit or miss on getting some of the loss leader weekly specials — especially fruit, which is a biggie for me. And of course, even if the service does have the options, the items cost $0.20ish more.
With Boost, I get all of my great loss-leader-priced fruit during the berry and peach seasons. Which is a biggie for me.
The only caveat
There’s one very basic thing that could make Boost a bad choice for you: the stores you’d use for deliveries.
Boost’s one limitation
If you routinely use Instacart for a variety of stores, Boost probably isn’t the best choice for you.
Instacart works with grocery stores, drugstores and even some other retailers. Unsurprisingly, Boost only works with Kroger-owned stores.
That said, it’s worth noting that you don’t always need Instacart for same-day delivery.
I noticed, for example, that at least Walgreens and PetSmart will let you place a same-day delivery order (of $35+) on their sites and don’t seem to charge a fee. But to be fair that wasn’t true of a couple others I tried, like Staples and Lowe’s.
Why that doesn’t matter (to me)
Boost is great for me because I already shop almost exclusively at Fry’s, the Kroger-owned store here in Phoenix.
Since Safeway bought Albertson’s (booooo), the prices are the same at both stores — which is to say that they’re almost always higher than Fry’s. Even when Safeway or the other food stores around have lower prices, it’s usually on just one or two sale items.
And since an order needs to be at least $35 to qualify for free shipping by Instacart or Boost, the other items’ higher prices would negate any savings I got from the loss leaders.
Meanwhile, most drugstore items can be found at Fry’s for more or less equivalent pricing — or I can take advantage of the Walgreen’s loophole I mentioned above.
And if I’m in need of a late-night drugstore-type delivery, there’s always GoPuff, a service similar to DashMart and potentially quite affordable if used right.
That’s because it offers $10 off your first 10 orders, and Chase cardmembers can get a $10 statement credit each month for a GoPuff purchase. Oh, and Mr. Rebates will give you $5 cash back for your first order.
It’s very rare that I absolutely need an item from Best Buy, Staples, home improvement stores, etc. And even when I do, it’s even more rare that I can’t manage to do a quick drive for a curbside pickup order.
How Boost meets or beats Instacart
As already established, the biggest benefit is that Boost gives you in-store pricing. But let’s look at the rest of the features too.
Boost actually uses Instacart for fulfillment, so there’s no difference there.
This depends on how much the two-hour delivery window matters to you.
If you want delivery within two hours, both Instacart and Boost charge $99 a year, which works out to $8.25 a month.
If (unlike me) you’re capable of planning groceries at least one day ahead of time, Boost has a next-day delivery plan for $59/year, which works out to about $4.91 a month.
Both plans also have monthly options: $9.99 a month for Instacart, $7.99 or $12.99 a month with Boost. I suppose that option could be good for people who aren’t sure if they want the service for a full year. But both plans also have free trials, which you can use to test the services.
Since we’re discussing price, I should mention that Instacart will give you a $2 credit any time you choose a delivery window at least three hours in the future. So if you shop with Instacart even once a week, those credits could cover the cost of your annual plan.
That said, let’s not forget that you’re still paying 15% to 20% more for those orders.
And in-store pricing isn’t the only way Boost saves customers money.
The service provides other benefits that can help its members save even more.
While Instacart does boast some “exclusive” coupons, they’re few and far between. And considering the 15% to 20% price mark-up, they’re not all that impressive.
Instacart also has some — some — of the manufacturers’ coupons you can load onto your shopper cards at other grocery stores. But not all of them.
Boost, on the other hand, has all of the digital coupons available to in-store shoppers — and program members get exclusive offers as well. Those saved me at least $10 during my free trial.
You can add your shopper’s card information to Instacart so that you don’t miss out on points, but that features isn’t available for every store.
Meanwhile, Boost members get double fuel points on all purchases.
To be fair, the store often has 2x or even 4 x fuel point specials for Friday orders (or sometimes, any orders on weekends). So for you organized folks, this feature may matter less.
But for those of us who can’t always put off a purchase until the weekend — and for the weeks that fuel points specials aren’t being offered — the double points is a pretty nice perk — especially as gas prices have crept up again.
According to Go Banking Rates, the average American household spends $438 a month on food. So that’s an extra $0.40 off at the pump once a month — or $4.40 in savings for the average sedan.
And even single folks like myself will get around $0.20 less per gallon.
The elephant in the room
Of course, with all this talk of how Boost saves you money, I have to acknowledge that using any paid food delivery service is a convenience tax.
No way around it
Even if delivered groceries help you cut down on impulse purchases, that can’t possibly make up for the cost of the plan and tips. Especially since, the more you enjoy the convenience of a delivery, the more often you’ll use it, which means more tips.
So yes, Boost or Instacart or other grocery services will increase your grocery bill.
My (past) skepticism
Honestly, if you’d asked me before the pandemic about paying even $59 a year for grocery delivery — with tips for each order — I’d have rolled my eyes.
I’d have said that most people (especially the healthy ones) can just work grocery shopping into their plan — making sure to schedule fewer other things on that day.
Or maybe I’d have pointed out that, even if they can’t make it to the store on the planned date, usually there’s enough food in the house to cover at least one meal, allowing them to put off shopping for one day.
Both points are still more or less true. But they’re not the whole picture.
There are people with health issues who can’t make it to the store. Or who, like me, have days when they can either can either make it to the store or prepare their food for the day; but not both.
Plus there are people whose schedules are so busy that they may not be able to get to the store the following day, if they end up unable to do their grocery shopping as planned.
Not to mention that, in multi-person households, the cost of one night of takeout can easily be more than just paying for the service and a tip.
Also, there are these people called parents. They are very, very tired.
So sometimes buying a grocery delivery service might just be worth the money. If it makes your life better (and, of course, assuming you can afford it), you’re not a bad person — or a person who’s bad with money — for paying $59 to $99 a year, plus tips.
Think how many people pay an extra $60 a year (almost double the base cost) for ad-free Hulu. Or who pay $120 a year for Spotify because they don’t want to hear commercials.
Getting your groceries delivered seems like it provides more emotional ROI than either of those. (Though atdmittedly I’m a weirdo who just listens to the radio. So what do I know?)
The point is, i’s okay to pay for something that brings significant value into your life. Just so long as you’ve thought it through and verified that a) you can afford the cost and b) the expense makes your life suffiicently better/easier.
My own choice
Personally, I’m still on the fence about whether I’ll sign up for Boost for a full year. I’m trying to rebuild my emergency fund, and I worry that I’ll start getting deliveries all the time, meaning more money going to tips.
For reasons too long to get into here, I was able to get two months free for Boost.
The first one was while I was in the hotel, where I ordered a lot of deliveries, due to a mix of stress eating and not wanting to navigate Tempe, which isn’t a suburb I know my way around. I spent $44 in tips. Owwwwwwwww.
This past, more normal month, I paid $25 in tips. Much better, but still 11% of my overall grocery spending, which ain’t great.
Then again, what with my trying to socialize, actually blog, see Pirate Party Guy and the guy I’ve started seeing again (Future State Trooper), and try to be good about eating low sodium foods… That saved energy may well be worth the cost.
Time will tell.
But I can assure that, if I do pay for a grocery service, it’ll be Boost, not Instacart.
Anyone else have thoughts on grocery delivery services?