Instacart has been a godsend for sheltering in place here in the SF Bay Area, so I would like to give them a shoutout, as well as offer a few tips gained from my experiences. My parents who are older were asking about it and I have had other friends asking me if it is easy to use. I have also managed to make many healthful meals, waste less food, and abide by our local rules to stay safe at home.
I have used Instacart and Peapod (NE US) many times before the pandemic. In particular, if you travel and stay in an Airbnb it is easy to get your groceries with Instacart so you can cook healthy for yourself. Of course the travel part was more relevant to times before the pandemic!
It helps to have your pantry stocked. There are many reasons to have a few basics on hand besides a pandemic but especially with one! If you get sick and can't get to the store or if there is a storm or other natural disaster it is always a good idea to have a few days worth of food on hand. The items I stock are very simple. I have a few boxes of pasta, pasta sauce, beans, rice, cereal, and fruit. Here are a few items you can make with these staples:
- Beans: you can easily drain beans, heat them in the microwave and roll them up in a burrito with cheese. Serve with a salad and add more items as you wish such as avocado, grilled chicken, or salsa.
- Canned fruit can be mixed with yogurt for a nice dessert.
- Pasta and pasta sauce is always an easy popular meal. Sometimes I add beans and sometimes I use a variety of shapes. Whenever I cook pasta I made a big batch and freeze the leftovers in portion-sized packages or zip bags.
- Rice makes a side dish or a one-pot meal. Mix it with chicken and veggies or serve it with a bean chili.
- Cereal is great at any time of day!
A full pantry keeps the order simple and narrowed down to frozen and fresh items.
- The closest store is often the one to choose to get the delivery faster. But it might make sense to experiment and see which one delivers quickly. The "fastest" can also change.
- Weekends are always busier and wait times are longer if you wait until Friday, Saturday, or Sunday to place an order.
- Usually picking "the soonest or within 5 hours" is your best bet. Sometimes they get so busy you can't get items for a few days.
- Make sure you check the box to "leave on the doorstep". They are working hard and wearing masks and staying safe so make it easy for everyone. They like to drop it off and go.
- Don't put in a huge order, keep it simple, and try to order fewer items.
- If you really want an item it is a good idea to order it multiple times in different brands. If the person is busy shopping and can't find something they will just refund it.
- Think about how you can use one item in multiple ways to cut down on waste. For example, I ordered a whole chicken. I roasted it and served it as a fancy dinner. But I was able to use it all week for leftovers like sandwiches, and then made the rest of it into a chicken noodle and vegetable soup. I froze the soup in packages for other days so I had almost no waste.
- I have had an order disappear. I think this is because it was late at night and the delivery person was hungry and tired. This has only happened one time in 3 years. So I got a refund and placed the order again.
- Sometimes if a driver is very busy they will just refund anything they can't find. That is ok you can place another order later.
- Most of the time the order is perfect or there are only one or two items substituted.
- It helps to make a list so you don't forget items.
- It is fun to have a theme for the week. For example, you can experiment with Latin dishes like chicken and rice or burritos. Or challenge yourself to go meatless. Or choose the Mediterranean like risotto, pizza, and pasta.
- Many stores will offer coupons and specials. Check out the stores near you on the instacart app to take advantage of them.
- It is always a good idea to put everything away very quickly so things do not spoil.
- For produce, it is a great idea to get a variety of fresh and frozen so you can stretch your shopping days.
- I always leave the drivers 5 stars because they work hard. I make sure they have a decent tip.
- Why not deliver a birthday cake to a friend or family member who is celebrating from far away? I delivered one to my son and his roommates and they really enjoyed it.
Stay safe and enjoy your cooking! Free recipes are here and we are always adding more.
The best meal I have made this week is a bibimbap style meal! I used leftover rice, salad, leftover roasted chicken, and then topped it with a fried egg. I also added hot sauce. Bibimbap is a Korean dish. The term "bibim" means mixing various ingredients, while the "bap" noun refers to rice. It was so good I ate it right away but I will try to take a photo and prepare a recipe soon!
Check out the fresh pickle article in case you missed it!
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world-famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. After a decade in food service for Hyatt Hotels, Judy launched Food and Health Communications to focus on flavor and health. She graduated with Summa Cum Laude distinction from Johnson and Wales University with a BS in Culinary Art, holds a master’s degree in Food Business from the Culinary Institute of America, 2 art certificates from UC Berkeley Extension, and runs a food photography studio where her love is creating fun recipes.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science and Dietary Guidelines to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.