Stories & Commentaries

Instacart Life Lessons

stock photo of contactless grocery bag

iStock photography

COVID-19 losses, restrictions, and closures continue to impact our lives in countless ways. These changes have greatly altered our world, and will continue to ripple out around the globe for years.

In varying degrees, we’ve all had our lives changed. Many have lost loved ones, their own health, jobs, homes, and/or food security. My family said goodbye this past spring (2020) to a dear next-door neighbor, and I’m sure the virus isn’t done yet. In November we said final earthly goodbyes to a family member (with a long-term illness) via FaceTime. In December we abruptly lost another family member. Our children have (mostly) adjusted to online school.

I am grateful that the Lord has kept us safe and relatively healthy thus far. He’s also kept my husband and me employed; we are both able to provide for our family and help others.

In these circumstances, in this uncertain time, there are lessons we can learn — even from the basic and mundane task of grocery shopping.

Instacart is an app-based grocery service. Many major supermarket retailers are listed in the app. A person can shop for the items they need and, for a fee (and tip), the goods will be delivered during a predetermined time frame by an Instacart shopper. Since the pandemic and subsequent closures began, I've used this service to get food from Costco and other retailers.

The first lesson I learned is that I should pay attention to details and exhibit care when ordering. Rushing, and not reading the fine print, can cause lost time and money, and disappointment.

In early April I ordered Tofurky slices. I assumed the shopper would know that I wanted a meatless product. As an Instacart novice, I didn’t notice the “replace it with . . .” or “do not replace” options. I speedily placed the order, and instead of the Tofurky, I got pork slices. On the upside, our two backyard cats really enjoyed their ham!

The second lesson learned is that even if I think I’ve communicated carefully and clearly, it may not be clear on the other end, so I should kindly do my best to make sure I’m understood.

When ordering in June, I received replacement suggestions that were, well, surprising. In this order I requested bottled drinking water, tomato sauce, and cheddar cheese snacks. Instacart suggested caramel and cheese mixed popcorn to replace the water. No tomato sauce? Popcorn. No cheese? Popcorn. I painstakingly made sure my replacement for those items wasn’t the popcorn.

apple bag

iStock photography

The third Instacart lesson learned is that even if I pay attention to the details and go the extra mile to be understood, I should still expect the unexpected. And know how to roll with it.

In July I ordered a bag of apples, planning to stew them with cinnamon. I checked: yes, I selected a five-pound bag of apples. Yes, I made sure the replacement was also a bag of apples. The delivery came, and I discovered a bag that had one apple. It was a lovely-looking apple. Nice shape, nice color. Firm to the touch. But it was one apple. For five of us. Shaking my head and laughing, I thought: What do I have that could replace the apples?

I rummaged through the refrigerator’s fruit bin and saw an unopened bag of pears. They were all ripe; some had already started to spoil. Perfect! I peeled and sliced and simmered those pears and with the sweet-tart flavors and texture, it was actually a better complement to our meal than the apples would have been.

God is with us, and He knows our struggles. He sees our pain, our joy, our foibles — I look forward to stories, smiles, and laughter in heaven. I look forward to when God, as stated in Jeremiah 30:17, will restore us to health and heal our wounds. I look forward to the time described in Revelation 21:4. I’m looking forward to laughter and light.

— Kimberly Luste Maran is an associate director of the Office of Communication for the North American Division.