This summer I worked for a company called Instacart, an online grocery delivery service. I drove around grocery shopping and hand-delivering products to people's doors all through an app. It was a super fun experience and a good summer job. What I found most interesting was the different sorts of groceries people requested. As I raced around the store, with time ticking down, I searched high and low for the goods. 

Now, as an anthropology major, I look at pretty much every aspect of life with a pair of "humanistic glasses," always finding an explanation for why we are the way we are. Food has, and always has been, a huge part of human life (for some it is a defining factor). We cannot get food unless we grocery shop (where are my Trader Joe's fan's at?). Therefore, being forced to shop in unknown stores for random people was a challenge, but an interesting one. So, here are some things I learned from this wild Instacart experience!

1. The College Student Diet is REAL

As a second-year college student, now living in my own apartment and buying my own groceries, I definitely feel the struggle of buying and cooking food. I will take any opportunity to get free food or snacks whenever I can. However, when I do buy groceries, I tend to be a minimalist. Now, not all my deliveries were to college students, but the few that were were pretty relatable purchases.

Cans of energy drinks, tortillas and slices of cheese for quesadillas (the perfect late-night snack), bags of popcorn (for those long study sessions) and some vegetables to balance everything out. When it comes time to cook, college students need quick and easy meals, therefore the basic essentials are key. So, as I dropped off a brown paper bag full of these goodies, I empathized with my fellow students. 

2. San Franciscans Are Quite the Foodies

Bi-Rite, Gus's, Whole Foods. These are a just a few of the amazing options we have for groceries in San Francisco. Being born and raised in the city, going to farmer's markets every Sunday and living down the street from a Whole Foods, I have always been aware of the "foodie" environment. Therefore, when it came to shopping in these stores for other people, I was pretty familiar with certain items. 

Organic, GMO-free fruits and veggies, free-range eggs and fresh seafood are just some of the popular items you would see in many stores. Additionally, with the availability of incredible baked good options like Tartine, the opportunities are endless for foodie lifestyles. And do not doubt for one second that someone will know the difference between organic and non-organic (it is a talent). You do not want to mess with these fanatic foodies! 

3. People Either Care a Lot About Their Groceries, or Very Little!

This job, as fun as it was, was also stressful at times. Not everything was always in stock or the customer had specific requests that were hard to fulfill. I remember one trip where I had to find gluten-free hot dog buns but they couldn't just be any brand. There was only one brand that didn't have a certain ingredient the customer couldn't eat. Although understanding that the store didn't have it in stock, I felt as though I had disappointed the customer and that they would get upset. Other customers entrusted me with choosing a replacement for their missing items. This was equally stressful because even though they signified they didn't care, I still felt like they might not approve of what I chose. 

Humans are creatures of habit and any change or block in routine can be very unsettling. When it comes to food, it can be an especially touchy subject. At the end of the day, apples may not be oranges and gluten free-buns may not be satisfactory, but the effort is what counts, right?


After 40 grocery store runs, hundreds of miles driven across the city and many painful walks down streets with multiple grocery bags, I completed my summer job. This was one of the best and most interesting learning experiences. I gained trust in myself and my abilities (running while pushing a shopping cart is still questionable) and got to observe different people. I feel as though I came away with an even deeper interest in the ways of humanity and our complicated, yet fun and delicious relationship with food. Till next time, Instacart!