The Simplest Way To Know Which Stores Carry Hard-To-Find Items

Do you despair of finding gluten-free orzo near you? Or wonder what supermarket has an international foods aisle wide enough to include your favorite dulce de leche spread and the brand of furikake you're looking for? Maybe you're pretty sure your Wegmans carries something, but you're not sure since the place is just so big. As the grocery universe shifts — with online shopping surging and supermarket chains both expanding and contracting — it can be hard to keep track of who has what and where. These are the everyday problems — on a bad day, items are out of stock due to crop shortages (looking for mustard and risotto?); heat waves (beef, via NPR); or now-familiar "supply chain" snafus (per Grocery Dive). 

It used to be that the only way of finding out if a store had something was to go there yourself or call up the store and ask an employee if they carry that thing (and wait on hold while they went and checked).

Enter the Instacart solution. Many Americans are buying groceries online these days. While Amazon and Walmart sell a lot more food, Instacart is the leader in third-party grocery shopping and continues to be an important market presence (via Insider Intelligence). Instacart's third-party status means that it has no retailer or brand loyalty — which is great news for you as a shopper, whether or not you actually buy anything from Instacart (via Real Simple).

Check on line, buy in store (or wherever you please)

Because Instacart pulls from so many different local stores, by putting in your address and entering an item into the search bar, you will quickly see all the local stores (served by Instacart) that carry that product, with the products listed underneath each store's name. Clicking on the product image provides a description and price point so you can confirm it's actually what you're looking for — and what you're willing to pay (the listed price may be higher than in-store, via Particular Pantry).

If you prefer shopping at a specific store, you can click on your supermarket preference first and then search within that store. Recent searches provided some surprises: it's not so hard to buy goat milk or sambal oelek in our area after all — who knew? Of course, it doesn't work with every store. Tragically, many places, like Trader Joe's, do not offer delivery or work with third-party providers (per Today).

This is also a great trick while you're on vacation. If you're worried that your beachside supermarket won't carry your favorite oat milk, or fear that your favorite spicy chips aren't in stock near Yosemite, you can plug in the address of wherever you're going and check out the offerings in advance. While not all stores work with Instacart, an astonishing number do, and there are probably a lot more out there than you realized — once you know where and how to look!