If you are like me, the commissary proved to be intimidating on the first few trips and can be a very intimidating time for newbies. It wasn’t until after many trips that I became comfortable, which sounds funny, since the commissary is not too much different than the neighborhood grocery store.

The commissary has some great deals on many items, and with these tips, you can be a commissary pro in no time!

The Commissary is Always Cheaper…Isn’t it?

Many first-time commissary shoppers think everything at the commissary will be cheaper than what they can find at the local grocery store, due to the fact that under federal law, commissaries must sell their items for the same price they purchase them, plus a 5 percent surcharge for maintenance and construction.

However, even though commissaries may have a minimal upcharge, this doesn’t mean they are always the least expensive, which means this myth can hurt families who don’t make very much.

Unless you’re really lucky, in most commissaries across the nation, the fruit and meat selections aren’t the best and most local grocery stores offer similar, if not, cheaper prices than that of the commissary. While you may not find the best deals on meat and fruit, there are always big savings to be had on frozen foods and cereal.

A way to avoid any extra money being spent on groceries is to form a price list. This can be done by keeping receipts as well as writing down the price of items you normally buy and checking them with your local grocery store.

Don’t Forget Your Coupon Book!

Many commissaries provide military coupons on shelves throughout the store, but for even more savings, be sure to bring your own coupons. Many times the coupons provided in-store go fast and you can be left without any extra savings.

Commissaries rarely accept double coupons; however, manufacture’s coupons and store coupons are a big hit and most store coupons can be combined with a manufacturer’s coupon.

General Tips

  • Park only in areas where you are permitted. If a sign says Reserved for the Post Commander, it means it.
  • Holidays, weekends, and days that fall on the first and fifteenth (payday) can be chaotic, so if you don’t like lines or big crowds, you’re better off avoiding the area.
  • Go with the flow and follow directions. Some commissaries have aisle directions and you don’t want to be going down the aisle the wrong way.
  • Have your military ID handy at checkout.
  • Have some cash for tipping the baggers. Baggers work only for tips. Everyone tips differently; however, on average, tipping $3 to $5 when buying enough food for two people is a sufficient tip.

Remember that not every commissary item is cheaper than a local grocery store and it is best to do a price check to know which items are the best buys at each location. Don’t be intimidated the next time you go to the commissary and be sure you follow these tips to get the best deals.

Maya Szydlowski is a blogger associated with Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated provider of VA home loans and military community resources.



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Krystel is the mom of two and an Army Wife. In addition to Army Wife 101 she is the Co-Founder of SoFluential.com a digital media agency that connects brands with the military market. She has appeared on MSNBC ,FOX LA and formerly was a weekly contributor to HLN's "Raising America". She has written for various outlets including Sheknows and Lifetime and is a big fan of cupcakes and french fries.

7 Comments on Guest Post: Commissary Do’s and Don’ts

  1. I agree for the most part with this. Generally, I find that you can buy name brands at the Commi for the same price that generic brands at Walmart or Kroger. Also, if you are not one for tipping, then you don’t have to use the baggers. Just tell them you will not be needing their services before your food heads their direction. However, this does mean you will have to bag your own groceries as well as take them to your car. Don’t be one of those people who lets the baggers bag their food and then not let them take it to your car, you have just wasted them time and money.

  2. I must say I disagree with a couple things of this post. In the 3 posts we have lived at the meat and produce section has a much better selection at a much better price. Also I am a proud couponer and I haven’t found one commissary, and that is with visiting ones on other posts/bases than where we are stationed, that will let you stack coupons like that. If I remember correctly it even says in their coupon policy you can only use one coupon per item. http://www.commissaries.com/documents/contact_deca/faqs/coupon_use.cfm There is the link that states you can only use one coupon.

  3. Whenever we head to the Comsy and don’t want the person walking out with us, we let them bag and then tip whoever bagged. At Ft. Campbell, there was a person bagging and one who walked the groceries out and then they would switch the next time. There is usually a little bucket to tip the bagger. If I don’t feel like tipping at all, I just go through the self check out with a minimal amount of groceries.

  4. I could have used this info the first two times I visited the Commissary on my own. I’d been a couple of times before but never alone. I got so embarrassed when the cashier asked for my ID and I had to dig through my bag to find it!

  5. I use to push carts at Costco Wholesale and we weren’t allowed to accept tips so I felt SO bad the first time I went to the commissary and I didn’t tip! Anyway, at Ft. Bliss/El Paso, there are not very many grocery stores around and not much of a variety either. I love that the commissary carries a variety and has a German aisle or an Asian aisle. They are definitely my first choice when going to buy groceries.

  6. I didn’t know about tipping the baggers during my first few trips to the Commissary as a new Army wife (still very new, but now I got 7 months in haha). I always wondered why the baggers gave me dirty looks but now I know! They don’t tell you these things when you get married to the military and I wish they did! And although not every item is cheaper at the Commissary, my grocery bills are always half the price at the Commissary for twice the amount of food compared to local grocery stores or Walmart, which I why I try to shop at the Commissary as often as I can.

  7. Can’t beat the Commissary up here in Eastern WA (Fairchild AFB). Meat is #1 quality and most items are cheaper. Winco can match them on some items, but the Produce is the best in town too. I tip $1.00 per Hundred or round it up to 10 bucks if over 500. We shop there about every 6-8 weeks (hey it’s 90 miles one way). Went last week. Fun finding room for almost 600 bucks of food in Toyota Yaris. Thank goodness the rear seat fold down. Plus Wife stayed home. What cost $5.30 here in Newport cost $1.99 at Commissary. Well worth the Trip.

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