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  • Writer's pictureSteve

Save Money by Shopping at Your Military Commissary

Shopping cart going down an aisle

Military commissaries are like hidden gems for members of the armed forces and their families. These exclusive supermarkets offer a wide range of products - from fresh produce to household essentials, all at reduced prices. Yes, you heard that right! Commissaries operate on a cost-recovery basis, meaning they sell goods without the huge mark-up seen in traditional retail grocery stores. This allows military personnel and their families to enjoy substantial savings on their grocery bills. Plus, the money saved at your military commissary can go a long way in helping you achieve your financial goals. Shopping at the commissary is not just a smart choice; it's a benefit you've earned through your service.

The Financial Benefits of Shopping at Commissaries

When it comes to stretching your dollar, shopping at military commissaries offers unbeatable value. These establishments pass on their wholesale savings directly to you, meaning you can save up to 30% compared to civilian grocery stores. Not only do these savings apply to name-brand products, but also to commissaries' store brands like Freedoms Choice and Home Base. This way, you don't have to compromise on quality to stay within budget.

Additionally, commissaries often offer exclusive coupons and promotions that can provide further reductions on your grocery bill. From weekly deals to seasonal steals, there are numerous opportunities to garner extra savings. Plus, you can shop tax-free — yet another benefit that can make a big difference to your budget over time.

Pile of hundred dollar bills

Remember, every penny saved is a penny earned. By making the most of the financial benefits offered by your military commissary, you're taking a significant step toward financial independence and security. After all, it's not just about saving money on groceries; it's about making the most of your military benefits and building a strong financial future for you and your family.

Price Comparison: Commissaries vs. Civilian Supermarkets

Often, the price difference between commissaries and civilian supermarkets is stark, and this difference plays a significant role in the financial well-being of service members and their families. Let's break it down using some examples. Imagine a typical grocery list containing items like milk, bread, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, and canned goods. At a civilian supermarket, the total cost might come up to approximately $100. However, the same items at your military commissary would typically cost around $70, representing a 30% saving.

Woman and little girl shopping for bananas

Moreover, when you factor in the additional cost-saving benefits such as no sales tax, exclusive promotions, and special coupons, the savings can be even greater at the commissary. For instance, a $2 coupon on a $10 item is a 20% reduction right off the bat. Now, multiply these savings by the number of grocery trips you make in a year, and the benefits of shopping at a military commissary become impossible to ignore.

So, while civilian supermarkets may be convenient, they simply can't compete with the economic advantage offered by military commissaries. As a service member, using your commissary isn't just a money-saving hack, it's a sensible financial strategy that can save you thousands of dollars annually. Consider this the next time you have to make a grocery run — your wallet will thank you.

See the bottom of this article for some one-on-one comparisons of everyday grocery items.

Tips to Maximize Savings at Commissaries

Planning Your Shopping

Produce aisle in a grocery store

Shopping at the commissary can be a breeze with a little forward planning. Here are some solid strategies to get the most out of your commissary shopping experience:

  1. Create a Meal Plan: Plan your meals for the week ahead. This will help you create a specific shopping list and avoid impulse buying. Remember, buying only what you need is the first step towards saving money.

  2. Check Commissary Sales Flyers: Before heading out, check the commissary's sales flyer online. This will give you an idea of the current deals and promotions running at your local commissary. Remember, commissaries often have seasonal specials, weekly deals, and even daily discounts.

  3. Use Coupons: Commissaries accept manufacturer's coupons. These can be found online, in newspapers, or at the commissary itself. Always keep an eye out for these money-saving opportunities.

  4. Buy in Bulk: Commissary private label brands, like Freedom's Choice and HomeBase, often offer large pack sizes with significant savings per unit. Consider bulk buying for non-perishable items that you use regularly.

  5. Shop During Off-Peak Hours: If you can, try to shop during off-peak hours. The stores are less crowded, making it easier to take your time and ensure you're picking the best products for your needs.

By incorporating these tips into your shopping routine, you'll not only save money but also make your commissary shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable.

Taking Advantage of Sales and Promotions

Woman checking out at the commissary

Commissaries frequently run sales and promotions on a variety of items, offering an excellent opportunity to further stretch your dollar. The key to maximizing these deals is staying informed and being flexible with your shopping list.

Stay Informed: Regularly check the Commissary's website for current and upcoming sales. Subscribe to their newsletter, if possible, to receive updates directly in your inbox. The sales flyer, usually updated every two weeks, gives you ample time to plan your shopping accordingly.

Be Flexible: While it's good to stick to your shopping list, being adaptable can save you more money. For instance, if there's a sale on chicken but your meal plan has beef, consider swapping it out. This flexibility allows you to take advantage of unexpected sales, especially on perishable goods.

Stock Up During Sales: Sales are a great time to stock up on non-perishable items. If you notice a significant discount on canned goods, cleaning supplies, or personal care items you regularly use, consider buying in bulk. These items have a long shelf life and having a supply at hand can save a considerable amount in the long run.

Understand the Commissary's Markdown Schedule: Like other retailers, commissaries have certain times and days when they mark down prices, particularly on perishable items nearing their sell-by date. Familiarize yourself with this schedule (it varies by store) to grab these deals.

Use Coupons During Sales: To maximize your savings, try to combine sales with coupons. Using a manufacturer's coupon on a sale item can result in significant savings. Keep an eye on the Commissary's website and coupon sites to match up sales with relevant coupons.

Remember, every savings opportunity taken is a step towards financial security. By routinely taking advantage of sales and promotions, you'll be amazed at how much you can save at your military commissary.

Utilizing the Commissary’s Rewards and Coupon System

Sign that says coupons

The commissary's rewards and coupon system is a treasure trove of savings opportunities that can significantly reduce your grocery bill. Here's how to get the most out of it:

  1. Commissary Rewards Card: The Commissary Rewards Card offers digital coupons that you can load directly onto your card through the Commissary Rewards app or the Commissary website. When you check out at the commissary, have the cashier scan your card, and the discounts will automatically apply to your purchase. This is a convenient way to use coupons without the hassle of clipping paper ones. New coupons are added regularly, so always check for updates before you shop.

  2. Coupon Stacking: Commissaries allow 'coupon stacking,' which means you can use both a commissary coupon and a manufacturer's coupon on the same item. This can lead to substantial savings, especially when used on sale items. Just remember that the total discount cannot exceed the item's selling price.

  3. Case Lot Sales: Look out for the commissary’s case lot sales, held a few times per year. During these sales, items are sold in bulk, and you can often use coupons to maximize your savings.

  4. Holiday Sales and Coupons: Holidays are a great time to capitalize on special promotions and coupons the commissary offers. From Memorial Day to Thanksgiving, keep an eye out for holiday-specific deals.

  5. Military Star Card Promotions: If you have a Military Star Card, watch for promotions where you can earn extra rewards points for commissary purchases. These points can be redeemed for exchange gift cards.

While the rewards and coupon system may seem a bit daunting initially, with a little time and practice, you'll be well on your way to maximizing your savings at the commissary. Remember, every dollar saved is a dollar earned!

Start Saving Money at the Military Commissary Today!

As a member of the military community, the commissary is a benefit designed with you in mind. It's more than just a grocery store - it's a powerful tool for managing your household budget and stretching your hard-earned dollars. It might seem like a small aspect of your military benefits, but with savvy use, it can make a big difference in your financial health. Remember, the key to reaping these benefits is consistent and mindful use of the tips outlined above. You've earned these benefits through your service or your family member's service. Make the most out of them and let the commissary support you in maintaining a healthy, happy, and financially stable life. Start today and watch your savings grow!

Price Comparisons

Below you'll find price comparisons on just a few everyday items. Since I am in San Diego, I used Vons as a comparison grocery store. Since groceries are not subject to sales tax in California, I have not included a sales tax savings chart. However, keep in mind that CA sales tax is charged on household goods, cleaning supplies, pet food, etc... is taxed outside of the commissary in CA.

Commissary price comparison sheet to prices out in town


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