A Hiatus From the Commissary


I broke up with the commissary. Maybe it’s temporary, but we sure haven’t seen each other in awhile.

Almost went yesterday. By the time I was ready to go it was closed, so I went to Target.

It started with a friend taking me to another local store and I found items there that I love and can’t get at my commissary. Got all happy inside and snapped up more and more, changing out my hand basket for a cart. I started going to that store on my own, or going to other stores. I love variety and access to new product lines when they’re released. Better brands of what we like lures me away too.

Confession: I really like taking my own groceries to the car or having store-paid baggers.

Residing off base makes my current choice easier. Life is just too busy right now to split my shopping up and I’m willing to pay for the convenience.

I do realize there’s a “30%” savings at the commissary and I intend to return one day. One-stop shopping and variety just has my heart for the time being.

About the Author

Seasoned Air Force Spouse

Partner in well traveled active duty Air Force family. I served and retired from the Air Force. Was born and raised in an Army family! Proud overseas brat. Married to a wonderful, successful southern man with 4 children, one of whom is active duty Army. And yes, I am too young for that! Not the typical family, not the traditional 'mom'. Love military life, social media, writing, business, pop culture, and travel. Born to do more!

29 Comments on "A Hiatus From the Commissary"

  1. I really agree with you. I've never lived on post, so the Commissary was hardly an option for me. We would go there if we had an event, etc. on post, but we always found nice grocery stories off post, offering more options/variety, and a lot more organic/free range options. With coupons, sales, etc. I really don't know how much we would have saved at the Commissary.

    • The commissary takes coupons and has their own coupons as well for items. You probably would save a good amount actually.

      • And then there is the other side!!! My monthly jog down to the Los Angeles Air Force Base actually takes me but 30 minutes early on a Saturaday morning and about the same time on return within “windows” of traffic on the freeway. I enjoy our culture, the fellow shoppers, and the staff of both the Commissary and Exchange. The Commissary is very well stocked, great selections, and the meat, seafood, and dairy items are excellent, USDA Choice and Select. Of course the savings are terrific, and when you compare and contrast, in S CA it can take 30 min to cross town!! Then the bonus is ONE and DONE! A fully stocked home, with gourmet food, wines and liquor; and of course pet food, a huge savings, and few trips to shop on the economy in between!!

  2. Use the self checkout lane. That's what I do, for the exact reasons in your confession.

  3. I go to the commissary for meat once a month or so… prices on everything else are comparable in town (or cheaper with sales and coupons)! The crowds at the commissary aren't worth it to me.

  4. deltasierra47 | October 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm |

    We live 30 to 40 minutes from Navy, Air Force, and Army Commissaries. My husband works on the Army base, though, so I might start sending him for items that are just way cheaper there than at our local stores.

    I used to shop at the Navy Commissaries all the time when we lived near them (there are two of them within ten or so miles of each other), but it's not worth my time or effort to go there now. And I, too, disliked having to get out extra cash to pay the baggers, especially when I was really strapped (the main reason I was shopping at the Commissary, and not at a different store).

  5. As a family of 5 with two teens, shopping at the commissary is a no brainer for us. We already spend over a $1000 a month in groceries as it is! (We are in Alaska) I do confess I shop for veggies, fruits, some specialty meats and items at a grocery off post, but for most dry goods and things I can't wrap my brain around paying twice to three times a much for something I can get at the commissary. I do live on post and closer to the commissary, and I don't mind having to make the trip off post a couple of miles to shop at Fred Meyer for those other items. As for paying the baggers, that really has never been a big deal, but then again, I use the self check out 95% of the time too.

  6. When I do the big “husband just got paid” shopping trips I always go to the commissary because I save so much money. If I’m not getting more than a couple of bags worth o go to a much closer grocery store. My toddler can go through a gallon of milk in about a week so I shop pretty often. To me the savings is worth it. At a Farm Fresh store I can get maybe 4 bags worth for $74, for the same amount of money I can get a trunk full at the commissary. Besides, with two kids under two the bagger loading my groceries for me while I strap in the kids is worth the trip and a few dollars for a tip.

  7. There is a Safeway and a King Sooper between where we live and the onpost Commissary and I only go to the Commissary for yogurt now. Both Safeway and King Sooper will double coupons up to $1 and you can use their loyalty cards to get better prices on gas as well as products. I've walked out of Safeway with $100 worth of groceries that, after coupons, I've only paid $35 for. I can't go to the Commissary and do that. Additionally, any fruit I buy at the Commissary seems to go bad a day after I bring it home.

    Even if I lived onpost, I'd still go off to use the local grocers. That .50 coupon at the Commissary is worth $1.00 at the local and, if you watch their advertisements weekly, you can combine sales with those coupons to get a far lower price (sometimes free) than you ever could at the Commissary.

    • See, for those who have the time to do coupons regularly that would work. I just don't have the time or desire to clip coupons. lol And I never have to buy generic either.

      • Oh, I agree completely. I don't clip them obsessively tho. I have a few websites bookmarked and once a month, I print out only the items we'll use. I make the effort to pick up the two store flyers on Wednesday (that's when they put the new ones out). Safeway is the only one who prints store coupons (that you can use theirs AND a manufacturers for more savings) so that's the one I will glance at quickly in the store to see if I want to pick up more than one flyer. Otherwise, I skim those flyers over coffee in the morning and flip through my coupon organizer if something we need is listed. I admit to having a small stockpile of toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, gatorade, laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent that I've gotten either free or under $1 just with coupons and I've never spent more than an hour a month on it.

  8. You CAN tell them to put the bags in your cart! I rarely carry cash, and I feel bad for asking them to do so, but I usually take them to my car myself.

  9. Pretty much everything is cheaper at our commissary..I live a half hour away and have all of the major grocery stores within 5 minutes but I STILL make the drive to the commissary. They offer overage on coupons and their flash sales can't be beat. I've gotten cheese for under $2/lb and boneless chicken for under $1/lb. Yogurt I can get for free and veggies are usually much cheaper then the local stores during the winter season. I have consistently fed our family of 3 plus 3 pets for under 200 a month and that includes personal care items like razors, shave cream, shampoo etc. I get free stuff ALL the time at the commissary. Heck, the chicken stock that's 3 dollars after coupons in King Soopers is under .30c at the commissary right now and you can get tampons for under .05c a box!

    Around holidays you can get certain specialty meats cheaper at local stores, but right after the holiday you can get them cheaper at the commissary, I've gotten 15lb hams for under $4 and a 6lb corn beef for under $2.

    I refuse to shop on payday weekends though…I've been rammed by carts and motorized scooters, kicked by borderline demonic children (like literally had someones kid run up while I had a door open in the freezer section and kick me…mom did nothing, same child then proceeded to open one of the freezers and empty the bottom three shelves all over the isle..mom still said nothing and just left it there). Nothing is usually on the shelves that I need those weeks and if I have to navigate around one more gaggle of kids running up and down the isles screaming and sliding I might scream lol. As a result I only shop on the weeks in between paydays and usually on a Friday afternoon or early Saturday morning. The savings are totally worth it to me.

  10. Linda ABney | October 18, 2011 at 8:49 pm |

    I choose to shop on the base, not just to support them, but because of the meats……I went to Walmart the other day, and the ground beef was $5.99 a pound! I live 30 miles from the base and I feel its worth it! I am retired, and I have alot of knowledge regarding prices, because I have to be conscious of it. The only time I buy outside of the base is when I run out of something before I can get to the base. I will continue to support them as long as their prices are so good!

  11. HEB grocery stores in Texas, the best I've seen anywhere.

    • I miss HEB fresh tortillas… we are overseas, and they are one of the few things that I'm truly homesick for. Shiner Bock, too. Have one for me! :)

  12. We recently pcs’d and while I absolutely loved my previous commissary, I’m very unhappy with the meat and produce sections of our new commissary! The first time shopping there I ended up throwing out at least $25 in produce because it went bad within the week. Now I have to make two shopping trips (ugh) one to walmart for meat and produce, and one to the commissary for dried items. I really do save a good amount shopping at the commissary and I live on post. I think I will be filling out an ice card!

  13. I shop at the commissary at Ft. Stewart every week. Yes, sometimes they are out of things I need but I've found that at Wal Mart and other stores also. With coupons, I get out of there at about $150. a week VS other stores at $ 200.+ add that up and that's a savings of at least $200 a month! I'm glad I have the opportunity to shop there.

  14. We used to shop at the commissary at Bliss. We just got here from Hood and it's an inconvenience for us since we live on the opposite side of where the commissary is. The meat and dairy,cheese are good in price and quality but the produce is absolutely awful. We had to throw away two bags of salad and apples plus bell peppers because they went bad the day after we had gotten them. I loved the convenience at Ft. Hood of having two commissaries on opposite sides of post. We now go to walmart down the street or albertson's since we are in the area when we go shopping instead of driving 30 minutes to post.

  15. james glezen | August 5, 2013 at 1:29 pm |

    even tho i live 17 miles from Luke AFB in Glendale Az I still use the Commiabout every 3 weeks. w/ 20+$ in coupons it make the trip worth it. altho not w/ paper products. I buy thiose at Frys/Krogers. I am retired.

  16. I don't live on post anymore so I rarely see the commissary. When we do go, I have no issue tipping the baggers. My son was one of those baggers and it's an entirely different perspective in our home. They work for tips only. So when they take your overloaded cart out and load your car up for you, tip them. How would you like to go to work for 8 hours and make $20 for the entire day because people are too cheap to tip a kid a couple of dollars? They also have to pay the commissary each day they are allowed to work, so they lose part of their tips for being given the opportunity to work there. You save so much at the commissary there is no reason to not be able to tip the kids. Many of these kids are working this exact job because it is the only thing they can find and they are saving for college. One of the kids my son knew was working to help her family but giving them all the tips she earned. These kids are doing a job and a service for the consumers in the commissaries, if you don't want to tip, consider shopping elsewhere and how much more that would cost you. $2-5 dollars once a month is not going to break your bank, but it will break theirs.

  17. That percentage isn't for the baggers, they still don't get paid. Also they've always charged it, but like you I just noticed it recently (but back at the old commisarry at Bliss). I just use the self-checkout, I never have cash, and I hate paying the baggers, I wish they would charge a little more and pay them!

  18. The surcharge you see has always been there and is to off sets the operating costs of the commissary. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the baggers. The baggers are paid in tips only. So, by you not tipping, they are doing that service for you for free, which is not very fair to them. So I suggest you either pay them or bag and carry out your own groceries.

  19. Have you not seen the signs "baggers work for tips only"? It means exactly what it says. The 5% surcharge as always been there. I've been looking at it for 20 years.

  20. That "add on charge" is the "Surcharge." Commissaries have to be "self supporting."

  21. The percentage added on is for the MWR programs provided to the families. This has been like this as long as I can remember, it is NOT a tip for the bagger. If you are not tipping the bagger, then they are making $0 for helping you out as the store does not pay them either. If you cannot afford to tip the bagger, don't shop the commissary or at least don't have them help you with your bags. I find it cheaper to shop off post with coupons because of the MWR fee.

  22. Yeah – tip the baggers. I think they work hard in all kinds of weather.

    But I don't think the commissary saves me that much money. Yes, on meat. But Walmart and Target much much more variety and their store brand prices are lower than the commissary. Plus, I can get other stuff all in one trip, like thread and a zipper, socks, a gift for the neighbor's new baby, a birthday card for my sister, etc etc. That saves a lot of hassle and time.

    I'm overseas now, and I wish they would tear down the the PX, the PXtra, and the commissary and drop a SuperWalmart on base.

  23. The best commissary that I have shopped at is Ft Bliss Tx when it comes to Baggers they will unpack your cart when you get to the register then pack it and take you order to your car for a small fee…

  24. No Susan, it's not for MWR, that's AAFES. The 5 % surcharge is so that the Commissary can pay it's employee's (which does not include the baggers).

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