Does the Commissary REALLY Save You 30.5 Percent?


A new study conducted by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) found that shoppers save an average of 30.5 percent when using the commissary instead of other grocery sources.

The study compared the prices of 37,000 products with UPC symbols at 30 randomly selected stateside commissary stores with prices at surrounding grocers — both traditional ones like Safeway or Publix and non-traditional ones like Sam’s Club or Dollar General. They found that, on average, those items were 30.5 percent cheaper at the commissary during the study period.

Whether or not the commissary actually saves shoppers money is a constant source of debate among our readers. When I was working on my story on the subject, I asked our SpouseBuzz Facebook fans for their thoughts — and the page erupted with opinions.

Like many of those commenters, you may be thinking “OK, the commissary saves me money, but 30.5 percent? I don’t know about that.”.

And that’s why we have to look at exactly how DeCA officials arrived at this 30.5 percent number. Here’s the breakdown:

— This comparison only looks at products with UPC symbols. That means, DeCA officials confirmed, that they are not comparing the prices on any store packaged meat. So the steaks or ground beef you regularly buy that really are so much less expensive at the commissary (and the focus of the meat rush that occurred on Shutdown Day in October) aren’t even considered in this study.

— The study is done stateside. One Facebook commenter told us she really did feel like she saved 30.5 percent when living overseas but not stateside. But this study doesn’t even look at OCONUS pricing.

— The study only examines products both stores carry. One of the most common things I hear from those trying to save money between the commissary and other stores is that buying generic at, say, Wal-Mart is always cheaper. While “always” may be a bit of a stretch (sometimes the commissary drops it’s prices for a certain period on any given product), they do have a point. But because this study only compares products that both stores carry, it does not capture any potential savings you could get by going generic at Wal-Mart.

The study DOES factor in both the 5 percent surcharge and any sales tax at civilian retailers near the randomly selected test stores. Many readers complain that the 5 percent surcharge on their total order is the deal breaker for them, especially if they live in an area where food is not taxed off base. This study takes that into account when reaching the 30.5 percent savings number.

(P.S. If you’re wondering what that surcharge does, exactly, you can read about that over here).

— The study does NOT factor in the voluntary bagger tip. Commissary patrons also complain that after they tip the bagger — a non-required but generally accepted practice — their savings have disappeared. This study does not factor in that cost.

So, if officials were to add in the savings commissary shoppers already know they see from meat and the savings they already know they DON’T have thanks to the availability of generic brands elsewhere and to include the voluntary-but-likely bagger cost, would they still arrive at an average 30.5 percent savings? There’s really no way to know without actually doing the study over again.

But tell us, what do you find?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

119 Comments on "Does the Commissary REALLY Save You 30.5 Percent?"

  1. One of the primary issues I have with the commissary here is the lack of selection, and the produce is not nearly as good as the other local stores.

    As far as selection goes, often times I go there with a specific grocery list and they don't have the items I need or want. I went there last Sunday, and one of the items on my list where boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and another was boneless skinless chicken breasts. They didn't have hardly any chicken period. What they did have was picked over. Whole sections of the meat department were non-existent. I looked for replacement heads for my Clorox toilet bowl cleaner– nothing. I also wanted Citrus dressing for a salad I was making– no citrus dressing there.

    For example, I buy Honeycrisp Apples. At the commissary they are $2.47 a pound, at Walmart they are $2.49 a pound. The apples at Walmart are better quality and last longer, and in general taste better than the ones at the commissary. Same with Strawberries, at Walmart strawberries are around $1.49 a pound, at the commissary they are $1.47 a pound. I will not buy strawberries at the commissary, because they are often bad on the shelf. Most of the stuff on the shelf is already past expiration date.

    Now, the savings on produce is small, and savings on dry foods is considerably more, but a lot of times
    the selection is non-existent, and I end up going over to Walmart or other grocery stores to complete my list. I guess if you are not picky, or feed your family macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper, there's a huge difference between the commissary and Walmart, but we are picky, and when I make out my grocery list, I want to go to one store and get everything, not run to three different stores.

    • jose garcia | January 14, 2014 at 9:04 pm |

      yes it does save. it has the best meat cuts. everthing is cheaper except fruits and vegetables. they are the worst.

    • Ever noticed at your commissary the prices go up around payday and the week after? I stopped going to the commissary because of this.

    • WQalmart produce (apples, oranges, etc.) truly, truly sucks. It goes bad less than a day after getting it home. But you're absolutely right about the poor selection at the commissary. I like Bryan meats (hot dogs, bologna, vienna sausage, etc). guess what the commissary stopped carrying. I love fresh fish and seafood; guess what the commissary has NEVER carried. I like Bama products (mayo, peanut butter, preserves) guess what the commissary doesn't carry. When I was getting reasdy for the traditional New Years Meal I looked for hog jowl; guess what they forgot to send the commissary (even though the meat dept manger said he'd ordered it a month earlier)

      • It really depends on the location. The fruits and vegetables at our local Walmart are wonderful, the same cannot be said for the commissary– they don't clean the shelves off regularly and there is always rotten fruit (I can't count the number of times I have gotten fruit flies from the Commissary, and they are very difficult to get rid of). I primarily go to the farmer's market here, though. I think one thing we need to keep in mind is that every location is different. I have shopped at commissaries that are truly wonderfully managed and well-stocked and I have shopped here.

    • The commissary is like any grocery store wherein you may not find what you like and need to go elsewhere. I have used the commissary since 1970 all over the world and have always found it saved money on most products, especially, cheese, fruit drinks, and some meats. Some items are more or the selection will be better at Walmart, Publux or Sam’s ( for bulk items) like fruit and veggies and deli lunch meat.Like others have said it also depends on where you live and the size of the user population. So if the veggies are bad shop elsewhere.. That’s what I do. But there are some buys that the local markets can not beat like K-cups. The price in local stores are double what the commissary charges.
      But overall the lesser grade folks need the commissary and the saving it gives them. I read recently that a family of 4 saves $4500 per year at the commissary. Maybe they can improve selections if not we can go to the local markets. But in most cases the commissary does give us a chance to save.

    • The quality of meat at Little rock AFB is excellent..ground beef 93% has very little residue, Kroger 93% is greasy and I won't even buy fresh meat at Walmart. We just don't have a quality meat source on the open market. I also believe the commissary as a food source is safer than other sources. Even though my savings are eaten up by the cost of fuel to drive to the base and the tips, the quality of food makes the trip worthwhile.

    • d. h. gilmour | January 16, 2014 at 3:14 pm |

      I found even in late 68 just before leaving the military that the MCAS Beaufort, S.C. Exchange was not that much different than the stores downtown Beaufort. Especially fresh veggies and fruit

    • You must work for Wal-Mart, and your eyes are definitely brown, because you are full of you know what!

      • Wow bitter much? She's spot on. You couldn't pay me to go to the commissaries in the dc area. I get everything cheaper and MUCH better quality off post

      • My eyes are brown, in fact, and I would not work for Walmart if it was the last job on Earth.

    • The only thing at Tinker AFB that is really efficient which is geared for the retires is the commissary! the BX cost's to much, the base filling station most of the time cost's more than it does off base. The Bx's excuse used to be it sold pure gas, now it sells gasohol. Now base gasoline is still more expensive than off base. Both the BXs, and commissary waste to much time and money building new building and remodeling its old buildings. I would still buy from them if the they were tarpaper shacks, and the lower costs were passed on to the customers.

    • jojo613 I don't know what commissary you are shopping at because the one that I shop at has everything that you listed in your comment. My Walmart Strawberries are way more that the price you quoted ($3.49) and the Commissary strawberries are lets just say much less. I'm sure some servicemembers will accept $300.00 more money in their checks to shop elsewhere but retirees and dependents will not be offered that money. This commissary here has empty shelves because shoppers have purchased everything off of them. I save hundreds of dollars by shopping at the Commissary and our fruits and vegetables are fresh. They don't sit there long enough to go stale. If the Commissary on this base is closed many, many people will have to spend more to buy groceries.

    • mommykicksbutt | April 8, 2014 at 6:20 pm |

      I agree. The produce quality is awful, they were unpacking a box of zucchini and it was already moldy. Guess what? They put it out for sale anyway. Fruits and veggies way past their prime and absolutely nothing organic. The meat department isn't any better either. I bought some whole wheat flour to make some bread and it had bugs in it. The selection of shelf stable products is minimal. Ugh! I give up. Yes, I will pay more for fresh food. The so called savings at the commissary isn't worth it if the food is inedible.

  2. We are mainly perimeter shoppers so we don't shop for most of the things they price checked. That said, I routinely get our household goods, detergent, toothpaste, pet food etc for MUCH cheaper at non commissary stores. Meat I generally get much higher quality for cheaper by buying it in bulk.

  3. I don't know that I save 30.5 percent, but I do know that a lot of times I buy what is on sale and I take in coupons. The commissary doesn't carry everything that I need but it does carry most of what I need and usually the produce is decent, so long as you use it sooner rather than later. What I do know is that I save enough to make the trip worth it, and I avoid large crowds most of the time. That in itself is enough to make me make the trip!

    • I remember the days when the prices were so much lower that the lines at the commissary wrapped around the store on pay days! I agree that I do save at the commissary especially with my coupons. That is why I also make the trip….

    • What does sooner rather than later mean, though? The times I have been there it is always picked over– I go on Monday, picked over, I go on Wednesday, picked over, I go between paydays, picked over, I go on Thursday, picked over. I have never gone the commissary and gotten my complete shopping done, I have always had to go get maybe half of my groceries, and then go to another store to get the rest of them. And this is not uncommon stuff (here's what I didn't get the last trip)– this is chicken, seasonings, chocolate chips, gluten free pancake mix, cereal, etc.

  4. people tip baggers? when did this start and where was I?

    • Amy_Bushatz | January 13, 2014 at 7:21 pm |

      A really long time. In 1997 the baggers sued (and then dropped the lawsuit) because the tips, they said, didn't meet a minimum wage. However, it was after that the commissary put up signs saying that baggers work only for tips.

      In short, when have they NOT been tipped?

      • between that and the surcharge the commissary is a RIP OFF! yes a RIP OFF! I haven't needed the commissary for 6 years because even with tax, I can price match, coupon and save more than that over priced poor quality food.

      • In response to the sign for tipping the baggers.
        I have been married to a military member since 1979 and every Commissary I have ever been in always had signs up even then saying that baggers work for tips only.

    • Dan, I bagged at the sub-base New London in the middle sixties for tips. Most generous were the enlisted, while the upper ranks either stiffed us or thought 25 or 50 cents was generous.

    • "When did people start tipping baggers?" Well, I enlisted in 1976. So it was long before that.

    • I was a bagger in the 70's. Baggers have been tipped then and now. For you cheap tippers, bag it your self and take it to your car. You are allowed to.

    • I think it started quite awhile back. When we were young two-stripers, a buddy and I bagged groceries at the McChord AFB commissary for about 6 months. He kept close track of every nickel (back then the usual tip was a nickel or dime per bag . . . . 50 cents was a pretty good haul) and he used every penny he earned to buy a brand new 1968 Chevelle
      I don't know where you were Dan – Where *were* you in 1968?

    • There are signs in all the stores. Baggers only get paid from tips.

    • Between 1955 and 1959, I was an Army Brat and worked as a bagger during the summer at Carlisle Bks, Army War College. I made a significant amount of money through tips. On a busy day I would take $20.00.

    • Lol, I'm not sure everyone picked up on your humor.

    • Not-so-Rich-Rich | January 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm |

      In the 1950s when I was a pre-teen I worked at the base commissary in the summers for tips only; so I know it was being done 50+ years ago. When I shop on base now as a retiree I try to tip generously, remembering the joy of getting 5-cents a bag in 1957!

    • Victoria Elisabeth | January 17, 2014 at 12:08 pm |

      Hey Dan, I'm new to the military and had no idea. At the first base I was at, it wasn't a big deal. At this base, the bagger will actually call you out if you don't tip.

  5. Scan your own groceries at checkout. And carry your own groceries out if patrons are complaining about tipping.

  6. I always shop my commissary and am grateful for the money I do save, I also tip my bangers, they help and are always smiling..

    • I tip my Bangers here in Korea. They are Flips. I noticed the commissary slipped in a "surcharge" on groceries purchased. I was confused, Am I paying to support the commissary? Is the GOV subsidising the commissary? The savings are great here in Korea. If you had to live in this country without the commissary it would be BAD!

  7. SCPORetired | January 14, 2014 at 5:45 pm |

    Here in FL, a state without food tax, I faithfully shopped at the commissary for about 9 years after we retired. But as gas went up in price, I started to question the 30+ min drive to the base when the Super Wal-Mart was 10 minutes away. So I made up my usual bi-monthly shopping list and went to the commissary. The next day, I took the commissary register tape (as well as the two previous commissary trips) and went to Wal-Mart and Winn Dixie to compare. What I found was that I save at least double the commissary surcharge not including what I saved in gas for the trip. It was my last trip to the base for anything and I haven't been back in 5 years with a few exceptions to check meat prices vs Wal-Mart & Costco. So far, the commissary is still the loser in comparisons. And its been at least 2 years since my last comparison and I don't really see a need to do it again.

    • We go to the commissary exactly twice each year – For the case lot sales
      We save 15 to 20% buying things in case lots over the usual WalMart price, but if there really are any day to day savings, I'm sure they aren't enough to make up for the longer drive

    • Agreed. The only time we stop by the commissary is if we have to go to the military hospital for an appointment. Otherwise, we shop at our neighborhood grocery stores where we find the produce with much better quality. We avoid the tip lines by using the self checkout lanes because anything less than three dollars for a multiple bag carry out results in a dirty look from the bagger. Nothing irritates us more than the 5% surcharge. We consider it nothing more than a tax on the food purchased and we live in a state that does not tax food. We avoid the 65% percent of a grocery stores products which contain sugar additives and attempt to eat healthy. We can do that by shopping near our home. I am a senior and if patrons think they are saving 30% at the commissary at Nellis AFB I have some ocean front property in Nevada I'd like to sell them. I must admit though if it wasn't for the Commissary at Pearl Harbor Hawaii a lot of active duty and retirees would be eating Cup-of-Noodles three meals a day, but that is an exception. 30% is just another one of the government's hogwash stories.

    • U are correct sir!

  8. I have shopped the Commissary for many years and have found the prices are much lower than Walmart and other stores in my area. The prices at the Commissary are consistent. The stores are clean and well run. I have checked the prices over the years with other stores and found the Commissary is anywhere from $2.00 to $.10 lower on the items that I purchase. Please keep the Commissaries and Exchanges. They are a blessing to everyone but especially to seniors who are on a fixed income.

    • AMEN to that, Sally. People who are negative here, must have more money that we. I have done the comparisons and consistantly, the price difference is mostly 30% on average. Otherwise I shop at Walmart or Price Chopper, as it it is a distance of about 60 miles round trip for me. I factor that in, when I decide to drive to the base, however I still get at least a 20% saving on my entire purchase. Yes, I always tip the baggers. They earn their tips.

    • I drive appox. 2 1/2 hours to get to the commissary, I save enough to cover my fuel and then some. I know I was spending $500 plus at walmart a month and that went to $300 a month by going to the commissary. I do still buy milk, eggs, bread locally. Now that it is just me the same $300 last me for two months. If you want to hurt our retired, disable veterans that are on a fixed income, then close the commissary and BX's. And I might add I do prefer quality over quantity..

  9. I went to the commissary and PX in Chicago thinking I might stock up on a few things. What a joke. I left without getting a single thing. It is much cheaper to shop at Meijers or Walmart.

  10. There is no difference from the commissary and local grocery stores if there is a sale on items. The commissary surcharge is actually more if you buy food than the taxes at grocery stores. Food is usually taxed at 2% in grocery stores where I live. You just have to watch some items are cheaper at the commissary and others are cheaper at local grocery stores.

  11. I do not know what Commissary you people are shopping at, but I live in TX which has no sales tax on food and my savings at the Commissary including surcharge and tip is 46%. Yes it is that large here. Our cuts of meat are way better than town and vegetables always look fresher. My mom went with me one time and was shocked at the price difference. Also if you need speciality foods like glutten free of diabetic friendly foods, the prices cannot compare. I also coupon and use the rewards card and save even more.

    • You are right Jennefer……..People who are negative on here do not realize what the Commissary means to some of us and just ought to think about that before leaving their bad comments. Shopping elsewhere might work for them, but not always for me.

      • It's not about posting bad comments or being negative. The survey asked for people's experiences, and people are answering honestly. I don't really see where a basket of groceries is cheaper at the commissary than it is at my local HEB.

        This question was asked in order to evaluate whether the cost for the military to sustain commissaries is feasable. Programs that aren't smart for the majority of military families, should be abandoned, which would divert funds to programs that have the most impact. I think that this is an important issue, and should be actively discussed, so that the military has a better idea of what programs are best for the overall mission of the military. Telling people to "think about that before leaving their bad comments" doesn't really do much to further your position, and in fact diminishes your opinion.

      • I posted a negative review of our commissary, only because I don't want the commissary to go away. In order for the commissary to be a viable service to military personnel, they must do things that will attract more customers. In order to do that they must carry the things that customers want at a competitive price. So why not show the warts and help the commissary fix itself rather than let it fail? Or would you rather shove your head and sand and pray the commissary stays? Fixing supply and demand issues would certainly bring more customers into the commissary, thus bringing more funds, thus causing the commissaries to continue to provide services necessary for people who cannot make ends meet, make ends meet. You want to keep the commissary, you have to find ways to make it a better shopping experience than the local Grocery stores. Here Walmart has the best produce, Publix has the best meat– the Commissary has to compete, or it get axed.

        • Ugh I can't agree more, teh Fort Belvoir one may be the WORST commissary I've ever been in . They are constantly out of stuff, the produce goes bad inside of 2 days, I've gotten dairy only to get home and find mold in it and it is WAY to small for the crowds it gets, I literally have to park my cart in the back of the store and walk around carrying armfulls of stuff back to it because there is NO room in the store. Busiest one in the country, you would think they would have improved that store first, instead they built the largest one in the country at Fort Carson, and having been stationed there in the past, there was no need for a warehouse store sized commissary there…especially with 2 other commissaries within 10 miles.

        • Part of what makes this issue to complicated is that folks forget that just because a commissary does a lot of business doesn't help solve this problem. Commissaries are not for-profit, they are not self-sustaining. Even if everyone shopped there all it would do is cover the wholesale cost of buying products and maintaining the facilities. The salary and pay of the workers and staff is not covered by sales…it is subsidized by the DoD. This issue is not a matter of whether the commissary is beneficial…it's a question of whether that benefit is worth the billion dollars a year it costs to maintain.

  12. Yes, it does safe my family a lot of money to shop the Commissary… at least in this State.
    I can get foods there, we are used to. Foods we can not find any where else.

    Walmart costs a lot more than the Commissary I go to.

    • Keep in mind that all the stateside commissaries charge the same price for the same items…so, unless u are overseas or at AK/HI, you are wrong…

      • SemperGumby9378 | January 16, 2014 at 6:59 pm |

        Actually, they don't. I've compared items at commissaries in Calif and NC for same items and the Calif commissaries had lower prices. I believe some of the pricing is based on population and use.

  13. Having just retired from the military, I love the commissary. Military folks come from all walks of life and all over the world. With that comes lots of varied food tastes. A product someone may have grown up with (e.g. Best Foods known as Hellman's East of the Rockies) may not be available. Go to you local food store and find pancit noodles or Bulldog sauce. Most likely you won't. I bet your commissary does. The commissary program does a great job at variety across a lot of different tastes. How many types (and brands) of dressing does it carry? How many is enough? If you are looking for a specific product, bring the UPC to the store and if it is in the DECA inventory, they generally will be able to order it in for you. Will your local store? DECA does save you money. The military community really benefit from the commissary. It will never be able to compete with the "bulk item" purchases as most people in the military don't buy that way. When you compare UPCs you will find the savings. I have been to bases where the produce/meats are better on and off base. In general though, the base has the consistency of better product. When the commissary has a sale and you add a coupon the savings really add up. Manufacturers make getting coupons much easier. I haven't been to a commissary that hasn't had a coupon section to help its customers. Does Walmart? Bottom line the commissary is a benefit we do not want to lose. I know I enjoy the savings.

  14. SemperGumby9378 | January 14, 2014 at 7:42 pm |

    People tend to look at military benefits with tunnel vision and something like the commissary cannot be looked at that way. While I agree that the commissary, depending on what region of the country or what overseas location you're living in can bring substantial savings or not; we need to look at the big picture. If you live somewhere where you feel you can get all of your grocery items for less than what the commissary charges, or you have enough income to shop elsewhere without regard for price then great, but don't say "close the commissary, I don't need it" without regard for the active duty, reserve, retired or disabled veteran who needs it. Let's just take beneficiaries who live in Hawaii for instance; I know for a fact that prices in town are most often double, triple and sometimes more what the commissary charges. In a situation like that, where should that beneficiary go to find those extra dollars each month for groceries if the commissary is closed? Take the case of a 100% disabled veteran who is living on a super-fixed income and needs to use the commissary to make ends meet, who is going to make up the difference in income if the commissary is closed? It's not like the government is saying, OK we'll close the commissaries but to help compensate for that loss of a promised benefit we're going to give more than a 1% or 1.5% COLA increase. Not going to happen. If we're lax about the closing of the commissaries then we may as well just plan on losing all of our other "expendable" benefits – like medical. They won't close the Exchanges because they run without appropriated funds and most of their profits go to morale, welfare and recreation (money the government doesn't have to come up with). Rather than closing the commissaries we should be looking at ways to make it work, ways to make people who have stopped using it want to use it again. Remember, closing the commissaries also mean hundreds of people losing jobs. This talk of closing/getting rid of is always a slipper slope.

    • Good post. The price of groceries varies from place to place. The commissary is a great benefit, especially for those who live in places with a relatively high cost of living. Maybe they could close the commissaries in places that have cheap groceries in town. My big concern is that if they start closing commissaries in places where cheap groceries can be had in town, then DeCA starts to lose some of its buying / negotiating power. That loss of buying / negotiating power will start to drive up prices at the commissaries in other places. After all, their prices are cost plus 5%. As they lose their volume buying discount, the costs simply gets passed on to commissary patrons.

    • I completely agree. I think one commissary managers need to talk to Walmart and other big box grocery stores about stocking and inventory management. When you don't stock properly, run out of things completely, you will lose customers. I bet that the commissary could actually make money and not need to be subsidized if they learned better ways to stock their shelves.

  15. I can spend 600 dollars in groceries at the commissary and the same amount of food bought at Walmart would probably cost nearly 1000. I also use around 30-35 dollars in coupons.

  16. 35YearsShopping | January 14, 2014 at 9:30 pm |

    I have been around the military community for better than thirty years; my wife has been around for 54 years. We live close to Fort Hood where we have two Commissaries and two PX's. Many things can be bought on the economy, saving you money. Thirty years ago after the Reagan 10% pay increase for Active Duty, I was thinking of this scenario. Maybe others can chime in once you digest what I am about to say.

    Scenario – the Commissary raises the cost of items by 2% annually, ant the PX raises their prices 2.8% annually. There are times when soldiers receive a 1.3% pay raise for five years in a row. By the time those five years have passed the cost of items in both facilities have jumped almost 25% while the soldiers pay equal ls approximately 6.5%.

    Oh yeah, do not forget the "surcharge" for the commissary visit as well was the few dollars for those mafia type groups who do not allow teenagers on base the chance to bag and earn a few dollars. Everywhere I have. Moved since at least 1980 certain groups for an almost "nepotism" or "ethnicity" based guide as to who bags. My kids are mixed races white/hispanic and white/black were never allowed to bag, earn a few bucks because certain groups of adults had the almighty authority as to who can bag at the commissary. Come to Fort Hoods Main Commissary and you'll see this happening daily. In my last ten years at Hood one group runs the bagging operations like mafia.

    Using this ideology why would a service member or retiree want to shop on base? Sorry for the rant.

  17. Stateside Commissaries are a WASTE of Tax payer dollars!!! They are no longer needed, Close them all!!!

    • I disagree. I am a retiree and enjoy the savings from shopping the commissary. Once a month my wife and I drive 50 miles one way to the commissary as we discovered that we save money even when including the cost of the trip, tip, 5% surcharge, and the cost of groceries. We don't buy all our groceries at the commissary for a couple of reasons. First the cost in time and money to get bread or milk in between trips to the commissary is not justified. Secondly, some items are either cheaper or not carried at the commissary. When I say cheaper, it is often either on sale or a generic brand. Stateside commissaries are not a waste of taxpayer dollars. I remember as a soldier skipping meals to be sure that my wife and children had enough food to eat. I qualified for food stamps as a sergeant (E-5) but didn't take them. Without the commissary it would have been even harder to support my family. Nope, stateside commissaries are not a waste of taxpayer dollars, they are a benefit earned by agreeing to go into harms way for our nation when asked while others choose not to do so. If you are a military veteran, I salute you. Regardless of an individual's status, including yours, I defend their right to express their opinion even if I disagree. I have spent the majority of my life in defense of our liberties.

  18. Navynursing | January 15, 2014 at 8:46 am |

    We shop the commissary at Great Lakes. I appreciate having it but by no means does it come close to saving us 30.5%. Some items are less expensive…such as Smuckers syrup….others are just the same as Walmart…such as instant oatmeal. The sushi from the “sushi stand” is maybe 0.50 cheaper than Jewel…and some specialty items are more expensive at the commissary. Case lot sales do save us quite a bit. Ultimately I prefer to give my money to the commissary over Walmart but if Costco sells it, that will trump all.

    • Mabe they should close the one at Great Lakes, because we save a lot at the one we shop at.

    • I agree that the Great Lakes commissary is hit and miss. For me, its proximity to Family Housing often pushes it ahead of driving into Gurnee, Waukegan, or Vernon Hills to Walmart or Costco, though.

  19. I grew up military, and have always known that the commissary was at least a little cheaper, but I remember the first time I took my new wife to shop there, she was amazed at how much cheaper the prices were. especially on dry goods. We live half way between the commissary and a Walmart, and the only time we go to Walmart is when the commissary is closed.

  20. When it comes to whether or not you save when shopping at the commissary, you need to take into account several things;
    1) Where you live/are stationed?
    2) Does that state charge tax on food? (I wish AL didn't, but they do)
    3) How far you have to travel to get to your closest commissary? Time to get there?
    4) Are you a "name-brand" only family or do generic products work for you?
    5) Are you a "brand-specific" family or do you buy whatever is on sale or you have a coupon for?

    All of these factors change the dynamic for every household. I know, for 20+ years, every time we moved I have a list of items that we always try to keep on hand in our pantry. They span a large cross-section of any grocery store. I have this list on an excel spreadsheet and I head to my local Wal-Mart, largest 2 grocers, and the local commissary. I then price every item on that sheet (name brand and generic, when available). That is how I base my decision on whether or not the commissary is worth shopping at or not.
    It does take some time (2-3 hours) the first time, but then I know for a fact which is better for that particular area.

    I have to make a significant effort to go to my local commissary now, so instead, I only visit 3-4 times a year to stock up on meat, usually. But then the rest of the time I use my sales flyers, coupons, and buy lots of store brands at local grocer's to get the best prices.

    The AL commissary I shop at now, is the first commissary I have EVER been to (including overseas) that has great produce. Our local Wal-Marts are awful.

    Find what works for you, your family, and your budget and go with it. I just hope that the gov't doesn't close stateside commissaries because I know my family and budget would be in big trouble if they did or we would be eating a lot less meat. Have a great day everyone!!

  21. when I look at prices at warehouse groceries e.g. WinCo I doubt it………..the savings compared to
    regular retail are astounding but I am not sure what warehouse groceries are available nationwide
    and never mind overseas.
    BTW WinCo is employee owned

  22. Cecil Riggs | January 15, 2014 at 7:58 pm |

    I would like to know were these commissaries are located . Every one that I have shopped at was all way higher than the local market. after adding the surf charge to it.

    • Bobby E. Welch Sr. | January 16, 2014 at 3:51 am |

      ""Where do you live……
      For myself i live In Auburn,Al about 35 min from Fort Benning,Ga and about 50 min
      from Maxwell AFB Montgomery,Al
      One thing that i have notice is that the prices at Maxwell AFB is higher, then Fort Benning…
      Speaking for myself…..Walmart and Kroger is little to high for me….100.00-140.00 we
      have anywhere to 11-15 bags of georgices, and the prices on meats you can't beat them..

    • We are stationed at Eglin AFB, FL. I live in Niceville, FL. It depends on what you are shopping for. When they have what I'm shopping for, the commissary is *slightly* cheaper than Walmart, but not 100s of dollars. Generally, I spend about $150-175 when I shop at Walmart versus around $200-250 at the commissary, but usually the Commissary trips are larger trips. I usually shop there 1-2 times a month. I'm frustrated by the commissary, because a lot of times it's not very well stocked here, and if you go in the afternoon or on the weekend, often times parts of the commissary are empty.

  23. Yes, there are a few items like soda an off brands to be obtained cheaper downtown, but commissaries have always been and will always be cheaper than civilian stores! Meat prices alone are at least 40% cheaper on base and the produce is far better than civilian stores! And those "saver" prices can always be beat by one of the "top line" companies that commissaries carry! Yes we have Wal-Mart, Sams Club, Kroger and others, but they don't even come close cost wise. You like downtown, go for it! Personally I'LL stay with the commissary for what I call stock up shopping!

  24. The name brands and at the commissary will cost less than the name brands at the store, however the private labels at the stores are generally less than either. Many times the quality is just as good as the name brands.

  25. Secret Shopper | January 15, 2014 at 9:53 pm |

    9 times out of 10 when I make a shopping trip to the commissary ($150+) I leave a $3 to $5 bagger tip. So, If my savings at the Commissary are $5 or less I, don't see the value. My case in particular; the nearest commissary is 1 hour drive one way. I would usually make Saturday morning trips but, now I keep it local at the nearby Wally World (Wal-Mart)…..Wally World is shattering all the competition with other local grocery stores due to their "Ad Match" and "Low Price Guarantee". I mean I have Wegmans and Harris Teeter's closer but they can't compete with Wally World. The worst of them all is Giant grocery store, their prices are out of this world. I don't know how people shop there…….

  26. I'm 64 years old and for 63 of those years I have been eligible to shop in a commissary. It is one of my most favorite benefits as a retiree. I can remember when you couldn't use coupons in commissaries. I know I save money over civilian groceries (unless I go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, which I do sometimes). I don't use a lot of processed foods. The produce in my commissary is adequate. I don't buy much meat there because I need to buy organic or all natural meats. I won't shop at Wal-Mart because of their marketing and employment practices. I love my commissary. It meets my needs quite well and saves me money. Tipping of baggers has been happening for as long as I've been alive.

  27. old and tired | January 15, 2014 at 11:34 pm |

    I used to shop the commissary more but when I retired and found my budget severely restricted I found other places mostly closeout, farmer's markets and similar places that were far cheaper but probably more risky as well. Ironically Walmart was too expensive and since Sam died seems to be too cutthroat and greedy for my patronage. As soon as they ran off their competition in this area they raised prices and the employees nearer the big city are an unhappy lot which shows in the increased lack of concern for their customers. I'd rather shop the sales offered at the local small business unless it's something that only the commissary carries. I also do not agree with the "tips only" bagger situation- Even food servers that work for tips at least get a couple bucks per hour guaranteed for putting in their time.

  28. I'd be more inclined to believe a study that was conducted by an independent entity, rather than one conducted by DeCA. Of course their study will show that you save at the commissaries. They wouldn't shoot themselves in the foot.

    • The only reason i go to the commissary is for a bag of rice every few months. The distance isn't cost effective for regular visits.

  29. After reading many of your comments I have to write one. I'm retired military and now work for a big food manufacturer. I can see the pricing in the commissaries and outside the gate. Commissary pricing is way cheaper, sure Walmart or one of the other grocers will have milk, bread or even water cheaper to get you in the store but when you buy the regular shelf items (which is proven you will) they make up the difference quick. Take a look at cereal, soup and meat the sales they have in the commissary are much cheaper than outside the gate. If your shopping to save money buy the sale items on display and use the coupons if you can't find a coupon go online they are everywhere and military only coupons have greater value. If your experience in the commissary is bad fill out the complaint card at customer service it goes directly to HQ and believe me someone will answer it.

  30. The Commissary is a deal only on select items at certain times. When you add the bagger tip, plus GAS, to/from commissary and home, I don't see any saving.

    DoD leaders should look at turning over the Commissary system to a consortium of commercial vendors; we'd probably see some real savings then.

  31. Here in Calfornia they are the best place to shop we save lots of money !! Keep them open. We drive over an hour just to get to oursto save …our local stores are just to high eggs $3.79 doz, 1/2 & 1/2 pint size over $3.00. And it's more for meats, bread…
    So we save much at the Commissary.

    R.S U.S Army ret.

  32. Like anything else the commissary will save you money on some things and not on others. Shopping at the commissary restricts you to certain brands just like shopping at certain grocery stores does. If they don't carry the brand you want then they aren't going to save you money because you won't be buying that product there.

  33. For all of you complaining about the commissary not having what you need and what you want, you need to stop it. The commissary saves money to the lower enlisted with family. They like it just fine. If you don’t like the commissary or if can’t find the products you like, simply stop going to it and keep your opinions to yourself. Because of people like you saying close them all, is reason why they are making all these cuts to the soldier’s pay. If you are a spouse, are serving or if you have served in the military, you should be against all these cuts. There are some soldier that actually benefit from this.

    • The thing is in order to keep the commissaries open, they need to make money and have business. A few weeks ago, I went to the commissary, we eat a healthy diet, which includes mostly lean white meat (chicken, turkey), lean beef cuts, lean ground beef, and some fish. This is the ONLY meat I buy. A few weeks ago, I went there and there was absolutely NO chicken or turkey. The poultry section was completely empty. I went to get lean beef– no lean beef, only cuts of meat left were fatty, expensive cuts– the prime rib section was over-stocked. I'm against the cuts, but I am for better management of both BX and Commissary. It does no good when you can't maintain a decent stock of basic foods that people need, or want. And I could go all day about the BX– I'm a runner– no decent running shoes, when ALL the services require military service members to run?! Bikinis sold in Kuwait where they are under General Order One. Dog food in the stores in Kuwait and Iraq, when troops are not allowed to feed strays, or keep pets– the K-9 units get their own food not from the BX. Coach, Vera Bradley, Guess Jeans, Under Armor, high end electronics for personnel who can barely make ends meet? Furniture that falls apart after the first move sold at a military store? Soldiers and Airmen would benefit more from a better run, better managed commissary and exchange system.

    • Thank you! I think many people forget about our jr enlisted!

    • Speaking out about the poor supply management does not mean I'm pro-cuts. It doesn't save anyone ANY money when they are completely out of staples.

  34. I retired over twenty years ago and am quite familiar with both the Commissarry and local grocery prices, I'll guarantee you DECA saves me money. Admittedly, I only live about three miles from the HAFB Commissary, so travel time/expense isn't a real issue, but I live just as close to 2 regional grocery stores, "Kent's" and "Smith's", and I've actually compared receipts to track the prices between the three, NOT bsed my conclusions on empirical observation, and the Commissary wins out every time. The factor of the surcharge doesn't bother me as it's lower than the sales tax (Utah would tax the flippin' air if they could!) and, as someone who worked in grocery before being drafted in '67, if you're too flippin' cheap to tip the bagger, shame on you.

  35. "Does the Commissary REALLY Save You 30.5 Percent?"_________________________________________________________Sure it does, anybody that it don't, are not doing the math. Of course I DO scan my own items at the self check out most of the time, so that helps a lot.

  36. One thing I can compare because I have compared them. 93% lean ground beef, cheapest in town from any grocery store is $4.28/lb (comparing Sprouts, Whole Foods, WalMart, Smiths, Albertsons, Lowes, Fresh Foods). Commissary is $3.09/lb. Wrights brand bacon 24 oz (I love good bacon) cheapest is $7.98 (same places as above) and commissary $5.59. I shop cereals on sale only and get those from cheapest places. Because the commissary does not put out sales flyes I am not sure what is on sale until I go there. Problem is they are a 20 mile trip through the city each way so over 30 mins each way just to go. If I could plan based on sales I would go there. I typically can find toiletries, dry goods cheaper by way of sale flyers even if buying some things from Walgreens (yes you read that right). If the commissary had a better way of publicizing sales they may gain more business. Well there is my 10 cents worth (inflation drove up my 2 cents).

  37. Comparing commissaries and local food stores here around DC and the commissaries are MUCH cheaper. We find the selection adequate. I read a lot of complaints in forums about commissary meat, but to be honest I do not see the problem. The exception being I buy NY strip and sirloin in bulk at lower prices from local butcher, but chicken, pork, hamburger, roast, etc. are of good quality and less expensive shipping on base. But we are fortunate, the commissary is only about 15 minutes away. We ship once every 2 months or so and drop $500.00. Last we compared, that trip would cost over $600.00 at local stores and then only if we shopped for sales and went to multiple locations (Shopper's Warehouse, BJs, Wal Mart, Target, Food Lion, Giant, Safeway, etc.)

    • I'm in DC…I get meats cheaper direct from a farm in VA in bulk, and toiletries and produce I get cheaper at local stores

  38. We don't really price compare like many here. But we do rely on the Commissary for is products we can't find at local grocery stores – German foods in particular. Can't get Bratkartoffl or really good bratwurst at the local HEB. Also the Commissay carries pumpkin bread mix and pumpkin pies year-long while the locals only do it at Thanksgiving (or not at all for the pumpkin bread). Sam with Campbell's soup to go – locals don't carry clam chowder. So we go once a month an stock up on items we can't get elsewhere

  39. Have shopped at both.Will admit on some things you save at the Commissary but also on some items they are higher. You have to watch your prices and know what they are locally. On milk products they are usually less expensive and some meats. The Commissary usually carry name brand products where you find lots of generic items locally. Not real sure about the 30.5 % savings though.

  40. SlightlyDusty | January 16, 2014 at 12:15 pm |

    We comparison shop all the time. We limit our purchases at the comissary to those things that are a value usually cleaners, boxed, and can goods and buy on sale items in town. Occasionally we buy produce and meat in the commissary but that is not the norm. So we when need everything it is worth our time and effort to go there and for smaller buys we use a grocery store close to our house. When you figure out the gas and the bagger tip that isnt required at our grocery store only the larger trips to the commissary make sense.

  41. Two examples of comissary savings from last weeks trip: Florida Natural OJ, $2.29 everyday (best sale price at Publix 2 for $6), Skinless Boneless Chicken Breast, $1.99 per lb…a stunningly good price (best price at Publix on sale, $3.99 per lb, or $5.99 per pound on BOGO.) ….Commissary saves you money but does not alleviate you needing to be cognizant of sales on certain items at other stores. It is a service to service members, leave it be.

  42. We go to the commissary at NAS New Orleans and their baggers don’t carry the groceries to the car, only bag them. They have the same tip bucket, though. We’ve never been to a commissary where they don’t bring groceries out. Are there other commissaries that don’t carryout either?

  43. SemperGumby9378 | January 16, 2014 at 6:48 pm |

    For those who are bothered by tipping the baggers why aren't you taking advantage of self-checkout registers? I don't understand why anyone would be so bothered that someone has chosen to do a job and get compensated honestly. If the baggers are eliminated then the next whining will be that it takes too long to check-out because of course then the cashier will be expected to bag for you. Of course the baggers could be eliminated and customers required to bag their own at the non-self-checkout registers. I imagine someone would complain about that too. Meat prices at the commissary (and I've been stationed all over the West Coast, Hawaii, Okinawa, NJ and now live in the South) are awesome! I have tried shopping sales at other grocery stores for chicken (as an example) and while at the time it was less expensive per pound, by the time I cut off all the excess fat and skin w/feathers what I ended up paying for was excess fat and skin with feathers as opposed to a few dollars more to get chicken without all that crap on it. My daughter lives in the D.C./VA area and laments about how much she misses being able to shop at the commissary. When we compare prices I'm appalled at the prices she has to pay for necessary grocery items. Last year Jan. I decided to keep track of how much I spend at the commissary for an entire year so I could see if budget-wise I was being a good steward of my money when it came to groceries. Even including the times when I bought more because I had visitors or it was a special occasion/holiday I still spent way less than what budget gurus say I should be spending on these items. The commissary is a great benefit for many and for those who either don't like it or who simply just don't use it, please do not join the bandwagon of those who are advocating its closure. Think of those of us who do need/like/use it. Do what you wish, but don't speak for the rest of us. Another thing to keep in mind, if something at the commissary bothers you, speak with the manager. If there is something you want them to carry or an item that you notice is consistently priced lower off base then tell them. You'd be surprised at how they will do their best to accommodate you. I know I've requested items or made mention that I could get something far cheaper somewhere else and they have either started carrying that item or lowered prices. All of the commissaries do not carry all of the same items or if they do carry certain items it might be in a different size/weight. Remember, they only have so much shelf space.

  44. Swab-jockey | January 16, 2014 at 8:13 pm |

    I drive between 135 and 165 miles to either of two commissaries, one Army and the other Navy. Got to say the Navy one is head over heels for cleanliness and stocking as is the connected PX. As for pricing, we have Kroeger and Food Lion and the Commissary prices in both beat the locals even after factoring in the gas cost, surcharge and tipping. Bottom line, the locals may be flashier, but price-wise the Comm beats them all to hell and back. Want to bad-mouth the Mil go ahead, but try to be factual. I see a lot of commentary that seems to come from "grudge-bearers", plain and simple. You can save money if you go local and look for sales, but the Mil stores are same 24/7.

    • I don't have a grudge. I just think that if the military wants them to remain open, then we need to insist they do a better job at supply-demand and inventory management. I certainly don't want anyone to lose their job, or the military to go without this much-needed service. I'm sure they save money, but when they run out of whole food groups, there are days when you shouldn't go there, and some of the food is out and out bad, then something needs to be said about the management.

  45. I have shopped at commissaries in Las Vegas, Fort Worth, Tx, and Fort Wood, MO. Even after the surcharge I have always saved at least 30%. When items are on sale you can find things cheaper but over all our savings have always been significant. Not sure what other people are buying but I find the comments about not saving money very interesting.

  46. Annetta Morelli | January 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm |

    I really like the commissary especially for imported products from Germany, (coffee is a big item, because I can't find Jacobs or Tchibo anywhere else) and other countries. There are so many products available at our commissary that I cannot find anywhere else. I would be very sad to lose that service. Annetta Morelli, Leavenworth, KS.

  47. Without the competition from the commissary the nearby stores would raise their prices. As things currently exist there isn't much difference for a price shopper if you compare regular prices. The commissary has more and better sales on most items. I normally bag and carry my own groceries. I stay away on pay days and look for weekend sales.

  48. I really think the savings, or lack thereof, depends on where one lives. In Korea it was a mixed bag. Produce was a lot cheaper at the commissary, but often rotted within a day or two of purchase. Despite higher prices off post it was cheaper when I took waste into consideration. In Germany there is a surplus of milk, so dairy on the economy costs a fraction of commissary prices. Grocery items are generally similarly priced, or cheaper and the quality excellent. I avoid the commissary except for paper products and the occasional odd item if I'm there anyway.

  49. Our small commisary is 40 minutes away, and we go every couple months. My wife took a $300+ receipt to a national chain and reproduced everything she could find, and the saving was over 30%, including surcharge. For that much grocery purchase, the bagger got $10; I am happy to help them

  50. I see it as one of the benefits of service and use it. My wife and I shop the commisary about every 6 weeks. Its 40 miles to the nearest commissry and the cost of the trip makes more frequent trips too costly. We usually stock up on certain items that we know are much cheaper at the commissary such as batteries and paper products. Meat products are usually much cheaper also. Having spent more than 20 years in the military its also nice to be on a base once in awhile.

  51. If the commissary thinks you can save 30 % on your monthly shopping they are in serious denial. They couldn't prove any of there statements on savings. Screwing the common man every time. You should be able to give the military 5% above cost. Period. For every 100 spent at a commissary they should take 25 off. That is savings. Not the twisted setup they use for pricing. It could be so easy.

  52. John P. White | January 29, 2014 at 1:25 pm |

    I would like to know what store or stores they were using in this comparison. Anyone who has compared civilian stores must acknowledge that it is not hard to find one that is seriously overpriced. I will bet a dollar to a doughnut that the civilian stores used in the comparison did not include Walmart.

    • John, one thing that it doesn't take into consideration besides whether, or not, there is a savings between the commissary and grocery store A, is brand name products. The commissary only sells brand name products, and they only compared prices to brand name products at local grocery stores. If I were to go to Walmart, and buy, say pasta. The brand name pasta at the commissary is $1.20, the brand name pasta at Walmart is a $1.37. That's a savings. But if you buy the generic pasta at Walmart for $.97, it's not a savings. I think this is were the study may be flawed, because it's not comparing meat prices and produce (nor does it touch on quality), and it doesn't compare the prices of brand name products versus generic items.

  53. I don't want to see the commissary go away. But what is AAFES going to do to keep the prices down? When you compare the PX, Shoppette prices to down town they are usually more then down town. Sure you can do the price matching but they are to be here to support the military. We shouldn't have to go looking else where and then come to PX/Shoppette to see if they have the better deal or not. It is a lot of inconvenience and even more costly with the cost of gas prices too now days. Because of the cost of gas and the fact that AAFES is behind the times on having the newest items on the market more and more the service members will buy at the store they are at. If they really want to bring the service members and there families back then they really need to ensure that there prices are below down town retail stores as well as Sams Club and Cosco Club prices before taxes. When the customers see that AAFES is truly the cheaper and best pricing to buy the customers will come back. They may actually get back to being the customers 1st choice again.

  54. I haven't really figured it out, but the commissary does same me a lot.

  55. If you look closely you can save more off base/Post. The key is you have to look for sales, I think it will save millions to close them and place the money into health care or improving Education.

  56. I can agree with most of these posts. Although the security is so much better on base than in the hood at walmart.
    I really like the meat and bread prices and canned tuna fish.

  57. Buying meat in bulk saves money!

  58. I just might make a trip tomorrow and load up the freezeR.

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