Spouse 101

The Commissary: Food for Thought

Most military installations, domestic and international, have commissaries that provide groceries and common household goods for military families. Because they do not charge sales tax and offer competitive prices, shopping at the commissary can save you money — an estimated 30 percent of your bill when compared on average to local groceries.

In fact, in a verified financial comparison study, that 30 percent of savings per bill amounts to roughly $4,400 for the average family of four. And if you live on base or post, it can save you driving time and fuel costs.

Commissaries stock the same food you’d find in your local supermarket. They have produce, a bakery, a deli section and occasionally offer unique treats from around the world.

In-store and online savings

Commissaries offer rewards cards available in all locations. You can register your account online, providing you access electronic coupons.  And now, you can also load those coupons on to your card and redeem your savings at checkout-no cutting required!

The commissary website also allows you to create a virtual shopping list: simply log on to the website, select your local commissary and search for your desired grocery.

Currently, many commissaries are experimenting with an online ordering services: simply log on to your commissary, select your groceries and the time you’d like to pick them up and pay in store at your designated time-perfect for those with a busy schedule!

Also, access the website to find various specials online and calculate the percent savings of sale items in your commissary as well as finding helpful links to a variety of festivals and events around base/post.

What’s so Different?

The two biggest differences come when you are checking out. Unlike a regular grocery store, everyone stands in one line and then either follows the direction of an automated voice or an employee who will tell you when to go to the next available cashier. When you get to the cashier, you will have to present your military ID card and any coupons or your rewards card.

Commissaries have baggers who work for tips only. They’ll take your groceries out to your car if you’d like, and most baggers will assume you want this service unless you explain at the beginning of your transaction that you’d like to take your groceries out to your car yourself.

It’s customary, but not required, to leave a small tip if they only bag your groceries but don’t take them to your car. There will be a tip jar at the checkout. It’s also customary (but again, not required) to give a larger tip if they take your groceries out to your car for you. A good rule of thumb for that is giving 25 or 50 cents per bag taken out.

Commissaries function as typical grocery stores, though their hours and operating days may be different than a civilian store. Be sure to check with your local commissary for a list of what days and hours that they operate. And while the commissary does not charge sales tax, they do add a surcharge on your purchases to cover operating costs for the facility.

Did You Know?

During peak farm fresh seasons, many commissaries also offer locally grown produce.

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