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Why You Should Be Shopping at the Commissary


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Commissaries are on-base grocery stores that offer military families significant savings. The military Exchange program includes both Commissaries and Exchanges. When you shop at a Commissary, your purchases are tax-free. 

Here’s the good news - as a member of the military community, you’re authorized to shop at all Exchanges and Commissaries, no matter your service member spouse’s branch. As a resident in an LMH community, you’re close to all of these amenities. That means when it’s time to do your shopping, there’s less stress and less headache. 

So why shop at the commissary? 

Think of the Commissary as your neighborhood grocery store. Just like a civilian grocery store, it sells food and some household items. But civilian grocery stores are trying to make money. The Commissary is run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), and it is not trying to make money. That means that it sells most items at cost. The cost of the items is negotiated with the supply, and that savings is passed onto military families. Remember that Commissary prices fluctuate and usually change about twice a month. This is different from the civilian sector, where prices are modified almost weekly.  

The Commissary adds a surcharge of about 5% to your bill to cover operational costs. There is no state or local food tax added to your bill, but the surcharge helps DeCA with store upkeep and to help fund new Commissaries. The surcharge is calculated by the cost of your items before any coupons are deducted.

Speaking of coupons …

Commissaries offer digital coupons and bulk sales where you can save even more. 

There are currently 240 Commissaries in operation across the country and worldwide. It pays to visit the website, too. There you can sign up for a rewards card, complete online food ordering, and schedule a grocery order for curbside pickup. 

Aside from the financial savings, shopping at your Commissary helps keep funds in the military community. A portion of each purchase is donated to on-base activities. 

How can you save money?

Military Spouse reports that shoppers save an average of 30% when shopping at a Commissary versus in town. Sometimes you might find items cheaper in civilian stores, but that depends on your region and the item. To make the most of your Commissary trip, follow this approach.

First, check the sales at your local commissary by visiting the Commissary website. Select the Savings Aisle and then check out what’s on sale. 

Make sure you have a Commissary Loyalty card! This loyalty program offers you access to digital coupons to use for more savings.

Case Lot Sales: In May and September, Commissaries around the country have case lot sales. These can be combined with coupons to layer on the savings and give you a chance to stock up on items your family uses most often. 

Is it true that baggers work “for tips” only?

Baggers at commissaries receive no salary and are only paid in the tips shoppers give them. There’s no clear-cut answer on how much you should tip per trip. Seasoned mil-spouses suggest putting yourself in their shoes and tipping generously from your heart.

Related: On-Base Grocery Shopping: A Guide to Being Healthy

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