Commissaries Are Worth Caring About

care about commisssaries

Way back when I was a new military spouse (all the way back to 2006!), I remember my first trip to the Commissary. Besides being completely terrified that I was walking or breathing incorrectly, I was also flabbergasted when I reached the register and saw the total. Holy savings, Batman!

Before the objections start rolling in, let me say that, as newlyweds on an Airman Basic’s income, my priorities were not high quality meat, or a large selection of organic produce. Give us some bananas and ground beef, and we were good. So, the selection of products was more than satisfactory, and one shopping trip of $90 was able to last us the full two weeks between paychecks.

This is something we should hope our legislators keep in mind when they debate cutting $1 billion dollars from the Defense Commissary Agency over the next three years. This action would all but completely shut down stateside stores, leaving just the handful of overseas locations open for military families to utilize.

What about those young couples? The commissary is a benefit—it’s there to offset the hardships that come from the lower pay, especially for those early ranks. Before my husband was promoted, I was at the commissary every two weeks, like clockwork. Stocking up, catching the case-lot sales, prepping for 14-days-worth of meals; it was a major help for us. As he progressed, I ventured out, discovered a few specialty items I liked, and supplemented my commissary trips with my finds. Even now, though, after eight years as a military spouse, the bulk of my grocery shopping is done on base.

The commissary is toted as a benefit for retirees; they even have those special Early Bird hours! So, clearly, it is assumed that after a full military service, the use of the commissary is encouraged. Also, for those service members who are a part of the involuntary force reductions that are happening across the branches, the ability to use the commissary for up to two years after separation is often offered as part of the severance package. Overall, the closing of the commissaries would have a ripple effect for everyone associated with the service.

The Department of Defense has made no official plans to cut anything from the DeCA budget, but plan to look at a variety of cost-cutting ventures, and clearly, nothing can be ruled out at this point.

With the drastic cuts the military is taking as a whole, this is just one more thing military families need to be aware of, and plan accordingly. Clip more coupons, and look into bulk stores like Sam’s Club or Costco, both of which offer a military discount on their membership. Being aware of sales, and freezing milk or meat can help during those longer pay-periods.

Most of all, use your commissary. We can’t gripe when they take away a benefit we never utilized. So, clog up those aisles, and empty those shelves!


  1. I have to admit that I was unimpressed with my only trip to the commissary. My husband is guard and his base is 2 hours away. We rarely go with him. In December we went for the Christmas party and stayed at TLF. I brought no food and planned to use the commissary for breakfast and lunch. It had a poor selection and the prices were not all that good. When I mentioned it to my husband he said most now shop off base at the nearby Walmart. There may be a need in smaller cities or remote areas but in large cities the commissary can’t compete.

    • I live in a larger city and nothing competes with the Commissary. If it were to close down, we would go without a lot that we simply couldn’t afford if not for the Commissary. Sometimes the prices aren’t any better than Walmart, but you have to wait for sales, clip coupons and buy 3-6 months worth of that item when it’s cheap then you will see amazing savings. I did this recently with Finish dish tabs that were $0.54 for a 20 pack after sale/coupon. These run $4-$5 off base per 20. I got 6 month supply and don’t have to buy any more anytime soon.

    • I live in Fort Worth, and the Commissary comes is way, way under regular grocery stores. I use coupons like a crazy person and get unbeatable savings.

  2. We hardly ever shop anywhere but the commissary. We typically go on payday and immediately regret it because it’s complete chaos and we wait in line forever. But we definitely get better deals. When the government was shut down a few months back, we headed to Wal-Mart to do our grocery shopping. In hopes of the commissary not being closed for too long, we got the basics. I did Wal-Mart brands when I could and we didn’t buy any meat. Needless to say we walked out with maybe a half full cart and spent over $100!! We spend between$100-200 at the commissary and leave with beef, chicken, and a cart full to the top. We’re a family of 4 on an e4 budget, I couldn’t imagine what we’d do if they took our commissary away from us.


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