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!