Have you ever considered using your local commissary or are you an old pro with on base shopping? No matter what your shopper status you will soon learn how to use the commissary and how to save money doing it. Commissaries are a military installations grocery store, essentially. You can buy groceries and other household items, often at a reduced price. Commissaries worldwide are operated by the Defense Commissary Agency. The United States Armed Forces have been shopping in commissaries since 1867, and the benefits have only gotten better. The items are sold at cost with a 5% surcharge that benefits new and updated commissaries. It is estimated that a savings of 30% can be achieved over the local options in any given shopping trip.
Who can shop at commissaries?
- Medal of Honor recipients
- Retired uniformed personnel
- Any uniformed personnel
- DoD civilian employees overseas
- Authorized family members
- 100% disabled veterans
- All disabled veterans (Eligible Jan. 1, 2020)
- Primary Veteran Caregivers (Eligible Jan. 1, 2020)
- Purple Heart Recipients (Eligible Jan. 1, 2020)
- Former Prisoners of War (Eligible Jan. 1, 2020)
Effective January 1, 2020, the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act expanded the pool of eligible exchange, commissary shoppers to include all service-connected disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war and primary veteran caregivers. The benefit will also extend to MWR “revenue generating facilities”.
Reserve and National Guard families can also partake in some of the commissary benefits. If there is a host commissary with units that have at least 150 members and offers certain items to them at a sale price. Certain commissaries allow products to be pre-ordered and shipped to the site, however, unless you live close to a commissary it’s not really worth the hassle. If you want to take advantage of military shopping discounts when you’re nowhere near a base, try the Exchange online. The Exchange is the department store on base. Like the commissary, the Exchange is meant to be an extension of the benefits offered to the soldiers and their families. Both facilities offer discounted goods and services to all those with a valid military ID.
Currently veterans cannot shop at commissaries (they can at the Exchanges) but the DoD is currently considering allowing veterans to shop the commissaries.
What is it and how does it work?
The commissary is just like any other grocery store with the exception of its location. You need your military ID to be eligible to shop but other than that, there is nothing special that you need to do to receive your benefits. Commissaries are incredibly convenient, not only for their ability to help you stay on a tight budget, but as an alternative to leaving base and seeking out a commercial store in a new area. If you choose to consistently shop at your local commissary, the savings will add up to approximately $4,500 for a family of four over the course of the year, and it’s closer to home! The stores are operated as a part of the military incentive package, not for their own profit, this insures that they will often have the cheapest prices and the best quality around (and in my opinion as a military wife, most of the time meat at the commissary will beat the taste and price of any butcher you can find.) The biggest selling point for commissaries, at least the ones that are operated overseas, would be that they offer the soldiers and family a “bit of home,” away from home. They offer familiar products and familiar faces at a time when everything can be a bit foreign. Service members and their families can enjoy tax free shopping, exclusive access, payment options, basic uniform floor plan so you can find everything you need anywhere you go and priority checkout for those in uniform. Shopping in a commissary can provide a sense of comfort when you are in a new place. While most places that you will be stationed will be perfectly safe, but at others you may not want to venture to far from home. Being surrounded by familiar uniforms, accents and products will make the transition to a new place as easy as possible. The floor plan of every commissary is basically the same so you should be able to find the items you easily.
Tips for stretching your dollar
- Use coupons whenever possible.
- Buy food that is in season, it is often cheaper since it is easier to come by.
- Look for the signs, the “Savings You’ve Earned” signs in the commissary, they’ll alert you to unadvertised sales.
- Get in the loop – sign up for the commissary newsletter and they will send you links to savings, contests and more.
- Wait for sales and use your coupons according to the sale of the week
The best piece of advice that I can give you is to watch the sales. Things go on sale approximately every 12 weeks. When you watch the sales, shop at the commissary, ad match and use coupons, you are doing everything in your power to save the most on your families grocery needs. You will also be saving on time and gas by shopping on your home base. Another helpful suggestion would be to join a “Fort/Base/Army/Navy/Air force etc. Wives,” group on Facebook. Insert your fort and you are sure to get a few groups around your area. While some of these groups are just drama filled cat fights, some people actually use them to let each other know about the deals that are going on at the commissary. If you want to be in the know, join a group of spouses that will gladly brag about the excellent price they got while shopping at your local commissary.
Commissary’s Scholarships for Military Children Program
The Scholarships for Military Children Program is what the name implies a scholarship for military children or about 700 to be exact at $2,000 each. There will be at least one recipient selected at every commissary location where qualified applications are received, and additional recipients will be selected based on a prorate basis, so more applicants will be selected from those commissaries with larger numbers of applicants.
The Deadline for applications is typically Mid-February.
Who Can Apply:
- Dependent unmarried children under age 23 of active-duty, Reserve, Guard and retired service members.
- Survivors of service members who died on active duty.
- Survivors of those who died while receiving military retired pay.
For additional scholarship opportunities for military children visit the Fisher House Foundation’s Scholarships for Service search tool
Jenny Summit its a free lance writer and an English Education major at the University of Fort Smith. Jenny is the wife of Sergeant Matthew Summitt and has spent the last year at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. They now reside in Arkansas with their wonderful son Zayden.
|Military Exchanges||Exchange Shopping for Veterans|
|Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Benefits||Military Discounts|