commissary

Living on an Air Force Base several miles outside town, it didn’t take me long to get acquainted with our Commissary.  Commissary access is only for military members, retirees, and their dependents. My main motivation: it’s just down the street from my house, compared to driving 10-20 miles to the chain grocery stores. I started using coupons on their already low prices.  I was also saving on gas and time with my lower food bill!

Generally Lower Prices

When you shop at the commissary, the goods are sold at cost, so the prices are already around 40% less than other retail grocery stores. I’ve heard some opinions that it’s not much cheaper than going off base. But if you compare average daily prices, not the store sales or loss leader promotions, you usually can do better on grocery shopping at the commissary.

Commissary sales and special promotions are hard to beat, especially if you also have a coupon. My strategy is to keep an eye on chain store sales and compare those to commissary prices and deals. I go with the better deal at the chain store if it’s a stock up price that makes it worth the drive into town.

Accepts Manufacturer and Military Manufacturer Coupons

You can read the DeCA coupon policy here.  It shares a lot of the rules already used at other stores such as, one coupon per item and follow the fine print. Read the link for the complete information on using coupons at the commissary and print it up for your binder!

It’s helpful to understand that, although you do find commissary and military manufacturer coupons, they aren’t coupons generated by the commissary itself. These are special coupons the manufacturers issue, so they take the loss, not the commissary.

No Stacking or Doubling Coupons

Don’t forget that there are not actual store coupons for the commissary, so you can’t stack or double coupons. This doesn’t mean it’s not possible to get the most out of your coupons there! There have been several times I’ve looked at a stacking or doubling deal somewhere like Walgreens or Safeway, and realized that the item was still cheaper at the commissary. Of course, that’s not always the case, but it’s a consideration when you’re looking for the best deal.

Internet Coupons

The commissary accepts Internet coupons, as long as they meet the requirements listed in their coupon policies. They don’t accept photocopies of coupons, and each coupon must have a unique dot scan bar code. This could end up applying to PDF coupons because they can be printed many times with the same barcodes, so keep that in mind as you prepare your shopping trip.

Freebies

The commissary doesn’t take Internet coupons for “Free” items, but “Buy One Get One Free” is okay if it meets all the other requirements. You can get free items from a published coupon, such as comes in a newspaper or is mailed to you.

Overage

Starting May 1, 2012, the commissary will give overage in cash unless it’s above $25, then you can get a combination of commissary gift cards and cash.

What’s on Sale, and When to Stock Up

DeCA puts out a monthly ad with special promotions.  You can usually find it in the store. If you are a military member or a dependent registered in DEERS, you can view the sale items online by setting up an account here. DeCA does not post prices publicly online, so you must log in to get the prices. You even can set up your shopping list!

The manufacturers work with DeCA to sell the goods at cost, so prices are subject to change suddenly and sometimes drastically, depending on production costs. So, it’s always important to keep an idea of what you want to pay for items and stock up when you see a rock-bottom price.

Commissaries will do special orders if you want to avoid clearing a shelf when you see an awesome deal; however, make sure the items will be in before the coupons expire or the price changes because you can’t pay until your order comes in.

Case Lot Sales

Case Lot Sales are an opportunity to buy certain items in bulk for a few days. There are often coupons available on the racks or at the registers for the items that make for some amazing deals. Check here for the schedule to see when one is coming to your post or base!

Overseas

If you’re on an overseas base, you can use manufacturer, Commissary, or Military coupons up to 6 months after the expiration date!

Where to Get Commissary Coupons

Always keep your eyes open as you shop for tear-pads with coupons.  Look for stacks of fliers around the store. “Eat Healthy Your Way” and “MaxiSaver” are a couple you might find.

Sign up at Commissary Shopper to get commissary coupons in the mail.

The commissary has an extensive page of links, including many of the products they stock.  Some companies have special pages and offers for military families. One great example is Procter and Gamble, who offers special commissary coupons in the mail through The Family UNIT.  They make a donation to the USO for every redeemed coupon. For even more info about shopping at the commissary click here.

This has been a guest post by Rachel from Ellsworth AFB, SD
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