My husband is retired from the U.S. Navy. He enlisted at 18, was trained in aircraft electronics, spent time all across the world including deployments to the Middle East, visits to China, Australia, Dubai, Thailand, and being stationed on Guam and in California. I hadn’t done a whole lot of traveling with him and the Navy. When we met he was on recruiting duty in Illinois where I was living. After we got married he was transferred to California (including a Middle East deployment during 9/11) and I actually only spent a year there before he got transferred back to Illinois. Then he was retired with a service related back injury after 16 years. So I’m not as much a Navy wife as most wives become. I spent only 1 year “living the military life” and experiencing some of the perks of that life. The rest of the time we lived more like civilians.
One of the perks that I really didn’t realize the full benefits of is the Commissary. During my year living on base at Pt. Mugu, CA, we would travel to our sister base at Port Hueneme about 20 minutes away and shop at their Commissary because ours was more the size of a convenience store than a grocery store.
Military Commissaries can be used by active duty members of the U.S. Military (and their families) and also retired veterans. Commissaries can be found pretty much wherever there are military bases (here and abroad) and while some of them are not as big as others, most are full-fledged grocery stores with a wide range of products like you would find at a typical civilian grocery store including Votive candle holders.
According to The Defense Commissary Agency website, shopping at the Commissary saves the average family about 30% or more on their grocery bill compared to commercial prices. There is no sales tax added to your bill but there is a 5% surcharge. Even with the surcharge that is tacked on to cover the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones, the savings are obvious from the minute you walk in the door.
We traveled roughly 90 miles (about 2 hours) yesterday to get to the Commissary that is closest to us at Great Lakes Naval Station. The motto of the military commissary is “It’s Worth the Trip” and even with 1/2 a tank of gas added to the cost, it WAS worth the trip. We left at 11:30 am and arrived back home around 7:30 pm (Chicago traffic being what it is and we left the base right before rush hour).
Here are some examples of the REGULAR prices at the Commissary. In addition, many products had coupons attached to the shelves right in front of them to save you even more money. Plus, there are Commissary coupon flyers when you walk in and they take regular manufacturer coupons as well.
Hamburger Helper: $.90 (90 cents) a box
Hungry Jack Easy Mash’d instant Mash Potatoes: $.25 (25 cents) a package
Cheerios: $1.65 for the normal size box (not the big jumbo one)
Del Monte canned vegetables: $.50 (50 cents) a can
Nathan’s Hot Dogs: $2.00 a package
Mott’s 64 oz. Natural 100% Apple Juice: $1.49 per bottle
Yuban Ground Coffee: (34.5 oz. can) $5.99 per can
On top of all that we got some great buys with some coupons (note the low regular prices to begin with).
Ritz Toasted Chips: $2.00 a bag – $1.00 off coupon = $1.00 bag
Pillsbury Savorings Frozen Pastry Bites (drool – my little treat for myself): $2.39 a box – $.50 (50 cents) off coupon = $1.89
And there were tons more great deals. We got an entire months worth of groceries for $263 (all we need to buy locally are bread, milk, eggs and ground beef every week)! I seriously think we saved WAY more than 30%. Much of it was half price compared to our last trip to Meijer. My cash register receipt for the Commissary is about 2 1/2 feet long and says “152” items sold. And this was our first trip so we didn’t plan well. Next time I will go armed with more coupons that I can print off the internet, and really shop the sale and coupon items and get us stocked up and maximizing every penny!
There is one last item I want to mention that is the pièce de résistance of the entire trip.
Check it out:
That is a 3 1/2 pound bag of Swedish Fish. And not the stupid big Swedish Fish, the cool little ones.
Guess how much that bag was?
It was $2.00!!!!!
So now we have a little treat around the house that will satisfy our sweet tooth, is fat free and will last until THE END OF TIME because the bag is so big. Win-win!
Besides, they do recommend that you get some fish in your diet.