Commissary Shopping

The Defense Commissary Agency, DeCA, or simply the Commissary, is a staple on military bases. It is a convenient grocery store located on post. There is more to the Commissary beyond the convenience, though. So, what’s the big deal with the Commissary anyway?

The Hidden Gem: The International Aisle

The International aisle is a bevy of ethnic foods. Foods from Germany, the U.K., Japan, and Korea line the aisles, feeding the memories of families who lived in those overseas locations. You can likely find that favorite mustard from Germany, the biscuit from the U.K., and the canned tea from Japan at affordable prices. These make a nice treat, especially for those just returning from those overseas locations, but also an enjoyable stocking stuffer. 

Meat Power Boxes

Another hidden gem is in the meat department. The meat power boxes offer a collection of meat at an additional discount. Four meat power boxes rotate availability per local Commissary: Health Alternatives, Economy, Tailgate, and Fix it and Forget It. Per the commissary butchers, the boxes offer up to 25% savings and contain 15-19 pounds of meat of various cuts and options, depending on which meat power box you purchase. The Tailgate power box is excellent for those gathering together for grilling and a sports game or even for units grilling together for an event. The Fix and Forget It box is perfect for those prepping crockpot meals for meal planning. Still, trying to figure out where to start? The commissary website has recipes for the Economy Meat Power Box and recipe ideas for use with meat and poultry in general.

Sidewalk Sales

Big-box store-sized items at not-so-big-box store prices are the perk at these sidewalk sales. Those who recently PCS’d can stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, favorite cleaners, and snacks. A bonus is that most items also have coupons taped to the box, so there is no need to hunt for coupons or clips before arrival. This savings can add up over time, and every little savings helps!

Curbside Pick-up

Let’s be honest – this is why some of us go to that other store, Tar-jay – it’s just plain convenience. Whether there is a sick kid, you need groceries while in pajamas, or to save yourself the time of shopping in the store – curbside pick-up is a time and energy saver. Place orders online at the Commissary website, selecting your current and correct Commissary. Pay for orders online through the secure payment section of their website. Upon pick-up, you must show your military ID, and some workers will ask for the confirmation email. There is no minimum order size or minimum dollar amount.

The beauty of this shopping method is that each chosen product will also show if a digital coupon is available, making coupon clipping and saving money easy and convenient.

Grocery Delivery

Grocery delivery is an expansion of the curbside pick-up grocery service. Groceries can be delivered within a 20-mile radius of the military base. It is an extra convenience but is a bonus for those who may need that delivery service – those with deployed spouses, newborns, or recent surgery could all benefit from the grocery delivery. There is a delivery charge based on the service provider contracted with the Commissary; check your Commissary website for the delivery charge per the delivery area.

Expanded Patron List

Commissary privileges are expanded beyond military retirees, active duty, and their families. Eligible patrons now include veterans with any service-connected disabilities documented by the VA, Purple Heart recipients, veterans who are former prisoners of war, and those individuals who are approved and designated as the primary family caregivers of eligible Veterans under the VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

Overseas Perks

When living overseas, the Commissary becomes the place to find familiar brands and food. The on-post Commissary provides a place with familiar food with easily read labels, which is an amazing resource for families with food allergies. Eating out in the local economy can vary in price based on COLA and exchange rates. In contrast, the commissary prices are usually more aligned with the U.S. prices (except for produce – as this pricing includes the transportation cost to get to that duty station if it was shipped from the U.S. and not locally available). A favorite overseas tip -coupons to be accepted up to 6 months after their expiration date when living overseas!

Do you do most of your shopping at the commissary? Why or why not?

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