Does it really matter whether you’re a newlywed or whether you’ve avoided shopping at the commissary out of the fear of “commissary culture shock?” No, it doesn’t. Though, you have to do a few things differently, other commissary shopping practices are just the same.
Commissary Rewards Card
Every commissary accepts the Commissary Rewards Card, the first of your money saving tips. This card enables you to register it online then load coupons onto your rewards account. At the commissary, scan it at the checkout counter to redeem your loaded coupons.
Even though commissary groceries are priced at cost with a 5 percent surcharge, if you buy for a large family or if your military spouse holds a lower rank, you may want to save money on groceries. Your commissary will accept the manufacturer’s coupons.
Use Advertised Sales
Visit your commissary’s website before you leave for your shopping trip. See what items are on sale for that week and include them on your list and meal planning. If you don’t need them right away, freeze them for later use.
Save with Case Lot Sales
Twice a year, unless budget cuts have affected traditional case lot sales, your commissary holds them in May and September. Because the items are sold in big quantities, offer to split a case or two with a military family you know.
Military base shopping is different from shopping in a civilian grocery store in a few ways. The first: You have to show your military I.D. card. Take your I.D. card, because without that little “ticket of admission,” you are not going to be allowed to check out with your purchases, no matter if you are out of cheese, diapers or bread. In fact, have it out, along with your cash or debit card. Be smart!
No Embarrassing Clothing
“Meh, it’s just going shopping at the commissary. I can wear my sweats and bedroom slippers.” The second difference: Well, there’s no posted dress code, but an unspoken one certainly exists. If your military family member’s commander or the commander’s wife sees you dressed so casually, you’ll embarrass, not only yourself, but your spouse, as well. At the least, slip into clean jeans, a pullover top or button-down shirt and some sneakers. Comb your hair and look presentable.
Park Where You’re Allowed
Just like civilian parking lots, a commissary parking lot has signs that reserve certain spots for the commissary manager, the post commander or his spouse. When that spot is reserved for the post commander, he is the only one allowed to park there. No matter if you’d really, really like a spot closer to the front!
Days to Avoid
Don’t shop at the commissary on paydays, weekends or holidays. Schedule your shopping trips for other days so that you can avoid those three-deep maddening crowds. If you absolutely need something, shop at a civilian store.
Tip Your Bagger
The third difference: The baggers work for tips only. They bag your groceries and take them to your car. How nice! When you get to your vehicle, have $3 to $5 ready to hand to your bagger.