Wondering how to save money at the commissary? You’re going to want to read this.
How To Save Money At The Commissary
Whether you’re new or a seasoned pro commissary shopper, there are a multitude of ways to save yourself and your family a ton of money while you shop. Prices are always comparable to your local grocery store off base, but in most cases many items are priced incredibly lower. When you start adding up the savings, you’ll see it’s well worth the wait in line when you can bring home baskets of groceries for a fraction of the cost spent at another grocer.
How can you start saving at your commissary? Well, ladies and gentlemen, hold onto your shopping buggies and take notes because we have multiple ways to help you save and all of them are FREE!
Coupons, coupons, and coupons
The thought of using coupons can make the most seasoned shopper have a nervous breakdown. A lot of time goes into couponing – cutting them out, organizing, reorganizing, finding what you need in your organizer, checking expiration dates, ensuring you have the correct coupon for the specific product, and the list goes on. I’m getting an anxiety attack just thinking about it! However, that’s not the case with the commissary, although having a stash of your own coupons helps in savings.
The commissary, advertising companies and the company that makes the product make it easy to save money. You may have noticed, especially around paydays, more coupons are hanging off shelves under various products. Unless you’re an enthusiastic couponer, this will help relieve the stress that comes with couponing. However, one thing to pay attention to is the expiration date of the coupons. You’ll find some that expire that day while others won’t expire for a few weeks and maybe months. The one exception to expired coupons deals with overseas commissaries. They allow coupons that have expired within the past 6 months. Make sure you check out the DeCA Coupon Policy HERE.
Story time! When my husband was stationed in Germany, one of the wives of his fellow NCO’s decided to coupon. Well, it didn’t exactly go over very well with her husband as he stated it was a waste of time and she wouldn’t save very much money. By the end of the first month of couponing, she took her husband to an expensive restaurant using only the money she saved from couponing. He quickly became a believer.
Commissary Rewards Card
I’m sure by now you know about the Commissary Reward Card. If not, the Commissary Reward Card is a FREE shopper’s card that customers use to download coupons from the commissary website. When my husband was stationed in South Korea, he used the Commissary Reward Card every time he made his runs. He would visit the website, click the coupons he wanted, input his card number and scanned his card at checkout. He didn’t have a car to drive to and from the commissary. Unless he bought a large haul, he would refuse to pay for a taxi. If you were there around 2014-2015, you could see him walking from the commissary with a backpack full of groceries while carrying plastic bags in both hands roughly 3 miles. Alas, I digress. Any items he purchased at the commissary and had coupons uploaded to his card would reduce the overall price as soon as he scanned his reward card.
However, there are restrictions to the Commissary Reward Card. You cannot use a paper coupon AND Rewards Card Coupons on the same item. The Digital Coupon will come off first. Make sure the digital coupon is worth bigger savings than the paper coupon. If the paper coupon is worth more, then do not upload the digital coupon to the card.
Shop the Case Lot/Sidewalk Sales
I can not verify that every commissary has a case lot or bulk items sale, but every commissary I’ve visited on Army Posts, Air Force Bases, and Navy Bases has had these type of sales. If your commissary does have a case lot or bulk items sale, they are usually well worth the wait. You can use coupons on these items but pay close attention to the fine print as ONE item will be considered the WHOLE case. On many occasions, you will also see high-value coupons being handed out or attached on items to help you save even more money. The Case Lot Sales occur once every 3-6 months, depending on your specific commissary. The Sidewalk Sales normally occur around paydays and last for 2-3 days giving you plenty of time to fit it into your schedule. (You can find your next Case Lot Sale HERE).
Damaged/Dented Items Discounted
Some commissary locations may have a “sale” section where items that have been damaged or opened, but still available for purchase, are generously discounted. You may find items that have just a small dent on the side of the can or the box is tattered or disfigured, but still okay, yet could be discounted $0.50-$1.00 per item. These items are usually found near the front of the store or in a side area and labeled “Bargain” or “Clearance.” Items in this section change all the time so it’s a good idea to check it every time you visit the commissary.
Shop Generic Brands
Recently, commissaries began carrying generic brands that are equivalent to the pricier brand named products. You will still need to pay attention to the savings on these items as some may not be as cheap as if you were to use a coupon on the name brand items. Pay attention to the size and weight of generic items when comparing to name brand items with a coupon. For example, a name brand cereal may cost $5 with a $1 coupon on a 10 ounce box, but a generic brand cereal may cost $4 on a 20 ounce box.
Use Cash Back Offers
If you have a smart phone that allows you to download apps from the market make sure you check for cash back apps such as Ibotta. To earn cash back with these apps, all you need is your receipt and the items attached with the offers. For example, milk gives you $0.25 cash back. You’ll need to scan your receipt AND scan the UPC barcode on the milk container to claim the offer. Many times new users get bonuses for signing up.
You can pick just one or use all of these ways to save and you’ll see the cost savings add up. However, don’t overwhelm yourself. If coupons aren’t your thing, just use the cashback apps and shop generic brands to save yourself money. Try the rewards card if you’re hesitant about coupons. It might not necessarily be worth it if you just want to get in and get out, but at least give it a try before discarding it. If coupons are your thing then start clipping, saving, and swiping your card! Saving your family money while you grocery shop does not have to be a headache, but be forewarned it may be a bit exciting.
Don’t forget to grab a cookbook!
These are just a few simple tips for how to save money at the commissary. I hope that they help!
Do you have any other tips for how to save money at the commissary?
Note: Due to the situation with COVID-19 currently some of the above may not apply and commissaries may not be having caselot sales this year. Please check with your local commissary for current restrictions and or schedules.