Do you know these little-known commissary shopping secrets?
(Photo: 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs, Airman 1st Class Randahl Jenson)

By Dawn Zangerle

If you were able to catch my post on how to best take advantage of our base Exchanges, you are in luck  today because I’m sharing some of those little know secrets about our commissaries!

How well do you know your commissary? You may be aware that the Exchange is a completely separate entity to the military. They just have a deal with military to run on posts, but are independently run outside the military.

Your commissary is not the same. They aren’t a unit and they don’t have a squadron commander, but they do fall under the Mission Support Group. Somewhere near the front, you’ll see the base commander and group commander’s pictures. They work pseudo-independently, but they are part of the base’s chain of command.

Did you know that? How about these other lesser known facts?

Case lot sales

You’ll probably see the signs for these if you go to your commissary frequently. They usually do a pretty good job of advertising the week or so prior to the sale. The sale usually goes just one day, and they may or may not have epic deals. The real seller here is that you get to buy in bulk at marginally cheaper costs. It’s basically like a Costco or Sam’s Club without the membership fees. And sometimes you’ll get really good deals. They post the entire year’s schedule online if you’re planning ahead. (And if you want to stock up on toothpaste or canned veggies. . . do it!)


Commissaries have a slightly overwhelming coupon policy. It’s not the same as other stores. They have lower prices on everyday items, so they don’t let you stack coupons and they don’t accept some manufacture’s coupons. If you’re an extreme couponer, this probably isn’t the place for you. Sometimes, their policy is flat out amazing. Overseas, for example, they have the best policy of anyone ever, anywhere. They’ll take pretty much anything. They even accept expired coupons.

Their policy is all online, as is extra coupons and a reward card that will help you track and organize your couponing ventures.

Nearing expiration/over stocked

This happens a lot more frequently overseas in my experience, but occasionally you’ll stumble upon little treasure troves of savings when you’re CONUS,too. I’ve seen 12-packs of soda that were expiring the following month go for 10 cents.

Better experience

Let’s be fair with this fact-finding mission here: You can save money on some things if you go to Walmart. The commissary is typically similarly priced to Walmart. The commissary will usually save you more if you shop name-brand items. The commissary’s produce and meat prices are unbeatable–and so is the quality! Your grapes won’t be beat up and your steak won’t be brown. Do you really want to have to make two stops to save the 10 cents on cereal? I don’t!


Wanna order your groceries online and have it ready for you when you get there? With Click2Go, you totally can! I actually just learned about this myself. It’s still in its pilot, guinea pig stage, so there’s a good chance this won’t benefit you just yet. It’s only on three bases so far: Fort Lee, Offut AFB, and Travis AFB. But if it goes well… it very well could be in your future! Mommas of screaming toddlers, keep your fingers crossed!

Special orders

If you want to cater an event through the commissary, you can! They offer you a pretty wide variety of deli foods, depending on what they sell at your local store. But these are specifically for military functions or events. A unit’s spouse club could special order a bunch of hamburger for a social and they won’t wipe the commissary out of hamburger, either!

Sandwich line

Speaking of that deli section variety, did you know they have a sandwich line? They’ll special order sandwiches for you–without making you wait in the deli line. If you just want a fresh sub–nothing else–you don’t have to compete with the hundreds of retirees who need six pounds of chipped ham. When we PCS, I always feed my movers these sandwiches. They’re much better quality than Subway and you have access to the fancy meats and cheeses they import from bases overseas.

Overseas goodies

What’s my favorite part of the commissary? I can get real German and Japanese food because the Japanese and German commissaries ship to and from the states. If you’ve been eating quarkbrotchen for breakfast every day you were stationed in Germany, you don’t have to stop! They have the real stuff.

Other grocers usually have to charge an importing fee which makes it super pricey. The commissary charges much less for a (usually) larger variety of foods you miss from your last duty station.

Guard/Reserve sales

Here’s one you probably didn’t know: DeCA will come to an independent Reserve or Guard unit of 150+ to give you their savings. Even if there’s no commissary nearby, your unit just needs to reach out and ask for a hookup and they’ll try to accommodate. They’re not super common in my experience, but they can happen! They have the schedule of the next three months posted online.

They have so many things I wouldn’t have even thought that I’d need. And now that I know, I don’t know how I’ll ever do without. . .

  • Floor plans online. Whaaaaaaat? You mean you don’t have to wander aimlessly for an hour looking for the french fried onions?
  • Sales listing and newsletter. Because of the exclusivity of the commissary, they can’t just put a flier in the local paper. But you don’t have to go in blind! If there’s something happening or they’re having a special, they’ll put those online, too. You can even sign up for their newsletter.
  • Healthy living resources. They have most everything you need to start living healthy: Recipes, nutrition guides, cooking tips. . . All right there while you’re clicking for coupons.