Whether you’re new or a seasoned pro with shopping at your local commissary, you may not have heard of all the 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 that wait in line when you can bring home baskets of groceries for a fraction of the cost.
How can you start saving at your commissary? Well, ladies and gentlemen, strap on your seatbelts 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 coupons – cutting them out, organizing, reorganizing, finding what you need in your organizer, checking expiration dates 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 and advertising companies make it easy to save money. You may notice around military paydays that you see a lot more coupons attached to the shelves near the product they are intended for. This might make using those coupons way easer than clipping, filing, and saving for later, right? One thing to watch for is the expiration date. Some may expire that day and some may not for months to come. (The one exception to this is overseas commissaries as they are allowed to use coupons up to 6 months past the expiration date). Make sure you check out the DeCA Coupon Policy HERE.
Commissary Rewards Card
The commissary now also makes it super easy to save with the Commissary Reward Card. It’s 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 and walked to and from the commissary (roughly 3 miles one way). When he needed to get a larger haul, he would take a taxi back to his apartment. Any items that you have purchased and that have a coupon pre-loaded to your card will come right off. Keep in mind that 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.
Shop the Case Lot/Sidewalk Sales
Not every commissary may have these case lot or bulk item sales, but when they do, 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. 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, still available for purchase, but are generously discounted. You may find items that have just a small dent in the side of the box/can but that may save you $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 equalivent to those bigger and sometimes pricier name brands. You will need to pay attention to the savings on these items though as some may not be as cheap as if you were to use a coupon on the name brand items. Watch your sizes on these items as well. For example, a name brand cereal may cost $5 with a $1 coupon on a 10 ounce box. However, 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 like 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 milk barcode on the item 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 cash back 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 a cookbook!