Who Gives a Crap About the Commissary?


With all the different things on the budget’s chopping block, who gives a crap about the commissary? It’s a legitimate question we hear a lot these days coming from people in social media, discussion boards, and news articles. There are so many things to be mad about right now, why worry about a grocery store? Who gives a crap??

And that’s where the misunderstanding begins. The commissary is not a normal grocery store. It’s subsidized with money from the Department of Defense (DoD) budget; 60 percent of its employees are veterans or military family members; and it saves military families an average of 30 percent compared with an average grocery store (yes, even those big box stores and dollar stores).

The commissary is one of the few operations on a military installation that provides more benefit than it costs the government. While costs of supporting the wars, the cost of health care, and just about everything else has gone up, the cost of the commissary has stayed the same. The stats show that for every $1 of taxpayer dollars, the commissary provides more than $2 worth of savings to military family shoppers. A family of four that shops at the commissary regularly saves an average of $4,500 a year. That seems like something to give a crap about, don’t you think?

No one joins the military to get rich. We know our list of sacrifices includes separations, moves, the fear involved in sending a loved one off to war, and (of course) money. We earn certain benefits to help ease the burdens of military life, and one of those is the commissary. That benefit is especially important today because of this year’s active duty pay raise that is lower than average private sector raises.

The commissary made my life richer without giving me a handout.

Do you know how much cheaper certain name brand pints of ice cream are at the commissary? Those pints got me through some rough times. I give a crap about the commissary because I am grateful that when we were a newly married couple, barely paying our bills, I could splurge on that pint of ice cream because I saved on everything else there. I care because that 30% helped us when we were trying to build a savings in preparation for transition. I care because almost every bagger knew exactly what I was going through during deployments and made being new a little easier.

Here’s something you may not know: the commissary saves military families more money than it gets from the taxpayers. I mentioned the double return on taxpayer dollars above, but let’s flesh it out. If the commissary goes away, the money goes back in the DoD wallet. The taxpayer pays the same amount, but your 30% savings is gone and the jobs it provided go away, too. Effectively, those who shopped at the commissary get a big pay cut and veterans, military family members, and others are unemployed.

Enough is enough… it’s time to give a crap.

We should all care about the commissary. Even if you don’t use it, even if you don’t think you need it… someone you know, who is sacrificing or has sacrificed, does use it and does need it. In fact, you can help them by using the commissary, too, because that builds better commissaries, increases their return to the military community in employment, infrastructure, and service and builds a case for making sure that they endure. We should all give a crap.

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Online Engagement Manager


Add yours
  1. 1

    My concern with losing the commissary are the single sailors who live on base. The closest grocery store is off base and one and half miles away from just the main gate.. never mind where their barracks are at which most would give them at least another half a mile. Most of these sailors are in sub school, and unable to afford a car or won’t even be in the area long enough for a car itself to be cost productive.. So these men and women are going to be very limited in their means to get groceries. The main galley isn’t always an option for food.

  2. 2
    Betty Rupard

    I care!! Being able to shop in the commissary is a privilege that our soldiers have earned!! Soldiers are not making a fortune when they serve in the military and every little bit of savings helps!! Please leave the benefits alone, people have made careers in the military and one of the reasons was because this, expecting to one day retire!! Soldiers have made sacrifices for this great country of ours, it’s about time this country stand behind them and support them!!

  3. 3

    What people fail to remember about the Commissary is that not every base/post is located in or remotely near a large city. Sometimes the Commissary is the ONLY option. I would love for someone to highlight that fact.

    In addition, and totally off topic, but I would also like to see a social media wide informational campaign informing people about where the Commissary vs. the NEX/AAFES gets their money. It’s almost painful to watch people sound off about axing the NEX/AAFES in exchange for the Commissary.

  4. 4

    I save $1250 a year on milk alone by shopping at the commissary! Don’t forget about our kids who bag groceries to earn money to help pay for college. To earn the same amount at a fast food joint or in retail they would easily have to put in twice as many hours, hours that they can spend focusing on keeping up their grades, chores, and just being kids. The Commissary is the one grocery store that you will have no matter what base you move to and having continuity from base to base is a good thing. Once they take it away we will never get it back. There are plenty of other places they can trim money, starting with their own paychecks and benefits. Enough is enough already, they have taken away enough of our benefits that were promised to us to entice us into signing that contract in the first place. I hope people stand together and fight for this, even if they do it for their fellow families and not for themselves.

  5. 5
    Ronnie Inman

    The commissary provides high quality food for the military families that live on or near a base…. It is worth every dollar spent to provide this service to our retirees and present service members and their families… With all of the waste that abounds in this government, why go after a service that actually provides healthy food sources for so many good people… This administration is just upside down in its approach to attacking waste… I am so disappointed in the way the military family is being treated by the government that depends on them for survival….

  6. 6

    The commissary was a huge help while my husband was still in the lower ranks & we had two growing boys. I don’t know how we could’ve made it without those savings.

  7. 7

    I consistently found and find better savings at off-post facilities. The only exception being weird foreign foods and, occasionally, specific cuts of meat. I think your 30% savings is a completely manufactured statistic.

    The commissary is one of the ways on-post dwellers further isolate themselves from the community as well, and that is an even bigger issue in this era of widening gap in civ-mil relations.

    Much like unions, their critical time has passed. Keep them only as exceptions where suitable civilian options are unavailable.

    • 9

      I agree with much of what you said Fred. Each new assignment my family has received, we always give the commissary a try, and each time we find better deals else where. The one exception was in N. Dakota where the base was 13 miles away from town.

    • 11

      For me it isn’t really about the savings as much as the availability of American products while we have been living overseas (we’ve been in various overseas locations for 5.5 years now). The commissary is cheaper than the regular stores in our area for many items, but it also allows me to buy products we are familiar with and know how to use–I have always thought that one of the benefits of living out of the US with the military (as opposed to just living abroad by yourself) is that you have that kind of American support. Because of the commissary, we can still buy our peanut butter and root beer. And, for the soldiers living all over the world helping to keep America and the world safer, that little luxury goes a long way.

  8. 12

    The Commissary was a big blessing when I was in! Good article. We must all stand together – the military family of Active Duty, Retirees and Veterans. It amazes me that the government could double our debt in five years to help the economy (mainly Wall Street) and now the military folks are supposed to accept all the cuts. It is time for others to bear the burden of their country – many have become wealthy because of the freedoms Americans enjoy and it is time for them to pay back into the system that allowed them to grow their wealth. Please understand, I DO NOT begrudge anyone who has made allot of wealth – I just do not think it is fair or just to have enjoyed our system without having to really sacrifice much at all; over 10 years of War and the 99% who have never served have not had a tax increase to do their part and support the war and the warrior. Why not add a national .50% sales tax (less than 1%) so the 99% can help?

  9. 14

    The CNP (Chief of Naval Personnel) Vice Admiral Bill Moran was in Pensacola last week. He was asked about the commissaries.
    He said, “We are NOT closing commissaries.” He said folks are only reading the headlines and not the actual stories. The story is, commissaries will not be closing. His words.

    Of course he also said that our retirement pay structure has not changed.

  10. 16

    The Commissary is okay if you have no choice of getting off base, but i have saved more money shopping out in town vs the Commissary. The something with the Exchange, the amount you pay for something there is the same out in town. I’m not telling people not to shop there, but I only want to the Commissary or Exchange if i had no other choice…This is just my opinion on the matter.

  11. 17

    I care about the commissary that’s the only place I shop. I’m single been on active duty for 19 years with no family!! The commissary is cheaper than other stores. I compare prices quite often, why does congress make decisions without asking the men and woman who serve.

  12. 18
    George Master

    Exempt active, disabled and retired military by federal law from all federal, state and local sales tax with valid proof of status. I believe that would be a fair trade-off for terminating the commissary benefit.

  13. 21
    Ken Gouge

    I just retired last December, and with the immediate pay cut, coupled with the spiteful COLA cuts, every little bit helps. For 25 years we have used the commissary, and it does indeed save money. I am the shopper in the family (when I wasn’t deployed) and I am a penny pinching kind of guy. If you think about it, the way that their items are “taxed” is how all state taxes should work. There is no tax, but the surcharge you pay is only derived from luxury or non-grocery items – meaning that if you can’t splurge you don’t pay extra.

  14. 22
    James T. Strong

    As retired USAF I can buy the validity of the Commissary. The Exchanges, however, are another thing. They’ve became Nordy”S and Macy’s while not providing goods any cheaper, or as cheap, as is available @ discount stores and on-line. They basically outlived there usefulness and justification a couple of decades ago, and continue to exist, particularly Stateside, because they’ve become entrenched.

  15. 23
    Legina Newman Boswell

    Leave our commissaries alone! It’s a benefit we were promised and we earned. As a retired dependent wife who raised three children shopping in the commissary and working as a merchandiser for Kraft General Foods, I know for a fact you cannot beat the prices ANYWHERE. Try to buy a block of Kraft Cracker Barrel cheese off base for anywhere near the price you get it at your local commissary. It cannot be done. And that is just one item of thousands that are much cheaper and save the very people, who lay the lives on the line everyday for their fellow Americans, money to supplement a wage that is way beneath the civilian worker. As has been pointed out, many times it is the only store close for military to shop at and provide quality and safe items from home and that are familiar to servicemen and women all over the world. Don’t believe the rhetoric of Wal Mart and others that they are the lowest prices and the best quality because neither statement is true. If one saw the difference in the backs of stores compared to the back of a commissary, you would never buy your food anywhere else. Again LEAVE OUR COMMISSARIES ALONE.

  16. 24

    I am civilian & I care. I was an AF brat, the commissary was the only grocery store
    available in some areas we lived. Granted this was many years ago, but still, our
    family couldn’t afford a second car, without the commissary I am sure there were
    many times we would not have had groceries. I remember riding the base bus
    (do they still have those?) with my mom to go shopping.

  17. 25

    I grew up using the commissary and when I had to spend 10 years shopping on the outside before I married into the military I would freak out particularly when it came to buying meat. We are now retired military and I still shop at the commissary at two days a month for my big shopping. Even though I live in an area where there are Walmarts, Food Lion, Krogers, IGA and Publix stores I still do my main shopping on a military base. Now when it comes to the post exchange….that is another matter. I don’t like their selection of clothing so I don’t buy my clothes from there. There are not meet my or my families clothing taste; plus, they are really high priced. Now I do buy appliances, furniture, electronics, bedding and books, etc., from the post exchange.

  18. 26
    Marie Fahringer

    I have always felt very lucky to enjoy the commissary. I grew up in a military family and married and military man. My siblings worked there while we were stationed overseas. My parents shopped there to feed at family of nine. When I married my spouse, that is all we used. We are retired but still like to enjoy the benefits of the commissary. The prices are low and they have a wide variety. When we lived on the base, we always appreciated the ease of having the luxury not far from our door step. Now, that we are retired, we still would like to be able like many to continue our benefits. With the continuing of cutting our COLA, Tricare etc….it seems a shame to take the commissary too! The commissary is part of the military culture…it is shared with many of us who are cut from the same cloth. Shopping there makes you feel part of such a wonderful family.

  19. 27
    Susan Harper

    I’m a 100% disabled veteran. One of my benefits is to be able to shop in the commissary. A benefit that I truly appreciate!! The cost of living is so high that I couldn’t afford to buy groceries and eat healthy meals if I had to shop in a civilian store on a permanent basis! Civilian stores are geared toward over-charging, especially in a military town-that’s where I live-ALL active duty and retirees with valid id cards and commissary privileges DESERVE these privileges-we EARNED them! LEAVE OUR COMMISSARIES ALONE!! Closing commissaries and taking away privileges we’ve earned is WRONG!!!! You would be putting people out of work , and there are very few job opportunities as it is!! You want to save money???? Tell Obama and his family to stop taking so many vacations!! Tell Congress to pay their own way when flying! Tell them to live within the means of their paycheck, or better yet, try to live on a lower-enlisted man/woman’s pay for a year, and give up all their luxuries, and see if they can make ends meet as well as feed, clothe, and educate a family!

  20. 28

    I too save more by shopping off base. The only savings I find on base/post are with meat and milk. Also, the bx/px is a joke to me unless living overseas. Of course even then the internet has better deals on most items. I am a big saver and I love to comparison shop so this is said with great confidence. I don’t care what statistics are being put out there – anyone who understands true research knows that statistics are often done in a manner to support what outcome someone wants.

    I feel like there are more important things to fight for in the stateside military community than this.

  21. 29

    We definitely care! The commissary saves our family time and money. Everytime I go to a normal grocery store I am reminded of that fact. It’s a big benefit to the many meeger paychecks in the military.

  22. 30

    Now that I’m finally near one I’d LOVE for them to stay open. Groceries are expensive in the DC area. Close the Exchange instead, to me it’s not really much of a benefit as it is convenience for those that live on a military installation.

  23. 32

    I don’t know how people say they don’t save money when they shop at the commissary. On a typical outing to the commissary, I save anywhere from $1 to $3 a pound on meat alone. When feeding a family of 5 that savings adds up. This is not to mention all the soaps, paper products, cheese and cereal savings. And when things go on sale, like they do almost every day…the savings are even more tremendous then you add coupons on top of all of this and there are times I get items for next to nothing.


    • 33

      Granted sometimes your local marts have some better deals, but that is usually on a few items. The commissary on the other hand is a store full of deals. Feeding a family of 5, I usually spend no more than $500 a month at the commissary. That $500 includes everything not just food. Tell me who can get enouhg food, paper products, soap, batteries, dog and cat food for that price a month and I’ll show you a extreme couponer, because that is the only way you can get enough of everything you need for a family of five for a month for $500.

  24. 34
    AAV Amphibs

    I have used commissaries, px/bx, for years. Here in CONUS, not a big deal. There are better deals outside. In Texas, HEB, JoeV’s, ALDI, Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s. And always stocked, way more convenient. Commissaries in places like Guam, Japan, Alaska, Hawaii might fare better. I haven’t had commissary or px privedges since 1995 working a DOD contract overseas. I saw KMART open up on Guam in 1994. Biggest Kmart in the world. Before Kmart, the base commissaries were KING. After Kmart came to town, I saw the competition lower their prices on island tremendously. But still you had retirees saying that the base was cheaper. Really? Maybe so but not by much. And Kmart on Guam had EVERYTHING. A one stop shop. Food, clothing, beach wear, beer, even Guam souvenirs. And a Little Ceazars that was way better than anything I seen in the states. You could fit nearly the base inside Kmart. But nice to have the base option there if you lived on Guam. Commissary great while there, but I don’t miss them here in the land of the big PX. Also, with economic globalization and free trade agreements, the base commissaries have outlived their use. Not the same as it was 25 years ago. If you want to save the commissary they will have to restructure and allow veterans in, if they in fact want to shop there.

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