Army Wife Opinion: Is the Commissary Worth It?

The Commissary.


To see promotional items or what’s on sale at your commissary, check out It’s an awesome site with helpful tips!

I’ve had several discussions with fellow Army wives on whether the commissary is really worth going to. I’ve heard all of the arguments for shopping there – There’s no tax. The prices are cheaper. The meat is better quality. Literally, I’ve heard them all. Yet, I’m still not completely sold on shopping there…

Since I plan our meals out on a monthly basis, I go grocery shopping once a month. This makes sense for us to do, especially considering the first paycheck of the month goes directly to bills and the second one goes to food, gas and our savings. So planning ahead is seriously the best option, but where exactly is more debatable!

Just so you know, here in Lacey, WA – right outside of Fort Lewis – I have several options on where to go grocery shopping:

  • Safeway
  • WinCo
  • Wal-Mart
  • Costco
  • The Commissary

Now, here are some thoughts on the subject from fellow military wives!

“We’ve tried shopping at both for an extended period of time and overall, we have a lower grocery bill at the commissary. Spices are WAY cheaper at Winco though. We also don’t think the quality of meat we got at Winco was as good as the meat at the commissary.”-Cindi

“I shop for most stuff at Wal Mart. Olympia Seafood Market is the best fresh seafood in the area. Winco tends to be cheaper from what I seen but I do not like there family packs of meat or wilted produce. Try Bountiful Baskets for fresh fruit and veggies and whole grain bread; Michaels meats has good freezer packs. All food is tax free. The commissary charges a percentage on everything you buy. The best deal to me at the commissary is tampons.” –Jennifer

“Winco for food. Walmart for household things.” –Brooke

“I shop at winco or Fred Meyer if I have the coupons and get my meats from Costco and paper products. The money I would spend in gas To post I save shopping here.” –Staci

Personally, I don’t shop at the Commissary unless I’m on base. These are my reasons why:

  1. I’m not a “brand” person. So if I can still get a generic box of pasta for 50 cents less than the brand name box of pasta at the commissary, I’ll keep shopping at WinCo.
  2. Proximity. WinCo is close – like 6 minutes away from our apartment. While Safeway is even closer, we only stop there for our favorite ice cream – otherwise it’s too expensive. And while the base isn’t that far away, I still have to get on the freeway, go through the gate and find a parking space along with the other 500 million people there.
  3. Surcharge. I don’t quite fall for the “There’s No Tax!” phrase. When you go to the commissary, there IS a surcharge. And there is no food tax here in Washington. So even though some things I may pick up at WinCo are taxable, I still would rather save the gas money than drive to post to buy groceries with a surcharge.

Check them out and see which one works best for you!

Now, don’t think I’m bashing the commissary! It does have some great deals – like their cheese! All I can say is – Just Shop Smartly.

Like the wives above, try out some of the different options first then make a decision which works best for you, your family and your budget.

We shop mostly at WinCo, get bulk items at Costco, and misc. items at Big Lots. That’s what works for us – so find out what works for you! Good luck!


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