Every time I think of the commissary, I think of Akon’s song “Locked Up.” It says “Commissary’s gettin empty. Cell mates gettin food without me.” This isn’t the same kind of commissary. And they are never empty even though they never have fresh basil.
The Commissary is the grocery store on post. It’s not a primitive trading post, and they don’t sell government commodities, MOM. It’s a regular grocery store, for the most part, and it’s exclusive to military i.d. holders. This Army post has two commissaries that are basically the same but are laid out differently.
First of all, the commissary is usually connected to or in close promixity to the PX, which is the Post Exchange, which is like a mall slash kohls slash walmart, which I will discuss some other time. It’s laid out like a regular grocery store with produce, dry goods, meat, dairy, and a bakery.
In my experience, the produce isn’t all that great. Initially I felt it went bad quickly. Now, I usually buy my produce from Aldi, so maybe it’s different. They do have a large variety of items, except basil!
There is also a good selection of meats, and everything else, including several household goods and diet and specialty foods. In my experience, items like almond butter were hit or miss though. I assume the meat spread is good. I mean you can find NY Strips, pork shoulder, pig ears, but you might not find ground chicken.
Alongside those normal foods, there is a value aisle with Sam’s Club-sized items. I assume the items change from time to time. I don’t know because I don’t shop that aisle. Then there is a seasonal aisle with…seasonal stuff and other sale items. I don’t even want to tempt myself so I don’t go down these aisles.
Oh, I almost forgot- there’s a sushi station at the south commissary! They make and sell packaged sushi. Sometimes Soldiers sit in there and have it for lunch. I bought it once. It was okay.
Anyway, the main thing is that the commissary has competitive prices! Not cheaper than Aldi, but similar or cheaper than Wal-Mart. The only catch is that there is no generic brand. You know, like Always Save, Great Value, or Archer Farms, so it’s not as cheap as possible. There are often things on sale though.
Now, while they don’t charge tax, there is some surcharge. I am not completely positive on how it’s charged, but on my last bill it was 4.5%.
For me the real unique factor of the commissary is the checkout process. First of all, there are usually enough checkers. Yeah! Secondly, everyone lines up along ropes and watches for a voice, human or computer, to tell them which checkout lane to go to. Then we have to show our i.d. cards before the ringing up begins. THEN, one or two people bag the groceries and attempt to take them out to your car! BUT, you have to tip them! Naturally, it’s not really posted anywhere that it’s not a complimentary service and the baggers don’t ask if you want car service, effectively making you feel like a jerk when you decline. To remedy my self-esteem, I usually tip a dollar just for the bagging and get out of there.
For some reason checking out really stresses me out. Last week, I came in from shopping with no coat on because I was sweating from strategically unloading my groceries, spending a lot of money, and crushing the dreams of the baggers by not tipping them more, and then getting everything into my own car.
I think the commissary is a great resource. It’s pretty cheap and convenient in terms of distance from home. This could be true in the civilian world, but a disadvantage is you’ll know it’s payday because the commissary will be swarming. And they are also closed on federal holidays, which can be inconvenient. Also, its HUGE, which is part of why I prefer Aldi. If feels like it’s 2/3 the size of Walmart. I should probably compare it to Dierbergs or Kroger, it’s more similar in size to those, whichever one is largest.
Am I tipping enough? How are the commissaries where you are? Let me know in the comments!