Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Do you really save money shopping on base?

Every time we have guests, they are always intrigued by the mystery of the PX and Commissary. After all, anywhere you can shop ONLY if you have proper identification is a draw for people. But I just want to clear it up for those of you who are wondering if you are missing out on some “secret squirrel” deal.

The “Shoppettes” are your run-of-the-mill gas stations. Things are generally overpriced than if you would buy them at a grocery store. They carry the same things as other gas stations, but they do carry alcohol which is great in a pinch, depending on your state’s liquor laws. Gas is normally a few cents less than it is off-post, but not cheap enough that if I didn’t pass by it on my way, I wouldn’t bother.

The Commissary is the grocery store. You definitely save money here, but it’s not a gourmet grocer. That being said, you can find a large selection of ethnic foods here because it caters to the military families, whose ethnicity is widespread. And you can special request things. Pricing is great on your canned goods, boxed sides and frozen meals. The deli section is not any cheaper than Walmart, nor is the produce. However, we have much better fruits and vegetables at ours than off-post. One downside to the Commissary is that their meats seem sketchy to me. I have gone back there several times to find raw juices dripping all over the shelves. NASTY. I have to be careful when I buy yogurt, that it’s not too close to the expiration date. They will fill an entire shelf of products that are on the cusp of expiration and this drives me insane. The other crappy thing is that the baggers who work there only work for tips, so you feel incredibly guilty if you don’t let them bag your groceries and they insist on taking it out to your car. And a lot of them are retired Veterans, so you really feel like an asshole if you say no. All in all, I avoid the Commissary when I have money to spend on better quality, but in a budgetary pinch, you can’t beat it.

The PX or Post Exchange, is like your Kmart. While you can get your department store cosmetics, Coach purses, and perfumes here, I find that most things aren’t any cheaper than Walmart. Some things, I think they charge MORE for because they can…like electronics. The clothes are all generic, and I rarely see anything that I have to have. The pro to shopping at the PX is that it’s tax free. If you are looking for souvenirs for friends or family who come visit, take them to Clothing and Sales instead. Here you will find PT shirts that say “Army”, as well as other apparel, hats, shot glasses, lanyards and car stickers.

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  1. Oh, the commissary....I have been in only twice. I found the prices/selection good, but it just wasn't worth fighting the crowds. No matter what time of day it is, the place is always packed!!! The bagger thing is what keeps me away though, I don't like to be helped (it's nothing personal, I just like to take care of myself) and it's always awkward. Plus, I very rarely have cash on me, or if I do it is a 20. Maybe someday I will get it but for now I'm sticking to my off-post grocery stores!! :-)

  2. I love the commissary and I hate the commissary. You really can't beat the prices (I was amazed at the price difference of a lot of items when I went through Safeway and other grocery stores) but you're right. They are CONSTANTLY putting bread and dairy products that are on the brink of expiration out on the shelves. It is so frustrating!! And the PX is useless. Their clothes suck! And I compared prices of nursery furniture and I would have been out at least $300 dollars more if I had gone through the PX for the exact same set!

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