Commissary Shopping 101 & DeCA Coupon Policy

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Old 03-04-2014, 03:59 PM
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Fyi Commissary Shopping 101 & DeCA Coupon Policy

Commissary shopping is different than shopping in the public grocery stores. Below are some lists and ideas to help you shop more effectively in the commissary. The following information has been combined to have all the information in the same place for current or future reference. A special thanks to nomadicpixie, medic2midwife, & Snarg for providing help in shopping more effectively in the commissary!

Websites for Commissary Shopping:

Other Helpful Resources
1. Commissary Rewards Card
Here is a link to Commissary Rewards Card Rules from medic2midwife Commissaries Rewards Card Rules
2. Coupon Spread Sheet Commissary Computer Coupon Spreadsheet (Provided by Snarg!)



1. What is the Commissary and DeCA?
The Commissary is the grocery store on all military installations throughout the world (currently there are 250). The Commissaries are run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), so often when you read anything on policy we will refer to DeCA. DeCA maintains the regulations and Coupon Policy for all Commissaries and has authority over the Commissaries.

2. Who can shop at the Commissary? Authorized shoppers include active duty, retirees, National Guard and Reserves and their family members. Medically discharged with a 30% or higher disability are authorized as well. You have to have an ID card and it has to have Commissary written on the front under “Authorized Patron” (active ID does not have this written on them). If in doubt get a hold of DeCA and ask.

3. Why shop at the Commissary?
The Commissaries tend to run 30% cheaper than average grocery stores and can offer wonderful deals. It is stated that the Commissary cannot profit from grocery sales. Customers buy groceries at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge which is used to fund commissary construction and renovations. So there are great deals to be had at the Commissary, and their liberal and well-written Coupon Policy is also a great factor in shopping there.

4. What is the Surcharge?
Although there is no tax at the Commissary there is a 5% charge added to each item purchased at the Commissary. This is used to improve and build Commissaries. The Surcharge is charged to the pre-coupon price. This is an important point to remember since a free item isn’t truly free because you still need to pay the surcharge. Also, it is important to account for the surcharge when looking at overage items.

5. Is the Commissary Coupon Friendly?
As a general rule Commissaries are VERY coupon friendly. Commissaries process 4 times the number of coupons per person than the average grocery store. Coupons can be found throughout the Commissaries, and the Commissary definitely promotes coupon use. DeCA frequently says "Increase your savings with coupons". Don't hesitate to use coupons at the Commissary.

6. Does the Commissary accept Expired Coupons? The Commissary only accepts expired coupons at overseas locations. Alaska and Hawaii are not considered overseas for this purpose. Overseas locations accept expired coupons up to 6 months past their expiration date. Conus locations do not accept expired coupons under any circumstances.

7. Can I stack the Military Coupons with Manufacturer Coupons?
No. There are often coupons that can be found in the Commissary that will say “Military Coupon” or “For Use in Military Commissaries Only”. It may be tempting to think these are store coupons and can be stacked with manufacturer coupons but this is incorrect. All coupons, whether they say military on them or not, are manufacturer coupons and cannot be stacked. Only one coupon, no matter the type, can be used per item.

8. Do commissaries ever have "double coupon" or "triple coupon" promotions like those offered by commercial stores? No. The "double" or "triple" coupon promotions offered by commercial stores involve doubling, tripling (or otherwise increasing) the face value of a coupon. Commercial stores who offer these types of promotions get paid by the coupon issuer only for the face value of a coupon, and have to absorb the costs of "doubling" or "tripling" coupon face value in their pricing and profit structure. Because commissaries are required by law to sell goods at prices set only high enough to cover the cost of those goods, commissaries make no profit from which to pay the costs associated with "double" coupon promotions. Additionally, DeCA cannot use funds provided for the operation of commissaries to support such promotions, because law strictly prescribes the uses of these funds, and "promotional support" is not among the allowable uses of these funds.

9. When are the sales at the Commissary?
The Commissary has a different sales structure than traditional grocery stores.

10. What’s the deal with the Baggers?
Baggers can be found at all Commissaries. They are there to help you bag and load your groceries. But the key difference between them and baggers at traditional stores is that they have no wages and only work for tips. So if you have them help you make sure that you tip them. If you don’t want to tip then you can tell them that you do not need help.

11. Can I special Order? How Do I?
You should be able to special order any item that is listed in the Commissary's system, even if your specific Commissary does not carry it. DeCA prefers that you special order larger volumes of items instead of clearing shelves. Special Ordering is supposed to be a simple process but some stores make it a severe pain. Here is how it's supposed to work:

Just tell any cashier that you want to place a special order. In smaller Commissaries they will have the form at the checkout and in larger stores they carry the form at the cash cage or customer service desk. Or to make it easier - here is the pdf link. Fill out the form with as much info you can. Then turn it in to the Commissary. Try to turn it into the person that handles the special orders but if that is not possible then give it to a front end manager. I strongly recommend you follow up by phone about 48 hours later since often the form magically disappears. The order typically will take 5-7 days to arrive, but if it is in high demand or difficult to locate it may take several weeks. They should call you when it arrives, but this does not always happen. So call on the day they expect it to arrive (they should give an estimate when you turn it in or during your follow up call). If it hasn't arrived then call in every few days until it does.

Once the order arrives they are supposed to call you. You then head in and tell the cashier or front end manager that you are there to pick up a special order. They will locate it and check you out. There is no such things as rain checks at the Commissary and no guarantee of the price when you special order - you pay the price of the item when it arrives. But on the flip-side, you are not required to buy the item if the price changes or if it arrives after your "required by" date. Often if the price does change the managers will honor the older price, but only as a courtesy. They are under no obligation to do this.

If you have any problems will getting special orders placed and completed contact your Store Director. Remember that high demand items, such as overage items, may be near impossible to get. This is not the Commissaries fault, it's a distribution issue. As long as the Commissary keeps an open line of communication that is all you can ask of them. Now, repeatedly losing your order form or items, or failing to ever contact you, is another issue.

Attention All Patrons of the Commissary:
Attached is the new Commissary Policy from Wednesday, February 26, 2014.
The following is quoted from FB from DECA:
"COMMISSARY PATRONS: In order to further protect your commissary benefit, we have changed our policy for limits on quantities of goods that can be purchased in our commissaries. Please note that this is to discourage purchasing items for resale or excessive monetary refunds. If you have questions about this policy change, please ask to speak with your store manager or store director."

This link below is the actual rules on limits on quantities for special orders and transactions using coupons. Please review for next trip.
Grocery Coupons & Deal Forums - A Full Cup

12. Problems at the Commissary, how do I contact DeCA?
You can go here and send a message to DeCA: - Contact DeCA They are usually good about getting back to you but it may take a few days. Another option is to get in contact with your store director. Most are really good and willing to straighten things out very quickly. You can find their info by finding your store here: - Store Locator and their contact information is listed under management.
If you have a general question the DeCA Facebook page is pretty responsive:

(Information above provided by nomadicpixie.)


Now that one has some basics from the commissary, one may ask how does the sales cycle work at the commissary?

Here is a breakdown of the main Commissary sale types:

1. Saving Aisle
This is sale that runs for two or three weeks and runs from a Thursday to a Wednesday (for example Thursday May 12th to Wednesday June 1st). The sale items and their prices can be found on under the “What’s on Sale” tab. You must provide your SSN to see the prices, but the discount percentage can be seen without logging in. This is a long and extensive list and will follow the listed dates for the discount. *Note it is against Commissary policy to copy/paste this list with prices to the internet. Go here: , log in with yourname, SSN, and Birthday. Then pick your Commissary at it will list all the sales items, UPC code, percentage off, and sale price.

2. Manufacturer Initiated Sales
Large Manufacturer’s will set up sales for their products at the Commissary on a regular basis. These sales generally last 15, 30, or 45 days. The items on sale can typically be seen on their military website or in the Maxi Saver or Coupon Connection (found at the link below or in the flyer area of your Commissary).

3. 1st and 16th
Prices for some items will change on the 1st and the 16th, and most of these changes cannot be seen in writing (though some will coincide with #2). The price changes will be consistent for all Commissaries and a few (but not all) can be seen in the Maxi Saver. Generally if you see an item change price on these dates you can assume they will remain on sale until the next payday.

4. Random
There are some random and inconsistent price changes in the commissaries that cannot be predicted and may not be consistent in all Commissaries. These can consist of Manager’s Specials, clearance, close-outs, Wacky Wednesdays, and other seemingly random price drops/hikes. These can be the most frustrating for couponers because they cannot be predicted, and we cannot assume a sale price at one Commissary will translate to the same sale price at another Commissary.

Here are links to places that commonly list sale items:

Military Sales Flyers
Military shoppers Military Commissary DeCA Specials
Maxi Saver and Military Saver MAXI SAVER Group, Inc.

Manufacturer Military Websites: - Variety of websites one can choose from!
My Military Savings My Military Savings - Exclusive Military Family Savings and Discounts

(Information above provided by nomadicpixie.)


For the updated short version of the commissary's coupon policy trifold see link below...Copies of the policy can also be obtained at the customer service department at the commissary. Most current policy-Publish Date: April 2013

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Last edited by sav4dzn; 03-25-2014 at 01:30 PM. Reason: added
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