JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Military families enjoy many privileges, not the least of which is access to the commissary.

Shopping at the commissary isn't just convenient, it also saves money.

"The commissary is for all active duty and retirees, and their families," said Jim Docherty, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Main Commissary grocery manager. "It's something they earn."

The key to making the most of this privilege is understanding and taking advantage of what the commissary has to offer. There are no special savings cards, rewards cards or other extras required, Docherty said, just a military ID card and a desire to save money.

Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent compared to commercial prices, Docherty said. That amounts to an extimated $3,300 in annual savings for a family of four. The savings stems from one of the Defense Commissary Agency's core missions to provide quality products to America's heroes at prices they can afford.

"Commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country," says the DeCA Web site.

Shoppers might occasionally find products offered for lower prices at outside supermarkets. Docherty said stores do that to lure customers inside.

"They sell (some) things at a loss," Docherty said. "They advertise something to get you in their store, but then when you buy a whole basket of groceries, you end up coming out spending a lot more."

With the commissary, shoppers don't have to concern themselves with such a system.
"Everything here is sold at cost," he said.

Shoppers don't need to search the JBLM Main Commissary's 40,000 square feet of floor space for sales. They're everywhere. On top of everyday low prices, a Commissary Information Center at the entryway increases savings potential.

"Industry partners put out fliers every month with coupons, and we put them here on the wall for added savings," Docherty said. "You already get at least 30 percent savings, but if you use these coupons smartly, you can really save a lot of money."

As an example, one flier had $81 worth of savings, including a coupon for $1 off a bag of frozen hashbrowns that normally costs $2.

"It's really worth it to pick up all of those fliers, go through them, or take them home with you until you come back next time," Docherty said.

Larger families and those looking to stock up favorite items might want to visit the Value Village - 4,000 square feet displaying popular items sold in bulk. It's also where they display holiday items and most beverages.

"Value Village is kind of unique to DeCA," Docherty said. "We receive extra large packages, and our unit price is lower than anything out on the shelves."

The selection in Value Village is growing, with products changing quarterly.

In the event that customers can't find products they want on the commissary shelves, they can submit a request.

"The best thing to do is go to, and put a request in to the headquarters," Docherty said.

Case lot sales, special military coupons and product demonstrations are other benefits unique to the commissary.

"Usually, anytime they do a demo, they will lower the price, they'll have coupons, or do both to give you an even better deal," Docherty said.

The JBLM McChord Field Commissary follows the same promotions plan as JBLM Lewis Main Commissary, so shoppers can expect to see much of the same at either location.

"We're keeping up with what's happening on the outside," Docherty said, "while saving you more money."


How to become a savvy commissary shopper

Did you know that your JBLM Lewis Main Commissary is the sixth largest commissary in sales worldwide and No. 1 in sales per square foot' Ever wonder why some items are regularly available while others are not' Do you want to learn how to become a more savvy shopper'

The JBLM Lewis Main Commissary has teamed up with Army Community Service to provide monthly tours of the commissary. Tours cover how to read labels, cost effectiveness of home ready meals versus fast food, and interesting facts about the commissary.

Learn all there is to know about your commissary while picking up valuable tips during an upcoming tour. To sign up for the next tour, contact Donna Gotel at 967-1453 or e-mail

Laura M. Levering is a reporter with the Northwest Guardian, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper.