'We Can Live Without the Commissary'


Next to the camp of service members, military families and retirees who rely on the commissary as a must-have benefit is another less vocal but just as important group of people: those who are fine with getting rid of it.

Last week we highlighted the comments of some readers who couldn't do without it. This week, in part two of our series, we're going to look at the thoughts and feelings of those who can.

For many of these beneficiaries (as the Defense Commissary Agency would call them), the commissary simply doesn't apply to them. They either live too far away to want to use it or want to buy specialty items that many commissaries simply don't carry. Others in this group see the commissary as a flat out waste. Why is the military in the grocery business anyway? They don't find there to be a savings worth keeping the doors open. Still others see it as a opportunity cost issue. If we cut the commissary, they say, we can save other, more important programs.

Those who believe the commissary is something we could do without are definitely a minority -- only 8 percent of the over 5,500 people who took our poll said they don't shop at the commissary. And 35 percent said even a small price change at the commissary would make them skip the trip, compared to 40 percent who said they like the benefit enough to still give it a go even if prices go slightly up.

Here are some thoughts from those who have done the math from themselves and find it to not be worth keeping.

Wayne Perry, who occasionally contributes to SpouseBuzz, is one of the most vocal critics of keeping the commissary system open. He says his family saves money there, but they could live without it. He says keeping it open builds morale -- and that's important -- but from a budget standpoint closing it is the right answer.

"A change to the commissary in worst case scenario, it closing its doors, would cost my family in my estimates somewhere between $50 and $200 for a year. But that is also if I didn't adjust the way I shop at all. I believe if I watch sale ads for when meat is on sale at my local grocery stores, I should be able to keep our food budget pretty much the same and it won't effect the way we eat at all," he said. "To me on savings it is a wash. But when I compare its value as opposed to some of the other big issues, it is a no brainer this could go either way ... To me its monetary value isn't there. Not for my family and I don't believe for most families."

For many of the people who commented that they can either do without the commissary or deal with a price increase, the issue isn't it not having value -- the issue is it having less value than other things.

"I'd rather have a 20 percent increase [in food prices at the commissary] than have my husband face a retention board every year for five years because they are making cuts," military wife Adrian Leigh commented on our Facebook page. "Cuts have to be made somewhere, but I'd rather pay more for my food then have thousands of soldiers lose their retirements and contracts."

Army wife Jodi Marie said for her the commissary isn't worth it because it is just not run well.

Closing it "honestly wouldn't impact me one bit, because I don't shop there often," she told us. "The commissary here often is out of stock on many products, and it's inventory control is not the best. I wouldn't be hurt one bit by a price increase or closure. I know that other families would be affected more."

Commenter Katy B agreed. "In 10 years of commissary vs. regular grocery store comparisons I have found that while the commissary may have slightly lower prices on some things the quality of meat and produce is significantly lower at commissaries," she said. "It's not a savings if I have to throw away half of the food I bought because it is rotten when I want to use it two or three days after I bought it. Between that and the gas to drive 10 plus miles to the commissary instead of two miles to the grocery in town it doesn't give me an advantage."

Are you on the good-bye commissary side of this issue? Tell us why in the comments.

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