Shortly after marrying my husband, a soldier stationed at Fort Carson, five years ago, a coworker squelched my Commissary excitement with this statement: "It's not any cheaper than Walmart." Since she was a Vietnam-era Army wife who hadn't been to a Commissary in decades, I figured her knowledge was outdated and didn't give her assertion much thought.
Until now. My husband is currently in his final whole month of Inactive Recall Reserve, and my Commissary privileges end next month. It's a small price to pay for not having to deal with deployments. But the imminent end of my privileges has lately had me wondering if Walmart truly is as cheap, or cheaper, than the Commissary. (It certainly would make me feel better!)
This evening I compared prices at the Fort Carson Commissary with the Fountain Walmart. I found the cheapest brand (according to unit price) of each item at both stores. My results are below. (The winners are in bold.)1 gallon, Vitamin D milk
Commissary: Sinton, $2.87Walmart: Great Value, $2.08Laundry detergent (HE)Commissary: Ultra Purex, $1.99 for 24 loads (8 cents per load)
Walmart: Great Value, $11.97 for 96 loads (12 cents per load)Diapers
Commissary: Pure 'n Gentle, 52 for $8.59 (16 cents per diaper)Walmart: Parents' Choice, 96 for $13.99 (14 cents per diaper)Hamburger, 93% leanCommissary: $2.09/lb
Walmart: $3.78/lbPaper towels, standard-size roll, 3-pack
Commissary: MardiGras, $2.18Walmart: Decorator Towels, $1.94
As I suspected, it appears to be a bit of a toss up. Meat is certainly cheaper at the Commissary, but most of the other products I compared are cheaper at Wal-Mart (or not far off from the Commissary prices). I've noticed a couple of brands of products I regularly use -- Bertolli and Immaculate Baking Company in particular -- are substantially cheaper at the Commissary. But I've also run across items that are more expensive than they are at Walmart.
Since both the Commissary and Walmart accept, but do not double, coupons, there's just one difference left to compare: taxes and fees.Commissary: 5% surcharge
Walmart: 7.65% tax in Fountain
The Commissary likes to boast that shoppers, on average, save 30 percent over other stories. I'm not convinced. What do you all think? Do you only buy certain items at the Commissary? If so, which ones?