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 Since she was a Vietnam-era Army wife who hadn't been to a Commissary in decades, I figured her knowledge was outdated and didn't give her assertion much thought.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, $2.87
Walmart: Great Value, $2.08

Laundry 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)

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% lean
Commissary: $2.09/lb
Walmart: $3.78/lb

Paper towels, standard-size roll, 3-pack
Commissary: MardiGras, $2.18
Walmart: 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?

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Replies to This Story

I haven't shopped at the Commissary for more than a decade, so I'm a little out of touch with this particular comparison. I will say, however, that consumers who shop at Walmart do need to check pricing diligently, even item for item within the store. I have found, often times, that the Great Value brand is more expensive per unit than the name brand sitting next to it. I am now eager to set out on assignment to find examples of this, but not tonight. It's late and I'm tired :)

Stay tuned...
Accurately reported except for the statement about tax vs surcharge. I split my shopping between Walmart and the Commissary as some things are cheaper at Walmart. As reported, meat is usually much cheaper at the Commissary. Currently, eggs are much cheaper at the Commissary. Dog food is taxed at Walmart and is often more expensive than the Commissary even before tax is considered. Most food items are not taxed, so the Walmart tax rate vs. Commissary surcharge rate is of questionable usefulness. I always add 5% to Commissary prices when comparing. I also feel the Commissary 5% surcharge is a deceptive marketing practice. Walmart could mark down its prices by 5% and then add 5% at checkout "to cover the cost of building their facility" just as the Commissary does. I feel the Commissary does this to stymie price shopping. I continue to be amazed at the fact that Commissary prices are so close to Walmart's when you consider that the Commissary should have a lot of advantages - no corporate taxes, no property taxes, and possibly receives taxpayer subsidies.




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