ROE for commissary savings
Published: October 12, 2011
As military families, no matter we go around the world, the food we prepare for the holidays brings us home. The season of holiday meals and baking is approaching, which means more shopping and potentially more strain on our grocery budgets.
With so many demands on finances this time of year, couponing can be helpful. Shoppers need to know that couponing is a little different at the commissary.
"The most important thing to mention, bottom line (for commissaries overseas) is that coupons can be used six months after they expire,” said Ann Marie Detavernier, an Army wife stationed in Germany. In the states, including Alaska and Hawaii, expiration dates still apply.
Overseas locations get an extension on coupon expirations because they do not have ready access to hefty coupon inserts found in stateside Sunday newspapers, said Danna S. Eldridge, a commissary management specialist at Defense Commissary Agency’s headquarters in Fort Lee, VA.
Stars and Stripes, which serves military communities overseas, would carry the coupons – basically interactive advertising – if manufacturers provided them, I learned from the Stripes advertising and marketing departments. Currently, no advertisers are jumping on that bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean military couponers overseas are out of luck.
“I receive my coupons by talking about it on Facebook,” Ann Marie said.
“Friends who live stateside are glad to mail them overseas so someone can use them. There are a few easy places to apply for a coupon buddy,” she said.
Ann Marie created and leads a group of spouses dedicated to frugal grocery shopping at her Army Community Services at Baumholder, Germany. Collecting and clipping coupons are a big part of the plan.
Many commissaries keep a bin of coupons near the entrance for shoppers to use and contribute. Family centers at some installations also help to stock the community chest with coupons sent from stateside supporters.
Commissaries do not double coupons anywhere, either at home or abroad, abroad, leaving some avid coupon clippers wondering why.
Danna, a subject matter expert on coupons for DECA, answered that question. She said one important factor is that DECA is prohibited by law from making a profit.
“When they double (a coupon) the retailer is paying for that extra amount out of their profits,” said Danna, who has also been a military spouse. “We sell everything at cost, so we don’t have a profit margin to cover that extra value to double a coupon.”
The same applies for “stacking” coupons, which means using a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon for the same product.
Since the commissary does not provide store coupons, stacking is not possible there. Coupons labeled “military store” or “commissary” are provided by product manufacturers especially for military use.
The commissary accepts all manufacturers coupons, not only the ones marked for military sales, but only one coupon can be used for each item.
“Commissary shoppers are under the misconception that they can use a manufacturers coupon and military or commissary coupons together,” Danna said. “Actually they are all manufacturers coupons, and our policy is one coupon per item or per one purchase requirement.”
Many manufacturers also offer coupons online, and commissaries will accept those as long as they are not for free products, Danna said.
Coupons printed from online sources must meet the same requirements as any coupon. Danna said they must say “coupon,” have manufacturers terms and conditions, redemption instructions and a bar code.
Even with the limitations of living overseas, Ann Marie said she could save as much as $30 on her weekly commissary bill with careful meal planning and coupons.
We may not all save that much, but commissary shoppers are faithful coupon clippers and users. Danna said, pointing me to a 2010 marketing survey, which showed that DECA ranked eighth among American grocery retailers for volume of coupon redemption.
Eighth place didn’t impress me much until I read that first place Wal-Mart has about 2,900 stores. Third place Target has just over 1,700, and DECA has 248 commissaries.
Maybe the retailers who don’t provide coupon inserts overseas are missing something.
DECA has a Facebook group page where shoppers can ask questions and leave comments. One current discussion involves the use of high value coupons.
Read the complete DECA coupon policy here.
See Anne Marie's blog "Household6Diva" for connections to couponing sites and more ideas for making the most of military life.
There are also Facebook pages especially for military store shoppers looking for coupons:
Please share your favorite sources and ideas.