If you're in the hunt for extra grocery bargains, check out the May commissary case lot sales — some of which, despite the calendar, are already underway.

For example, the sale at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, runs from today through Sunday, and the sale at Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Mississippi, runs Friday to Sunday. 

Not all stateside stores are taking part, so check the Defense Commissary Agency's case lot sales webpage to find out if and when your store is participating. Commissaries in Europe and the Pacific don't participate in the case lot sales, but they may have some substitute events such as sidewalk sales.

These sales are often held in tents outside commissaries, with additional sale items sprinkled throughout the stores. Items are offered in bulk, similar to those found in commercial club stores, and there are some additional "mix and match" packages of similar items in bulk-size cases. 

There's a variety of items in many categories, such as water and flavored water; diapers; wipes; soaps; paper products such as bathroom tissue; cleaning supplies such as laundry detergent; canned fruit and vegetables; fruit snacks, crackers, cereals, pastries, popcorn and potato chips; pet supplies such as bagged and canned food; frozen meals; and cookies, brownies, pancakes and muffin mixes — to name a few. 

Some pre-shopping tips:

  • Do an inventory of your groceries and household supplies.
  • Do some comparison shopping of items at local civilian stores and online so you’ll know whether you’re getting a good deal. Compare the unit price, such as price per diaper in the box of diapers, or price per ounce of cereal in the box. Make use of that calculator while you’re shopping.
  • Gather coupons, including online commissary coupons.
  • Think about the storage space — will you have room for five cases of tomato sauce and 10 bulk packages of paper towels? Will you even be able to fit them in your vehicle to get them home?
  • If you’re making a permanent change-of-station move soon, think twice before buying extra items in certain categories, such as frozen items, cleaning items, and lots of bulk items. Will you be able to use everything before you move, or will you have to give (or throw) items away? And do you really want to stock up on all the toilet paper if you’ll have to move it in a couple of weeks?


Karen Jowers writes about military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at kjowers@militarytimes.com.