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Last week was my first experience shopping at the commissary’s semi-annual case lot sale. If you aren’t sure what a case lot sale is (because I sure wasn’t before I married Andy!) it’s where grocery stores have a large quantity of cases of products you can purchase, often at deeply discounted prices. Sometimes, you can purchase single quantities and still get the case price, but other times you may have to purchase the full case. Case lot sales were never a thing where I grew up, but they’re most popular on military installations as well as in LDS communities (since part of their religious beliefs is having a 3-12 month food supply.)
Some of y’all may be curious as to why we chose to shop at the case lot sale, when we are moving in just a few months. We are doing a DITY (do-it-yourself) move, so going over our weight allowance is not a concern for us like it is when you are having the military move you. Additionally, we’re moving to an area where there are no commissaries nearby. Most of the brand-name items are cheaper at the commissary versus a civilian supermarket (but not always!) so we wanted to stock up on the most expensive items that we will only buy brand name. If you’re wondering how we will store the items in our new home, we will either store them in our garage or our spare bedroom.
I had a bit of an idea what to expect, because I used to go on “extreme couponing” runs with my sister. Brandi was a big extreme couponer for a few years, so she gave me a few tips that would also apply to case lot sales. I could barely find any advice online about shopping at the case lot sale, so I thought it would be nice to share with others! I am far from an expert at this, so if you have a helpful tip, then sound off in the comments! 🙂
-Set a budget. Y’all, I honestly can be a huge spender when it comes to deals. Anyone who remembers my posts about working in the bookstore remembers how much money I used to spend there because something was “on sale.” Before the sale, Andy and I set an amount that we were comfortable with spending so I wouldn’t go wild. I’m glad to say I stuck to my budget 🙂
-Do the math. I made a spreadsheet that compares the regular commissary price to the regular and sale “on-the-economy” supermarket prices (such as Kroger or Walmart). I also listed out my “stock up” price and the estimated quantities of each product that I wanted to purchase. On my spreadsheet, I also noted if it was something we are brand-particular about or if I could substitute a cheaper brand. I originally started doing this when we first got married for any grocery trip I went on, but slipped away from the habit when I started working. I plan to get back in the groove of this once we settle into our new home! I also took the tip to quickly calculate the prices as I was shopping so I would have an idea where I was budget-wise.
-Only buy what you will use and can store. This is another problem I have. I can often be a “I’ll use this someday” person, so I have to work hard at not buying anything with the intent of using it eventually. I can also be a “buyer’s remorse” type person, feeling guilty for my purchases after I get home. To help solve this issue, I literally calculated how many of each product we use in a given month and decided how many months’ worth we wanted to buy before I went shopping. No joke, I walked up and down the aisles and whispered to myself, “Will we really use this? Do we really need this?” It saved me quite a bit of money and guilt! 🙂
-Look at expiration dates. Buying something but letting it expire before you use it just wastes food and costs money in the long run! For example, I found a great sale on tortilla shells, but they expire in mid-June. With us moving soon, storing them in our deep freezer wasn’t an option. I didn’t buy as many tortilla shells as I probably would have because I knew we wouldn’t use them all before they expired.
-Bring your husband with you. My cart was incredibly heavy and I struggled to push it by myself. I was seriously feeling the burn for DAYS afterwards! If Andy wasn’t in school, I would have had him come along for the muscle strength!
-Avoid distractions. I don’t have kids, but I do remember shopping with my dear friend and her 4 kiddos when I visited them last summer. Woo boy! It was tough to focus on getting a good deal when they were all running in different directions! I would recommend getting a babysitter if you can. I’ve also heard of some spouses doing a “babysitting co-op” where one spouse (or more) watches the kiddos and the other(s) do the case lot shopping, including the shopping for the ones watching the kids!
-Drive a truck. I own a Ford Focus, but for the day I borrowed Andy’s Ford F-150. It made it incredibly easy to load in the truck bed, take all of the goods home and then unload in the garage! His Recruiting school buddies were all confused as to why he was driving my car until he showed them a picture of my haul 😉
-Get there early. Here at Knox, it was a little busy but not insane. I got in line around 8:15 and by 8:45 they were letting everyone inside the case lot area (even though the doors don’t open until 9.) It took me about 2 hours to shop and get through the checkout line. I’ve never lived on a bigger base, but I’ve heard the lines there can be even longer!
-Go on the first day. The good stuff goes quickly! They are also more likely to have coupons on the first day (see below.)
-Look for manufacturer coupons for the products you are buying. I found a lot of “peelies” on items such as tortilla shells, cereal, etc. I ended up saving an additional $50 on my haul by using coupons alone. I am not an extreme couponer like my sister, but if I had put in the effort to look ahead of time for coupons, I could have probably saved even more money!
-Tip the commissary bagger extremely well for loading your groceries into your cart. In case you weren’t aware (like my husband wasn’t, until I told him), the commissary baggers work for tips only. So if you don’t tip them for bagging/loading your groceries, they are literally working for free. That is just wrong. The cases of goods are incredibly heavy, so tip really, really well. My bagger was an elderly veteran, so I did most of the heavy lifting and loading because it just seemed incredibly selfish to not help him since I’m healthy and young. If you can’t afford or don’t want to tip well, then load them yourself. (This is similar to my pet peeve of people who go out for a nice meal and “can’t afford” to leave a tip.)
-DON’T FORGET YOUR MILITARY ID! The most important part 🙂 No ID, no shopping!
Have you ever shopped at the case lot sale?
What are your case lot sale shopping tips?