Military families who are looking for ways to save money should check out their commissary’s sidewalk sale event in September.

Some of the categories of items that will be offered at increased savings include food and pet food, baby products, paper towels and toilet paper, trash bags and cleaning products. Items may vary by location. Information was not immediately available about the range of discounts that will be offered on top of the overall 25% savings commissaries offer, compared to local civilian stores outside the gate.

These outdoor sales events are typically scheduled for three or four days over a weekend, and the dates vary by commissary. Some are happening soon, such as Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia, and which are kicking off their sales on Aug. 31, Sales at 27 other stores begin on Sept. 1.

At the end of September, sales begin at Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base, Hawaii, and New Orleans Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Louisiana. Customers should check the commissary website for specific sales dates for commissaries close to them. Dates are subject to change, so check back closer to your commissary’s sales date.

These sales are specific to stateside locations and Hawaii, but overseas customers should check with their local stores to see what other specific promotions might be happening in their store.

Customers should take stock of their supplies, and the space they have available to store the items — and to get the items home in their vehicles. In the past, commissary sidewalk sales, sometimes called case lot sales, have offered a variety of bulk items. It also pays to do some comparison shopping of items you need before you embark on your foray into the commissary sidewalk sale.

These sales may be especially helpful for families who have just made a permanent change of station move and are restocking their pantries.

Commissaries got a big boost from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin last September when his “Taking Care of Our People” initiative pumped more money into commissaries in order to cut prices at the register. By removing the 2017 Defense Department requirement that commissaries had to make a profit to offset operational costs, Austin enabled commissary officials to drop prices by 3% to 5% across more than 40,000 products in their stores. They’re saving customers an average of at least 25% on every grocery basket that leaves the store, said Defense Commissary Agency Director John E. Hall.

Those eligible for the commissary shopping benefit include active duty, Guard and Reserve members, military retirees, Medal of Honor recipients, and their authorized family members. Veterans with any Department of Veterans Affairs documented service-connected disability rating became eligible for commissary shopping, as well as Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, and individuals approved and designated as the primary family caregivers of eligible veterans under the VA Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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