Shopping at the commissary is just one of the many great benefits available to us as military family members, but you’ve probably been there once or twice when you wondered just how beneficial it really is.
It’s almost habitual to have a commissary shopping list and an “everything else” list because we all know there will inevitably be things on the list that the commissary:
- Has never carried, doesn’t currently carry, and has no intention of carrying in the future
- Carried last week, but doesn’t carry anymore (ever…EVER)
- Carries regularly, but everyone on base had the same craving this week, and the shelf is bare
In a perfect world, we would have all the time in the world to shop multiple grocery stores until we collect every item on our grocery lists, from sliced bread to those specialty spices that make us feel like we deserve our own cooking shows. But, that’s rarely (if ever) the case. And, on second thought, that doesn’t sound like a utopian scenario at all — who wants to spend more time grocery shopping? Between the tantrums (from your kids, someone else’s kids, or your own — no judgment here), the characteristically chaotic parking lots, the slow cart pushers who take up the entire aisle, and the long checkout lines, minimal time spent shopping for food is ideal — like the bare minimum.
Whether you’re stationed overseas and are limited on your grocery options or you have other options, but you just prefer to spend your time literally anywhere else but the grocery store, here are some substitutions you can make when the commissary is fresh out of what you need. When you can’t find:
- Fresh produce — Look for frozen fruits and veggies.
- Fresh herbs — Use dried herbs — many jars have the fresh-to-dried conversion right on the label.
- White onions — Try another variety of onion, garlic, or onion powder. Or, you know what? Leave them out altogether if your kids are the type to boycott an entire meal because one microscopic onion was spotted in the spaghetti sauce.
- Russet potatoes — Use sweet, fingerling, or new potatoes instead.
- A certain kind of leafy green — Sub a different type.
- Blueberries (or strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries) — Use another type of fresh or frozen berry.
- Your go-to milk — Sub a different fat percentage of cow’s milk, or try soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, half-and-half, or buttermilk. If you’re using it in a savory recipe, though, stick to the plain flavors. Vanilla soy milk won’t do anything for your alfredo sauce, but it will jazz up your morning coffee!
- Your go-to yogurt — Try a different flavor or fat content. If you’re using the yogurt in a recipe, you could also try another soft dairy product, like cream cheese or sour cream — you know, if it’s in stock.
- Butter — Use another cooking oil (you likely already have one in your pantry) or — better yet — use unsweetened applesauce if you’re baking!
- Spice blends or seasoning packets — Make your own, like this DIY taco seasoning recipe from Food Renegade. Bonus: You can control the salt and spice level when you make it yourself.
- A certain kind of cooking oil — Sub butter or another variety of oil. One caveat: Olive oil is not a good substitute in sweet recipes.
- Elbow (or any other kind) pasta — Just use what is available. A noodle is a noodle.
- Semisweet chocolate chips — Try any other kind of chocolate chip. Worst case scenario, buy a couple candy bars and break them up yourself. One way or another, you’re making those chocolate chip cookies!
It’s worth noting that some of these substitutions are even healthier than the original thing you were hunting for on aisle two — can’t be mad at that!
Got a certain product or brand just can’t live without, you can fill out a suggestion card at the commissary and request it (these are usually near the front of the store).
Skeptical reader: Yeah, but do the comment cards really work?
Article Writer: Pssh! Do they work? Does the Iwakuni commissary carry BlueBell ice cream?
If that doesn’t answer your question, the answer is sometimes. No promises your wish will come true in a timely manner (or ever) or that you’ll be shopping the day it appears on the shelves, but it is a way you can voice your opinion (ahem…as many times as you want).
Bottom line: Keep an open mind, channel your inner Top Chef, and make the commissary work for you. Just remember to take Monday off because the commissary always does!
Photo Credits: Renee Slusser