Military families shopping off-base as government shutdown closes base grocery store
ANCHORAGE – Military families were shopping at Sam’s Club in the Tikahtnu Commons on Thursday after the commissary on base was shut down, along with thousands of other federal jobs in Alaska, on the third day of a partial federal government closure.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” said Bobbi Lazo, an Army mother of three, as she wheeled a shopping cart full of hotdogs, milk and more away from the register. “We’re here because the commissary’s closed.”
Manager Doug McIntosh said that, during the shutdown, members of military can do their shopping at Sam’s Club without paying the annual membership fee.
”As long as the government closure continues, Sam’s club is going to open its doors to anyone who can show us any kind of military identification,” he said.
That’s good news for Sherrill Hill and her friend Tami Beasley. They walked from their homes on base to check a few items off their shopping list. Hill said off-base shopping is going to cost them a bit more than it would buying on base, but she has little choice.
“It’s closed,” she said, rolling her eyes. “No more commissary.”
It’s where she and her family spent nearly $200 every two weeks, not including money they save on coupons, which Hill said she clips diligently. “It all depends on what we all need,” she said, checking out. “If we need a lot of meats, then it’s about $250.”
Economists say about 15 to 20 percent of household income is spent on food. Spending on things like groceries and meals will likely be one of the first things to feel the squeeze of a government shutdown. For Hill, it’s buying in bulk and pushing every dollar as far as it goes. For now, that means shopping at Sam’s Club, until the shutdown ends and she can go back to buying groceries on base.
“This is stuff I would normally get at the commissary,” she said, holding a receipt with about $80 worth of groceries. “It’s a five minute walk from the house. Here it’s a little bit further but, it’s a walk!” she said, shrugging with a smile.
“It sucks, but it’s understandable. It happens.”