Guide to Duty Station Grocery Stores

people near grocer store inside building

As a military family it can be daunting to learn a new city (or region of the United States) every 2-3 years. One aspect to a PCS we haven’t addressed is grocery stores. While most military bases offer a commissary, they all can’t be treated equal. And even if you split your shopping between stores, it’s good to familarize yourself with what’s out in town.

When you get to a new duty station you might find yourself asking: who is Fred Meyer or Harris Teether? What is a Big Y or Food Lion?

We asked fellow submarine spouses about their favorite/least favorite grocery stores. Here’s what they had to say:


  • WinCo Foods – West Coast, no-frills warehouse-style grocery store with an extensive bulk food section (debit card or cash only)
    • Affordable and great quality
  • Town & Country Market – Formally known as Central Market in Poulsbo
    • Expensive but great for their fresh market deli, produce and meats, beer and wine selection
  • Fred Meyer – Pacific Northwest retail chain (Kroger family) for groceries, apparel and furniture, plus toys, electronics, housewares and more.
    • One-stop shop for groceries and house needs
    • Not the cheapest, but love the gas rewards

“I don’t need to discuss any other stores… Love of my life, Central Market. Winner takes all!!”

Honorable mentions: Sprouts, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Costco

Stores to avoid: Safeway


  • Publix – Florida-based supermarket chain
    • Good produce and regular staples
    • Great for produce, but groceries over all are expensive
  • Lowes Foods – North Carolina-based supermarket chain
    • Serves local beer while you shop which is awesome!

Honorable mentions: Harris Teether


  • Big Y – a family-owned supermarket chain in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
    • Expensive AF, good produce
    • Nice but pricey
    •  Bougie and expensive but gets the job done
  • Stop & Shop – popular northeastern grocery chain, sister to Food Lion in the mid-Atlantic.
    • Good, but confusing and changing store layout
    • Convenient scan and bag as you shop
    •  Great prices and great quality, good experience with pick up and delivery

“Groton, nothing but saddness here.”

“Listen, Big Y is expensive. We don’t make Big Y dollars, we make Aldi dollars.”

Honorable mentions – Costco,  Walmart Super Center (Waterford) and Aldi


“Favorites in Guam???? Grocery shopping was often a fruitless pursuit (literally and figuratively).”

Kings Bay

  • Publix – Florida-based supermarket chain
    • Good produce and regular staples
    • Great for produce, but groceries over all are expensive
  • Harris Teether – North Carolina-based supermarket chain

“Publix and nowhere else.”

“Don’t go to Winn-Dixie unless you want to constantly worry you will be stabbed.”

Stores to avoid: Winn-Dixie

Norfolk/Hampton Roads

  • Wegmans – New York state-based supermarket chain
    • The holy grail, reminded me of Whole Foods but better
    • Simply the best! It’s the Disney world of grocery stores!
    • Our favorite place to grab-and-go or their deli, hot bar, bakery, Burger Bar, sushi, etc.
  • Kroger – American retail company with nearly 3,000 locations
    • I mean, the one in Chesapeake has a bar inside of it!
    • Love the gas rewards and easy pick-up option

“Wegmans!!! Simply the best. It’s the Disney World of grocery stores!”

Honorable mentions: Aldi, Publix (coming soon), Trader Joe’s , Walmart Neighborhood Market

Stores to avoid: Food Lion, Costco (not in a great Norfolk area)

Pearl Harbor

  • Foodland – Honolulu-based supermarket chain
    • Great for ready-to-eat meals, bentos, poke bowls, bakery
  • Costco Washington-state based warehouse-style retail chain (membership required)
    • Great for bulk purchases
    • More unique items than on mainland, such as surfboards, ukuleles and Hawaiian foods

Honorable mentions: Target, Whole Foods (if you have amazing Prime for extra deals), Hickham Commissary (if you’re overwhelmed by Pearl)

Stores to avoid: Safeway, Pearl Harbor Commissary (only dry goods, say no to produce), Don Quijote

Portsmouth, NH

  • Hannaford – Maine-based grocery store chain
    • Best selection of produce
    • Use My Hannaford Rewards to save
    • Hot tip: you can ask them to steam your lobsters while you wait for free
  • Market Basket – New England-based grocery store chain
    • Best for low prices

Honorable mentions: Kroger, Beach Peas (for breads, baked goods) , Golden Harvest Produce Market

San Diego

  • Sprouts – Arizona- based supermarket known for natural and organic foods
    • Great for produce!
  • Ralphs Southern California-based supermarket, owned by Kroger
    • Good alternative if you don’t like the commissary

Honorable mentions: Barons, Safeway

What stores did we miss? Comment below! Regretfully we did not include all duty stations, only those we received comments on.

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