What Do You Need to Know About the Prison Commissary? Part 3

What Do You Need to Know About the Prison Commissary? Part 3
By Richard McDonald

Every prison has a different commissary, but general similarities exist. The commissary can make your prison time a little more comfortable.

Does the commissary sell food?

Yes. There is a pretty decent selection of food items on the commissary list.

Being a “prison cook” is a common side hustle. Guys will cook specialty items and sell them. Popular items are pizzas, burritos and cheesecakes. Pizzas are made out of flour tortillas. Burritos are packed with cheese and protein. Cheesecakes are created with Oreos.

For protein, chicken, shredded beef and pork are the most popular on the list. Protein items do not need refrigeration.

Prisoners do not have access to refrigerators in the housing units.

The most popular fish items are tuna and mackerel. Mackerels also double as currency.  Prisoners on a tight budget can buy ramen noodles that cost thirty to fifty cents each.

Are snacks available in the commissary?

Yes. Snack items are the most in demand on the commissary food list.

Cookies and cakes you will find in almost every prisoners list. Honey buns and nutty bars often sell out quick. Chips and crackers are also a popular item ordered by prisoners.

There is a mix of name brand chips like Doritos and generic-brand items for things like Cheez-Its.

All types of condiments and side items are also available for order. Popular condiments include mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard. Prisoners use side items, protein and sweets to create some amazing food offerings.

A popular snack, Doritos, is purchased at the prison commissary.
Image courtesy of hamza ishgaidif on Getty Images via iStock.

Is water the only drink option?

No. Drinks are available in the commissary, and soda tops the list. By far, the most popular soda item is Diet Pepsi. Diet Pepsi sells out every time its ordered. Other popular soda options are ginger ale, Mountain Dew and regular Pepsi.

Commissary workers get first dibs at inventory, and they can stock up on items like Diet Pepsi. Some will even stockpile to resell once inventory sells out.

Coffee is another item that most prisoners will order. Every housing unit has hot water dispensers. Keefe and Folgers are the name brands of coffee available.

Is the commissary food expensive?

Sometimes. Food pricing varies a lot. Some items are very expensive compared to the store, and other items are cheaper.

For example, a small package of chunk ham will run $4 in the commissary. The same package costs half that price in the store.

By contrast, the soda is a bargain. Sold by the bottle, soda costs $1. You will pay $2.29 per bottle at any gas station or grocery store in the country.

For the most part, a lot of items have a price that is comparable to grocery stores.

On a budget, I found that I was comfortable spending between $40 and $50 per week in the commissary.

I ate in the dining hall as well. If a prisoner elects to only eat in the commissary, then $80 to $90 a week is not unreasonable. I have known prisoners who refused to eat prison food, so they would spend a lot more.

The Takeaway:

You can buy food, snacks and drinks in the commissary. There is a variety of food available. These items can supplement the standard prison fare.

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