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Essential Household Items to Replace after a PCS Move

by Lizann Lightfoot - September 8th, 2022

Essential Household Items to Replace after a PCS Move

When you move your family, there are some predictable moving costs, like the cost of gas and hotel rooms during your travel days, or the security deposit to move into a new apartment. But there are other hidden moving costs that may surprise you or catch you off guard.

Whether you do a full military move or a PPM (Personally Procured Move), you won’t be able to take most food items with you. You will also discover that you have to replace many cleaning supplies and garage items.

Replacing all of these items at once will mean an expensive first trip to the grocery store. It’s important to be aware of the cost of replacing all these household staples so you can build room for it in your PCS budget.

Make the most of your dislocation allowance (DLA)

Although the government does reimburse many major moving costs, there is currently no specific reimbursement for the cost of setting up your home at a new location. The military does provide a DLA (dislocation allowance), which is a flat rate to help with travel expenses and the hidden costs of moving.

You are entitled to receive DLA whether you do a military move or a PPM (formerly called a DITY move). You can receive this payment in advance of your move, but it will not be automatic. You must put in a claim for your DLA with your moving paperwork.

However, DLA is calculated based on the service member’s rank and whether or not they have dependents. It does not take into account the number of dependents in the family or the high cost of living in some parts of the country. For example, if you and your spouse are moving to Oklahoma, your allotted DLA will cover the security deposit on an apartment, the first utility bill, and several weeks of groceries. But if you are an E-5 with three kids moving to Southern California, that same DLA won’t even cover the security deposit on a small apartment. And just wait for the sticker shock when that family of five makes their first trip to a local grocery store!

Prevent sticker shock on your post-PCS shopping trip

To prevent that sticker shock experience, it’s important to start saving for your move ahead of time. You can build a PCS budget that includes replacing your household pantry items. You will need to restock the fridge, the baking supplies, and the cleaning products all at once.

Many families report that it is normal for them to go to a grocery store, Walmart, or Costco immediately after they move. There, they spend hundreds of dollars on essential supplies. There is usually an additional trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot, where they spend hundreds more just getting supplies to make things work at the new home. For example, new purchases often include shower rods and shower curtains, bath mats, window blinds, rods, and curtains, shelving units, organization bins, and furniture.

Essential household items to replace after a PCS move

Every military family knows that post-PCS purchases are unavoidable. Sure, there are ways to cut back on your spending, but there are some items you will have to buy. Plan on purchasing the following items after your PCS, and build that into your budget.

Perishable items

Everything in the fridge will need to be discarded or given away when you move. Also, any dry goods from the pantry that have already been opened will need to be discarded. You will likely replace these items as soon as you move, so you can start cooking at home. Plan to buy:

  • Condiments (ketchup, salad dressing, hot sauce, mayonnaise)

  • Milk

  • Eggs

  • Butter

  • Bread

  • Flour

  • Sugar

  • Cereal

  • Baking supplies

  • Fruits and vegetables

  • Rice

  • Pasta

  • Coffee

  • Creamer

  • Tea

And that's just for starters!

Liquid items

Moving companies won’t pack liquid items - and for good reason. The last thing you want it to have your half-used bottle of vanilla breaking and ending up all over your clothes.

If you're doing a PPM/DITY move, you don’t want to bother with them either. It isn’t worth the risk of them leaking and ruining everything else in the box.

So, be prepared to replace:

  • Oil (vegetable and olive oil)

  • Vinegar

  • Cooking spray

  • Liquid cleaning products (dish soap, laundry soap, bleach, sprays, bathroom cleaner)

  • Hygiene products (shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, hand soap)

  • Liquid or gel medicines and first aid items

Hazardous items

Most moving companies won’t allow you to move with anything that is flammable or corrosive. Pay particular attention to all the items in your garage, and be sure to dispose of the old ones properly before you move.

After you move, be prepared to buy:

  • Batteries

  • Light bulbs

  • Propane tanks

  • Gas tanks

  • Oil for cars and lawn equipment

  • Paint

  • BBQ materials

  • Craft and hobby products

Household Items

Although you can pack these items on a move, most people choose not to, because the overall bulkiness and weight isn’t worth the value of the individual item. And some of these have a risk of molding during the moving process, which is something you do not want in your shipment. But when you put them all together, it can be an expensive shopping cart.

The following items may need to be replaced after your PCS:

  • Paper products (paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates, and plasticware)

  • Trash cans

  • Plunger and toilet bowl scrubber

  • Mops

  • Brooms

  • Laundry baskets

  • Coffee filters

  • Aluminum foil

  • Plastic wrap

  • Ziploc bags

  • Trash bags

  • Sponges

  • Scrub brushes

  • Cleaning rags

Be sure to budget for these items when planning your PCS move. Then you can comfortably buy the supplies you need for your new home.

While you're at it, click here to download the FREE PCS checklist on our homepage! Scroll about halfway down to find the link.

PCSgrades is here to help you have a smooth military move and to help military families find home. Use our resources to learn more about your duty station before you move, to research housing options, find a real estate agent, or to read reviews written by and for military families!

Lizann Lightfoot

Lizann Lightfoot

Lizann Lightfoot, the "Seasoned Spouse" is a professional writer and speaker for the military community. After two decades with her service member, her family has been through 7 deployments and 6 PCS moves. Lizann has raised 5 children and published several books for military families. Her most recent book is "Open When: Letters of Encouragement for Military Spouses" published Sept 2021 by Elva Resa. You can find Lizann's articles and resources at