SNAP Benefits Update

Stimulus Package Update: The USDA announced on Wednesday that emergency food benefits have increased by $2 billion dollars per month for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

That is an increase by 40% for families and individuals who utilize this program. This stimulus is in effect across all 50 states as well as a few territories.

SNAP benefits are among the most effective forms of economic stimulation because the money is injected immediately and directly back into the economy.

80% of benefits are typically redeemed within two weeks of acceptance and 97% of that is typically spent within a month.

Important things to note about the SNAP benefit increase:

  • P-EBT has been launched that will provide children who typically receive free or reduce school breakfast and lunch the equivalent in order to sustain while schools are closed
  • Disaster Household Distributions have been issued which provide food to meet needs when traditional channels of food are unavailable
  • Rural children are receiving more than 1 million meals a week in partnership with the Meals To You ™ program
  • 35,000 nation-wide feeding sites have been open which are now serving free meals to children
  • Maximizing flexibilities for meal time requirements and parent-pickup for the free meals provided through schools and other providers. Children now do not need to be present in order to obtain their assistance and this allows providers to serve meals outside of the standard meal times.
    > More information per state here
  • Administrative flexibilities have been made for quicker processing of SNAP & WIC applications

5 Tips for Using Your Food Stamps

You can apply for food stamps if you have a low income and need to receive food assistance. The food stamp application, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a federal program that helps you expand your budget for food costs.

There are several ways to apply for food stamps in every state, including online, by phone or in person at a local benefits office.

The program also helps you and your family achieve and maintain optimal nutrition levels. Therefore, you can only purchase certain foods that are nutritious under your SNAP benefits.

You will receive a food stamp electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to make use of your benefits in local authorize SNAP stores and farmer’s market. 

Besides being able to check food stamp balance, there are other ways that you can make the most out of your benefits. This will ensure not only that you adopt a more nutritional lifestyle but will also enable you to make your benefits last each month.

You can learn the five best ways to make the best out of your benefits by reading the complete sections below. 

1. Know the Foods You Can Buy With Food Stamps

As a beneficiary of the food stamps program, you can only use your SNAP government benefits to purchase certain foods. Once the state agency approves your food stamp application, you can buy what is referred to as staple foods.

There are four staple food categories, which include: 

  • Bread or cereals.
  • Dairy products.
  • Meats, poultry and fish.
  • Fruits and vegetables.

Although you can only use your food stamp benefits to buy foods within these categories, there is plenty of variety within them.

Some food stamps beneficiaries do not make good use of their benefits because they believe that SNAP does not cover some of the food items they like. 

Once you are aware of the food items you can purchase with your SNAP, you will not be missing out on the great benefits the program offers.

Moreover, knowing what food you can buy will also enable you to follow some of the next tips to make the most out of your benefits.

2. Planning Your Meals

Once you are aware of the items you can purchase with your food stamp benefits, start planning meals for you and your family. You will be able to think ahead of meals that your family will enjoy and are healthy at the same time.

It will also be easier for you to make your food stamp balance last through the month by planning your meals because you will be able to save more money.

Do not forget to plan around the food items that you can purchase with your benefits. Make sure to check your food stamp balance before heading to the store and make a grocery list.

You first need to understand what types of items you can purchase with your food stamps and which of those items you and your family enjoy. Next, you can start to think about some recipes.

A food stamp office near you may have information on meal planning and recipes. 

However, there is also plenty of resources online, in cookbooks at your local library or only by asking your friends about a good recipe. You should also consider good in-season foods that could be more affordable and be a significant contribution to your recipes.  

3. Make a List of Groceries

After you plan your meals, it is time to use your food stamps and head to the grocery store. But before you use your food stamp card, you should make a grocery list.

If you are unsure of how to begin, start by including the food items you need for the meals you planned. Then, add other foods that you can purchase with your benefits and you know you and your family enjoy.

Once you shop with your food stamps card, make sure to keep the receipts of all the purchases you made. Keep an eye on the food stamp balance to see how much of your benefits you spent with your initial shopping trip. 

You might need to make some adjustments to your shopping list to keep costs down.

If there are food items left because your family did not like them, try to think of creative ways to include them in your recipes and consider excluding them from your next shopping trip. 

4. Store Your Food Adequately

Besides having to keep an eye on your food stamp application and the card balance, you should be aware of how you store your food. Keep in mind that some of the food stamps staple foods, like fruits and vegetables, have a short shelf life and can perish after weeks or even days of buying them.

Make sure that you refrigerate items like dairy and vegetables to make them last longer.

Furthermore, you should ask yourself, “What are food stamps items that last longer?” when you make the grocery list or are in the store.

There are several frozen alternatives for fruits and vegetables that your food stamp benefits cover and are just as nutritious. You can also buy frozen fruits and make delicious recipes like smoothies. 

For all other items, make sure to check for expiration dates, and see if they require that you store them in the fridge. Make sure that you keep shelf items on cool and dry environments to avoid them from spoiling.

5. How to Check Your Food Stamp Balance and Other Tips

When you use your food stamps smartly by planning your meals and making grocery lists, you will start seeing that your benefits last longer.

However, check your food stamp balance regularly to ensure that you are not overspending and have plenty of food until your next benefit cash payment.

Other important tips to save while you shop include:

  • Using coupons. You can use your food stamp benefits along with store coupons to make your balance from dropping too much on each shopping trip or getting more value on what you spend. 
  • Checking unit price tag. To determine which products offer the best value, check the unit price. For instance, while a smaller item might cost less, it would be better to shop for a bigger item that costs more and has a lower unit price. This way, you are getting the most for each food dollar that you spend.  
  • Opting for generic brands. You can purchase plenty of generic brands with your food stamp benefits. These food items tend to be more affordable than big brands and offer the same quality for a lower price.

Helpful Resources: