- 1 Food Stamps (SNAP)
- 1.1 What stores accept food stamps
- 1.2 What items can you buy with food stamps
- 1.3 Meal Planning and Budgeting
- 1.4 Food Stamp Life Hacks
- 1.5 Additional Links
Food Stamps (SNAP)
Food Stamps, also officially called SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) is a federal program in the United States to assist low income people with access to food. To be eligible for food stamps, you have to be a US citizen or legal resident and you have to meet the income requirements and work requirements. If you live in a work first state, you cannot receive benefits until you meet the work requirements. You can check your eligibility for the place you live here: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/recipient/eligibility
NOTE: even if you don't think you are eligible, you should still apply for food stamps. Many food pantries want to see a food stamp denial letter as part of their determination for assistance. Lots of family might just barely be over the federal government income limits but still need help with food. No matter what, you should take the time to apply.
You can read more about the work requirements here: https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/ABAWD
The work requirements depend on the individual's situation. Disabled people will need a form from their doctor stating they cannot work, adults who take care of children or elderly people must document this and people who are capable of working must document they are applying to jobs. If someone is already employed they must give proof of this.
If you are a pregnant woman or parent with children you should also apply to WIC
What stores accept food stamps
What items can you buy with food stamps
Meal Planning and Budgeting
To make sure your food stamps cover food for the whole month, you need to plan ahead. Try to get foods that have a long shelf life, buy things in bulk when possible, plan meals out ahead of time, use coupons and do meal prepping. Don't neglect making snacks. Eating well is not only important for your health but also for your psychological well being. Going hungry or eating tasteless meals is very demoralizing.
Best items to buy in bulk
- Powder Milk
- if you don't like the taste for drinking, use the powder milk for baked goods, soups, etc. Then you can get a small jug of fresh milk only for drinking.
- Powder Eggs
- Use powder eggs for baked recipes and add them to oat meal or smoothies for extra protein. Use fresh eggs for frying or scrambling. Egg white powder lasts longer on the shelf than egg powder with the yolks included. I normally get both egg white powder and regular egg powder. The egg white powder is great to added protein to basically any food you decide to cook.
- You can make oat meal or make homemade granola. These also work great as a filler for meals that use ground meat. Add oats to taco meat or meat loaf to extend your meals.
- A 10lb bag of rice will last you a very long time, it is one of the cheapest grains you can get and with beans creates a meal with a complete protein.
- Dry Beans and Lentils
- Dried legumes have a very long shelf life and provide extra protein to meals. Lentils can be cooked by boiling for 15 min. on the stove.
- Dried beans take about 90 minutes of cooking and do not need to be soaked: https://www.mexicanplease.com/beans-beans-beans-frijoles-de-olla/ You can pretty much always bet on Hispanic recipes for cooking beans. Here is another method using the oven that also comes from mexico: https://www.thepauperedchef.com/article/90-minute-no-soak-beans
- Corn Meal
- Corn meal is a whole grain and can be used to make corn bread, polenta, corn pancakes, corn muffins, hush puppies, and even as as a coating for fried chicken and fish.
- Baking things from scratch will save you a lot of money. A loaf of bread costs only 15 cents to bake at home, and everything from pancakes to cookies are far cheaper when made from scratch. Sandwich bread recipe: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-sandwich-bread-recipe
- Potato Flakes
- Shelf stable and can be used not only for mashed potatoes, but also making gnocchi, potato fritters, adding to soups and making potato bread.
- Oil (get at least a 1 gal jug)
- Peanut oil or Canola oil can be used for frying and pan cooking. Olive oil is great for pasta dishes or salad dressing.
- This may seem like a weird one, but popcorn kernels are very cheap and have a long shelf life. It is easy to cook up some popcorn for a snack and it is pretty low calorie. A lot of people neglect making snacks and this can get you into trouble. Don't be tempted to buy up chips and other items that are empty in calories and expensive per lb.
- You can use this for making your own salad and sandwich dressings, making your own pickles, and adding flavor to foods or even cleaning. Make sure to get a 1 gal. jug.
- Baking Soda
- used for baking, cleaning and absorbing smells in the freezer and trash. Adding a pinch to iced tea will remove any bitter after taste and adding a pinch to beans makes them creamier.
- Yeast - used for making bread. Everything from pizza dough to sandwich bread can be created using yeast and flour.
- Nuts, Peanuts and Nut butters
- You can eat nuts by themselves as a high protein snack or add to baked goods and meals. For example cashews added to a stir fry or almonds in granola.
- Nut butters can be used in sandwiches or added to recipes. For example, a peanut sauce for chicken or no bake cookies.
- Dried Mushrooms
- Mushrooms add a lot of extra flavor to meals as well as extra protein. After soaking they can be used for everything from mushroom polenta to stir fries and omelettes. To get a large cheap bag of dried mushrooms you may need to go to an Asian grocery store.
- Canned pumpkin without sugar added
- This can be added to soups, used to make a pasta sauce, pumpkin risotto, making pumpkin based desserts such as pumpkin bread and pie, and also helps with constipation. Canned pumpkin has a lot of fiber and generally doesn't have a lot of added preservatives or salt.
- Hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano.
- These kinds of cheeses last a very very long time and have a lot of flavor to them. You can add them on top of pasta dishes, roasted vegetables, polenta, risotto, mashed potatoes and anything that needs a bit of extra flavor.
- Canned tomato sauce
- Cocoa Powder
- Instant Coffee, bulk tea bags, bulk hibiscus flower tea
- Only drinking water gets old very quickly. Sugar filled drinks like kool-aid and soda are not healthy long term. You can used instant coffee to make hot or cold drinks and tea to make iced tea. Hibiscus tea tastes almost like lemonade and has no caffeine. It is really great cold with a little lime or lemon juice squeezed in. You can add a little sugar to taste or have it as is.
- Apple sauce
Long Lasting Fresh Foods
These are some fresh foods that have longer shelf lives than many other fresh items. As an added bonus, these usually cost less per lb than other foods at the store.
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Hard aged cheeses like Romano
- Lemons and Limes
- Squash and Pumpkin
- You can make cabbage wraps, coleslaw, add cabbage to ground meat to help bulk it up, and make kimchi or sauerkraut. When you learn to cook it, it can taste very sweet and really add a lot of flavor to meals.
- Root vegetables like beets, turnips, parsnips, taro, rutabaga, celery root, radishes, etc
- Many of these vegetables have a learning curve to cook so they taste good and also often have longer cooking times, like up to 2 hours. Some like radishes can be eaten raw. Take the time to look up recipes. When in doubt, soup will always work.
- Lots of root vegetables can be used to create low carb noodles. There are tools you can use to slice them. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/kitchen-notes/what-rutabaga-does-better-than-anyone-else
Buy foods that are in Season
Look up what foods are in season for your area. Fresh foods are a lot cheaper when they are in season. You can often stock up on things like blue berries when they are in season and then put them in the freezer to use all year in smoothies and muffins or pies.
Meal planning means deciding what meals you are going to have for the month and for the week. You will want to buy foods that will go together in meals, rather than just buying whatever is cheapest or looks good. Your goal is to have no food waste and have what you need for complete meals that are filling and taste good. Just going to the store and buying random things could mean that you don't have foods you can turn into meals. For example having brownie mix, tortilla chips and frozen spinach. There isn't much you can make with those things that will last you more than a few days.
Meal prepping is when you cook multiple meals at once and then portion the food out and freeze or refrigerate it. This saves time and keeps you from being tempted to eat unhealthy but faster/easier to cook foods.
Food Stamp Life Hacks
You can Buy Seeds
You can use your food stamp card to buy seeds to grow your own food. If you have the land to do so, it is worth planting some vegetables and herbs in a garden. You can save a great deal of money if you are able to plant and grow your own food.
Make your own home cleaner
You can use food stamps to buy gallon jugs of vinegar and boxes of baking soda. Lemons can also help. What you do is mix the vinegar and water together 1:1 and then add in citrus peels like lemon or orange. Soak over night and take out the peels. Then to clean a surface you can make a paste with the baking soda and water, scrub, then wash with the vinegar solution. The vinegar solution will disinfect surfaces and the citrus oils repel insects and rodents as well as helping with cleaning. The baking soda helps to scrub off anything stuck on. You should be able to look up more ways to clean with vinegar and baking soda. You can use baking soda paste to scrub pans and even the toilet. Using vinegar and baking soda is safe to do around pets and children.
You can make a toothpaste out of baking soda, coconut oil and mint extract/flavoring. Mix 4 tbsp of coconut oil with 2 tbsp baking soda, then you can add mint extract (or even vanilla, lemon, etc) to taste. 1 tsp should be enough. If you want it a bit sweeter use an artificial sweetener that won't hurt your teeth.
Hair removal using Sugaring
Sugaring is somewhat similar to waxing. You create a thick sugar paste on the stove top and use that to remove hair. There are two methods. One is a thinner paste you spread on your leg and then place some denim cloth on it and remove like waxing. The sugar and hair will wash off with water so the cloth strips are reusable. The other method involves making a thicker paste and using the sugar putty to pull hair off directly. There are lots of tutorials online for how to make the sugar paste and use it, so I suggest watching a few. All of the ingredients can be bought using food stamps and this method of hair removal can save you money in razors.j
Discount on Amazon Prime
If you receive food stamps or are in another low income program like medicaid or TANF you are eligible for discounted amazon prime membership. The fee is $6 a month and you can use your food stamps for some grocery items. Buying in bulk on amazon can help you to save a lot of money, especially on things like soap and toilet paper. See: https://www.amazon.com/qualify
- https://lowincomerelief.com/ebt/ - 300 things you can get discounted or free when you have an EBT card.