How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Food Stamp Benefits
The rising costs of food at the grocery store has done no favors for those Americans that rely on food stamps to feed their families. There are well over 40 million American families enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), equating to about 13% of the total population.
These benefits only go so far in putting food on your table each day when the cost of goods continues to rise at exponential rates. Here are a few tips to help you to make the most of your food stamps so that you can fill your cart.
You are missing out on a significant amount of savings if you are not choosing generic products over their name-brand counterparts. Generic brands are nearly always less expensive than the big-name brands. Some generic brands are actually made in the same factories as the name brand favorites providing virtually the same product but under a different label. These savings can really add up over time, helping you to get more bang for your buck every time that you head to the store.
Be Careful Where You Shop
If you are trying to get the most food out of your benefits, you also need to be careful about where you shop. Specialty stores are almost always going to be more expensive than retailers known for their value-driven prices. For instance, you will save more on average by shopping at a Trader Joe's versus a Whole Foods. While there will always be exceptions to these rules, shopping at stores that target the budget-minded shopper will yield bigger savings as you cash in your benefits.
Purchase Seeds or Seedlings
For the ultimate in savings, consider using your SNAP benefits to purchase seeds or seedlings. You are allowed to purchase food-growing seeds or food-producing plants using your monthly SNAP allotment. If you are willing to put in the work needed to nurture these plants, you will find that this is the best ROI on your benefits. Even if you just grow a small amount of food with these seeds, that is one less product that you have to purchase each time that you head to the store.
Visit Farmers Markets
Most people using the SNAP program are not aware that the benefits can also be used at many farmers markets. Some of these markets even have programs that match the SNAP funds dollar for dollar. This translates into the ability to double your budget. In addition, you will enjoy fresher and more nutritious food by shopping the products available at your local market.
To harness this benefit even further, visit the market near the closing time. You will often find that vendors mark down the price substantially in the closing minutes of the market so they can get rid of the food. There are also special programs at farmers markets designed specifically for seniors on SNAP benefits, offering coupons and other targeted discounts to this population.
Look for Specials on Meat
Meat is the biggest budget buster when you are trying to stretch your SNAP benefits. If your family goes through a lot of meat, you would be wise to visit the store often with the goal of finding meat that has been marked down as it nears the use by date. While you will need to cook and consume the meat right away, you will see substantial savings with this strategy. The savings will be even more magnified if you buy typically less expensive meats. For example, choosing chicken over beef is generally a good budgeting tool.
Make a List and Stick to It
No matter what your budget is, the grocery store is a landmine of temptations. Making a list and shopping intentionally will help you to reign in your spending so that you do not walk out of the store with items that you do not need. Using the Fresh EBT app will help you to track your benefits and make a shopping list so that you do not stray from what your goal.
These tips will help you to use your SNAP benefits to the greatest degree. You do not want to let these benefits go to waste because you are not making smart purchasing decisions.
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