How to Stay Healthy While Using Food Stamps for Groceries

( – SNAP benefits, still often called food stamps, are an asset to families that need them. Using these benefits, families can purchase groceries with the flexibility to choose from many different foods and create a balanced diet that works for their family. Because the amount of SNAP benefits a family receives does not always cover all the family’s groceries needs, many feel it is difficult to be healthy while shopping using their SNAP benefits. What are some tips that can help?

How SNAP Benefits Work

The U.S. Department of Agriculture clarifies that SNAP benefits can be used for any food item from a grocery store, with the simple restriction of no live animals or food that is served hot from the store. That means that you can use your benefits to make healthy choices, such as buying fresh or frozen produce, various protein options like meat or beans, dairy products, bread and grains, and snack foods.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some tips that can help maximize your healthy options while using SNAP benefits.

Before You Go To The Store

Budget Your Benefits to Find Your Weekly Grocery Bill Goal

Divide your total benefits into “store runs”, so you can plan how much you can spend when you go to the store. Avoid running into the store for just a few items to save money on impulse buys.

Take Stock of Your Pantry Before Meal Planning and Shopping

Before creating your meal plan, look through your pantry to see what you have. You can use sauces or staples you already have to direct your shopping list to cover what you need to round out your existing pantry items into complete meals.

For example, if you notice you have whole wheat tortillas and black beans, putting salsa and lettuce on your shopping list can round out those ingredients into a filling meal of tacos.

Look Through Store Ads and Deals

After having a loose idea in mind of what you could make with what you have, look through the deals your grocery store offers during the week you plan to shop, and add more affordable items to your list to cover lunches and side dishes.

Make a Flexible Meal Plan and Grocery List

Make your meal plan, remembering to take into account your family’s need for lunches and snacks. Fresh, in-season fruit and crackers can make a cheap and easily repeatable daily snack, saving you money. Don’t be overly strict though, as if your meal plan has some flexibility (such as switching out one type of meat for another), you can take advantage of sales and deals while at the store.

Tips for At the Store

Stick to Your List While Shopping

Even though a measure of flexibility is good, sticking to your list as much as possible will keep you from buying food you won’t finish or might forget about.

Be Alert to Good Deals

While at the store, take note of any last-minute deals you can use to supplement or replace more expensive items you had in mind. Often, the cheaper cuts of meat have less fat, making them healthier, and the cheaper produce you see at the store is better quality because it is in-season, making it fresher and more nutritious.

Be Conscientious While Deciding on Quantities

A great deal on bulk food items is not great if most of it ends up in the garbage. Purchase the amount of ingredients you actually need.

Final Thoughts

Purchasing groceries using SNAP benefits creates an opportunity to budget and plan healthy meals. Applying these meal planning and shopping tips can help you maximize your nutrition while getting the most out of your local grocery store deals.

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