Getting the Most Out of SNAP BenefitsPrint Page
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as SNAP, is a federal program that helps low-income families purchase nutritious foods. SNAP is among the nation’s most important anti-hunger programs, serving 38 million people in 2019 alone. Families can make the most of their SNAP benefits with some simple planning and budgeting, helping to stretch their dollars and incorporate healthy eating.
- Make a list. When deciding what to buy at the grocery store, create a list before you go. This saves time while out and can help you stick with the healthiest options. Planning ahead also gives time for you to find the best deals for food on sale, and can help you stay within budget.
- Create a healthy meal plan. A common misconception about healthy eating is that it costs a lot. Eating healthy and nutritious foods that leave you feeling energized is for everyone. Produce items like lettuce, spinach, carrots, oranges, and bananas can be low cost yet flavorful. Start small – What are one or two healthy meals you want to make this week or month?
- Cut the costs. There are lots of easy ways to make your benefits go farther: Cut coupons. If you have multiple grocery stores that are accessible to you, review their ads before going to buy what’s on sale. Buy larger sizes to provide the lowest cost price per serving of that food. Buy generic brands vs. name brands. Buy less meat and more lentils and beans, which are an excellent source of protein yet cost less. If you are purchasing meat, look for meat that is on sale, especially those that are near their expiration date and are priced to sell quickly. And if you can, skip convenient foods like pre-cut fruits that cost much more than if you chop them yourself.
- Look for foods that are nutrient-dense. Nutrient-dense foods give you better nutrition for the calories. They typically include foods that are high in things like vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and whole grains, and are low in sugar, saturated fat and sodium. That’s a lot to consider. Start with the recommendations from MyPlate to eat a balanced diet with all the food groups.
Look for words on packaging such as “high fiber”, “high in protein”, and “no saturated fat” for more nutritiously dense snack alternatives.
Reach out to local health services departments, WIC centers, and food pantries to see if your family qualifies for more benefits or other forms of supplemental nutrition.
Eat meals together as a family. Shared family meals is a great way to connect with each other and research shows that family meals may be a protective factor for overweight, unhealthy eating, and disordered eating.
Did you know many farmer’s markets accept SNAP benefits? Some offer double dollars to help your benefits go further.
It takes time and skills to cook, but there are lots of free opportunities out there to help you transform your purchases into something delicious. Consider a program like Cooking Matters or reach out to your local food pantry for resources.