Need to push your SNAP benefits further?

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If you’re currently on SNAP benefits, then that probably means you’re on a tight and limited income. In order to make the most of your benefits, you’ll need to stretch them as far they can go.

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. You might also know them as “Food Stamps” (they were formerly paper stamps as opposed to the current Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card).

SNAP benefits aren’t particularly large. There’s a lot of variation based on income and household size; the average monthly benefit for a single person is just $142.1 Still, if you’re careful about how you spend that money, you can make that $142 go a long way—and without resorting to unhealthy junk food either!

Wondering if you qualify for SNAP?

A lot determines whether you qualify for SNAP or not, but the main factor is income.

For a single person to qualify, you’ll need a gross income that’s at 130% of the poverty line or lower. The more people in the household who rely on your income, the higher that income can be while still allowing you to qualify for SNAP benefits.

If someone is elderly or has certain medical expenses, it will also loosen the requirements. To find out whether or not you qualify for SNAP benefits, you can use this tool on the USDA website.

And if you do qualify, just follow these steps to apply for the program.

How can you maximize your benefits?

If you want to get the most out of your benefits, you’ll have to shop carefully. Health coach Jennifer Benson, of BudgetEpicurean.com (@BudgetEpicurean) gave us some advice on how you can get the most filling, nutritious food without spending too much.

    • Oatmeal

“Oatmeal is a super cheap staple that is very versatile. Just put ½-1 cup oats in a bowl, and warm up in the microwave with some water or milk of your choice. You can add any fruits you have on hand like cut up apples or pears, banana, dried cranberries, or raisins. Add a drizzle of maple syrup or brown sugar or agave to sweeten it up, or try savory oatmeal too, with spinach and a runny egg mixed in!”

    • Tuna

Benson also suggested tuna as a cheap source of protein: “Canned tuna is surprisingly more than just a tuna sandwich or tuna on crackers. And speaking of, there are so many different ways to spin a tuna salad! Add lemon juice, plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise, add something sweet like cranberries, crunchy like slivered almonds, or slice a whole hard boiled egg or some avocado in it. There is so much more potential to tuna than just diced celery.”

    • Flour

Benson also recommends buying your own flour: “Though boring, flour is perhaps the most versatile ingredient. If you have the space to store it, buy in bulk, as it is cheaper per pound. But make sure you store the extra in a sealed, plastic or glass container because pantry moths love flour, and they are the worst! Flour can be used in endless ways, from thickening a soup or sauce, to breading a chicken cutlet. You can use the flour to add bulk to a meatloaf or meatballs, or to make a roux or gravy.”

Looking for more ways to maximize?

If you’re on Twitter, follow the @USDANutrition account. They tweet information about SNAP as well as general stories about eating healthy on the cheap. Here are some more facts about the program directly from the USDA.

Author and cook Leanne Brown (@leelb) released a cookbook for people on SNAP called Good and Cheap. It’s available as a free PDF and has been downloaded more than one million times! Check it out for lots of great, cheap recipe recommendations.

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Works Cited:

1 “A Quick Guide to SNAP Eligibility and Benefits” CBPP.org. Accessed on March 30, 2017 at http://www.cbpp.org/research/a-quick-guide-to-snap-eligibility-and-benefits.

J_Gruhn

About the Contributors:

Jennifer Benson, is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach (BudgetEpicurean.com) with over twelve years of experience in various scientific and health-related fields, she has a wide base of knowledge and a passion for educating, guiding, and empowering others to achieve vibrant health! Many years in research and higher education lead to an interest in nutrition and she soon became convinced that our current food system and society had lost touch with our innate sense of self and what makes and keeps us well. A strong personal family history of diabetes coupled with a skyrocketing general epidemic of diabetes and obesity in America fueled her passion for learning and exploring holistic solutions and prevention.

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