6 Ways to Maximize Your SNAP Benefits

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  • Double Up projects mean you can get more fruit and vegetables for your SNAP cash in some states.
  • Spending SNAP benefits can still earn rewards via cash back apps.
  • Making a grocery list can help you maximize any savings from coupons, apps, and in-store discounts.

Stretch your food budget a little more with these tips.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food benefits for millions of American families and has been a lifeline for many. The maximum a family of four can receive is $939 a month in most states, which can be reduced depending on income and other factors. According to calculations from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the average monthly benefit for a family of four right now is $718 -- around $6 per person per day.

It isn't easy to feed a family on food benefits, but there are ways you can stretch your SNAP budget a little further. Here are six of them.

1. Double your SNAP dollars at farmers markets

In many states, you can double the value of your SNAP benefits by spending them at participating farmers markets and stores. As the Double Up Food Bucks website puts it, you can "Turn an apple a day into two apples a day." It's a great way to get more healthy produce for your family without breaking the bank. Search online for SNAP Double Dollars or Double Up Food Bucks in your state to find participating markets near you.

2. Use cash back apps

Rewards credit cards are not the only way you can earn rewards for your spending. Several cash back apps will work with your SNAP payments. Look for apps that work with stores that take your EBT card. You'll usually have to scan your receipt into the app after you've done your shopping, but it varies depending on the app you use.

Maximizing your cash back takes a bit of planning, as you can save more if you find the best offers before you go to the store. But with offers of up to $1 back or more on certain purchases, it's worth doing. Those dollars can add up quickly and leave more cash in your bank account.

3. Be strategic with coupons and discounts

When it comes to expensive groceries like meat or laundry detergent, 50% discounts can make a huge difference to your budget. Use sites like the Krazy Coupon Lady to track the best deals on products you want to buy. If you cut coupons, keep them in an envelope and order them according to their expiry date. That way you're less likely to miss out on a good offer.

Most stores operate on cycles, so try to get a sense of when your regular supermarket offers the most discounts. The day you shop could actually make a difference to the price you pay. Discounts are great, but don't buy products just because they are on offer. The trick is to get good prices for items you planned to buy anyway.

4. Always shop with a list

Having a list is a great weapon against impulse purchases. It can also help you avoid food waste, reduce stress, and make it easier to stick to a budget. Plus, you can plan out how you'll use any coupons you have and potentially even combine them with cash back app offers.

Another popular way to cut grocery costs is to make a meal plan, which you'd then use to generate your shopping list. That may not work for every family though, particularly if people's schedules often change at the last minute. A better route might be to buy staples, such as rice, canned beans, and frozen vegetables. That way you can adapt to your household's changing plans without wasting food.

5. If you have a green thumb, buy seeds

There are limits on how you can spend your SNAP benefits. The idea is that the money goes towards food and non-alcoholic drinks, but it can also be used to buy seeds and plants. According to the USDA, for every dollar you spend on seeds and fertilizer, you could produce $25 worth of produce.

As someone who's tried to grow food from seeds, I can tell you it isn't as easy as it sounds. Seedlings need a lot of attention, sunlight, and water. A whole crop can get destroyed by bugs or other pests before you've gotten anything to eat. You may also need to spend money on basic gardening supplies. If you've never gardened before, see whether you can join a local community project to learn more about what's involved.

6. Buy in bulk when you can

Buying in bulk can generate big savings, but it isn't an option for every family. Your monthly cash may not stretch to bulk buys and you may not have much storage space. If that's the case, ask friends if you can split big purchases. If you divide the costs, you'll all benefit from any bulk savings. Another trick is to stagger your bulk buying -- if you get a big bag of rice this month, you might wait and buy pasta or beans in bulk in a few months' time.

Bottom line

SNAP benefits did increase in line with inflation earlier this year, but that only goes so far to ease the pressure higher living costs put on people's budgets. We don't know whether food costs will start to come down again in the coming months or years. There are no easy answers to reducing food costs, especially as time can sometimes be as scarce as money. Hopefully, the tips above will help make your SNAP dollars go a little further.

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