How to Make Food Stamps Last Longer

With the holidays coming up, there will be extra meals to prepare - which means more food to buy. With food stamp benefits being cut, this means you have to make them stretch even more than usual. If you want to make food stamps last longer, you're going to have to do some planning.

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How to Make Your Food Stamps Last Longer

Because of the income guidelines, we don't qualify for food stamps anymore, but we still have to make our food budget stretch for the entire month. Just as food stamps don't replenish before a designated date, we don't get extra paychecks to cover things when we have more food to prepare. I like to give food gifts for Christmas, so our grocery bill goes up by about $100 in November and December. I know you're not supposed to use food stamps on anyone outside of your household, but if I didn't have money to buy gifts - and I received food stamps - I'd do what I had to do to make Christmas amazing for everyone. Gifts in a jar are a great way to put a smile on someone's face without spending an arm and a leg.

Before Shopping

make food stamps last all month

1. Save the food! Purchase Bluapple Ethylene Gas Absorbers - You can't buy these with food stamps, but they're only about $10 and they help keep produce fresher for much longer. This saves us quite a bit, because we eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

2. Meal plan. Use Pinterest, FoodGawker, and other similar websites to come up with budget-friendly meal plan ideas. I take a piece of paper and write one column out for each day. Then I write in simple breakfast ideas like cereal, waffles, eggs, etc. For lunch, we do quesadillas, soups, etc. Dinner is where I struggle, so I have a list of about 20 "go to" meals that we all love, so I rotate them. Once that list is complete, I make a grocery list. I divide it by section based on how the grocery store is laid out, so I'm not wandering all over spending even more money. Anything we need for that week's meals, I put on the grocery list. I stick to the list unless I can get something for 75%+ off, or free with coupons.

3. Make freezer meals your BFF if you want make food stamps to last longer. Check out my Freezer Meals Pinterest Board for ideas.

4. Compare prices at farmer's markets, Wal-Mart, and other grocery stores like ALDI. Our local farmer's market has vendors that accept food stamps, so check ours to see if they do as well. Many times, the farmer's market will be cheaper for fresh produce items and meat.

5. Stop eating so much meat! Our diets don't require meat, and if you're worried about protein.. eat some beans, eggs, or broccoli - all have protein and cost way less than meat does. There's no reason at all to have meat in every single meal you cook - or even every dinner you cook. Serving meat in small portions a few times a week is more than sufficient. Try some vegetarian recipes... if they're good, you won't miss the meat!

While Shopping

1. Don't impulse buy. At the checkout, that $1.29 candy bar might seem like it's not that expensive, but those little purchases add up quickly.

2. Use coupons. Yes, coupons take a little time and there is a learning curve - but that doesn't mean you can't do it. Follow coupon blogs like Healthy Life Deals and they will give you the 411! Everything you need to know about couponing and saving big bucks can be found online. Note: Some food stamps users have reported being taxed on their coupons. This has never happened to me personally so I don't know if it's true but call your local store to check before trying.

3. Shop once a week or less. I don't recommend trying to shop for the entire month in one trip, because you're going to be buying some things at their highest prices instead of getting everything on sale. Also, when you have more food, you tend to eat more food... so buying food for the entire month might be counterproductive. One way to shop once a month and be successful would be to do once a month freezer cooking. You'll still need to buy a few things throughout the month, though, so be sure to budget for it.

4. On that same note, buy in bulk when you can. Buy a 10 pound bag of rice instead of a small one serving box. Buy the big carton of eggs instead of one dozen at a time. If you have a membership to Sam's or Costco, they take food stamps! Consider asking for a membership for Christmas, or save a few bucks a month to buy one for yourself.

5. Plan ahead for upcoming birthdays by stocking up on cake mix while it's on sale (or while you have a coupon for it). Don't spend $30 (or more) on a grocery store cake - that is a complete waste of funds. Make the cake, and spend that $30 on household groceries. Buy a gallon of ice cream, a box of cake mix and frosting, and call it a day.

6. Splurge on something awesome. One thing I absolutely love to use is a food saver. They can be a bit expensive, but will save you SO much money! So, if you can ask for one as a Christmas gift, it's perfect!

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How do you make your food stamps last all month? How do you stick to a grocery budget? Leave your tips in the comments!

Taylor @ Pink Heels Pink Truck - These are great tips!! I’ve heard of the BluApple’s but haven’t had a chance to buy them yet. Pinning this list for future reference!

Fan R @TeddyOutReady - I stick to grocery budget every month, sometimes it is easy sometimes not. But I try planning holidays far ahead, this helps.

patricia - Thank you for some great tips. I am going to check the coupon blog out because I am having a hard time with the couponing.

Tess - I love to find out tips on saving money on food. This can help everyone too!

Tough Cookie Mommy - I think these are some great tips for any family who is watching their grocery budget. Unfortunately, groceries have gotten ridiculously expensive and one now has to be creative with meals in order to stretch that grocery budget throughout the entire month.

Bobbi Renee Hass-Burleson - Oh, I like that little blue apple thing!! I use so much fresh produce and hate shopping everyday because it is too tempting to impulse buy. So I tend to shop for several days at a time. It would be great to ensure my produce stays fresh.

Cassie @ Southeast by Midwest - These are all really great tips for anyone not just those with food stamps. We actually employ a lot of these in our home and I haven’t seen food stamps since I was a kid and they came in those paper books :)

Healy Harpster - Great tips you have here! We are spending way too much money for groceries, spend $200 every week for four people. Budgeting is very hard for us but we should find a way to do it!

Jennifer - Food Stamps can definitely require some creativity when they need to last. There were a couple years when I was a kid that we used them. My mom stuck to a pretty strict menu plan and we ate a LOT of apples for snacks.

Megan @ C'mon Get Crafty - The part about organizing the grocery list by section is SO KEY. It’s amazing how much more likelier you are to overspend when you “wander” the store rather than go straight for your items.

Growing Up Madison - Those are some great tips for those who do get food stamps. Unfortunately we don’t qualify here in our state being military. I so wish we did though. This post can be translated, how to make your paycheck last longer. :)

Debi@TheSpringMount6Pack - Great tips. Even if you do not get food stamps, there is some very useful tips that can help anyone.

Candy @ Candypolooza - Great tips and ideas to stretch the dollar.

Amiyrah - I have a few family members that depend on food stamps, so I’m going to email this post to them. Great tips!

Amanda - All great tips! I find buying in bulk also helps a ton. It is a larger expense up front but in the end is totally worth it.

kim - YOur tips are great even if you don’t need to watch your budget. We are conservative and your tips fit our lives. Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer Williams - Those are a lot of great tips, most of which I think people (benefits or not) should be doing anyway if they can.

Stacie Connerty - These are some very good tips. I cannot imagine if I was in this position how I would deal with the cut back.

Amanda @ Erickson & Co. - I know one… stop buying steaks for all your friends. We have some friends that everytime they invite us over to eat they always have something expensive like steaks and when my husband says something along the lines of “you didn’t need to buy us steaks” they say “thats ok we didn’t, we bought it with our food stamps.” It makes me upset and I hate going over there. There house is full of junk food too. So second tip: don’t buy junk food :) I really like your tips and I really am glad there is a food stamp program for people who really need it.

Mandi - These are really good tips for making food stamp benefits last longer! They are good tips for anyone who’s looking to stretch their grocery budget and not have so much waste each week!

Leslie - Hello. I just starting reading this blog, and it’s awesome. I would like to add that I live in Nashville and have found out that while walmart will not charge me the tax on coupons while on food stamps, pretty much every other food store will- Kroger, public, target, food lion. I just want to spread the word since I learned the hard way…it’s just change, but since you have to pay out of your own pocket….sometimes it adds up, especially when you are not prepared.

Melanie S. - I usually prefer to make my own cakes from scratch so I can control the ingredients, but I most definitely agree on not spending a fortune on a store bought cake. The kids will enjoy anything you make just as much.

Cara - This is a great list, very useful! Going to use it to help me get my grocery bill in check!

Sarah Bailey - Thank you so much for these great tips I have to admit I have often wondered about the things you pop with your fresh produce that claim to help make them last longer – I shall have to get myself some now I know they do work. x

Dina - These are great tips. With a family of 5 I’m always having to stretch our budget! Thank you!!

Karen - Watching sales is very important too, because it has the best deals on everything from produce to meat and canned goods

Kita - We applied for them when we could not afford food and our jobs got cut a few yrs ago they turned us down we made 10 bucks over the limit so I know ho to save and do without. I shop at 3 places to maximize our budge. Great tips.

Lisa Thompson - Whether you’re using food stamps or money, it’s important to be deliberate about how you spend money. When we had over $80,000 in debt, we were able to drastically reduce our spending by using coupons, meal planning, and setting a strict budget. I never thought about how much trickier it would be to try to survive on a budget on food stamps…especially around the holidays!

This is a great post with really practical tips! Thanks!

Crystal Green - This is a great list of suggestions. I’m going to have to definitely learn how to do plenty of these things because we don’t qualify for food stamps anymore either.
I’ve been trying to get into the menu planning and the freezer meal options, but I don’t like planning that far ahead. Plus I’m terrible at making plans for meals, and then by the time comes to eat it I can’t bring myself to eat it.

Katherine G - This is a great list. I need to work on my meal planning. I want to start cooking different things for my family. I’m hoping to get the hang of it soon.

Anjanette @MommaYoung - What a helpful post to help stretch our food dollars. I love the Freezer Ideas and will head to your pinterest account for ideas. I have been wanting to do that but well needed help and here you are. Reducing the meat may be a challenge, but you are so right, we really don’t need it with every meal.

Amber Edwards - These are great tips!
In our state we have to pay the “tax” on any coupon used with foodstamps. But still, a few pennies here and there, definitely is worth helping the food stamps last longer versus running out and having to pay the full price on items later in the month.

Menu plans definitely help stretch the budget too! I know we spend about $200 LESS a month on food when I have an actual menu plan set in place.

Teresa Mccluskey - I do not get food stamps but I save by using coupons!

Chrishelle @ Cheer MamaDrama - Great tips for food stamps users and all other shoppers. I know I am always looking for ways to cut my food budget. Thanks for the tips.

Kristi @dragonflytweet - Love that you give the advice of not wandering all over the store and combining coupons with items already on sale. So many families are trying to make their food stamps last longer, and these tips should help them!

Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell - I don’t know how food stamps work, but I am big into freezer meals and using the leftovers of one meal as the foundation for another meal later in the week. I do have a foodsaver so I’m hoping that will help me preserve things even longer too!

Raye W - Great post at a perfect time!
It may sound gross to some people, but anytime I make veggies, I save the scraps rather than throw them away. I also save any bones if I use meat. I toss it all in a bowl in the freezer. Then when it’s full, I wrap it all in cheesecloth, boil it, and it makes the most awesome soup stock! Strain it and make my soup.
I also have a freezer bowl for that leftover ‘few bites’ of food we seem to have from most meals. When it’s soup time, all those veggies go into the pot too.
If you use meat, stir fry makes it go much further. You can cut smaller strips and no one notices there isn’t much meat in it. I can stretch a roast over several meals with stir fry and stew as leftover meals from it.
Thanks for helping everyone with this one Sadie.

Melissa - These are some really great tips. I can’t imagine how scary it must be for the families that are going to have their food stamps cut back on. Even though we aren’t on them, I’m always looking for ways to cut back. I’m going to check out your vegetarian recipes, I’d love to have some meatless dinner nights!

Michele - Being single it is very hard for me to buy in bulk and for a single person counter productive-so I do not shop at Costco, Sam’s etc. I am on a fixed income now so also have to be extremely careful where and how I spend my money. I will generally buy a large steak and then when I get it home cut it in half before freezing–fresh fruits and veggies are difficult – that produce saver just might help me to be able to buy some that don’t go bad before I can get to eat them!!

Bethanny Parker - I’ll have to look for those ethylene absorbers next time I go to Walmart. I doubt they have them at my local store. I’ve never heard of those before. They would be great to toss into the root cellar too, once I get a root cellar built. I plan to do that sometime next year.

I try to stock up on whatever happens to be on sale each week. If soup is on sale for a really good price, I’ll try to buy enough to last at least a month or two, for example. I also try to combine coupons and sales when possible.

Robin (Masshole Mommy) - Great tips. I find that buying in bulk is also true when you have a lot of mouths to feed. I have 3 boys and I have to buy in bulk otherwise I’d end up spending a flippin’ fortune on food!

Casey - This is a great list. When I worked at a grocery store, I remember seeing young families come through who needed to be on food stamps. Some of the parents were so excellent about using these tips and getting enough food for their families, but others just seemed to buy whatever looked good and didn’t have anything in their carts with sustenance.

Megan hernandez - Thank you so much for this, I am for sure going to use some of your tips!!

Terry (My Journey With Candida) - I have those Blue Apples and they do work well to keep my vegetables fresher longer. I need to buy me some more of them.

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