Food Stamps: What You Can and Can’t Buy With SNAP Benefits

Terre Haute - Circa May 2020: SNAP and EBT Accepted here sign.
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Individuals and households new to SNAP benefits may be wondering what they can and cannot buy with these benefits. How do you know which purchases are eligible versus those which are not? Here’s a quick summary of what you can use SNAP to buy and items which cannot be bought for your household. 

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Food Items You May Purchase With SNAP 

According to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), households may purchase these foods using SNAP benefits:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Breads and cereal
  • Snack foods
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • Seeds and plants

Why are seeds and plants included on this list? These items, the USDA says on its website, help produce food for the household to eat.

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SNAP Benefits Cannot Purchase These Items

You may not use SNAP benefits to buy the following items:

  • Beer, wine or liquor
  • Cigarettes or tobacco
  • Vitamins, medicines and supplements
  • Live animals with the exceptions being shellfish, fish removed from water and animals slaughtered prior to pickup from the store
  • Foods that are hot at the point of sale, including coffee, tea, soup, roast or fried chicken and pizza
  • Non-food items including pet foods, cleaning supplies, paper products and other household supplies, hygiene items or cosmetics
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Additional Ways To Save on Items Not Covered by SNAP 

There are many ways households can continue saving on groceries and items that are not covered by SNAP benefits. Some of these tips include shopping for store brands instead of name brand items, clipping coupons, signing up for loyalty programs and stocking up on discounted items.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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