How to Get the Most Out of Your SNAP Benefits

Could you use a little extra help buying groceries each month? SNAP is a great way to make sure you get the fresh and nutritious foods you and your loved ones need to stay healthy at home.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is the nation’s largest federal nutrition program. Funded by the National Council on Aging, SNAP aims to help low-income individuals and families by improving food security and nutrition. The SNAP program provides eligible households with access to healthy foods and fresh fruits and vegetables.

How does SNAP work?

You can enroll in the SNAP program through your county’s Department of Job and Family Services. The preferred method of applying for SNAP is over the phone. Call 844-640-6446 to be directed to your local Job and Family Services office. Follow the prompts at the beginning of the call for a quick and easy process.

Once enrolled in SNAP, you can access your benefits with the Ohio Direction Card. The card acts like a debit card. You can use it to purchase fresh foods at any participating store or farmer’s market.

Each month, your benefits automatically load onto the card. You do not have to use all of your SNAP benefits each month. Unused funds rollover into the next month, allowing you to save them if you choose to.

The amount of money you receive each month for SNAP depends on several factors. You can find out how much money you are entitled to by calling the Department of Job and Family Services and applying.

What can you get with SNAP benefits?

Remember, SNAP is not intended to be your only source of money for purchasing food. It is a supplement to help ensure that you get sufficient nutrition. SNAP benefits paired with your regular grocery routine can help you purchase an adequate amount of foods to stay healthy and independent.

Depending on your eligibility, you may receive a different amount of SNAP benefits. If you meet the minimum requirements for the senior SNAP program, you may get about $15 per month to use towards buying fresh foods.

So, what can you do with SNAP benefits?

First, let’s talk about what you are allowed to buy with SNAP. Some items can be purchased through the SNAP program, while others cannot.

You can purchase groceries with your SNAP benefits at participating food stores. This includes fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, and meats and poultry. You can also use your SNAP card at participating farmers’ markets.

Some items cannot be purchased through SNAP. These items include:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Prepared hot foods or “to-go” that will be eaten immediately
  • Non-food items
  • Pet food
  • Vitamins

Ways to get the most out of SNAP

Fifteen dollars might not seem like a lot, but it can help you make healthier choices when grocery shopping. Try these tips to help you stretch your SNAP dollars and get the most out of your benefits.

Meal plan

Planning your meals ahead of time can help you avoid impulse purchases and buying too much food. Take some time to map out your weekly meals and write down the items you need. Avoid adding additional items to your cart once you are at the store. This will reduce the amount you spend at checkout and help you steer clear of food waste.

Freeze food

Many foods keep longer when you freeze them. Buying larger amounts of food, portioning them into freezer bags, and freezing them helps you save money. For example, consider buying a five-pound bag of chicken and dividing it into smaller bags. You can pull the bags out as you need them while saving money in the long run.

Compare prices

Have you thought about why you choose the places you shop? If you haven’t looked at other options, you may be missing out on some great deals. Check your weekly ads for savings and evaluate which stores have the best prices.

Choose healthier, low-cost options

There are a lot of healthy options available that do not cost a lot. Whole foods, in-season produce, and frozen fresh foods tend to cost less. Cheaper foods that are also good for you include:

  • Eggs
  • Beans
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Cheaper cuts of meats
  • Whole grains

Rollover funds

Did you know that your SNAP benefits rollover from month to month? If you are planning a big event like a birthday party or holiday gathering, you can save your benefits and let them grow. Just be sure to use your SNAP funds at least once a year to avoid getting your benefits shut off.

Visit local farmer’s markets

Farmer’s markets offer fresh, in-season produce that is often reasonably priced. You can also earn points when you use your Ohio Direction Card to use at local farmer’s markets. Check markets in your area to see who accepts SNAP.

Shop less, buy bulk

Buying in bulk can be cheaper than buying a lot of smaller portioned items. For example, if you buy a large bag of rice, it may end up being cheaper than buying many single-portioned bags. Be sure to store food properly so that it lasts longer. Non-perishable foods are a great option for buying in bulk.

Getting your SNAP questions answered

Do you have more questions about the SNAP program? Contact your local Department of Job and Family Services. They can help you through the entire process, from enrolling in SNAP to using your benefits. Call 844-640-6446 to reach the Department of Job and Family Services in your county.

*The information in this article is intended solely to provide general information on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. This article should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, medical, or other competent advisors.

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