Unlock Free Groceries: How SNAP Can Help You Today!

With the rise in inflation, the increased cost of living, and the skyrocketing cost of housing basic everyday needs are harder to afford. This puts families who are already on a tight budget at risk leaving many unable to get proper nutrition, shelter, and clothing. This is the primary reason the Federal Government created the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP was designed with the intent to make it easier for families and individuals to obtain the proper nutrition to meet their daily needs. 

What is SNAP, and How it Can Help You

The SNAP program has changed throughout the years. It has expanded and been brought up to date using newer technologies to make it easier on the families and individuals that rely on the resources it provides. The older program was just referred to as, “Food Stamps.” 

SNAP services a wide array of groups, it wasn’t intended to solely provide support to families. Seniors, people with disabilities, any individual that can demonstrate their need and eligibility can access the benefits and resources. The USDA funds the costs of the benefits and funds half of the operation costs, the state pays for the other half of the operational costs. To put it a different way… the USDA pays for what the SNAP recipient gets and halves the cost of office space and worker salaries with the state. 

In the most basic sense SNAP helps you by giving you money to buy groceries. SNAP provides an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that gets replenished with funds each month for as long as you are part of the program. EBT cards work just like gift, debit, and credit cards and are accepted at grocery stores and restaurants that provide staple foods. You’d be surprised at how many merchants accept EBT cards as a valid payment method. To find SNAP retailers near you click here 🙂

How Can You Get SNAP?

To take advantage of the benefits and resources offered from SNAP individuals and families must meet the federal and state requirements to be considered eligible as it is a needs based program. Eligibility largely is standardized across the nation but since the states are the ones responsible for operating the program they have the ability to amend certain aspects of the requirements. The best course of action to find out if you are eligible in your state is to start your application process from here. Each state may have their own income limits, for example in California the maximum gross income a family of four may have to be eligible is $60,000 a year ($5,000/month) and in Alabama the maximum is $39,000 ($3,250/month). The application is free, doesn’t affect your credit, and may provide you with financial gains you didn’t know you were entitled to. During the application process make sure to you’ll be asked to provide personal, financial, household information which will be used to determine your eligibility. To make the process pain and frustration free, gather the following information, or at least make sure it is easy to get to while applying online. 

Personal Information

  1. Identification – A valid photo ID (e.g. driver’s license, state ID, or passport)
  2. Social Security Number – For ALL household members applying for benefits
  3. Proof of Residency – A utility bill or rental/lease agreement with your name and address should suffice

Financial Information

  1. Income: Documentation of all sources of income for all household members, including:
    • Pay stubs or a letter from your employer.
    • Unemployment benefits statements.
    • Social Security benefits statements.
    • Any other income sources (e.g., child support, pensions).
  2. Expenses: Documentation of monthly expenses, including:
    • Rent or mortgage payments.
    • Utility bills (electricity, gas, water, sewer, garbage, etc.).
    • Child care expenses.
    • Medical expenses for elderly or disabled household members.
    • Any other recurring expenses.

Household Information

  1. Household Composition: Information about everyone living in your household, including their names, dates of birth, and relationship to you.
  2. Citizenship or Immigration Status: Proof of U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status for all household members applying for benefits.


  1. Bank Statements: Recent bank statements from all accounts (checking, savings, etc.).
  2. Property Information: Information on any properties owned by household members other than the primary residence.
  3. Vehicles: Information about any vehicles owned by household members.

Additional Information

  1. Work Requirements: For able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs), information about employment status and participation in work or training programs.
  2. Disability Documentation: If applicable, proof of disability for household members (e.g., doctor’s note, disability award letter).

What You Can and Cannot Get From SNAP

With few exceptions you’ll be able to buy any food item used by the household with your SNAP benefits. You’ll even be able to buy certain prepared, ready-to-eat entrees from restaurants that meet certain criteria. Here is a quick list of things you’ll be able to purchase with your SNAP EBT card:

  • Fruits and vegetables;
  • Meat, poultry, and fish;
  • Dairy products;
  • Breads and cereals;
  • Other foods such as snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages; and
  • Seeds and plants, which produce food for the household to eat.
  • Potato, corn, wheat, tortilla, pita, and vegetable chips, crisps, sticks, and straws; onion ring snacks; corn nuts; snack mixes; crackers; pork rinds; pretzels; pre-popped or un-popped popcorn; and cheese puffs or curls;
  • Doughnuts, brownies, cupcakes, cookies, snack cakes, muffins, pastries, sweet rolls, pies, cakes, pudding, churros, scones, gelatin desserts, and any packaged mixes intended to create any of the aforementioned products;
  • Mints, chocolate, marshmallow, gum, toffee, brittle, fudge, marzipan, nougat, candy bars, and candy of all kinds;
  • Ice cream, ice milk, frozen yogurt, custard, whipped cream, sherbet, sorbet, gelato, granita, Italian ices, frozen carbonated beverages, snow cones, and ice pops; and
  • Any food product with a main ingredient that appears on this list or other agency guidance as an accessory food item.
  • Powdered, dried, or extracted spices or seasonings;
  • Baking soda and baking powder;
  • Sugar, honey, maple syrup, aspartame, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, and any other natural or artificial sweeteners;
  • Soda pop, sports or energy drinks, iced tea, fruit punch, mixers for alcoholic beverages, water, and all other carbonated or uncarbonated beverages (except milk, plant-based milk alternatives, and 100% fruit or vegetable juice);
  • Monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrate, olestra, and any other food additives or any food product that is edible but non-caloric and non- digestible;
  • Vegetable oil, olive oil, shortening, lard, safflower oil, and any other solid or liquid oils or fats (except butter and butter substitutes);
  • Ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressing, hot sauce, mustard, vinegar, relish, horseradish, chutney, duck sauce, marmite, and all other condiments;
  • Vanilla extract or other flavor extracts and cooking wine;
  • Gravy and bouillon; and
  • Any food product with a main ingredient that appears on this list or other guidance as an accessory food item (except infant formula).

The lists of acceptable restaurants that take EBT varies from state to state. In some states Starbucks accepts EBT cards.

There are some consumables that SNAP will not pay for. Here is a list directly quoted from the USDA:

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco
  • Vitamins, medicines, and supplements. If an item has a Supplement Facts label, it is considered a supplement and is not eligible for SNAP purchase.
  • Live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store).
  • Foods that are hot at the point of sale
  • Any nonfood items such as:
  • Pet foods
  • Cleaning supplies, paper products, and other household supplies.
  • Hygiene items, cosmetics

What is the Most You Can Get?

The maximum SNAP benefit is adjusted annually to account for inflation and is the same across ALL states. The USDA bases the cap on what they call the, “Thrifty Food Plan.” In a nutshell, the USDA breaks down the cost of a healthy diet into four price points: Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal Food Plans (money is no object). The “Thrifty Food Plan” is the lowest cost of the four. The monthly maximums for 10/2023 to 09/2024 are as follows:

  • 1 person: $291
  • 2 people: $535
  • 3 people: $766
  • 4 people: $973
  • 5 people: $1,155
  • 6 people: $1,386
  • 7 people: $1,532
  • 8 people: $1,751
  • Each additional person: Add $219

Since these maximums are capped across ALL states, some states may offer additional food assistance programs to supplement the federal SNAP benefits.

Final Thoughts

The SNAP benefits offered by the USDA is a great way to get groceries for “free,” and can be viewed by many as a critical resource for families facing financial difficulties due to the rising cost of living and basic necessities. It can provide help buying groceries for you and your family and is as easy as swiping or tapping your credit card, phone, or watch. 

SNAP benefits are not limited to just basic food items. The benefits include a wide variety of products from fresh produce, snacks, coffee, and event seeds for growing your own food. The intent of SNAP is to alleviate hunger and improve the overall quality of life for many Americans. As SNAP continues to adapt, its intent is the same… to give access to the necessary resources to lead healthy lives. If you are reading this… apply already 😉