As a mom of two kids who recently arrived in the U.S. to flee the war back in my home country, I applied for refugee benefits and received EBT also known as food stamps. For the family of three people (me and two children) we get $660 a month and we can spend it only on food. After two months of surviving on that amount of money I would like to share my life hacks that help me stretch dollars on my EBT card so I could spend less cash.
First of all, I want to say that it is difficult to live on that amount of money for the family of three people. I noticed that I spend more when I go shopping with kids. They always ask me to buy different biscuits and sweets or some other products that are not in my shopping list and it is hard say no. As a result, I spend more than I initially planned. So, the rule number one for me is to leave kids at home and go shopping alone.
Another thing that helps me shop smart is to plan the menu for the week and make a shopping list of everything I will need. Of course, you will have to buy some fresh bread and milk, but it's better to have all major food supplies stocked up. Plus, you need to understand how much money you can spend each week so that you could adjust your spendings to the budget available. So, if I break down $660 into 4 weeks I get $165 a week. As you see, you won't starve, but you are unlikely to buy cakes or candy often.
I noticed that I spend less when I purchase food and cook the dish from scratch. I immediately refused from buying very cheap produce because it is of poor quality. I think it is better to eat less of a good thing than more of a bad thing. I purchase healthy foods like fresh meat, fish, cereal, vegetable and fruit as they are vital for our health.
In the area where I live there are two big grocery stores: Bristol Farms and Whole Foods. I like both as there is a nice election of products and the prices don't differ much. Also, I like to shop some products at Target which is also nearby. So, I like some products in one store and other products in another store.
For example, my favorite oatmeal is Old Fashioned Oats by Good & Gather at Target. It's 100% whole grain and it takes 5 minutes to cook. I usually add some butter and fresh fruit to it when ready. Also, I like their Organic 100% Spanish Olive Oil and sour cream.
When it comes to fast cooking oatmeal the best choice for me is Irish Oatmeal by McCANN'S. It is whole grain oats imported from Ireland. I purchase this at Whole Foods too.
I used to buy cornflakes for breakfast but then switched to whole grain cereal as it is more nourishing. I do buy Nature's Path organic cornflakes sometimes, but not on a regular basis. Cereal goes a long way while any cornflakes purchased finish so quickly that you need to restock fast.
Of course, all kids love hamburgers and instead of buying fast food I make mine at home with these hamburger buns from Whole Foods. My children like hamburgers with this organic Aplplewood - Smoked Turkey Breast also from Whole Foods. The good thing is that you can always make your own custom hamburgers that your kids love most and can easily modify your recipe by adding new ingredients.
Bread is everyday staple, and I like to buy this one. It is whole wheat and is just perfect for sandwiches.
Biscuits are a must have too. Kids eat them as snacks, or we often take them with us when we need to have a quick bite on the go. Organic Vanilla Animal Cookies and organic Golden Round Crackers are our favorites.
Recently I found out that I can use my EBT SNAP on Instacart. All you need to do is just add EBT SNAP as a payment option in your account settings. Then you can shop online at participating stores and check out with it. You can easily spot the products eligible for EBT purchases as they are marked "EBT".
Well, you've got to be creative and use smart shopping strategies such as purchasing in bulk or using coupon codes to save on your grocery purchases. Keep in mind that not all products can be purchased with an EBT card. For example, when I buy milk in glass in Bristol Farms the glass bottles are not covered by EBT card. It means that you will have to pay with cash or another card for glass bottles.