While mainly for food items, there are some surprising things you can buy with EBT, also known as electronic benefit transfer. Let’s explore these unexpected items and shed light on how EBT can support recipients in more ways than one.
What Is Ebt and Snap?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal initiative to support low-income families by allocating $291 per person each month to buy their food. SNAP program utilizes an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system, which makes transactions easy and convenient for users.
This system is available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. Since June 2004, EBT has exclusively served as the method for distributing SNAP benefits in all states.
10 Surprising Things You Can Buy With Ebt and Snap
The electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card delivers SNAP benefits, which can pay for almost any food item. If you are eligible for SNAP benefits, you can purchase fresh produce, bread, meat, dairy products, and non-alcoholic beverages using your EBT card.
However, you must note that household items, pet food, and hot prepared foods are not eligible for purchase using SNAP benefits. The program aims to help you access healthy food options and alleviate food insecurity. Eligibility for SNAP benefits is determined by income, household size, and other factors.
1. Seeds and Plants
Yes, that’s correct; you can buy seeds and plants to cultivate your produce!
This hands-on approach fosters a deeper connection to the food you consume and encourages healthier eating habits. Additionally, it’s a sustainable way to reduce grocery expenses in the long run. Instead of relying solely on store-bought produce, EBT recipients can depend on their homegrown bounty, saving money while enjoying nurturing and harvesting their crops.
This initiative extends beyond purchasing seeds. It empowers EBT users to become self-sufficient gardeners. By tending to their gardens, recipients can access fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables and develop essential gardening skills.
2. Farmer’s Market Goodies
If you start cultivating your garden, you know you’ll wait for the best time to harvest it. So, while waiting for it to grow, You can buy fresh produce in many farmer’s markets that have begun accepting EBT cards. These are some surprising things you can buy with EBT, allowing you to shop directly for fresh, locally-grown produce and other food items from farmers and vendors.
It supports local agriculture and provides immediate access to nutritious foods. It’s a win-win situation that helps you while waiting for your produce to grow and strengthens the community’s connection to local food sources.
3. Fishing and Hunting Gear
In some regions of Alaska, where it can be challenging to find stores that sell groceries, families who receive SNAP benefits have a particular advantage. Here, you can use your EBT cards to purchase hunting and fishing equipment, allowing you to catch your food. One of the surprising things you can buy with their EBT includes various tools and gear, such as:
- Bows and Arrows
- Fishing Rods
This innovative allowance empowers residents to embrace self-sufficiency by harnessing the resources and ensuring access to nourishing food even in the state’s most remote areas.
4. Infant Formula and Cereal
It’s essential to recognize that infant formula and cereal are crucial for young families. These items give infants the nutrition they need to grow and thrive, making them an integral part of a household’s food supply.
EBT’s inclusion of these products ensures that families with infants can access the necessary nutrients during their early developmental stages. So, when shopping with EBT, parents can rest assured that they can provide their little ones with the nourishment they require, reinforcing the program’s commitment to supporting the nutritional needs of all family members.
5. Snack Foods
Snack foods are among the surprising things you can buy with your EBT. While EBT is often associated with essential groceries, it’s worth noting that there is a broader range of options.
Snacks can include various items, from chips and crackers to doughnuts, ice cream, and frozen yogurt, providing individuals and families extra flexibility in their food choices. These snacks can be a convenient and affordable way to keep hunger at bay throughout the day, making them a valuable addition to the list of unexpected items you can access with your EBT card.
So, if you’re on EBT, don’t be surprised to find your favorite snacks within reach to enjoy alongside your regular groceries.
6. Sweetened Beverages
If you love soda, the good news is that you don’t have to eliminate it. You can still buy it using your EBT card. And did you know that in most SNAP households, the No. 1 purchase isn’t a staple food like bread or milk but relatively soft drinks, which make up around 5 percent of the money they spend on food?
What’s even more eye-opening is that the category of ‘sweetened beverages,’ which encompasses soft drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweetened teas, accounts for nearly 10 percent of their food expenses. Sweetened beverages may be one of the most common things you buy with EBT, but surprisingly, it’s one of the essential priorities of SNAP households.
7. Holiday Gift Baskets
Holiday gift baskets are one of the surprising things you can buy with your benefits. This unique option that SNAP recipients can consider buying, especially since the holidays are fast approaching, provided it follows the USDA guidelines.
These festive gift baskets can contain a wide range of goodies, from seasonal treats to small keepsakes. However, it’s important to remember that the rule states that the value of non-food items should not significantly exceed 50% of the total purchase price.
While holiday gift baskets can make for delightful and thoughtful presents, they must meet this criterion to be eligible for SNAP purchases. The rule ensures that the focus remains primarily on essential food items while allowing a holiday spirit to brighten the table.
8. Special Occasion Cakes
Special occasion cakes are one of the surprising things you can purchase using EBT. You can use your benefits to celebrate special moments with a delicious cake as long as non-edible decorations account for no more than half the cake’s cost.
You can choose your preferred cake and make it come in various flavors and designs, making them suitable for birthdays, anniversaries, or other significant events. So, if you have a special occasion to mark, consider using your EBT card to bring home a tasty cake to share with loved ones, adding a sweet touch to your festivities.
9. Lobsters and Shellfish
Did you know that you can purchase lobsters and shellfish using EBT? While EBT is typically associated with essential groceries, it’s interesting that it also allows recipients to indulge in seafood treats.
This means you can enjoy delectable options like crabs and various shellfish, usually considered luxury items. With these inclusions, EBT beneficiaries can occasionally treat themselves and their families to a special seafood feast. So, surprise your loved ones with a delightful seafood meal that is within the guidelines of your EBT benefits.
10. Spices and Seasonings
Spices and seasonings are among the surprising items you can purchase. It also recognizes the importance of flavor and variety in a family’s diet. Spices and seasonings allow recipients to enhance the taste of their meals without compromising on nutrition.
These small but flavorful additions can make a significant difference in transforming everyday dishes into culinary delights. So, if you’re looking to spice up your meals or add some zest to your cooking, EBT allows you to do so, ensuring that you can enjoy a diverse and flavorful diet while staying within your budget.
Bonus: You Can Buy Coffee and Tea
Were you aware that one of your EBT card benefits can purchase coffee, creamer, and K-cups for your Keurig machine? That’s a significant plus for the coffee and tea lovers out there!
It is a great way to enjoy your preferred coffee blends from the comfort of your home. However, it’s important to note that you cannot purchase premade coffee or tea, such as a latte from a café. The same rules apply to tea as well. With SNAP, you can buy packaged tea that needs to be brewed at home.
Knowing these restrictions will help you use your benefits wisely. Therefore, while you can enjoy your favorite coffee or tea at home using SNAP, you’ll need to make it yourself instead of buying it while you’re on the go.
The Bottom Line
There are so many surprising things you can buy with EBT. And some of these items can positively impact your life.
For instance, you can use it to buy cakes for special occasions, purchase holiday gifts, or help out young families with things like infant formula. EBT also encourages self-sufficiency by allowing you to buy seeds and plants for gardening and promoting healthier eating habits.
It’s vital to comprehend the full range of possibilities that EBT provides so you can take advantage of your benefits and enhance your life in numerous ways.