Food stamps aren’t meant to replace a monthly grocery budget, but supplement it. However, sometimes that money has to go to other essentials, like rent, utilities, transportation, or healthcare. But with a few secret tips, food stamps can easily be stretched out.
1. Make a Schedule and Budget: One of the tricks to making food stamps stretch is to shop within your means. For each week of the month, plan out what meals will look like: start big on Sundays and plan to have leftovers for the next couple of days, and then supplement the rest of the week with easy-to-make meals. By seeing how the entire month will look like and how many food stamps are required each week, the odds are Week 4’s food stamps will still be there when the time comes.
2. Coupon: By presenting a little slip of paper to the cashier, you can save up to 50% on your groceries. So why not amass as many coupons as possible? Just remember to plan ahead, as foods go on special in cycles, and waiting a week or two can pay off handsomely.
3. $5 Meals: Casseroles and alfredos are simple, inexpensive meals that also fill the belly. And by alternating the grains/seeds (e.g. rice, mashed potatoes, pasta) and proteins (e.g. tuna, ground beef, chicken), you can make your $5 meals last even longer. Another trick is to pad the dishes with frozen vegetables.
4. Buy Birds: A whole turkey or chicken can feed a family for a week, especially if prepared and cooked in different ways. Chop up the bird into smaller pieces and cook as a casserole, cook it whole and make sandwiches or tacos, or buy broth and make a hearty soup.
5. Grow Your Own: If you live in a house, there’s bound to be a patch of dirt where you can grow salad greens, onions, green beans, strawberries, tomatoes and potatoes—some of the easiest foods to grow. But if you live in an apartment, all you have to do is modify how you grow food. Make sure you have pots that are wide and deep enough, and grow the seeds in little pods before transferring them to the pots. One thing to remember: north-facing balconies tend to get the least sun, so choose your seeds accordingly.
6. Shop Around: Stores like Costco aren’t always as good as they seem. They’re handy for bulk, non-perishable items like toilet paper and shampoo, but kind of lousy for fresh foods. Research this decision carefully: if your family eats plenty of one food, like bagels, it can make sense to shop at Costco and buy a lot of them. But if you’re buying them solely because you think they’re a good deal, you may end up throwing food away, costing you more in the long run.
Armed with these 6 secrets, you can increase your chance of making food stamps last until the end of the month.