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Food Stamps

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For low-income individuals and families, sometimes a paycheck doesn’t go far enough to cover a full grocery bill. And even with the addition of food stamps/Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system, people can be left scrambling and wondering how to put food on the table. Here are five ways you can stretch out your food stamps to get maximum use out of them.

1. Make a Weekly Meal Plan

At the end of each week, on Friday or Saturday, take a half-hour to sit down, evaluate the past week, and make a meal plan for the next. Carefully note what you and your family have- and haven’t- been eating, how much or how little went to waste, and what’s on sale in supermarkets. Specific foods and categories of foods go on sale each month and around holidays, such as condiments and grilling meats around Memorial Day and Independence Day, poultry and grains around Thanksgiving, and seasonal produce.

2. Cook for More Than One Day at a Time

Instead of cooking three brand-new meals each day, cook a large batch of dinner meals twice a week- Sunday and Wednesday- with enough for leftovers. To make sure it lasts, add fillers like rice, potatoes, beans or pasta to help flesh out the meal. And for a really ingenious way of making something out of seemingly nothing, save your vegetable and potato peelings and leftovers to make soup. If you end up with more soup than can be eaten before going back, or will fit in your fridge, divvy it up into resealable bags and freeze it for the future.

3. Use Coupons

Many people think of food stamps as free cash for groceries, and why not? It doesn’t come out of a paycheque, it’s not budgeted in the same way that other particulars are, and it comes on a reloadable card. But there’s a danger in thinking that way because EBT cards only have a certain dollar amount on them each month- spend it all in two weeks, and you still have another two to go before more comes in. That being said, coupons are like free cash. They’re found just about everywhere, they don’t have to be budgeted at all, and you can never be worse off with them than where you started.

4. Use Less Meat

Meat is easily the most expensive type of food out there, with certain cuts of steak costing well into the double digits. And with meat not even being the most efficient source of protein the way vegetables, beans and legumes are, you can easily streamline your EBT budget each month and still get the nutrition you need. For example, instead of serving hamburgers or chicken breasts, used the ground beef in spaghetti or cut up the chicken and make fettuccine.

5. Shop Smart

Soda is one of the most expensive things you can buy, as it’s essentially water and sugar. If you’re really stuck on drinking it, though, invest in a carbonator so you can make it at home, or head to really big supermarkets where it’s likelier to be on sale. Big grocery stores aren’t just handy for pop, as they tend to have more items on sale and a larger variety. If you take a walk down the ethnic food aisle, you can often find foods similar to what you eat at a fraction of the cost.

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