19 Surprising Things You Can Buy with EBT (Bonus!)

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Did you know that your EBT card can be used for more than just groceries? If you’re part of the millions of Americans enrolled in the EBT program, you might be surprised by the range of items you can purchase with it. Beyond the usual groceries, there are plenty of unexpected things you can buy with your EBT benefits. Let’s take a closer look at some of these surprising options available at popular retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, Target, Publix, Costco, and others.

What is Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)?

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EBT, or Electronic Benefit Transfer, serves as a secure and efficient system utilized by government assistance programs to electronically distribute benefits to eligible recipients. Its primary aim is to simplify the process of providing financial aid for purchasing food and other necessary items. One of the most prominent programs employing EBT is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which seeks to assist low-income individuals and families in affording nutritious meals.

Functioning akin to debit cards, EBT cards receive benefits directly deposited into the recipient’s account on a monthly basis. These cards can then be used at authorized retailers to purchase eligible items such as groceries and other essentials. Each state administers its own EBT system, customizing it to suit the specific needs of residents in that particular region.

So, where can you use your EBT card to make purchases?

Places that Accept EBT Food Stamps

Here’s a rundown of places where you can use your EBT card:

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– Grocery stores and supermarkets

– Specialty stores, like health food or organic food shops

– Farmers markets

– Local food co-ops

– Convenience stores or corner stores

– Some restaurants

– Certain online retailers

To confirm if a specific store or restaurant accepts EBT, you can use the SNAP Retailer Locator provided by the USDA. Alternatively, you can contact the establishment directly to inquire about their EBT acceptance.

However, there are some restrictions on what you can purchase with EBT. For example, hot foods and prepared meals, such as those from a deli or restaurant, aren’t eligible. EBT cards also can’t be used to buy alcohol, tobacco, or non-food items like personal care products and household supplies.

It’s worth noting that EBT benefits are intended solely for the cardholder and their household members, so using them to buy food for others isn’t allowed.

Despite these limitations, there are still plenty of surprising things you can buy with EBT. Let’s explore them together!

Surprising Things you Can Buy with EBT 2023

We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of surprising items that you can purchase with EBT benefits, as many cardholders may not be aware of them. Here’s what it includes:

1. Energy Drinks

The eligibility of purchasing energy drinks with EBT varies depending on the state of residence. In some states, energy drinks are classified as food items and can be bought using EBT. However, in other states, they are considered non-food items and cannot be purchased with EBT.

Here are some states where you can buy energy drinks with EBT:

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Connecticut
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Hawaii
  9. Idaho
  10. Illinois

2. Coffee and Tea

EBT cards provide recipients with the flexibility to buy a range of food items, including coffee and tea. However, it’s important to be mindful of certain limitations when using your EBT benefits for these beverages.

What other surprising things you can buy with EBT –

You can use EBT to purchase a variety of coffee and tea products, including grounds, beans, and bags. This option lets you enjoy your favorite hot beverages at home while using your benefits.

EBT can also be used for cold coffee drinks such as iced coffee and iced tea. While these beverages might be a bit pricier than their hot counterparts, they provide a refreshing option on warmer days.

What you cannot buy with EBT –

  • You can’t use EBT benefits to buy hot coffee and tea because they’re considered prepared foods. This restriction covers beverages served in cups or mugs and those made on-site at restaurants or coffee shops.

3. Hunting and Fishing Gear

EBT, a program administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is designed to offer food assistance to low-income individuals and families. Its guidelines primarily focus on what food items can be purchased with the benefits.

In most states, you can’t use EBT to buy hunting and fishing gear because these items aren’t considered food. However, there are exceptions for those who depend on hunting and fishing for food in rural areas.

In certain remote states like Alaska, EBT can be used to buy hunting and fishing gear for subsistence purposes if you meet specific requirements. These might include holding a valid hunting or fishing license, proving residency in the state, and obtaining a statement from a state-approved agency confirming your reliance on hunting and fishing for sustenance.

To find out if you qualify to use EBT for hunting and fishing gear purchases, it’s advisable to contact your local SNAP office for further information and assistances.

4. Restaurant Meals

While EBT benefits are usually utilized for buying groceries and food items at retail stores, some states offer the SNAP Restaurant Meals Program (RMP). This initiative permits certain participants to use their benefits to purchase prepared meals at select restaurants.

To be eligible for the RMP, EBT recipients must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Be aged 60 or older
  2. Have a disability
  3. Be experiencing homelessness

Currently, the states that participate in the RMP include Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

It’s essential to understand that not all restaurants accept EBT, and only those that have chosen to participate in the RMP will allow eligible EBT holders to buy meals with their benefits.

5. Seeds and Plants

You can use EBT to buy seeds and plants. According to USDA SNAP guidelines, recipients can use their EBT card to purchase seeds and plants intended to grow food for household consumption. This includes fruit and vegetable plants, as well as herbs.

However, it’s important to note that EBT cannot be used to purchase non-food-producing plants such as:

– Ornamental plants, flowers, and trees

– Seeds and plants used to make alcohol or tobacco products, like hops, barley, and tobacco

– Luxury items like orchids, cacti, and succulents

6. Gift Baskets

The main purpose of the EBT program is to assist in purchasing essential food items. Occasionally, you may be able to buy gift baskets containing multiple food items with your EBT card.

However, it’s important to understand the limitations and the types of food items typically found in gift baskets.

Gift baskets usually contain non-perishable, dry, and processed foods that can be stored for long periods. They typically don’t include fresh produce like fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, or fish. These items should be bought separately to ensure a balanced and nutritious diet.

Themed gift baskets, such as a Valentine’s chocolate bundle, may be eligible for purchase with EBT, as long as all items in the basket adhere to SNAP guidelines.

However, it’s crucial to remember that the primary aim of EBT is to support access to nutritious food items for you and your household, rather than focusing on specialty or themed baskets.

7. Live Lobsters

Yes, you can buy live lobsters with EBT. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) permits the purchase of certain food items with benefits.

Live seafood, including lobsters, fish, and shellfish, can be bought with SNAP benefits. You can also purchase items like shrimp, fish, crab, mussels, and oysters using your food stamps.

Many seafood markets accept EBT, as do numerous grocery stores that carry fresh seafood.

When shopping for live seafood with your EBT card, remember that you cannot use it to pay for cooked or ready-to-eat food at the store. This means you must buy the seafood in its raw form and cook it yourself at home.

8. Snacks

With SNAP, you can purchase a variety of snacks and other food items. SNAP benefits can be used to buy snack foods like chips, crackers, nuts, seeds, and energy drinks.

However, not all snacks are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.

Texas has recently proposed a bill that would prevent people from using their SNAP benefits to buy candy, beverages, and other unhealthy snacks.

Therefore, it’s important to check the eligibility of items before purchasing them with your SNAP benefits.

9. Canned Vegetables

According to SNAP guidelines, EBT can be used to buy a variety of food items, including canned vegetables.

Canned vegetables are considered eligible food items because they contribute to a nutritious diet and have a longer shelf life compared to fresh vegetables.

With your EBT card, you can purchase various types of canned vegetables like green beans, corn, peas, carrots, and mixed vegetables.

These items are available in most grocery stores and supermarkets that accept EBT payments.

10. Pantry Staples

EBT benefits can be used to purchase a variety of food items, including pantry staples.

Pantry staples are essential food items with a longer shelf life that are commonly used in meal preparation.

With your EBT card, you can buy various pantry staples such as canned goods, dry goods, frozen foods, nuts and seeds, and spices and herbs.

11. Toys With Food

Toys that include candy or food are eligible for purchase with EBT on Amazon. Examples include Groovy Growing Candy Lab and Rainbow Gummy Candy Lab.

Walmart also offers a range of toys for babies aged 12 to 24 months that can be purchased with EBT, such as Sesame Street Toys, Kids G Wagon, Sesame Street L Laugh, and Playskool.

Snap Toys is another retailer that accepts EBT for eligible items. They specialize in designing and bringing to market engaging, quality toys for kids of all ages by creating unique characters and reinventing classic play.

Additionally, Jack Link’s, Oreo, Gatorade, Frito Lay, Planters Kraft, and Maruchan offer products that can be purchased using EBT on Amazon.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

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In some states, EBT can be used to purchase toys with food if the food items make up more than 50% of the total value of the toy.

For instance, a toy that comes with a small package of candy would be eligible for purchase with EBT if the candy makes up more than 50% of the total value of the toy.

12. Non-Alcoholic Beverages

You can use your EBT benefits to buy non-alcoholic beverages as they are categorized as food.

Some examples of such beverages include:

  1. Water
  2. Juice
  3. Soda
  4. Iced tea
  5. Coffee
  6. Milk
  7. Yogurt drinks
  8. Sports drinks
  9. Energy drinks
  10. Non-alcoholic beer

Please note that certain states have restrictions on the types of non-alcoholic drinks that can be purchased using EBT.

For instance, some states forbid the use of EBT to buy energy drinks or sports drinks.

If you’re unsure whether a non-alcoholic drink is eligible for purchase with EBT, asking a store employee is the safest option.

13. Dairy Products

You can buy dairy products with EBT Food Stamp benefits. Dairy products are classified as food and are eligible for purchase using EBT benefits.

Examples of dairy products that can be purchased with EBT include –

  1. Milk
  2. Cheese
  3. Yogurt
  4. Butter
  5. Cream
  6. Ice cream
  7. Frozen yogurt
  8. Sour cream
  9. Cottage cheese
  10. Eggs

When shopping for dairy products with an EBT card, it’s essential to remember that only certain types of dairy products may be purchased with SNAP benefits.

For instance, organic or specialty items like soy milk or almond milk may not be eligible for purchase with an EBT card.

14. Food online

While most SNAP purchases are typically made in-person at stores that accept EBT cards, some states have started to provide online purchasing options for SNAP recipients.

Currently, only a few states offer the ability to order food and groceries online for delivery using SNAP benefits.

These include –

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. California
  4. Florida
  5. Idaho
  6. Iowa
  7. Nebraska
  8. New York
  9. Oregon
  10. Washington

In these states, SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards to buy food online from participating retailers like Amazon and Walmart.

If you’re unsure, it’s important to check with your local Department of Social Services or another relevant agency to find out what options are available in your area.

15. Water and bags of Ice

The SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps, permits recipients to buy water and bags of ice with their EBT card. This includes bottled water, carbonated water, and any size bag of ice.

However, in certain states, vending machines situated in non-food areas like parking lots or hallways cannot accept EBT payments for bottled water or ice.

16. Protein Powders, Bars, and Shakes

The eligibility of protein powders, bars, and shakes for EBT purchases varies depending on the state you reside in. While some states classify them as food and allow their purchase with EBT benefits, others categorize them as supplements and do not permit their purchase with EBT.

To be eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits, these items must have a “Nutrition Facts” label. This means that most vitamins and supplements are not eligible for SNAP purchase.

However, some meal replacement shakes may be purchased with food stamps (EBT), depending on the brand. Always check the label before making a purchase to ensure eligibility.

If you’re seeking alternative ways to get your daily protein intake, consider purchasing protein bars or shakes. These products offer similar benefits as protein powder but may be eligible for SNAP purchase.

There are numerous options available for obtaining your daily protein intake while using EBT benefits. Remember to carefully read labels and reach out to your local SNAP office if you have any questions about eligibility for purchase.

17. Baby Formula

SNAP benefits recipients can purchase baby food, including infant formula, cereals, juices, and other eligible food items.

However, SNAP benefits can only be used to buy store-brand baby food and formula rather than other more expensive brands.

The USDA has confirmed that SNAP EBT funds can be used to purchase baby formula, baby food, infant cereals, juice, and other eligible food items.

Parents and caregivers facing food insecurity often face tough decisions when it comes to providing for their families. Thankfully, the USDA’s SNAP program allows them to buy store-brand baby formula with their EBT card, ensuring their children receive the nutrition they need without compromising on safety or quality.

18. Bakery Cakes and Edible Food Decorations

Bakery items like bread, cookies, cakes, and pastries are all eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits as long as the store is an approved SNAP retailer.

Additionally, edible decorations such as cake decorations, icing, and other food decorations can also be purchased with EBT cards.

However, it’s important to note that non-edible items like candles or plastic cake toppers are not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.

When shopping at a grocery store or bakery that accepts EBT cards, shoppers should carefully check the item’s label to ensure it is eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.

19. Military Commissary Items

The Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) allows customers to use SNAP benefits to buy eligible food items at all of its stores.

Customers must present their EBT card and a valid form of identification when making purchases.

In 2020, DeCA extended shopping privileges to disabled Veterans, Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, and primary family caregivers of eligible Veterans. These individuals can also use SNAP benefits at DeCA stores.

When using an EBT card at a commissary, customers may be subject to user fees if paying with the MILITARY STAR® card, cash, or EBT. However, these fees are waived for active duty service members and their families who receive SNAP benefits.

Commissaries also accept WIC and food stamp vouchers, which can be used at both on-base commissary and Exchange stores, as well as off-base markets.

It’s important to note that not all items available in the store will be eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits, so it’s best to check ahead of time before making any purchases.

10 Excellent Tips on Budgeting while using an EBT Card

Budgeting while using an EBT card is crucial to maximizing your benefits and maintaining a healthy diet. Here are some tips to help you budget effectively:

1. Plan your meals: Create a monthly meal plan focusing on affordable, nutritious ingredients to guide your purchases and prevent impulse buying.

2. Make a shopping list: Based on your meal plan, create a shopping list to avoid overspending and stick to the essentials.

3. Shop at discount stores: Look for grocery stores offering lower prices or discounts for EBT users, and take advantage of special sales or promotions.

4. Purchase in-season produce: Opt for in-season fruits and vegetables, as they tend to be more affordable and flavorful.

5. Buy in bulk: Save money by purchasing non-perishable items like rice, beans, and canned goods in bulk, provided you have enough storage space.

6. Cook from scratch: Cooking meals from scratch is often cheaper and healthier than buying pre-made or processed foods.

7. Use coupons and store loyalty programs: Maximize savings by using coupons, taking advantage of store loyalty programs, and capitalizing on sales.

8. Compare prices: Before making a purchase, compare prices across different brands and stores to find the best deals.

9. Focus on nutritious options: Prioritize healthy, nutrient-dense foods to ensure you get the most value from your EBT benefits.

10. Monitor your spending: Keep track of your EBT balance and spending throughout the month to stay within your budget.

By following these tips, you can stretch your EBT benefits while maintaining a healthy, balanced diet for you and your household.

FAQs about Surprising Things you can Buy with EBT (Food Stamps)

Can I Buy Dog Food with EBT?

No, you cannot purchase dog food with your EBT card. SNAP benefits are intended to assist eligible individuals and families in buying food items for human consumption only. Pet food is not considered an eligible item under the SNAP guidelines.

Can I Buy Vitamins with EBT Card?

No, you cannot purchase vitamins or dietary supplements with your EBT card. These items are not considered eligible food items under the SNAP guidelines.

Can I Buy Frozen Food with EBT?

Yes, you can buy frozen food with your EBT card. Frozen food items such as fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, and pre-packaged meals are considered eligible for purchase under the SNAP guidelines as long as they are intended for human consumption and do not contain any prohibited items like alcohol or hot foods.

Can I Get Cash Back with EBT Card?

No, cash back offers are usually provided when you use a credit or debit card for a purchase. With an EBT card, your purchase amount is directly deducted from your benefits balance, and there’s no option to earn cash back.

Can you Withdraw Cash with EBT Card?

No, you cannot withdraw cash with an EBT card used for SNAP benefits (food stamps). However, if you receive cash assistance through programs like TANF or General Assistance, you may be able to withdraw cash from that portion of your EBT card at an ATM or get cash back at participating stores.

What Free Stuff Can I get with EBT?

You can obtain free or discounted items with EBT, including fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets, meat and dairy products at grocery stores, school lunches, summer meals for children, and specific foods through the WIC program.

Conclusion

It might be surprising to learn that you can purchase such a variety of items with EBT. While the list is still limited, it’s continually expanding to include many products you wouldn’t expect to be available with food stamps or SNAP benefits.

With this newfound knowledge, individuals who depend on government assistance for food purchases should explore how they can use their funds more efficiently while accessing healthier options at discounted prices.

If you have any questions about which surprising items you can buy with EBT, contact your local state agency today to understand exactly which products will work best for your budget!

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