For solo parents who are living on the edge financially, these tips about how to best use SNAP benefits are for you. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families, and provides economic benefits to communities.
46.2 million people use SNAP, almost half of whom are children. Here are some tips to make the most of the SNAP programs available in your area.
The Hidden Benefits of SNAP
If you qualify for SNAP, there are ways that you can save additional money simply because you are a SNAP recipient.
- Children who qualify for SNAP also qualify for free lunches and reduced or free books at school. Because most schools have gone digital, children no longer have to carry a free lunch card, giving them and their family privacy.
- Stop the bleeding. If your credit is suffering due to old medical bills, contact your hospital, or any other medical service provider and ask for a financial aid form. Those who qualify for SNAP usually qualify for assistance with medical bills as well, which means your debt could be drastically reduced.
- Reduce the cost of utilities. Many electric and gas companies offer reduced rates for those who qualify for SNAP. You may need to turn in some financial forms, but it’s worth it to reduce the cost of living and help you get back on your feet.
- Reduce or eliminate your phone bill. While at one time The Lifeline Program applied only to landline phones, it now covers cell phone usage, including, in some cases, the phone itself.
Use Less Food, Gain More Benefits
In general, buying packaged and processed foods costs more than making recipes from scratch. For example, you might enjoy grilling chicken over the weekend. Try boiling it for about half an hour to forty-five minutes before you throw it — and some vegetables — on the grill. Save the broth for a soup to be made with your leftover chicken and veggies. Creative methods like this can be used for other meals, and cooking in bulk reduces costs. Freeze your leftovers for an easy mid-week dinner or lunch on the go. You’ll start to see the savings add up.
There are excellent cookbooks that can help plan, prepare and make the most of your meal budget. Or, talk with some of your older relatives to learn how to stretch supplies and meals. There might be some hidden family recipes that you haven’t tapped yet.
Plan for the Future
You can create a sustainable future for yourself and your family by buying food-producing seeds, plants, shrubs and trees using your SNAP benefits, and planting them for harvest. Additionally, you can save the seeds from your fruits or vegetables and use them for planting. If you don’t have a yard or a garden, hang two-liter bottles along a wall to create a vertical garden in your home. Look into community gardens as well. Your kids will learn valuable lessons by planting and harvesting the food they eat. They will learn sustainability, it will empower them as contributors to the family, and it’s healthy time well spent together.
Government programs such as SNAP are consistently on the congressional chopping block, but, with a bit of planning and creative ingenuity, you can make the most of what you are given. As an added benefit, your family will be eating healthier and learning more about how to manage a household and the finances that go with it.