What is a good meal plan for someone living on Food Stamps or an EBT Card?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as Food Stamps, is a Federal program designed to help people in need purchase food. The intent of the program is to provide unemployed or low-income people with enough money to buy their basic nutritional needs. Eligibility is based on total income, outstanding debts, disability status, and number of people in the household. The average benefit value in the U.S. as of 2010 is $133.79 USD. Food Stamps are now given in an electronic debit card format, called Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT.

To make a meal plan based on EBT, you must first calculate the amount of money per person in the household. Each person might have different nutritional needs and so require more or less money. A newborn baby might need formula, which can be expensive, while an older person might need specially made food. Even average adults require about 1800-2500 calories per day to maintain their personal healthy weight.

Many meal plans are based around the Food Group Pyramid, showing necessary nutrition in order from least-necessary to most-necessary. In this model, Proteins and Fibers are the most important, followed by Fats and Sugars; most of the important nutrients can be consumed in simple forms through vegetables, fruit, and poultry, all of which are relatively inexpensive if purchased unprepared.

A simple meal plan based on an EBT budget should focus on staples and necessities instead of prepackaged or precooked foods. Staple foods will be cheaper and so will last longer, plus they can be used to cook a variety of meals. Flour, eggs, salt, raw chicken, cabbage, spinach, and tomatoes might be on a staple list. By buying in bulk, it is possible to stretch a basic meal plan for a long time by using only what is necessary each day.

There are many, many resources online to help find lists and prices for food. Try doing a Google search for parameters like "budget meal plan," "budget food buying," or "EBT budget planning." Each state also has its own government website dedicated to finding good information and helping people with questions. Additionally, seek out local charities and government services to help design a meal plan and budget that works month-to-month.


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