How to Stay in Top Shape While on Food Stamps in Pennsylvania

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SNAP is undeniably helpful for families struggling to afford groceries. Even with aid from SNAP, there are still families that struggle to come up with healthy meals. Dieting is very important, and not just for people that want to lose weight. Children need healthy diets to support their growing bodies, and adults need to maintain good diets in order to stay strong so they have the energy to care for their families. Unfortunately, a lot of the healthier food options are also some of the most expensive. While on SNAP, many families try not to spend extravagantly, which often means prioritizing affordable food over healthier options. Listed below are a couple of options for families to maintain healthy diets while on SNAP.

Home-Cooked Meals

A simple way to save on the cost of groceries is to just buy ingredients for making meals to be cooked at home. Cooking at home gives families much more control over what ingredients are used in their meals, and also the size of their portions. Families can also plan out their meals in advance, which is very useful for busier families. Instead of cooking every single meal, the cook can create most of the meals prior. Planning meals also reduces the chances of impulse-buying food, which often ends up being more expensive. When planning meals, families need to be realistic about their food needs. A common mistake families make is rationing too strictly. Doing too much rationing just leads to hungry family members, which increases the chance of impulse spending and buying unhealthy options.

Families that are not used to cooking their own meals can search for healthy recipes online. There are also many cookbooks designed specifically for families that want to stay healthy, but are on tight budgets.

What to Buy

Homecooked meals are only effective when families actually make healthy meals. A lot of foods labeled as healthy usually have marked-up prices. There are many healthy ingredients that do not have any special labels on them, which ultimately helps to keep the price affordable. There are also a few general shopping tips that make getting healthy food much easier, especially for families with limited budgets.

There are a couple of different tricks for buying fruits and vegetables. Families should first research the area to find out what fruits and vegetables are in season. Not only are these ingredients fresher, but the prices are significantly reduced when they are in season. Another great tip for fruits and vegetables is buying items that are bagged. Buying bagged fruits and vegetables is significantly cheaper than purchasing them by the pound, and families are still going to have more than enough buying them bagged. With vegetables, the frozen options are much cheaper, and are significantly healthier than any canned options.

Certain items are better bought in bulk. One of the inherent risks with buying in bulk is purchasing food that ultimately never gets used, which is a big issue for families on a budget. However, there are certain items which are great for bulk-buying because of their long shelf lives. Items like onions, garlic and potatoes are great for buying in bulk. Not only that, but these are common ingredients that go into a number of meals. Other items that are good to buy in bulk include dried fruits and nuts. These are not usually used in meals, but make for great, healthy snacks.

When buying meat, families should prioritize lean turkey and chicken. The healthiest ways to prepare these cuts are through baking, roasting or steaming. Many families like fried foods, but these are very unhealthy. Another healthy alternative to chicken is fish. Fish is one of the healthiest food choices, but it can be hard to buy on a budget. Just like with fruits and vegetables, it helps to look up which fish are in season and which are local to the area.

Farmers Markets

One of the healthier changes to SNAP is allowing farmers markets to apply as certified SNAP merchants. These farmers are allowed to accept EBT cards as payment. Unfortunately, not every farmers market has this option. Farmers have to individually apply for these benefits, and not all farmers even know it is something they can do. Families that frequent a farmers market should ask around at the stalls to see if there are farmers that accept EBT cards. Sometimes, all it takes is asking the question so farmers know it is an option.

Not only do farmer’s markets have great prices, but the food is guaranteed to be healthy and fresh.