What Can You REALLY Buy With Food Stamps? [Just The Facts]

Who doesn’t love a bargain? However, there’s a big difference between finding a good bargain and being forced to choose the cheaper option in order to stick to your budget. Low-income families may find themselves struggling to buy their basic necessities. 

Many American families benefit from food stamps, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), given out via EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer). These benefits are designed to pay for groceries. 

You might find yourself wondering what’s classed as “groceries”. Do snacks count? Can you buy hygiene products? Let’s briefly discuss what you can’t – and can’t – buy with EBT.

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Table Of Contents

What Can You Buy With EBT?

Most food items (but not all!) are covered by EBT and SNAP benefits. Some groceries you can buy with EBT include:

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Any EBT benefits which aren’t used by the end of the month will roll on to the next month’s benefits. That means that if you don’t spend all your food stamps in one month, you can have a little extra to spend next time. 

What Can’t You Buy With EBT? 

Food stamps are designed to only buy food. That means that non-food grocery items are not covered by EBT. Here are some items which you can’t buy with EBT: 

  • Household supplies, which might include paper supplies, cleaning products, and more
  • Pharmacy items, like medicines and vitamins
  • Diapers
  • Personal hygiene items, such as soaps, shampoo, and toothpaste
  • Cosmetics
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco 
  • Hot, prepared food, or food designed to be eaten immediately

Be warned that if you use your EBT card to buy something unapproved, such as alcohol, your EBT card will likely decline. If the transfer somehow goes through, you’ll have to pay for the item yourself later. 

You also won’t be able to use your EBT card at shops that are primarily used to sell alcohol or tobacco. 

Frequently Asked EBT Questions

It’s understandable that new food stamps users might be concerned about using their new benefits correctly. Let’s briefly discuss a few commonly asked questions about using EBT. 

Can you buy drinks with EBT? 

Yes, but that depends on what you mean by “drinks”. Alcohol beverages aren’t covered by EBT, but water, fruit juices, soft drinks, and even energy drinks are fine. 

Can you buy snacks with EBT?

Yes, you can buy snacks with EBT. However, it may be a better idea to spend your food stamps on nutritious food for your family, with a few snacks as a treat. 

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Can I use my EBT card online? 

Most stores accept EBT cards, both online and in the store itself. This is especially handy for disabled individuals and those in quarantine. 

Simply put, your food stamps benefits are versatile. Used correctly, SNAP benefits are a lifesaver for countless families.

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