Meal Prepping on a Tight Budget: How to Make the Most of SNAP Benefits

07.15.19 - BY Nona Raybern
SNAP Benefits

Providing nutritious and budget-friendly meals for you and your family can be difficult, especially on a fixed income. This can be even harder now that SNAP Benefits face more restrictions and a cutting of funds from the program. With the cost of food and living constantly on the rise, feeding your family can lead to anxiety in your life that just shouldn’t be there.

But we know what it’s like to work two jobs to make ends meet and be so tired by the end of the day that fast food seems like your only option. We know that struggle where worrying about putting food on the table is the only thing you think about. And we want to tell you, hey, we’re here to help.

How do you stretch a dollar that’s already tight? We’ll lay out some meal prep tips and recipes that pack a nutritious punch and won’t empty your wallet.

 

WHere to Shop

Farmer’s Market

Hear us out here. Farmer’s Markets. We know, when you hear the word “farmer’s markets”, you probably think of bourgeois people with their posh accents or hipsters shopping for local goods. But many great programs exist that actually double the benefits of SNAP benefits up to $10 when you shop at Farmer’s Markets. Here in Washington state, we have SNAP EBT matching programs like Fresh Bucks that will actually match dollar for dollar your benefits. Similar programs exist in Oregon and California, with more markets likely to adopt these programs. This makes cheap produce directly from the farm more accessible. Fresh produce shouldn’t only be for the wealthy. Fresh produce should be accessible for everyone!

You can also ask the farmers directly if they have any produce that may be slightly bruised or imperfect. Nearly 50% of all produce grown in the US is thrown out because it is undesirable. It still tastes the same and has the same nutritional content, but people are less likely to buy weird looking produce so it gets tossed. Work out a price with a local at a farmer’s market or look into something like Imperfect Produce to get cheap fresh produce delivered directly! You can also visit local fruit & produce markets in your area and see if you can strike up a good bargain.

If this all seems like a lot of work, we understand. Buying good food shouldn’t be hard, right?

Bargain Stores

If you’re looking for a more regular grocery experience, try Grocery Outlet, Super Saver Foods, Winco, or Walmart! The prices are inexpensive and you can find some great bargains depending on the time of year. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often flash-frozen, meaning that they maintain all of the nutrients found in fresh produce while being much less pricey. These can be great in oatmeal or in a quick and easy stir fry. Frozen fruits and veggies carry a much higher nutritional content than canned, so try and stick to either frozen or fresh. If canned is your only option, check that it’s stored in water and opt for the low sodium version when possible.

These stores can also be a great place to pick up meats. Chicken thighs are a great source of protein and often much cheaper by the pound than chicken breast. Make this in a sheet pan dinner for a super easy weeknight meal that will leave plenty of leftovers for the rest of the week.

Almost all bargain grocery stores accept SNAP benefits or EBT funds, so you can trust that you’ll find what you need at a very low price.

Asian & Ethnic Food Markets

If you don’t have access to SNAP benefits but still want to keep costs low, try an Asian food market! HMart, a Korean grocery chain, has some of the lowest prices around when it comes to fresh produce. They also have a huge variety of produce available, so your meals can get a little adventurous if you choose. Regrettably, they do not accept EBT or SNAP benefits, so the costs would come out of your own budget. Some Asian markets, however, do accept EBT/SNAP, so give them a quick call to find out before you plan a trip there.

The most inexpensive yet filling things you can buy at an Asian market? Rice, beans, and veggies. These three items are available at an abundance in those stores and at a much larger markdown than chain grocery stores.

 

Healthy and Inexpensive meals

Before you head to the store, it’s good to make a menu or meal plan to get the most bang for your buck. For busy parents or those working more than one job, the idea of cooking every night shouldn’t induce anxiety or exhaustion. Planning out your meals and prepping them ahead of time means less stress during the week.

Making a grocery list keeps you from veering off your budget once you get into the store or market. We know the thrill of the impulse purchase, but sticking to a list can help you focus on your purchase needs (although, get that maple doughnut every now and then, you’re only human you know).

We have some great recipe suggestions when it comes to meal planning on a very tight budget with SNAP Benefits while still keeping things nutritious and delicious. Try and designate one half day a week to meal prep if you can. If not, no worries, because these recipes can also be done in just 30 minutes.

 

breakfast

Oatmeal cups are a great way to pack loads of nutrients into a small bite. Plus for those with incredibly busy schedules, they’re portable and easy to take with you anywhere. This batch makes 12 cups that you can top with whatever toppings you want, from fruit to chocolate. Each cup is priced out at a little under $1/each. You can also try your hand at making overnight oats, which take absolutely no time to prepare and with only 4 ingredients, it won’t break your budget. Simply combine oats, milk, sweetener, and some vanilla into a jar and let it sit overnight (hence the name). Add other things if you want, but you can keep it simple too! Old-fashioned oats cost about $1.25/pound, so you’re looking at loads of nutrients for a very small price.

lunch

When you’re making lunch to take to work, you want something that carries well in a container and hold up until lunchtime hits. Chicken burritos made from rotisserie chickens can make for the perfect lunchtime meal.

Rice bowls are also a super cost-effective way to make a filling lunch! Whether you’re making a Veggie Fried Rice or Red beans & Rice with a ton of spices and flavor, these little grain bowls will fill you up for a small price. Plus, these batches make large quantities so you’ll have leftovers for the family or a full week of lunchtime meals ready to go.

dinner

Sheet pan dinners. One pan, so flavorful, and so easy. This Honey Balsamic Chicken Thigh recipe from My Food Story is packed full of nutritious veggies and flavorful chicken thighs. The premise is sticking all of your ingredients onto one pan and then baking it. Voila! Dinner is ready. For a real value, check out this list of 13 dinners that cost just $2 per serving!

Here are some other cheap and easy dinners that we recommend!

Summer Squash Pizza
Spicy Chorizo Soup with Potatoes
Korean Pan-Fried Tilapia and Zucchini

 

Inexpensive Kitchen Tools

 

Choosing long-lasting kitchen tools at a decent price makes all the difference in cooking.

Make sure that your kitchenware serves more than one purpose. Multi-functional tools such as a Silicone Spoon can be used for mixing, baking, serving, and cooking on the stovetop. And because of the durable material, they rarely need replacement unlike cheaper plastic versions that break apart or melt. High quality and long lasting measuring spoons are also a must in any kitchen. Plastic will break and disintegrate over time and need to be replaced, but a stainless steel set will last you your entire life.

Finding good quality kitchen products shouldn’t break the bank, especially when you’re on a tight budget. That’s why at RSVP International, we’re committed to providing the highest quality product at the most affordable prices.

Because we believe that people should be able to live well and afford delicious and nutritious foods. So if you’re feeling the strain when it comes to your SNAP Benefits, we hope that some of these tips are helpful. If you have any questions or are looking for more recipe recommendations, hit us up on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!