Surprising Things You Can Buy with EBT

After writing my article about surprising things you can buy with HSA or FSA dollars, I wondered if there were surprising things you can buy with EBT.

In case you didn’t know, EBT is shorthand for Electronic Benefits Transfer and is usually used in combination with SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That’s another way of describing food stamps.

we accept snap ebt horizontal sticker on window.
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Surprising places and things that are eligible for EBT

So, the short answer is, yes, there are some surprising things that you can legitimately use your SNAP EBT card to buy. Keep in mind that SNAP EBT benefits are primarily intended to help low-income individuals and families purchase food.

You may think they’re the same as WIC, which is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Perhaps you’ve seen stickers or tags in the grocery store that show certain items are WIC-eligible.

texas wic approved food
WIC approved item at store. Photo credit: Texas WIC.

Even though both programs fall under the umbrella of the Food and Nutrition Service within the USDA (U.S. Department Of Agriculture), they serve different audiences, though there may be some overlap.

Anyway, back to the reason that I’m writing this article: surprising things you can buy with SNAP EBT. Keep in mind that what I’m covering isn’t just what you can buy but where you can use your food stamp benefits.

Using SNAP EBT on Amazon

I had no idea that you could use SNAP EBT benefits on Amazon. In this article on how to use SNAP EBT on Amazon, I highlighted some of the surprising things that you can pay for on Amazon with a SNAP EBT card.

Some of those items included:

  • Red Bull
  • Snack packs of nuts
  • Terrarium grow kits

Also, when you register your SNAP EBT card on Amazon, then you’ll be able to use it at Whole Foods, which Amazon owns. I know — SNAP EBT + Whole Foods does not seem logical but it’s true.

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Similarly, you may be surprised to learn that you can use your SNAP EBT card to pay for eligible purchases, online or in store, at both Target and Walmart.

Buying edible plants and seeds with SNAP EBT

As I mentioned earlier, I was surprised to learn that a terrarium kit on Amazon qualified for a SNAP EBT purchase. Well, it turns out that growing your own food is kosher in the USDA’s mind.

Therefore, you can use your EBT to pay for seeds or plants for a garden.

In other words, as long as you’re purchasing things to plant that you will eat (versus pretty flowers), then you can use your card.

Use SNAP EBT at a farmers market

You know one place where you can buy plants to grow food? A farmers market.

Which is why farmers markets are included in this roundup of surprising places where you can use your EBT card. In fact, I discovered that many farmers markets in Maine (where I live) take SNAP EBT cards for payment.

Farmers Market in Kennebunk, Maine, that takes SNAP EBT. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Another related place where you might be able to use that benefits card? Your local CSA.

This article explains that CSA or Community Supported Agriculture is all about.

Organic food online

In 2024 the USDA approved online organic food seller Thrive Market to accept SNAP EBT for memberships and payments. According to Supermarket News, “SNAP recipients can sign up for a new Thrive Market membership, enter their EBT card number and PIN, and access over 5,000 organic and sustainable products.”

Animal products from a butcher or fish store

You cannot purchase live animals with SNAP EBT, such as chickens, if you want to raise them for their eggs. However, you can use those benefits for other kinds of animal products.

For example, there are butchers and meat markets that take SNAP EBT. However, I can’t vouch for this firsthand as I don’t eat meat.

On the other hand, you are able to use EBT at certain fish markets. Here is how the USDA describes this eligibility when purchasing the following:

“shellfish, fish removed from water, and animals slaughtered prior to pick-up from the store”


Hunting and fishing equipment

I knew that in certain states you can purchase certain hunting and fishing equipment during state tax holidays. For example, during Mississippi’s Second Amendment Tax Holiday, hunting supplies fall under the tax-exempt heading.

However, I was really shocked to learn that these products also qualified for SNAP EBT — with a caveat.

That is, this is a benefit that’s exclusive to Alaska only.

“In Alaska, certain SNAP households live in very remote areas where access to food stores is extremely difficult and they rely on hunting and fishing for survival. In these cases, SNAP benefits may be used to purchase equipment that is necessary to obtain food for the household, including nets, lines, hooks, fishing rods, harpoons, knives, bows, arrows and certain other equipment necessary for subsistence hunting and fishing.”


Restaurant meals

Well, not all restaurant meals. And not in every place.

Basically, the USDA has a program called the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP). There are a couple of things you need to know to qualify.

First, you have to live in a state that has a cooperating state-level program. There are only eight as of this writing.

Which states are in the SNAP EBT RMP?

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia

I’m told that New York will soon become the ninth RMP state. However, that program isn’t active as of this writing.

Second, you have to meet a certain age, income or other requirements. This includes:

  • 60 years of age or older
  • receives disability payments or disability retirement benefits
  • homeless
  • a spouse of a SNAP client who is eligible for the RMP

As far as the restaurants go, there is no comprehensive list that I can share. However, the eatery must have a POS or Point of Sale system that can take credit or debit cards. That’s because you get SNAP EBT benefits via such a card, like those shown below.

snap ebts cards from various states
Photo credit: USDA.

Get groceries delivered through Instacart

I knew you could place grocery orders online and pay with EBT. However, I was surprised that if you placed your supermarket order via Instacart, you could pay Instacart with SNAP EBT. Really surprised that a delivery service would qualify.

Through the end of 2023, Instacart has a special deal for EBT cardholders:

“Use EBT SNAP to buy groceries at participating stores on Instacart and skip the delivery or pickup fee. Valid through 12/31/23 on eligible orders of $35 or more.”


Pumpkins for Halloween

How surprising is that — that you can buy pumpkins on sale for Halloween with your SNAP EBT card? The catch is that the pumpkin must be edible.

Honestly, I thought that all pumpkins were edible. However, it seems that some gourds sold along with pumpkins in the fall are not considered edible but rather they are decorative. Therefore, they don’t qualify.

Gift baskets

What? Gift baskets are eligible? I did not expect that.

However, we’re talking food gift baskets, not gift baskets filled with soaps and lotions.

Here is how the West Virginia Office of EBT explains things:

A gift basket consisting primarily of meats and cheeses or snack foods, and including a small toy — where the cost of the food items clearly accounts for more than 50% of the purchase price of the item — would be eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.

West Virginia EBT

Military commissary purchases

If you live on a military base, have SNAP EBT and must shop at a military commissary, you’re in luck. Not only can you use food stamps but also you can use them to cover the surcharge fees that commissaries sometimes impose.

Speaking of the military, here are stores that offer a military discount.

Bottle deposits

A handful of states have bottle deposit fees for soda, water, juice and other containers. Where I live now, Maine, is one of those places.

When I bring back containers, I get a five-cent refund. In Michigan, you get 10 cents.

SNAP EBT recipients living in places with a state-mandated bottle deposit fee can purchase those non-alcoholic drinks with their food stamps. Again, this is only if this is based on a state law.

And I specifically point out non-alcoholic drinks with a bottle deposit because you cannot pay for alcoholic beverages with SNAP EBT.

Birthday and special occasion cakes

Here’s another shocker: you can order a birthday or special occasion cake at a grocer and pay for it with your SNAP EBT card. The only caveat is that the non-edible decorations must not cost more than the cake.

What the hell are non-edible decorations that would be included with a cake order? If this means candles, I always had to purchase them separately and on my own.

You know who makes the best cakes? Costco!

This is the amazing cake we custom-ordered from Costco for my daughter’s college graduation party!

costco cake for janes graduation
Special occasion cake from Costco. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Costco Membership Deal via Groupon

The best deal on a Costco Membership right now is through Groupon. When you sign up, you’ll get your one-year membership plus a $40 Costco Digital Shop Card for free.

In case you didn’t know, the Costco Shop Card is the store’s gift card. You can use it in store or online.

This offer is for new Costco memberships only or for former Costco members whose membership expired more than 18 months ago. So, if you’ve moved, there wasn’t a Costco nearby and you let your membership lapse for more than 18 months, you’re good to go to sign up for this deal again!

Also, you can avoid the lines at your Costco location by signing up for this Groupon Costco deal. This was the crowd at the new Costco in Maine near where I live. Yikes!

lines at costco on opening day
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Terms and Conditions

  • After purchase you’ll receive an email from Costco confirming your membership details. To pick up your membership card, stop by the membership counter at any Costco location and bring a copy of that email with your photo ID. Incentive will be emailed within 2 weeks after sign-up to qualifying members.
  • You’re receiving a One-Year Costco Gold Star Membership
  • A membership card for the Primary Cardholder and one additional Household Card for anyone living at the same address, over the age of 16
  • A $40 Digital Costco Shop Card (valid at Costco locations and
  • Valid only for new members and those whose previous memberships (Primary and Household) have been expired for at least 18 months or more.
  • Please allow up to two hours to receive your confirmation email from Costco. You must have either your Costco or Groupon confirmation email to receive your physical membership card at a Costco location.
  • A physical membership card is not required to shop online or receive your incentives.
  • Incentive includes a $40 Digital Costco Shop Card
  • Digital Costco Shop Card will be emailed within 2 weeks after sign-up to qualifying members.
  • Digital Costco Shop Card will be emailed to the email address provided by the Primary Member at time of sign-up.
  • Not valid for the renewal of an existing Costco membership.
  • To purchase this package, you must be 18 years of age or over, and agree to Costco’s Membership Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • All sales final.
  • $40 Digital Costco Shop Card is not redeemable for cash, except as required by law. Digital Costco Shop Cards are not accepted at Costco Gas Stations, Car Washes, or Food Court Kiosks.

Again, this a Groupon-only deal for a Costco membership.

Other warehouse club memberships

Perhaps you prefer to shop at another warehouse club because it is more convenient to where you live than Costco is. Good news: Both BJs and Sam’s Club have Groupon deals right now for memberships. Plus, both tend to have gas stations where members can get a cheaper price when filling up the gas tank.

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  1. I was surprised to learn that Walmart also accepts snap benefits for the 5 gal water dispenser bottles that are pre-filled ..and that you can refill, of course with snap benefits in Colorado