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.
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.
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.
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.
Another related place where you might be able to use that benefits card? Your local CSA.
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”USDA
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.”USDA
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?
- Rhode Island
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
- 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.
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.”Instacart
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.
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.
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 Membership Deal
Please be sure to take note of the coupon code (CJPROMO) with this membership deal. And please make sure you enter that promo code at checkout. Otherwise, you won’t get the freebies and incentives mentioned here.
- Join today and enroll in auto renewal to get a $30 Costco Shop Card when you add coupon code (CJPROMO) at checkout*.
Terms and Conditions
- To receive a Digital Costco Shop Card, you must provide a valid email address and set up auto renewal of your Costco membership on a Visa® card at the time of sign-up.
- If you elect not to provide a valid email address and sign up for auto renewal, a Digital Costco Shop Card will not be emailed.
- Valid only for nonmembers for their first year of membership. Not valid for renewal or upgrade of an existing membership.
- To qualify as a new member, an existing Costco membership must be expired at least 18 months or more. Limit one promotion per household.
- Digital Costco Shop Card will be emailed to the email address provided by the primary member at time of sign-up within 2 weeks after successful sign-up and enrollment in auto renewal.
- Costco is not liable for incentives not received due to entry of an invalid address during sign-up.
- *Use the provided single-use promo code when entering your payment information. (Note: You will see a $0.01 deduction on your membership cost after the promo code is entered. This indicates that your promo code has been successfully processed so your incentive will be emailed.)
- New members will not receive the promotion if the provided code is not entered at checkout when purchasing the membership.
So, don’t forget to use the coupon code (CJPROMO) with this membership deal.