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What You Can Buy with Food Stamps 2021 Latest Updates

I’m sure you have been approved for food stamps and perhaps want to know what you can buy with your food stamp, don’t panic! We are here to provide you with the list of items you can buy with food stamp.

What Can I Buy With food Stamps

Food Stamps, currently known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has always been controversial.

It’s meant to help ensure that everyone gets enough to eat, and the program assures applicants that they have the right to be treated with “dignity, consideration, and respect.”

Yet, the program also imposes lots of complicated rules on users, and many people have shared opinions about whether users are making “acceptable” choices with their SNAP dollars.

In this article:

Items You Can with Food Stamps

Here is the list of food items you are allowed to purchase with your SNAP Benefits card:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meats, fish, poultry
  • Deli meats and steak
  • Dairy products
  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Seeds and plants that produce food for the household
  • Soft drinks
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Snack crackers
  • Ice cream
  • Energy drinks (must have a nutrition label)
  • Live seafood, such as lobster, fish, and shellfish
  • Pumpkins (as long as they are edible)
  • Birthday cakes (the non-edible piece of the cake cannot exceed 50 percent)
  • Bakery items

Items You Can’t Buy with Food Stamp

Despite the fact that we just listed a wide range of items that you can buy, there are actually plenty of things you are not allowed to purchase with SNAP benefits.

Some make perfect sense; there’s no way taxpayers are going to fund cigarette or alcohol purchases. But there are valid arguments that some of the following items should be covered.

Rotisserie chicken

Those hot roasted chickens in the deli are sometimes cheaper, pound for pound, than raw chicken. And for people who don’t have access to a kitchen, they could be included in many healthy meals such as chicken tacos or chicken salad.

However, most SNAP recipients can’t purchase any hot prepared foods, including these.


Since they are not food, you can’t use SNAP to buy household items such as soap, laundry detergent, diapers, sanitary napkins, or toilet paper. Since these items are essential, this restriction can be a hardship for SNAP recipients.

Pet food

As mentioned above, a petition asking the federal government to include pet food in the SNAP program recently received more than 230,000 signatures.

While there’s a valid argument to be made that pet ownership is a luxury that the American taxpayer shouldn’t have to support, the counterargument is that pet owners that fall into poverty are more likely to give up if they can’t feed them. And housing these pets in shelters or euthanizing them costs the public money.

Grocery bag fees

More and more local governments are discouraging waste by requiring stores to charge for grocery bags. SNAP cannot be used to pay those fees, and the local law may not exempt SNAP users.

So SNAP users should either bring their own bags or be prepared to pay for disposable bags with cash.

Food shipping charges

SNAP users participating in the trial of online grocery ordering must pay any delivery or convenience fees in cash.

Live animals

While you could buy live crabs to cook at home, you can’t use your SNAP card to buy a piglet to raise or a cow to milk — even if it would save you money and provide more nutritious food in the long run. Livestock just isn’t part of the program.

Alcohol and cigarettes

Alcohol and cigarettes aren’t food, they’re not nutritious, and the public doesn’t want to pay for them.

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Food Stamps Fraud

Not a single month goes by without people and business owners being arrested for participating in Food Stamps fraud.

Use your card for what it was intended for and don’t let anyone convince you to purchase anything that is not on the approved list or use the card for anything that it was not intended for.

There are a lot of sting operations organized by local law enforcement agencies to catch SNAP Card fraud.

Also, once you are caught in food assistance fraud, you will be banned from ever getting any more benefits.

Your EBT card might not automatically block these purchases!

  • If you’re using your EBT card at a store, and plan on also buying items that are not on the list above, you should separate your orders and pay for them separately.
  • Do not rely on your EBT card or the cashier to separate these items out.
  • Even if you didn’t mean for it to happen, you can still face penalties if one of these purchases goes through on your EBT card.

What Can Happen?

What Can I Buy With food Stamps

If your EBT card is used to buy items that are not on the eligible list and you are caught, your state’s food stamps agency will set up a hearing to determine whether or not you broke the law.

You will continue to get your benefits until the hearing.

If they find that you used your EBT card to buy banned items, the penalties are very serious.

First, any money spent on banned items will need to be paid back. You can also lose your benefits for:

  • 3 months the first time
  • 1 year the second time, and
  • 2 years every time after that


1. Can you buy energy drinks with food stamps?

Energy drinks that have a nutrition label are eligible foods. However, energy drinks that have a supplement facts label are classified by the FDA as supplements and are therefore not eligible under food stamps rules.

2. Can you purchase pumpkins with food stamps?

Pumpkins are edible and eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. However, inedible gourds and pumpkins that are used solely for ornamental purposes are not eligible.

3. Can I buy gift baskets (like Easter Baskets) with food stamps?

Yes, you can purchase gift baskets with food stamps.

4. Can you buy a birthday or Ice Cream cake with EBT?

Items such as birthday and other special occasion cakes are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits as long as the value of non-edible decorations does not exceed 50 percent of the purchase price of the cake.

It is important that you pay close attention to this list, as violating the rules or conspiring with another person to violate any of the rules constitutes Food Stamp Fraud.

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