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Food-Stamps.org Explains the Steps to Take If Your SNAP Benefits Are Inaccessible

The group at Food-Stamps.org knows that many Americans struggle to make end meet, and feeding their families is an especially difficult task on a fixed income. Thankfully, the federal government created a food assistance program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), for low-income and needy families that assist with essential food items. However, families who need and rely on food assistance benefits are vulnerable when their benefits are late or inaccessible due to system error. Other times, families need SNAP benefits and food assistance immediately but must wait for approval. In such instances, low-income families may not know the first step to take when they cannot access food assistance benefits.

SNAP Overview

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal food assistance program designed to help families in need. In order to qualify for SNAP benefits, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established criteria for families to meet. The criteria includes income, disability status, household size and household resources, and the household must report any changes in the criteria to the appropriate state departments.

SNAP Benefits Overview

SNAP benefits are monthly payouts to recipients on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which function like banking debit cards. Customers receive automatic deposits into their EBT accounts, and they receive the EBT cards in the mail or from their SNAP caseworkers. SNAP benefits have restrictions regarding use, and not all facilities accept SNAP benefits, so customers may wish to check online or with cashiers at their locals grocery marts and stores before checkout. Edible items like bread, fruits and vegetables and meats are eligible for EBT purchases, but hot or prepared foods are not.

Late or Inaccessible Benefits

In any instances of non-payment of SNAP benefits, the SNAP recipient should contact the local SNAP office as soon as possible to inquire about the status. The group at Food-Stamps.org encourages customers to monitor their accounts frequently when they are expecting SNAP benefits, and to check through an online EBT portal for any status updates, if possible. Customers who do not receive their SNAP benefits in a timely manner should make sure to contact their local office by phone, via email or through an in-person visit, until they reach resolutions or find satisfactory answers on their benefits statuses.

Although the SNAP benefits are easy to use and helpful for low-income families, SNAP benefits are not immune from clerical errors and system malfunctions, causing concern among recipients across the country. SNAP offices may approve new applicants for benefits, but the EBT card may be late or benefits have not deposited. SNAP recipients may wish to look to online resources or social media regarding EBT systems outages – some websites provide places for SNAP recipients to report issues with particular areas, stores or larger areas, like entire states or regions. Sometimes customers may go grocery shopping, but their EBT cards or the EBT system is inaccessible. Store cashiers have paper vouchers to fill out and record the sale of the EBT items. Before the customer leaves the store, however, the cashier must contact the SNAP customer service line and verify customer funds.

Expedited SNAP Benefits

Qualified SNAP applicants should receive their benefits within 30 days of application submission. However, some low-income families may need more immediate assistance, and eligible households may benefit from expedited food stamps, which provides SNAP benefits within seven days. Expedited SNAP benefit eligibility depends on a low household income and assets that will not sustain the household over the traditional SNAP waiting period. The household will still have to do a complete SNAP benefit application, but this allows families earlier access to food assistance benefits. These expedited benefits are not additional SNAP benefits, but merely the amount the household would receive in the first month after the standard 30-day waiting period. The group at Food-Stamps.org urges applicants to inquire about the expedited SNAP benefits upon application submission for faster assistance, if needed.

Immediate Food Assistance

Although government agencies strive to provide for residents, some families require immediate assistance that states cannot timely provide. The group at Food-Stamps.org urges such families to find local food banks and shelters for food and food products. Churches, homeless shelters and nonprofit food organizations often provide meal service or canned goods to help families with limited resources. Customers should make sure to contact food banks for any required documentation, as some locations serve only residents of the given county or city. Many of these food resources may provide assistance or information for government welfare programs for applicants who have additional questions.

Many food banks across the country receive goods from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). TEFAP is a federal program that purchases foodstuffs, including canned foods and fresh produce, and distributes them among the states. The amount of food received by the state is dependent on the unemployed population and the amount of residents below poverty line, and the state then, in turn, distributes these food goods to local food supply agencies. The agencies that supply food are subject to regulations that require the agency to prove that they serve a low-income population if serving cooked meals or that the household receiving foods are eligible through state determine criteria, like welfare recipients or low-income households.

The group at Food-Stamps.org encourages families to seek cooking tips from food assistance organization to help utilize available meal components in the house or from the food bank. The food banks or assistance resources may provide recipes that help families cook filling and creative meals to make the most of the available ingredients.

5 Other Living Expenses SNAP Benefits Let You Focus on According to Food-Stamps.org

The group at Food-Stamps.org understands that many Americans struggle to make ends meet and provide the basics for their families. Fortunately, federal and state programs offer relief and assistance, especially in the form of food assistance for children, the elderly, individuals with disabilities and low-income adults. A government program like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides millions of American residents with crucial food relief. Although the government helps pay for the basic need of physical nourishment, families have many other essential expenses and comforts that demand attention.

SNAP Overview

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is one of many federal programs that provides meal assistance to American residents. With the SNAP program, applicants must fall into certain criteria that includes household income, household size and disability status. Applicants receive SNAP benefits on and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Applicants then use the EBT card for specific food items like produce, meat and bread from approved vendors.

Bills and Loans

SNAP benefit approval allows families to use household income for a variety of non-food expenses. Many Americans may have student, car or home loan payments that fall to the wayside when the household is struggling to make ends meet. With the savings from SNAP benefits, customers may now put money towards loan payments that threaten to ruin their personal credit or repossess their properties. If the families are able, the group at Food-Stamps.org suggests creating a savings fund to help the household prepare for unexpected expenses, like loss of income or veterinarian bills.

Transportation Expenses

Although telecommuting and work from home jobs are on the rise, the team at Food-Stamps.org understands that many Americans still travel to and from work and need some sort of transportation, especially if they work outside walking distance from their jobs or upcoming job interviews. Reliable transportation is a common requirement for employment, therefore making transportation access crucial for everyday life. With food costs reduced or covered by government programs, households can focus on the numerous expenses associated with public and personal transportation.

Public transportation is one important means of travel for many Americans. Trains and city buses allow Americans to travel further distances to attend jobs and find better employment opportunities, but daily fares add up quickly, especially if a customer works six or seven days each week and makes multiple transfers on his or her commute. School and grocery trips often factor into the cost of a bus or train pass. Customers may find monthly or weekly passes more efficient than daily fees, but the cost of such passes are significantly more expensive to purchase in one exchange. Since customers save money on food with SNAP benefits, those with personal automobiles may take care of expenses like maintenance, gas and insurance payments. Others still may use their savings to purchase bicycles as a faster alternative to walking or a cheaper alternative than monthly bus passes and car expenses.

Healthcare Expenses

Healthcare, even with more affordable government programs, is an important cost that many Americans still neglect due to steep costs. For those receiving SNAP benefits, the money saved on food may now help with any healthcare expenses. Simple purchases like over-the-counter pain relief is no longer a luxury, and families may use their food savings to stock up on basic medicines for simple illnesses and injuries. Families can now feel comfortable paying any expenses for doctor’s visits and life-saving medication, all thanks to the relief provided by SNAP benefits. The experts at Food-Stamps.org urge American residents to see doctors for wellness visits when possible to prevent and detect serious illnesses in the future.

Housing Expenses

Housing is yet another steep cost that many Americans must face when struggling to make ends meet. So many families must decide between paying the rent and feeding their families. Customers receiving SNAP benefits now have one less concern, as they can afford to attend to their housing expenses. Rent and mortgage payments are, of course, important payments that residents must make, but living spaces come with their own numerous expenses. Water, electricity and other utilities are bills that are easy to fall behind on but are difficult, even dangerous, to live without. Families may now prioritize running water and heating or cooling expenses once food access is no longer a concern.

Hygiene and Personal Care

Many Americans understand that SNAP benefits help needy families feed their households, but they may not realize the variety of goods that are not covered. Unfortunately, SNAP benefits only cover strict food expenses, but do not include the multitude of other household and personal products that residents need in order to live in relative comfort. Customers must pay for simple household items like laundry detergent, paper products and home cleaning products from their own pockets. Although not a necessity like food and shelter, these items are important to maintaining a home and personal morale. Even crucial items like feminine hygiene products, deodorant and dental care items are out-of-pocket expenses. Without personal hygiene products, adults may face social backlash that can affect performance and professional relationships, including mental distress and poor first impressions at job interviews. Personal hygiene neglect may even affect personal health in the short and long terms. Children are not immune from the repercussions of poor or inadequate hygiene either, so the team at Food-Stamps.org urges families to include such products in their household shopping budget. Clothing is yet another personal expense that families should consider at some point during the year. Adults may need a new outfit for job interviews and work, and children grow out of clothing very quickly. Fortunately, families may shop at thrift stores for clothing and discount stores for personal care items to make the most of their money.

Helpful Food Label Tips

In a perfect world, all foods would be considered nutritious and healthy, but because many foods are now packaged, it’s important to understand food labels and interpret what the nutrition facts really mean. For example, a few artificial flavors and colors have been linked with hyperactivity, while excess sodium and sugar is proven to lead to health complications and weight gain. Understanding the relationship between foods you are consuming and how they effect your body is the best way to prevent various conditions and diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Below are some useful tips the team at Food-Stamps.org has put together to help consumers determine the best healthy foods to buy when grocery shopping and what labels to avoid.

Check the nutrition facts panel: The nutrition facts panel is located on the back of food products and is used to help purchasers understand how many calories and nutrients are in every single serving of a product. The problem is, consumers usually eat much larger portions than what the serving size on the label indicates. The serving information located at the top of the label tells consumers the total number of servings per container. Packages almost always contain more than one serving, which means that consumers must multiply all the amounts listed to accurately understand how many calories or how much sugar is in a single container. Packaged foods can easily be packed with large amounts of sugar or sodium. The team at Food-Stamps.org recommends staying away from products that feature over 20 grams of fat and/or over 10 grams of sugar. For sodium, any food with a label that lists an amount over 480 milligrams should be avoided.

Avoid products that contain enemy fats: When grocery shopping consumers should seek foods that contain zero trans fats. Trans fat lowers HDL (‘good’ cholesterol), raises LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) and slows your metabolism. If a product contains less than 1 gram of trans fat per serving, the product can be listed as having zero trans fats. Those trace amounts can shockingly add up with time, especially if multiple servings are consumed per day. The team at Food-Stamps.org determined that the best action for consumers to take to avoid products that contain enemy fats is to abstain from foods that contain any partially or fully hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oils are composed of large quantities of trans fats and other altered fat substances. Hydrogenated oils are commonly found in commercial baked goods and were specifically designed to increase the shelf life of products.

Products labeled ‘light’ or ‘lite’ aren’t always the best option: ‘Light’ foods and beverages represent a sector of major growth in the American food industry. Many companies are aware of this new ‘light’ trend taking consumers by storm, and they’ve been quick to act on it. It’s important to know that sometimes a product with the label ‘light’ or ‘lite’ is only light in name. The group at Food-Stamps.org found that there are no federal labeling regulations which prevent companies from using labels like ‘light’ and ‘lite’ when their products may only be a few calories less than the regular version. However, when products are labeled ‘low calorie’ and ‘reduced calorie’ the Food and Drug Association does require companies to follow set rules. For a product to be considered ‘reduced calorie,’ it must contain a third fewer calories than any comparable product. ‘Low calorie’ products are required to be no more than 40 calories per serving.

Quite often, ‘light’ products may have the same number of calories as the regular version of the product. The only real change is reduced salt. The reason these ‘light’ products vary so much on their nutritional labels is because ‘light’ and ‘lite’ are still loosely defined and relatively new. ‘Light’ products can be a useful way to cut down on some calories here and there, but most nutritionists do not believe these products function as weight-reduction aids. When grocery shopping, the team at Food-Stamps.org urges consumers to not rely on ‘light’ labels because of how much they vary. Consumers should read the nutritional information on a product and compare it with the regular version to assess if the ‘light’ product is truly a better option or not.

Check the ingredient list: When checking a product’s ingredient list, shorter is always better. A consumer being able to recognize the ingredients he or she is reading is a good indicator as to whether the product is healthy or not. Consumers should look out for words ending in ‘-ose,’ which means the substance is a sugar. Also, it’s worth noting that ingredients are always listed in order of descending volume, meaning the first few ingredients are what the product is mainly made up of. Flour products are commonly promised as being whole grain, but unless the ingredient is listed as ‘100 percent whole wheat flour,’ it’s simply not true.

Food-Stamps.org Explains Everything You Need to Know About the Lifeline Phone Program

Technology is a useful and necessary part of life in the modern world. Financially secure families and those receiving government assistance, alike understand the critical need for access to technology and the opportunities it brings. Families on a budget may utilize spaces like libraries during business hours to work on homework or to communicate with employers and family, but after business hours, customers still need access to the outside world. The team at Food-Stamps.org understands this importance, and that customers may not know where to begin with the Lifeline Phone Program, or that there is even such a program available to them.

The Lifeline Phone Program is a program designed by the Federal Communications Commission and managed by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). Designed for low-income households, the Lifeline Phone Program strives to provide phone and/or internet service assistance through participating provider companies. States may provide Lifeline benefits in addition to the allotted federal benefits, so customers should contact participating companies to see any additional benefits provided in their state.

Eligibility

Low-income families with household incomes at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) guidelines are eligible for the Lifeline Phone Program. The government has established calculations for poverty based on household income and the size of the households, and these calculations change annually. Families receiving government assistance like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), tribal assistance or public housing qualify for the Lifeline program. The team at Food-Stamps.org encourages low-income households unsure of their eligibility to apply and confer with service companies.

Applicants must prove eligibility by providing official documentation like photocopies of their benefits cards. If the family qualifies based on income, the members should provide photocopied documentation including but not limited to: tax returns, benefits statements or three months’ worth of recent paycheck stubs. The team at Food-Stamps.org encourages applicants to contact the service provider for a list of valid income documentation.

Restrictions

The Lifeline Phone Program only allows the use of one Lifeline benefit at a time per household. Households may not receive Lifeline discounts on multiple services, even though broadband-voice packages are available. Phone companies may provide smartphone-to-Lifeline program users, although companies cannot guarantee smartphone availability. Customers should also remember to renew their Lifeline Phone Program eligibility ever year, or confirm with the company renewal approval in case of automatic renewal. Those customers with free service must utilize their Lifeline service every 30 days at least once within that period, otherwise the provider will discontinue the Lifeline service.

The team at Food-Stamps.org knows that customers may be unhappy with their provider’s service, but changing a Lifeline provider is subject to restrictions. Customers who wish to transfer their Lifeline telephone service must wait 60 days and are only permitted to do so once per 60-day period. Those customers with internet service may only switch providers once every 12-month period. However, certain scenarios in which a customer may transfer sooner or more frequently do exist. Those customers who move and those companies that no longer provide Lifeline service or charge late fees higher than the monthly out-of-pocket cost are all situations in which customers may transfer companies.

How to Apply

Customers who wish to apply for Lifeline benefits must contact a participating provider and fill out an application. Applicants should contact state communication departments or phone companies for either an online or a paper application. Any documentation that customers provide through a mailed application (proof of benefits, etc.) must be photocopies, as the company will not return original documentation. Customer should note that if a dependent or member of the household receives government assistance like SNAP, the household is eligible for Lifeline benefits. However, customers should check with their state or provider companies regarding all government assistance programs that qualify their households for Lifeline benefits.

Lifeline customers have rights and responsibilities when participating in the phone service program. Current federal regulations require service providers to provide:

  • 500 minutes of talk-time for cell phones.
  • A speed of 10/1 Mbps (Megabits per second) and a monthly usage of 150 GB (gigabytes) for broadband internet.
  • A mobile data plan with 3G or better speed and a monthly usage of 500 MB (megabytes).
  • Hotspot capability for devices on data plans.

Customers, as stated above, are able to switch providers within certain restrictions. If customers have issues with Lifeline, such as unhelpful companies or finding providers, they may contact the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). However, the USAC cannot help customers with Lifeline plan specifics like bill disputes or account add-ons. If customers encounter issues that cannot be resolved with the companies, fraudulent companies or customers, the team at Food-Stamps.org urges customers to contact the FCC or the USAC.

Customers should also keep their Lifeline providers up-to-date when changes in the household occur. Such events include income adjustments, the amount of household members, a change of address or Lifeline ineligibility. Some states or providers may assist customers no longer eligible for Lifeline assistance, so customers should make sure to inquire about assistance.

The Importance of Exercising While You Are on SNAP According to Food-Stamps.org

When on a tight budget, it’s not always easy or affordable to choose healthier options. Organic food purchases can seem out of the question at times, and the team at Food-Stamps.org understands that most participants are more concerned about getting food on the table. While our team highly recommends purchasing healthier food items and meal prepping, we understand that it will not always be practical; which is why exercise is such an integral part of life while being on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Exercise is a huge pillar for anyone looking to live a more active and healthier lifestyle, and it is still important for participants while on SNAP. The diets of most adults and children in the Unites States are comprised of excessive fats and sugary foods. The poor food choices millions of Americans select daily directly contribute to making the population overweight. Obesity has become a national epidemic, which is why our team at Food-Stamps.org urges SNAP recipients to exercise regularly to obtain the many benefits of living a more active life. Those interested in reaping the benefits of exercise should read these important reasons to maintain an active lifestyle below.

Exercise Helps With Weight Management

People who live a more active lifestyle burn more calories. The more rigorous a physical activity is, the more calories will be burned. Living a more active lifestyle can help prevent excess weight gain and help maintain any weight loss. You don’t need a gym membership in order to exercise, there are plenty of home workout plans available online that are effective and easy to follow.

Exercise Allows a Person to Indulge

Muscle cells need to burn more calories than fat cells, even when you’re not exercising. Ever wonder how some people can eat so much but seem to never gain weight? It’s probably because of their high metabolism. The team at Food-Stamps.org found that exercising even allows a person to eat more unhealthy foods than someone who is not exercising regularly, because exercising boosts your metabolism. Muscle cells need a lot of energy to function at peak performance, and the more muscle a person has, the more he or she can burn a lot of calories. Strengthening your muscles is a great way to lose weight and be lean. More muscles will turn a person’s body into a machine that never stops, constantly burning calories.

Activity Combats Health Conditions and Disease

Regular exercise combats heart disease and prevents high blood pressure. Being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is considered the ‘good’ cholesterol. Exercise also reduces triglycerides, and those who live an active lifestyle can help prevent diseases like diabetes, depression, arthritis and various types of cancers.

Improvement of Self-Confidence

Those who live a more active lifestyle and exercise regularly receive the added benefit of self-confidence, which improves self-esteem. Exercise activates various brain chemicals that make you happy, like endorphins. The Food-Stamps.org team found studies that have even proven that exercise can even help with symptoms of those who are clinically depressed. Exercise has been proven to boost a person’s overall mood and self-confidence.

Energy Boost

Those who regularly exercise rarely feel sluggish or like they’re having a hard time focusing. Regular physical activity can enhance your endurance in even the most mundane things, like household chores. Exercise delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your tissues which help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently, giving you more energy. The team at Food-Stamps.org found that studies show those who exercise on a regular basis are often more productive at their jobs. Tough exercise workouts also boost creativity. After a gym session, exercise can boost creativity for up to two hours afterward.

Brain Health

By living a more active life style, a person can prevent cognitive decline. Aging and certain diseases kill off brain cells and make the brain shrink. Brain shrinkage is what causes a person to lose certain brain functions. Working out may not be able to cure Alzheimer’s, but it can help the brain fight to stay healthy, longer. Regular exercise for individuals between the age of 25 and 45 really boosts the chemicals in the brain that prevent the degeneration of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an integral part of the brain, as it is responsible for memory and learning.

Sleep Aid

Ever feel restless at night? Well, as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise can improve someone’s overall sleeping patterns. Exercising help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Frequent physical activity can also help with the quality of sleep a person is getting by increasing the average sleep duration.

SNAP Food Items That Will Last You the Longest According to Food-Stamps.org

While on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), it’s important for recipients to select foods that are nutritious that won’t experience rapid deterioration or decay. By selecting foods that are less likely to perish, you can use more ingredients to create meals in the long run and ensure that you’re not wasting any items. Many recipients feel that that they cannot purchase healthy options, due to healthier foods tending to spoil faster, but that’s simply not the case. The team at Food-Stamps.org knows that every food item that recipients can save is crucial, which is why we have assembled a list of smart, long-lasting and nutritious food items to consider below.

Canned meats and seafood

Canned meats and fish are very affordable, and can last from two to five years. They are high in protein, and can be used to create many different dishes. Use canned salmon to create salmon burger patties, or canned tuna for tuna rigatoni with tomatoes. Canned tuna and salmon also contain omega-3, the fatty acids that are linked to improving brain health. Canned chicken may not sound appealing, but can be used to create many different recipes as well, like chicken stir-fry. The Food-Stamps.org team discovered that canned chicken contains B6, as well as the B-vitamin niacin, which is helpful for preventing cancer.

Nuts

Nuts are an excellent source of fat, protein and fiber that offer many options. All nuts have different nutritional benefits. Almonds are a popular snack and an ingredient for healthy recipes. Almonds are calcium-rich and high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps improve the condition and appearance of your skin. Whole almonds with the skin intact are great, because the skin is full of flavonoids that protect the heart. Cashews can be a great source of protein, magnesium, iron and zinc. Chestnuts are rich in starchy carbohydrates, B vitamins and fiber. Ground chestnut powder can be a great alternative for flour. The Food-Stamps.org team found that most nuts can last up to a whole year in regular storage. To extend the life of any nut beyond one year, keep it in the freezer.

Dried beans

Beans are a high source of protein, and are easy to store for long-term use. They naturally have low moisture, which is why they can last for years. A serving of beans makes you feel full because of the rich fiber, and gives you a steady supply of energy. Beans are one of the most nutritious foods in existence. They are filled with fiber, protein and magnesium. Beans can even fight cancer due to containing a wide variety of chemicals like isoflavones and phytosterols.

Dehydrated milk

Avoid having to check the milk’s expiration date every day by using dehydrated milk powder. It may not have the same exact taste, but dehydrated milk powder still gets the job done and is easy to store. The Food-Stamps.org team suggests properly storing dehydrated milk powder so it can last up to 10 years. Dehydrated milk power can be consumed and used in all recipes, just like regular milk.

White rice

White rice is able to maintain its flavor for up to 30 years when stored correctly. White rice is a good calorie source; one cup of rice can contain 165 calories. Most diets around the world include white rice, and it can be used in countless recipes. White rice is very filling and easy to cook, making it an essential for every food pantry.

Pasta

Dry pasta can last for years and years. Even if the container is opened, if the pasta is properly stored, it can outlive many other foods in your home. Cooked pasta also has a lengthy shelf live. The Food-Stamps.org team found that cooked pasta dishes can remain at their best quality for about one to two months, if stored in the freezer.

Dried grains

Whole grains can provide a healthy plant-based protein, and many vitamins and minerals to improve your health. Whole grains are high in fiber, and can help lower cholesterol. If stored properly in airtight containers, intact grains can have a shelf life of six months. If stored in a freezer, dried grains can last up to a year. Heat, air and moisture all are enemies for whole grains. It’s important when purchasing grains that they are sealed tightly and untampered with in order for them to last. Whole, intact grains, like wheat berries or brown rice can also last longer than whole grain flours.

Canned fruits and vegetables

Canned fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. Most canned fruits and vegetables are usually lower in price, while still being ready to eat and easy to use. Canned fruits and vegetables are fruits and vegetables that have been fermented or pickled, and are sold in airtight containers that can last for several years. They are usually in a jar filled with acidic solution, and that is what keeps the food from wasting.

Food-Stamps.org Presents Diets That You Can Maintain While Receiving SNAP Benefits

Healthy meal planning is a great way to stick to a budget and lose weight. While on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), eating healthy may seem challenging. Healthy food always seems to cost more than junk food, but with a little effort and planning, anyone can maintain a healthy diet. By planning meals, SNAP recipients can also help decrease stress by saving time and money. Before purchasing foods for any diet meal plan, it’s important to sit down and write a list of all the ingredients needed to create the recipes you want to cook. By going to the market with a list already written, dieters can avoid foods that may be tempting. Having a list also allows dieters to search for food items with purpose and to abstain from spending money on ingredients that aren’t part of the designated meal prep recipes for the week. For SNAP recipients looking to eat healthier and lose weight, read a few of the most popular, low-cost diets that the team at Food-Stamps.org has organized below.

Ketogenic Diet

A ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate meal plan. Ketogenic comes from ‘ketosis,’ which is the stage in which a person’s body can break down fat in order to provide energy. Essentially, fat molecules become fuel, which is different, because most people experience ‘glycoses,’ which is when carbohydrates are burned for energy. A low-carb diet offers nourishment through more whole foods and lowers insulin resistance. A ketogenic diet ensures that dieters get three balanced meals that are full of fiber and protein. One of the reasons the ketogenic diet has become so popular is because while dieters lose weight, they don’t lose muscle mass. Often, dieters lose muscle mass when on a carb-based diet.

Foods recommended on a ketogenic diet:

  • Lean meats
  • Fish
  • Fruit
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Healthy oils

Foods to avoid on a ketogenic diet:

  • Grains
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Processed foods
Paleo Diet

A paleo diet adheres to the following: ‘If a caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you.’ Basically, those on a paleo diet only eat what they could hunt or gather like meats, fish, nuts, vegetables and seeds. A paleo diet focuses more on what is being consumed rather than portion control. The paleo diet can help dieters lose weight and build muscle. A paleo diet can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be. The fastest way to shop for groceries on a paleo diet is to start with the vegetables you want, then the meat section, then head to the dairy section, and that’s it. A paleo meal doesn’t need to always contain meat. Meats are usually the most expensive food item of a meal. The team at Food-Stamps.org urges dieters to consider swapping out meat for more vegetables, so paleo dieters can save a lot of money and lose more weight. Most people are under the false notion that in order for vegetables and fruit to be nutritious, they need to be purchased in the fresh produce section. Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit are packaged as soon as they are freshly picked. Frozen and canned vegetables have the same nutritious value, are cheaper and have a longer shelf life. However, be sure to check ingredients for additives and sugar content. Instead of a steak, sub in a hamburger patty or a canned salmon patty. Pork and chicken are great substitutes for steak as well. Berries can get expensive, so choose frozen, mixed berry packets and defrost them when ready to eat. In addition, apples are great snacks for paleo dieters, and they tend to be budget-friendly.

Foods recommended on a paleo diet:

  • Grass-fed meats
  • Fish and seafood
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Healthy oils

Foods to avoid on a paleo diet:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Processed foods
  • Overly salty foods
  • Refined vegetable oils
  • Junk food
  • Refined sugar
  • Potatoes

If the rules of a ketogenic or a paleo diet seem too drastic to follow, consider simply selecting healthier food options when meal prepping and grocery shopping. The Food-Stamps.org team found that people who meal prep are likelier to eat healthier foods and spend less money. Here are some suggestions the team at Food-Stamps.org recommends for those dieting while on SNAP.

Purchasing Long-Lasting Foods with High Nutritional Value

Choosing food items with longer shelf lives will ensure less waste. Some ingredients that are budget-friendly, long-lasting and have high nutritional value are eggs, lentils, beans, squash, brown rice, mushrooms and tofu. Dieters should keep in mind that it’s important to not be picky with meals, because many of the ingredients purchased will be incorporated in several recipes to keep meal plans budget-friendly.

Stop Skipping Breakfast

Everyone knows that breakfast is deemed the ‘most important meal of the day,’ but unfortunately many people skip it. When meal planning for breakfast, create one or two options, and just repeat the breakfasts for the week. By creating breakfast in bulk and making it ready-to-go, dieters have a greater chance of not skipping breakfast.

Choose Recipes With Similar Ingredient Lists

When buying ingredients for meal preparation, it’s essential to select recipes that use the same foods, just maybe in different ways. If you are making a recipe that calls for squash, it’s smart to plan for the next recipe to also incorporate squash in some way.

Plan Your Meals

The Food-Stamps.org team highly urges dieters to select a day or two to cook all meals for the week. It will save time and energy and allow you to plan healthier options for meals. By having meals planned, dieters know that no matter where they are, what they eat will be healthy and nutritious.

Here is an example of an affordable and easy-to-cook meal plan below:

Breakfast

1 cup of non-fat yogurt with defrosted berries or ¼ cup of steel cut oats with a sliced banana

Glass of cold water Glass of cold water

Snack

23 almonds

Glass of cold water

Lunch

Brown rice bowl with lentils. Mix cooked brown rice and lentils together, add cooked onions and a fried egg on top.

Glass of cold water

Snack

Apple

Glass of cold water

Dinner

Canned salmon burger patty, add desired spices. Cook salmon patty on low heat on stovetop to avoid over cooking. Instead of buns made of bread, serve patty over couscous salad (cooked couscous mixed with chopped tomato, onion and cucumber.)

Green tea

Tips for Handling SNAP Benefit Overpayment from Food-Stamps.org

For many Americans, financial hardship is a reality. With the help of federal and state agencies, low-income families are able to make ends meet. Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are able to provide their households with food while working to improve their situations. However, clerical or applicant errors happen from time to time, and customers may receive SNAP overpayments. In overpayment incidents, it is crucial that the recipients realize the error as quickly as possible and report the error, but many may not know how. The team at Food-Stamps.org encourages SNAP beneficiaries to read the below to prepare for any instances of SNAP benefits overpayment.

SNAP

Understanding the SNAP system is an important step in combating SNAP overpayments. SNAP benefits, previously and commonly known as food stamps, are monetary payouts transferred onto a card that functions similarly to a debit card. The benefits are loaded onto the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card monthly on a predetermined schedule, and recipients use the card on eligible items from approved stores. SNAP applicants must meet a certain criteria to qualify for food assistance, and take into account assets, household income, disability status and any deductions including medical costs or child support. Monthly income tests and a calculated maximum household allotment determine the SNAP benefits a household receives. Most recipients of SNAP benefits must meet employment requirements to qualify and retain eligibility, such as taking jobs when available or participating in job search training, although certain groups may be exempt from such requirements. Beneficiaries are responsible for reporting instances of income change or household member fluctuations, so the team at Food-Stamps.org urges SNAP recipients to make a checklist of all agencies to notify when such household changes occur to avoid any payment issues.

Types of Errors

SNAP benefit overpayments are results of agency errors, unintentional applicant errors and intentional program exploitation. An agency or an administrative error means the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is responsible for the overpayment error, typically through the agency’s failure to report changes submitted by the household. A household may report incorrect information due to a misunderstanding or a mistake when submitting pertinent SNAP information, although some households intentionally misrepresent their household information or misuse their SNAP payments.

Regardless of the reason for overpayment, if the DHHS notices the error, the department will take steps to collect the payment. When the DHHS realizes the overpayment error, the department sends noticed to the household explaining the amounts, date(s) and the reason for overpayment. The SNAP recipient should pay special attention to the overpayment reason, so he or she can provide explanations for any recipient errors. The team at Food-Stamps.org strongly urges SNAP recipients to track all received payments regularly to report any overpayment errors as soon as they happen. SNAP recipients may check their EBT card balances through the telephone provided on the card or the state online portal, if available.

Process of Appeals

Within 90 days of overpayment notice, households have a right to an appeal hearing. Customers may file appeals by submitting physical appeal request forms or verbally with a member of the DHHS, although the team at Food-Stamps.org strongly recommends submitting a paper application via mail or asking the DHHS office for a copy of the submitted appeal form. Customers should make sure to have the office sign off and verify the application submission. After submitting the appeal, customers should confirm the DHHS has scheduled a pre-hearing conference, typically within 10 days of appeal submission. At this conference, customers discuss and review their cases with caseworkers, and the issue may be resolved without a hearing.

If the appeal is not resolved and withdrawn at the pre-hearing conference, appellants (the customer making the appeal) should prepare for the hearing. The hearing is the time for appellants to provide proof if the overpayment was a correct payment, or to provide information that the appellant mistakenly did not report to the DHHS. If the appellant submits previously unreported information, the DHHS also reexamines the household’s SNAP eligibility. At this stage of appeal, the appellant attends the hearing at a local DHHS office and is directed by a hearing officer who is unattached to the appellant’s case. If the appellant disagrees with the outcome of the hearing and wishes to dispute it further, he or she may file a lawsuit with a circuit court within six months. The team at Food-Stamps.org strongly encourages appellants to document their proof thoroughly, confer with legal counsel or provide witnesses to best prepare for the appeal or lawsuit.

Repayment and Repayment Exceptions

When SNAP benefit repayment is necessary and indisputable, SNAP recipients have the option of paying the entire claim at once or through a method sometimes identified as recoupment. Payments plans are another way customers may repay SNAP benefits, especially in the cases of an inactive SNAP recipient charged with overpayment. To return the overpaid amount, recoupment payments deduct a small amount of upcoming SNAP benefits until the recipient pays off the amount to the DHHS. Customers who intentionally misreport information to the DHHS are subject to higher recoupment than those who unintentionally violate SNAP reporting policies. Depending on which amount is greater, intentional violators must pay 20 percent of benefits or $20, whereas unintentional violators owe 10 percent of benefits or $10.

Customers must sign and return the payment agreement plan to the DHHS within 20 days of receipt. If customers neglect to return this completed and acknowledged payment plan, the plan will automatically reduce the SNAP benefits. If household situation changes, both the DHHS and the household may ask to adjust payment amounts. Additional repayment methods include collecting wages or withholding amounts on the federal tax return or other federal benefits, especially if the payments are delinquent.

Food-Stamps.org Provides 12 Weekly Savings Tips To Live By

Now, more than ever, as most goods and services seem to keep rising in price, it’s important to strategize a money-saving plan. Saving money by monitoring spending habits and cutting expenses can go a long way. Any person can turn his or her financial life around by simply committing to relearning how to view money. The only way to be successful and purposeful with a new personal financial plan is to be open-minded and willing to make real changes to old habits. Those interested in discovering simple ways to mindfully improve their finances should read the tips below provided by the team at Food-Stamps.org.

The 30-day rule

When making a big purchase, there is no need to rush into anything. After receiving a paycheck it’s easy to quickly blow money when a shiny new thing catches your attention. The team at Food-Stamps.org suggests waiting 30 days before making a big purchase. In those 30 days, you can decide if the purchase really makes sense. You’d be surprised how many purchases you make that would not pass the 30-day rule if you were to implement it into your life.

Don’t spend big money entertaining your kids

Parents often think that kids need the biggest and newest toys in order for them to be happy, but that’s simply not the case. Children often want their parent’s time and dedication, whether spending a day at the park together or drawing indoors and watching a movie.

Write a list before grocery shopping

One of the easiest ways to save money is by making a list before grocery shopping. Without a list, it is easy to make impulse purchases based at what you are craving and what you see. The Food-Stamps.org team suggests creating a shopping list to follow that will ensure you buy the things you actually need and stick to your budget.

Negotiate credit card interest rates

An unpaid balance on a credit card can accumulate a lot of interest over time. It is important to know that if you have been making payments, you still may have power over controlling the situation. The Food-Stamps.org team found that not only do you have the right to negotiate your current interest rate with your credit card issuer, but transferring a balance to an entirely different card with a lower interest rate is also a completely viable option.

Plan your meals

Food can be extremely expensive when you don’t have your meals planned. Blueprinting your meals usually also means healthier meals, compared to unnecessary splurges. Rather than going out for pizza or getting fast food for everyone, planning meals will be exponentially cheaper and will save you money overall.

Buy generic

Most generic products are identical to their brand name competitors. Essentially, customers are paying for a box design and name. Sometimes, consumers do not even realize that they are buying generic brands because of how customary it has become.

Buy in bulk

Buying items in bulk often means a cheaper price tag. Only purchase items in bulk that make sense. Purchasing a pack of 50 cookies may lead to eating more than usual, causing you to spend more by going through it so fast. Toothpaste, soap, toilet paper and cereal are all items that make sense to be bought in bulk.

Plan for those ‘no cooking’ days

Fast food does so well in our society because of how convenient it is, and most people are always in a rush from one place to another. On those days that you’d rather stop at a fast food joint instead of cooking a meal for the family, it’s most tempting. Therefore, the Food-Stamps.org team suggests that families keep healthy meals frozen and ready to pop into an oven at a moment’s notice. On days where you already are cooking, try to make an extra portion to store for a long, tiresome day.

Don’t wait to get gas

Make a habit of filling up your gas tank when feasible. By waiting until you are on empty or close to empty, you indirectly spend more money in the long run. When you are on empty, you have no option to look around for cheaper gas, and usually have to settle with whatever is available, even if it is more expensive.

Get an energy audit

Energy audits explain exactly where energy leaks are, so that residents can focus on improving the most important places to save money. Many utility companies now offer free energy audits for customers, because it allows customers to learn about conservation. It’s important to unplug appliances to conserve energy and not waste money. Keeping your computer, microwave, television and toaster plugged in at all times is a waste of energy and money.

Review your finances weekly

Saving money and being realistic with financial goals is important. Every week, plan out where money is going and commit to reviewing any purchases that were made. Then, you will be able to weed out the most unnecessary purchases to break your bad spending habits.

Set real and tangible goals

It’s crucial to be specific with financial goals. Saving can be exciting at first, but after weeks of putting money away, it’s easy to lose motivation. Hold yourself accountable by checking that you’re meeting certain goals. Creating a visual chart can help keep on track when trying to meet financial goals.

6 Tips for Repurposing Leftovers From Food-Stamps.org

The team at Food-Stamps.org understands that families across the country may struggle with balancing a food budget and saving time in the kitchen. Long workdays and income restrictions mean families want to maximize relaxation time and get the most out of their expenses. Although eating leftover food is one resourceful way to save, consuming the same food all week becomes boring and bland. Some families buy specialty ingredients for one dish and are at a loss with what to do with the leftover components. Those households looking to explore their kitchen creativity while saving time and money have the perfect resource in leftover meals like those provided below.

Soups and Stews

Soups and stews are versatile dishes that easily incorporate leftover food in the refrigerator. Soups are especially good for a comforting meal that takes minimal effort. Some soups require short amounts of cook time, just needing long enough to heat all the way through and blend all the flavors of a dish. Some families may choose to invest in a slow cooker for recipes that benefit from long, low heat, as these appliances can simmer safely during working hours or overnight. Leftover foods like rice, pasta, vegetables, beans, meat and sauces are perfect for mixing into broth or stock for an easy and filling meal. Favorite spices and herbs incorporated into this mixture will help elevate the meal to new heights. Also, for a splash of color and fresh flavor in premade or canned soups, utilize similar techniques to enhance the quality and amount of food available. The group at Food-Stamps.org suggests using dried or fresh herbs from your pantry for an experience that is extra flavorful.

Pizza

For a child-friendly and creative meal, the team at Food-Stamps.org suggests combining leftovers and pizza for a meal that even kids will want to help prepare. Encourage adults and children alike to think outside the box when customizing their pizza slice with leftover ingredients, like chicken parmesan or a vegetable medley. This technique works for any pizza type, whether homemade or store-bought. Another fun treat is a homemade, personal pizza that uses a bagel or tortilla as a crust and incorporates leftovers for a personalized meal. Try to use leftover Alfredo sauce, broccoli and chicken to create a white pizza with a twist.

Sandwiches

The sandwich is a lunchtime classic due to its simplicity and ease of preparation. You could choose to substitute the bread, the fillings and the toppings of a sandwich with leftovers. Experiment with different bread types in your pantry, like yesterday morning’s waffles or cinnamon raisin bagels, to add a sweet touch to your savory meal. You could also stick with a savory flavor profile and opt for a leftover hot dog roll instead of sliced bread, or last night’s dinner rolls for mini sandwiches to prevent food waste. Also, do not forget to test out your leftovers as fillings, like thin slices of steak or last night’s pork chop, in lieu of lunchmeat. The team at Food-Stamps.org suggests topping your sandwich fillings with leftover vegetables or salad to round out a nutritious and well-balanced meal.

Breakfast

Although the mornings before school or work are busy, there are plenty of opportunities to incorporate the week’s leftovers into the most important meal of the day. Egg dishes, like omelets or scrambled eggs, are excellent opportunities for utilizing leftover meat, cheese and vegetables. Salsa and sour cream from Tuesday night tacos are the perfect addition to scrambled eggs and help prevent unnecessary food waste. Also, you can create a unique breakfast sandwich by combining yesterday’s BLT ingredients with a sunny-side up egg, or Monday night’s burger leftovers with breakfast toppings for a savory start to the day. Furthermore, before you throw out overripe fruit or neglect last night’s fruit-based dessert, freeze it and save it for a smoothie when you are ready to blend it, or add it to your morning meal of oatmeal, cereal or yogurt.

Salad

Salads are incredibly versatile, easy-to-prepare and nutritious meals that all families can enjoy. Leafy green salads, pasta salads and other salad varieties are perfect for combining with leftover ingredients and meals. Uneaten bacon and hard-boiled eggs from breakfast are excellent toppers for a salad, and leftover chicken presents the perfect opportunity to make your favorite chicken salad sandwich for lunch. Additionally, uneaten vegetables are healthy mix-ins for a refreshing pasta salad, and leftover meat is a filling addition that transforms a leafy green salad into a satisfying entrée. For anyone with a sweet tooth, cut up leftover fruit for a sweet contrast, or use its juice in a tangy salad dressing.

Mix and Match

The team at Food-Stamps.org encourages households to use their imagination when experimenting with leftover-inspired meals. Pick themes and try to implement those flavors in unusual or unexpected ways, like a Southwestern spaghetti night to utilize the ingredients bought for another night’s meal. Although it is tempting to run out and pick up a missing ingredient, try to substitute a missing ingredient with leftovers from the house to save time.