Disclaimer: Aside from being given access to information regarding the Thrive Market petition I was provided no compensation for the below post. All opinions expressed above are 100% mine and mine alone unless otherwise stated.
When I was younger before I got sick, I had a plan for myself.
I was always a good student so I wanted to start working part time when I hit high school, that way I could gain experience and save some money for when I graduated, with honors, and went off to college.
I'd choose a college that meshed with my passions and work two or three jobs to support myself until I graduated and claimed a career, preferably one that allowed me to travel the world.
Reality hit at age 14 and all my plans and dreams went down the proverbial drain.
Now over a decade later at 26 years of age, I can't work a full time or part time job, I still live with my parents whom support me as best they can, I can't drive, I'm on medicaid, and I rely on food stamps to help me buy food.
Food stamps, SNAP, or Link as it is referred to is a monthly food stipend based on a person or family's financial needs. If you or you and your significant other make below a certain amount per year you may be eligible for help. You can pretty much buy all food items minus some fast food, hot and ready-to-eat foods, and any alcohol according to the state I live in but each state SNAP rules may be different.
As of right now you can only use your food stamps/SNAP/Link in brick-and-mortar stores which severely limits some options for people, like myself, who have dietary restrictions or disabilities that limit their mobility, but more on that later.
Regardless of who you are, food stamps or not, saving money is always a welcomed happening. I know my funds are very limited so I have to do what I can to make my monthly food stamp budget last. Here are a few of the things I've tried or plan to try to help make my money stretch just a little bit longer:
1. Watch your local weekly ads. For anyone who's on a budget, this is a no-brainer. Sales are the first place you go to try to save yourself some money. Each store has their own weekly circular ad with differing weekly sales, specials, and extras. Sitting down with all the ads, going through each, and figuring out what you need with what's on sale can go a long way. Don't forget to see what coupons you have to pair with the sale items! Apparently people go as far as making a sale chart to chart of what's going to be on sale during what week.
2. Look in unexpected places. A friend of mine who grew up with a thrifty mom and whom herself has been saving her family money for years told me when I asked her about couponing to look in unexpected places; don't count out stores like Dollar General or Dollar Tree, Big Lots, K Mart, and so on. As long as the store sells packaged foods, you can potentially use your food stamps/SNAP/Link on it and often times these type of stores have some pretty great prices and deals on these foods! Just to make sure before purchasing ask an employee or go online to find out if they accept food stamps. You can look up the closest SNAP-friendly places nearest you on the SNAP Retailer Locator.
3. Price match. Make sure to keep those weekly ads like I mentioned above because some stores actually price match! Price matching is pretty self explanatory but ultimately you find something cheaper somewhere else? Bring proof of that to your nearest store that price matches and they will honor that price. Places like Walmart, Target, and Amazon are said to price match but make sure you ask first and foremost before purchasing; sometimes on-the-floor employees can give you the wrong information.
4. Coupons, coupons, coupons. Need I say more or should I point you in the direction of TLC's reality show Extreme Couponing? I'm not talented or organized enough to get a few shopping carts full of food and fresh produce for pennies, but I do enjoy my coupons when I can get my hands on them! Sign up for your favorite brand's email alerts which usually offer occasional coupons, follow them on social media, join coupon-focused websites and blogs, shop at places like Mejier and Target who reward your purchases with in-store and manufacturer coupons, and of course your local papers...the possibilities are endless! Don't forget some of your local stores have double and triple coupon days where you can get more bang for your buck. The only drawback is if you're using coupons in conjunction with your food stamps/Link you'll have to pay the sales tax so make sure you have some extra change on hand.
5. Buy in bulk. When my mom was raising my sister and I, money was tight. We were a one income family and my dad was working all the hours he could. Since she couldn't afford her own membership at that time, a good friend and neighbor allowed mom to join in on the shopping experience and pay her cash after everything was purchased. Buying in bulk definitely is cost effective because a lot of the time when dividing the bulk items by the already pretty low purchase price, it's well worth the ending price per item, especially if you can store the non-perishable food items you buy. Regardless of whether you can afford a membership or not, buying in bulk is something to consider.
6. Meal planning. While I haven't done this yet, I've been meaning to give it a try for quite some time. Meal planning is a fantastic way to make sure you're staying on the right track health wise, save time for yourself and your family throughout the week, and, in the long run, saves you money since you're not forgetting about food and letting it go bad and you're only buying what you need for that planned week. Ellen of Confessions of an Overworked Mom has a fantastic article on how and where to start meal planning complete with organizational tips. A great place to get started!
7. Farmer's Markets. When I first went on food stamps/Link I only assumed it could be used in stores and that was it. I found out a little later that not only can you use them in stores that carry food and drinks, inclusive of grocery stores, gas stations, and unlikely stores like Menard's stated in number 2 above, sometimes it can be used at local farmer's markets! Farmer's markets are the best to find healthier food alternatives; not only are they super inexpensive but they offer a wide variety of fresh produce, baked goods, fish and meats, and more, oftentimes organic and non-GMO. Plus it's always nice to get to know local farmers. Just go on to your state's DHS website and review the list of Link approved farmer's markets in the state.
Back to the issue at hand.
For more than a year and a half Thrive Market has been petitioning the USDA to make food stamps redeemable online for the millions of people already receiving benefits. Did you know 23.5 million of that statistic live in food deserts, which means the option to use their food stamp benefits are extremely limited due to distance to nearest SNAP-approved store?
Not to mention those who are disabled and have mobility issues or those that don't have access to reliable transportation to even get to the store.
Here is a list of random, weird, and downright disgusting things you can purchase online:
- A lock of a celebrity's hair, their used chewing gum, a snotty tissue, etc.
- Pieces of toast that look like Jesus
- Used underwear
- Kangaroo scrotum keychain
So honestly, why can't people who have a legitimate need buy healthy, organic, and allergen-friendly foods online? It simply just doesn't make any sense at all why this hasn't happened a long time ago!
According to Thrive the USDA has been dragging their feet when it comes to bringing food stamps/SNAP/Link into the 21st century but with this petition launching at the end of June and all the support it's getting from nonprofits, bloggers, celebrities, and companies alike, they can't ignore us any longer!
Click the Sign the Petition image above to take you directly to the website or click ThriveAction.org. Even if you're not on food stamps, if you feel it is our right to be able to have easier access to healthy, organic, non-GMO, and allergen-friendly foods I highly suggest you think about signing and sharing this petition!
I happily signed because this petition would help make my life just that much easier. Will you?
Connect to Thrive Market:
Are you on SNAP/food stamps? Do you know someone who is? Will you sign the petition?