What can you buy with food stamps: List of approved items

In our previous post, you got to see what food stamps are and how they work. You get an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) once you become eligible for SNAP benefits, and are able to buy groceries. But the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides benefits and funds your EBT card, has specified what you can and can’t buy.

For starters, you can’t buy medicine. The essence of the SNAP is to provide low-come earners the opportunity to afford healthy foods necessary for their survival. So does that mean anything that isn’t edible is ineligible for purchase?

Let’s find out.

What can you use food stamps to buy?

Below are the products you can buy with food stamps at eligible grocery stores.

1. Fresh produce

Fresh produce aisle at Kroger

These are staple food items that you can buy in raw form at the grocery store and cook at home. For example, unprocessed fruits and vegetables like broccoli, apples, tomatoes, peppers, berries, carrots, asparagus, and more.

2. Meat and fish

Sausage meat in a grocery store freezer

You can buy fresh meat like pork, beef, lamb, and chicken from SNAP-participating grocery stores. You can also buy fish like tuna and mackerels. The term ‘meat’ implies that you’re buying the raw meat cut from the butcher’s section. You can’t buy live animals with your EBT card, but you can select a live one to be slaughtered, cleaned and packaged for you to take home. For example, fish. 

3. Breads, cereals, and dairy 

A loaf of bread and barley grains on blanket

You can buy all kinds of bread like Wheat bread, white bread, baguettes, tortillas, and banana bread. Dairy products like milk, yogurts, butter, cheeses, and ice cream.

4. Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages

Tea bag

Although snacks aren’t fresh produce, they are edible products and qualify for SNAP EBT purchases. You can buy popcorn, pretzels, potato chips, iced tea, ginger beer, smoothies, lemonade, and more. You can also buy ingredients for making these beverages, such as tea bags and mixes.

5. Seeds and plants

A growing plant seed in the dirt

If you don’t want to spend your EBT funds on store fresh produce, you can grow your own at home. Most grocery stores sell seeds that sprout staple foods, or you can buy plants or bushes with food-producing roots or bulbs. For example, potatoes and squashes.

Items that you can’t buy with food stamps

Below are products that don’t qualify for SNAP EBT purchase. You will have to use another payment method to clear them at the checkout section of the grocery store.

1. Alcohol and tobacco

Alcoholic drinks on a shelf

Alcoholic drinks like beer and wine are intoxicants, and not a food item necessary for your survival. They are also bad for your health when you consume them excessively, so they don’t qualify for SNAP EBT purchase. Most states in the USA have strict regulations in place to control the sale of alcohol and promote moderate consumption.

2. Live animals

White cat sitting on a black bin inside a tore

Unless you’re buying meat to be slaughtered, cleaned, and wrapped for you before payment, live animals are not eligible for SNAP EBT purchase. That means you can’t buy pets like dogs, cats, hamsters, or bunnies, even though you need them as assistance or service animals. 

If you must buy those kinds of animals, you will have to use another payment method. But before you take your assistance or service animal to a grocery store, find out if they allow them to enter the buildings. Most grocery stores like Aldi don’t allow animals.

3. Hot foods

Hot cup of coffee

Any food that has steam coming out of it, or has just been removed from the fire or oven, is not eligible for SNAP EBT purchase. Coffee is also not eligible since most cafes serve it hot. But you can buy coffee products from Starbucks like the beans used to prepare it. You can buy ground coffee beans or get them whole. 

4. Pet foods and more 

Sanitizers, bleach, and disinfecting wipes on a wooden table

Pet foods, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, cosmetics, and photography-related services like taking passport photos are ineligible for SNAP EBT purchase. You also can’t pay for delivery services or online charges, although some services like Instacart accept EBT. What happens is that they accept EBT for orders, not the delivery charges.

Instacart allows you to shop products from your favorite stores using its app or website. You can add products to your virtual cart and pay for the products with your EBT card. Then you will need to add another card to cover the extra fees attached to your order.


Enjoy your EBT cards when you shop at participating grocery stores or supermarkets. If you’re not sure where to use your EBT card, these 10 grocery stores accept EBT. Some of them have websites that allow you to add your card and pay for products online.