Food stamps help many families purchase groceries that they otherwise may not be able to afford. Because beneficiaries receive a fixed amount of money from SNAP food benefits each month, it may be difficult to figure out the best way to make the groceries last until benefits are distributed again. With well-planned budgeting and smart shopping, SNAP beneficiaries can purchase nutritious foods that will last all month without having to worry about not having enough benefits. Here are a few tips to keep in mind before using food stamps benefits each month.

1. Plan meals ahead of time.

It is easier to estimate how much money you will need to spend on food when the meals for the next week or two are planned out in advance. Even creating a loose plan of the meals that you will prepare during the week gives you a better idea of what you will need from the grocery store and can possibly cut down the amount of unnecessary foods purchased each month.

2. When possible, buy in bulk.

Although buying in bulk may cost more up front, the large supply of food you will take home will last much longer than buying standard-sized packaged food. Purchasing food items in bulk is also more cost effective because the price for buying something in bulk is usually significantly lower than buying the same amount in standard packaging.

3. Keep fruits and vegetables fresh as long as possible.

For many people, the most frustrating part about buying fruits and vegetables is that they go bad relatively quickly. Although foods with preservatives may last longer, they don’t keep you full for as long and can sometimes even cause overeating.

Try buying longer lasting fruits and veggies like oranges, apples, potatoes, and squash, and storing these items in the fridge to help them stay fresh longer.

4. Avoid junk food.

It’s no secret that junk food is much cheaper than healthy food, which is why many Americans on fixed incomes opt for foods that may not be so healthy. However, purchasing junk food because of its price may actually be more expensive in the long run.

Often, foods with little nutritional value can leave you feeling hungry. The reason for this is that the body recognizes when a diet is lacking a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals. This causes most people to feel hungry for even more junk food in an attempt to supply their bodies with the nutrients they need.

In the long run, it may be cheaper to buy foods that have decent nutritional values. Nutritious foods usually keep you feeling fuller longer, so you might not have to buy as much nutrient rich food as you would buy junk food.

5. Use food stamps to buy produce seeds.

In Texas, food stamps benefits can be used to purchase seeds to grow produce. A pack of 100 or more seeds typically costs no more than a few dollars. A few seeds may produce food for months. If you have enough free time to tend to a few plants, making a commitment to grow a small garden can be an extremely cost effective way to use food stamp benefits.