Planning meals while using food stamps benefits is an excellent way to promote healthier eating habits and potentially save money. When you plan your meals, grocery shopping and budgeting may become easier. In most cases, junk food is cheaper and much more accessible than healthy food. However, meal planning offers the advantage of knowing exactly what food items are needed for the month. Here are a few tips for meal planning for healthier eating while on SNAP benefits in Texas.

1. Plan meals while keeping in mind ingredients you already have at home.

When planning meals using SNAP benefits, it’s cost effective to cook meals from ingredients that you already have at home. Going to the grocery store to buy every ingredient for a particular recipe can deplete your benefits quickly. Instead, opt for recipes that call for many food items that you already have. You can even search for recipes that include the ingredients you already have on hand.

2. Look for coupons for food items you know you will need.

Finding coupons for food items you will need to prepare your planned meals can help you save money each month. Planning meals in advance means you will know exactly what food items you will need and allow you to search for specific coupons before visiting the grocery store. Alternatively, you can clip coupons and plan a meal based on the coupons you have collected.

3. Make sure each meal has a sufficient amount of each food group.

Well thought-out meals are generally more nutritious than meals that were not planned ahead of time because it gives you a chance to think about all of the food groups included in the meal. Unplanned meals tend be fast and unhealthy. Meal planning is a great way to make sure that your family is getting all of the fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy necessary for optimal health.

4. Create a chart or list of all household meals.

Between trips to the grocery store, make a list of all planned meals for the household. For example, if you shop every two weeks, create a list detailing all household meals for the following two weeks. This way, the household will generally have all of the food it needs until it is time to go grocery shopping again. Visualizing the actual meals can also be helpful if planned meals need to be switched around or adjusted.

5. Try to avoid pre-made meals.

Foods with preservatives are typically relatively low in nutritional value. Although frozen meals may be much easier to make, they are actually more expensive than cooking your own meals in the long run. Meals that are cooked at home tend to have fewer preservatives and may be able to satisfy you longer than frozen food.