How to Get Enough Food Stamps to Actually Eat


Food Stamps Survival Guide
for People With Disabilities

Art by Robin Mead

You can apply for food stamps any time by contacting their local SNAP office.

This sounds really great, but as you have may already figured out, it does not always work out really great.

Many people get turned down for food stamps, or get an amount of food stamps that is too small to feed their families.

Sometimes this happens because a family simply is not eligible for more food stamps. Other times, it happens because people do not know or understand all the food stamps regulations.

Lucky you… You are about to learn all the food stamps regulations, so this won’t happen to you.

What’s SNAP? What’s EBT? What’s Food Stamps?

SNAP and Food Stamps are the same thing. SNAP is just a newer, fancier name.

The word “EBT” is often used to mean “Food Stamps”. However, technically, it actually means “Electronic Benefits Card.” It is a card that can hold SNAP food stamps, as well as some forms of child support and cash assistance.

Are Your Food Stamps Low or High?

If your food stamps are already at the maximum amount, there is no point in learning more rules. Your food stamps are never going to go above the maximum allotment.

๐ŸŽย  Before reading this page, check out this chart of Maximum Monthly Allotment for 48 States.

๐ŸŽย  Or check out this chart for Hawaii, Alaska, Guam and Virgin Islands.

๐ŸŽย  Extra Special Secret Confusing Rule: When you see the word “household” in this chart, that does not mean everyone you live with. What does household mean?

Household Rules

Are your food stamps low, or have they been denied, for one of these reasons?

๐ŸŽย  You live with other people

๐ŸŽย  Someone you live with has income or savings

You may find it helpful toย Learn the SNAP Household Rules

Rent Rules

Are your food stamps low, or have they been denied for one of these reasons?

๐ŸŽย You are getting free rent

๐ŸŽย ย You are getting free utilities

๐ŸŽย  Your rent is really low

๐ŸŽย  Your parents or a family member are giving you a free place to stay

You may find it helpful toย Learn the SNAP Rent Rules

Utility Rules

Are your food stamps low, or have they been denied, for one of these reasons?

๐ŸŽย ย You are not paying utilities

๐ŸŽย  Your utilities are included in your rent

You may find it helpful toย Learn the SNAP Utilities Rules

Work Rules

Are your food stamps discontinued or have they been denied because:

๐ŸŽย  You are unable to meet the work requirements.

You may find it helpful toย Learn the SNAP Policy for Exceptions to the Work Rules

Note: Some states don’t have work requirements.

Medical and Health Expenses Rules

Are any of these you:

๐ŸŽย  You are a senior (60+) and you have any kind of health costs

๐ŸŽย  You are disabled (any age) and you are receiving one of theย forms of disability benefitsย and you have any kind of health costs

Even if you think you have no health costs, or you think you have already given them all the information on your health costs, you should still read this page. You may discover some things that count as medical expenses that you were not thinking about.ย Learn SNAP Medical & Health Expenses Rules

Homeowner Rules

Are your food stamps low, or have they been denied, for one of these reasons?

๐ŸŽย ย You own a home

You may find it helpful toย Learn the SNAP Homeowner Rules

Elderly Rules

Are your food stamps low, or have they been denied because:

๐ŸŽย  When you applied, you were not a senior, but now you areย (60+)

You may find it helpful toย Learn the SNAP Rules for Elderly

Disability Rules

Are your food stamps low, or have they been denied, for one of these reasons?

๐ŸŽย  When you applied, you were not disabled, but now you areย (any age)

๐ŸŽย  You are getting one of these forms of disability benefits

๐ŸŽย  You think the disability rules may not have been applied to your case

You may find it helpful toย Learn the SNAP Rules Disabled

Student Rules

Were your food stamps denied, for one of these reasons?

๐ŸŽย  You are a college student

๐ŸŽย  You were a college student

If you are still in school, check out the student rules.

If you are no longer in school, you may be eligible now.

Assets Rules

Were your food stamps denied or discontinued for one of these reasons?

๐ŸŽย  You have too much money

๐ŸŽย  You own too much stuff

You may find it helpful toย Learn the SNAP Assets & Savings Rules

More Food Stamps Secrets

๐ŸŽย  Delivery: Looking for a way to actually get food with your food stamps? How to Get Groceries Delivered with SNAP Food Stamps

๐ŸŽย  Special Diets: Some states allow food stamps to be raised due to medical need for special diet (for example: gluten free). Try asking your food stamps caseworker if this is possible in your area. If anyone has had success trying this, please comment below and let us know what happened and what state you are in.

๐ŸŽย  Farmers Markets: Many farmers markets will give you extra free food if you use food stamps. For example, you pay $10 and it magically turns into $20!ย This bonus is available in many (but not all) states and farmer’s markets. Here’s where you can find a farmer’s market near you.

๐ŸŽย  And Repeat:ย If your area has more than one Farmer’s Market, or the Market is open on more than one day, you can return for additional groceries. Some areas have a limit. For example, in Massachusetts there is a limit of $40 in farmer’s market tokens per month for a household of one person.

๐ŸŽย  Gardening: In some states, SNAP can be used to by seeds, fruit trees, and vegetable plants.ย 

๐ŸŽย  Neroli’s Magic List: “I am going to address this to everyone who is disabled and is not getting enough food stamps to feed the themselves or their family: Pleaseย make sure you are writing offย every single medical expense.ย Stuff you donโ€™t even think relates to your disability counts.” Neroliโ€™s Amazing Guide to Deducting Medical Expenses for SNAP

๐ŸŽย  More Discounts: Good article on discounts and special features connected to EBT cards:ย Did You Know Your EBT Card Could Do This?

๐ŸŽย Store Bonus Programs:ย Good article on using cash back programs from Walmart, Ibotta, and Costco: Three legal ways to get cash back from Food stamps

๐ŸŽย  Home Delivery: Here’s where you can findย How to Get Groceries Delivered with SNAP. Please let us know if you learn of more services that accept food stamps. Comment below.

๐ŸŽย  Correcting Your Food Stamps: Now you know all the regulations! That doesn’t mean your caseworker knows all the regulations. If you think your food stamps were not processed correctly, here’s some ideas for next steps.

๐ŸŽย  Advocacy Guide: If you have more questions or run into problems, check out this fantastic SNAP Advocacy Guide from Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus from Mass Legal Help. This guide is for Massachusetts, but many of the sections would apply to all states.

Little Food Stamps Story

“My monthly Food Stamps went from $35 to $192 when I turned in my out-of-pocket medical expenses. They wanted me to show what my projected recurring monthly expenses, but I said I couldn’t do that. They were different every month. I turned in receipts for the previous year and told them to figure it out. And they did.” – Camellia

How Do They Decide How Much Food Stamps I Get?

๐ŸŽย  The formula for food stamps is complicated. If you have a calculator, a lot of free time, and a desire to be simultaneously bored and confused, it is here: food stamps formula. And here is theย chart of Standard Utility Deductions.

๐ŸŽย  Here’s a sample of a food stamps calculator you can play with if you wish (this one is from Illinois). Notice how someone can pay $10 more in medical expenses, and have a $90 increase in food stamps!

๐ŸŽย  Fundraisers: Many people with disabilities and chronic illness fundraise to cover medical and living expenses. Unfortunately, this can affect your SNAP and other benefits. You will need to check the specific policies for SNAP in your state. There is some general information and advice on this page:ย How to Fundraise Without Losing Your Benefits

California Only

Previously, people on SSI could not get food stamps. Now, there’s been a change in the law. If you are on SSI, you can now apply for food stamps! It’s called CalFresh in California.

Other Options

๐ŸŽ Many areas have food banks that offer free groceries. National food bank directory.

๐ŸŽ Meals on Wheels and home meal programs offer free or low cost meals in many areas. Some programs are restricted to seniors, but others will serve anyone who is homebound or has difficulty leaving their home. Contact your local area agency on aging and they can hook you up.

๐ŸŽ Many areas have other food programs available at churches or nonprofits. Try dialing 2-1-1 on your phone to see what is available in your area.

๐ŸŽ Food stamps are not your only option. There are many other discounts and programs to help people with disabilities: How to Be Poor in America

Updated February 2019. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.ย 

44 thoughts on “How to Get Enough Food Stamps to Actually Eat”

  1. I am currently receiving SNAP. I just moved out of my apartment last month to help my elderly parents . I would say I am a caretaker for them. I live in NJ and had to go to Florida that my mother will be undergoing a serious back surgery and had to admit my father in a home for dementia. With that I will be moving into their home in NJ that will now permanently be staying in Florida. My temporary move to their home is for me to help them financially to cover my dads fee for the living in a home.
    I will be paying my mother rent for living there.
    I am due to expire in July for my snap benefits which I have to reapply with another interview to see if I can be extended.
    If I will be paying my mother does this qualify the same when I was renting my apartment? I am due to lose my unemployment the following month so between that and losing snap I am getting very nervous how I will be able to live and eat.
    Please advise any steps


  2. Just wanted to let you know that I have been trying to get the $50 from Expensify ever since you posted the link. I’ve done everything required, and followed up several times only to be ignored. It seems to be a waste of time. But I love your website! It’s so informative and I appreciate all of the work you’ve put into it, including the gorgeous artwork ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. For 30 years I have not been able to work, I have never met such a clever website on this subject as it is on HOWTOGETON. In plain language you can find everything you have been looking for a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks so much for the info, I got some groceries delivered today thanks to info on your page. I am already claiming just myself in my household as a non-homeowner paying rent and utilities, and my total food benefits are only $68 a month. Any thoughts on what else i can do to increase this?


    1. That’s great you were able to get delivery. In some states the formula changes depending on whether utilities are included in rent or separate. For disabled people, documenting health and medical expenses also creates a change.


  5. Hey sleepygirl,

    Do you know what happens if I have EBT this month but start working as an independent contractor for an out of state employer? I am in Arizona, new boss is in California and has just started paying me but won’t report anything to the IRS until the end of the year when he does his taxes. The case worker said If I use EBT and they later find out about new income I will have to pay them back, can they actually enforce this? What do you reckon I should do? Not trying to break any laws but the EBT is very helpful since I’m not making much at the moment and would prefer to keep it without having to call a caseworker and go through all that process again.



    1. Hi dwayne,

      I’m sorry I don’t know the exact rules for your state, but you would need to report when you first receive the income, not when it is sent to the IRS. Unfortunately, you may owe money or have other problems if you wait.

      If it is temporary or one-time income, it might be treated differently then an ongoing job. Some states do not count one-time income.

      As far as I know, they will let you keep the EBT you already received this month either way.


  6. Hi, Sleepygirl. Good article you have here, except for one thing. SNAP and Food Stamps are definitely the same thing. Technically, SNAP is the federal program that replaced the food stamps program when the benefits went from physical “stamps” to a card system. However, EBT is not the same thing as SNAP. EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is simply the debit card that holds the SNAP benefits, but an EBT card can hold other benefits in addition to (or instead of) SNAP benefits. TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) benefits are also placed on an EBT card, as are Child Support payments and, in some jurisdictions, school clothing allotments.

    I just wanted to clarify this, especially since someone who thinks an EBT card is the same an SNAP might see someone using an EBT card to buy clothing or diapers or household items or whatever and think they are somehow cheating SNAP, when they are actually using their TANF or school clothing benefits or their Child Support funds. Some people already feel that they are entitled to make judgment on how a family chooses to use their SNAP benefits. We don’t want to give them even more ammunition.


  7. My daughter is 19, receives SSI and lives at home. She rents a room from us and, purchases and stores food separately and most of the time, dines separately. She is considered a separate household. Since she lives at home with us, do I have to include her dad and I on the SNAP application as part of her household? Thanks.


  8. Thank you so much. Really appreciate the response. I have to double check but pretty sure it’s SSDI. $900. Medicare deducts from that.

    The “bills being paid by the other person” is not actual $- it’s credit card debt being incurred to pay medical bills. this is quite upsetting for the sick person to now be towing another person down. Apparently more aid is available if one lives alone but the well person is providing care as well (food prep, daily activities, even feeding and carrying for several extended, 6+ month periods in last two years).


    1. If it’s only $900/month, they should be eligible for a medicare savings program.

      That would pay all monthly premiums, plus any co-pays or out of pocket medical costs (as long as doc accepts medicare)

      If that does not work, you could look into other options for medicaid or other programs that help with medical bills here:

      I don’t know what kind of care the person needs, but if it includes personal care assistance (bathing, eating, dressing, etc), they could be eligible for a medicaid waiver program. This could give them a home aide, or could pay a salary to the family member that is assisting them.

      Rules for medicaid programs do vary, so you’d need to check the individual program to see if being a dependent on taxes impacts eligibility. As I wrote before, I don’t think it would impact food stamps, but might impact some kinds of medicaid, but I’m not 100% certain.

      Hope this helps.


  9. Hi, thanks for a great article and a wonderful site. Extremely helpful!

    We have a situation with an SSDI recipient, dependent on a working person.
    This changes the taxpayer’s status from single to head of household & adds a ‘dependent’ deduction.

    We were told that because this is the situation, the SSDI recipient was ineligible for other benefits.
    Meanwhile, the supporting party is going into debt to care for SSDI recipient.

    Q: Are food benefits still an option? Will they remove the tax advantages and essentially negate themselves?
    (separate food containers are no problem- already do this most of the time, due to dietary restrictions)

    Any clue would be helpful- limited time to spend on this and truly no clue how to navigate the system (or anyone else to ask)

    Thanks so much!


    1. Do you know if the person is on SSI or SSDI? Are they collecting maximum SSI ($771 or higher)?

      Being a dependent will disqualify the person from some forms of medicaid. I haven’t seen dependent status being an issue for food stamps, there could be a rule I do not know.

      However, the IRS rules are you can declare someone a dependent if you are paying more than half their expenses. Anyone who has more than half their expenses paid by someone else may not have enough financial need to qualify for any other programs. Hope this helps.


    2. p.s. If a food stamps worker tells you that the person is ineligible for their own food stamps account because they are a dependent, you could request a written copy of the policy that states this. Policies can vary by state, and sometimes people are told incorrect info.


  10. Help me please. A guy friend of ours had introduced me and my husband to his new girlfriend. She had two younger children 2 and 4. Well life ha ld went down the wrong path for her and she ended up homeless and about on the streets with her kids. So I helped her out. I moved her in with the understanding that she would get a job and get out as soon as she could get the $ up. She ends up staying with us for a total of 3 months pretty much rent free from July to september. Little by little things ended up disappearing at the house. Shirts, clothes, games movies. And finally she moved out. But not without first stealing my daughter’s play station 4 that she had got in December of lastbyear. Now when she was staying with us we had come to an agreement that she would pay just 200$ a month while staying with us. Nothing more. Well seemed like it was always excuse after excuse on why she couldn’t get the $. So she ended up paying us some by paying through buying food for us. Now she still owed like 400$ so she said that she would pay by giving me her food stamp card # and getting another 400 worth of groceries. Well I did this. Come to find out she lied. She. Ended up calling her case worker and they are doing an investigation. Said they will be pressing charges. She gave me permission. I would never do that to anyone. What do I do?


  11. One more question: how do you recommend applying for SNAP? In person, online or mailing a paper application? Thank you Kay.


    1. Any of those three ways are fine. If you feel unsure about the rules are unsure how to fill out the application, then making an appointment in person might make you feel more comfortable that everything is correct.


  12. Hi Kay. I am now trying to fill out the SNAP application for my daughter who receives SSI. The application is, of course, as complicated as the SSI application process. On the SNAP application, where it says “monthly income’ do I put the amount of my daughter’s monthly SSI payment? Also, the SNAP application states that you cannot have more than $100 in a bank account to be eligible. Does this mean a checking account? I am asking because when my daughter gets her SSI check there is more than $100 in her account. The amount decreases as she buys food and other essentials throughout the month.


    1. Hello Elizabeth,

      Yes you would list your daughters monthly SSI payment. You may or may not also list the income for other people depending on her age, who she lives with, and the arrangements for food.

      I have never heard of an asset limit that low. It may be a typo.


  13. My husband and I are homeowners. Last year, he was having mental issues which got very severe. There was no way he could work. We applied for SNAP and got a lousy $107 a month. I told the caseworker that I don’t make enough money to pay all of our bills and buy food. She didn’t care, surprise surprise. My husband is still unable to work. I added vacation time to 2 of my checks so I would be able to pay the mortgage. That was when we had to reapply. The 2 checks I had to show them had the vacation time on them. It isn’t a permanent thing, just a one-time thing. They dropped our SNAP to $15 a month. WHAT?? We may as well get nothing. Is there anything we can do or are we just SOL?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should be able to contact your caseworker and request your benefits be reassessed if your income has now dropped back down. Show proof of the amount you are now being paid. I hope it goes well for you.


  14. If you are homeless, are there ways to make sure you get enough food stamps to survive? My sister is homeless and on SSI and they only give her $12 in food stamps because her income to expenditures ratio but because she has to purchase food with income, she can’t save enough to get a place.


  15. Is there any provision in food stamps for people that have health issues that cause you instantly to have higher food expenses than other people? (Made even worse by living in a an expensive area).

    I am referring to people with severe allergies (like me) who cannot eat a lot of processed items because I am highly allergic to many ingredients, leaving me in a position that I need to buy, for example, things like fresh bakery bread for twice the cost of commercial bread, items that are low in sugar and items that are lacking certain things completely.

    I know other people who have similar issues because they must be sugar free completely, or no gluten or who have been told to eat things like grass fed beef or no hormones milk and on and on…

    So whatever the details, “special” diets get super expensive super fast and make it near impossible to eat just on food stamps in those circumstances.

    Or if not more food stamp money, is there any other place that assists people with these particular issues?

    Any ideas? Or anyone else reading this with info?


    1. Great question. I really cannot think of anything, except to try to find a farmer’s market that doubles some of your food stamps, since most farmer’s market food is healthier and unprocessed – some of them have things like local meats and breads.


  16. I live in california and as soon as my disability was approved my food stamps were completely cut, they said you cant be on both here.
    Do you have a list of states that dont have this policy?


    1. Hi Lulu,

      As far as I know, California adds a state supplement of $150 to SSI checks. It is the only state that does this.

      If you move to another state, you will be able to get food stamps back, but your SSI check will go down quite a bit.

      The maximum SSI in California is $890. Is that what you are currently receiving?


  17. Question: in the scenario where Jim Pays For Stuff versus paying the rent directly, if Jim pays his mom rent by check instead of paying for things around the house, does Jim’s mom have to report the checks as income on taxes or to Medicaid if the mom was on Medicaid? It’s just another kind of reimbursement – but I’d want to make sure in a similar scenario that I wasn’t messing up the other party financially just to get food stamps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent question!! Yes, I think this is a very good point. I am not 100% certain so please double check.

      My understanding would be that if Jim’s mom is collecting rent from an adult child, she would report this as income.

      Depending on the situation, it might not affect the Medicaid. She would probably need to research what the Medicaid income limits are, depending on what state she is in and what type of Medicaid she receives.

      If she is on SSI, that could be lowered due to new income. SSDI would not be affected.

      I do not know a lot about taxes, if someone collects rental income, I believe there are some extra tax deductions they may be able to take. This could lower the taxes.

      Most assistance programs will consider the amount of income AFTER business expenses for a small business. If the mom is renting and has tax deductions related to the rental, it could be that Medicaid considers the income after deductions. This is something worth looking into.

      For utilities, this does not have to go through the mom. Jim could just pay his share directly to the utility company. As far as I know, this would not affect medicaid or taxes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting. I would think that they won’t need a letter if you are past retirement age, but if you are younger, I don’t know why they didn’t ask for it. Glad it worked out for you. ๐Ÿ™‚


      1. My girlfriend moved in right about the time she lost her job. It’s been 4 months… I’ve been purchasing all the food, And we eat together. Do I Apply for food stamps and include her?
        Or should she apply for food stamps and include me?.. I don’t want to apply and do something wrong ..tks


        1. Will you still be sharing food after she gets food stamps?

          If yes, then you would apply together and both people’s finances count. It doesn’t matter who puts in the application.


    2. Be careful . Social services said they over paid me they said 20 yrs ago and now they are trying to get me to pay


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