What Can You Buy With Food Stamps/EBT? Answered (+ What You Can’t)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is widely accepted for food purchases at most grocery stores and some gas stations, convenience stores, and farmer’s markets across the U.S. If you receive SNAP benefits, you can use an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card, to make your purchases.

Eligible food items include staples like meat, vegetables, bread, and cereals, as well as snack foods and frozen meals. Not all types of food and food items are eligible for SNAP purchases; we list the items that you can and cannot buy with your EBT card below.

Note: See our related research for information on the EBT deposit time in your state.

What Can You Buy With EBT/SNAP?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services SNAP Eligible Food Items page, you can use SNAP benefits to buy the following:

  • Food for your household, including bread and cereals; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish and poultry; and dairy products
  • Snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Seeds and plants that produce food for your household

As a general rule, if an item has a Nutrition Information or Nutrition Facts label (rather than a Supplemental Facts label), it is likely eligible under the SNAP program. Below, we list the categories and specific items/brands that you can buy with EBT cards/SNAP, as well as where you can buy them. Note that when you are traveling, you can also use your EBT card to buy these items in different states.

Baby Food/Formula

Note: The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is handled separately from SNAP benefits. While WIC benefits may restrict the types of foods that you can purchase, there are no brand restrictions for baby food or formula purchases with EBT. Learn more about WIC-eligible foods on the USDA WIC Food Package Regulatory Requirements page.

  • EBT-eligible brands: Enfamil,[1] Similac,[2] all major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types (powdered, concentrated, and ready-to-feed liquid formula; baby food jars; baby cereal; baby snack items)[3]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Baked Goods

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fresh baked, prepackaged, day-old/discounted[4]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, bakeries, gas stations, farmers markets

Bread and Cereals

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types including prepackaged, mixes, instant, ready-to-eat, and all ingredients[5]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations, farmers markets

Candy

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types[6]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Coffee

Note: Hot, ready-to-drink coffee is not eligible for purchase with EBT/SNAP.[7]

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Ground, whole bean, prepackaged, bottled cold coffee, single-serve pods for Keurig and similar coffee machines[7]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Cooking Ingredients/Spices

Note: Some stores may restrict which types of ingredients are eligible for EBT/SNAP payments. Typically, ingredients that are only consumed after being incorporated into foods with other ingredients are eligible.[7] You can ask store associates to confirm before purchasing an ingredient.

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Vinegar; cooking oils including vegetable, canola, and coconut oil; food coloring, condiments; spices; artificial sweeteners; salt substitutes; and cooking spray — these products carry nutrition information labels and are therefore considered food.[7]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Dairy Products (Including Ice Cream)

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types[5]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Energy Drinks

Note: As a rule, you can buy energy drinks with EBT cards/SNAP if they have a Nutrition Information label. Energy drinks with Supplement Information labels are not eligible to buy with EBT/SNAP.[8]

  • EBT-eligible brands: Monster, Red Bull, Full Throttle, Amp, NOS, Rockstar (all of which have a Nutrition Facts label); most generic or store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Ready-to-drink cans[8]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Frozen Entrees/Frozen Dinners/Uncooked Pizza

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types[7]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Fruits and Vegetables

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands; all produce
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fresh, frozen, canned, prepackaged[5]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations, farmers markets

Lunch Meat/Deli Food

Note: Hot, prepared foods to be eaten at a store — such as in-store café services — can’t be purchased with EBT/SNAP.

  • EBT-eligible brands: Lunchables and other prepackaged combination food brands; all major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fresh sliced or pre-sliced deli meats and cheeses; packaged deli foods and prepared foods (including rotisserie chicken and cold sushi) that will be eaten at home.[7]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Meats, Fish, Seafood, and Poultry

Note: Live animals, such as chickens, are not eligible for purchase with EBT/SNAP.[5]

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fresh, frozen, canned, prepackaged, live seafood (lobsters, fish, shellfish)[5]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations, farmers markets

Non-Alcoholic Beverages and Alcohol Mixers

Note: Alcoholic beverages are not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. However, some alcohol-related and non-alcoholic beverages are eligible.[7]

  • EBT-eligible brands: Any non-alcoholic or alternative vineyard brand with 0% alcohol content
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Non-alcoholic beverages, sparkling cider, cooking wine, mixes for alcoholic drinks[7]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Nutrition and Dietary Supplements

Note: This category includes items such as protein powders and meal replacement shakes. As a rule, items with Nutrition Information labels are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits, while items with Supplement Information labels are not eligible. You can ask store associates to confirm before purchasing if you are uncertain.[7]

  • EBT-eligible brands: Slimfast,[9] Pedialyte,[9] Ensure (as previously reported), some store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Powdered, ready-to-drink[7]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, health food stores, gas stations

Our article explains how to buy protein powder with EBT/SNAP.

Seeds and Plants

  • EBT-eligible brands: All brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fruit trees, flaxseed, alfalfa seed, and nasturtium seeds; any edible or food-producing seeds or plants[7]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, health food stores, farmers markets

Soft Drinks (Soda/Pop/Coke)

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types[6]
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

Miscellaneous

In addition to the main categories, there are several other types of food items that are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. These include:

  • Gift baskets: You can use your EBT card to buy gift baskets with food and non-food items if the value of the food items is at least 50% of the total price.[7]
  • Pumpkins: Whole pumpkins are considered food items and can, therefore, be purchased with EBT cards/SNAP. However, inedible gourds for decoration are not eligible.[10]
  • Special occasion cakes: Items such as birthday cakes, graduation cakes, and other special occasion cakes are SNAP eligible, provided the value of non-edible decorations is not more than 50% of the total price.[7]

You can also buy these individual specialty food items with EBT/SNAP:[7]

  • Baker’s yeast
  • Bottled water
  • Corn husks
  • Goat’s milk
  • Honey
  • Ice (cubed, bagged, or blocked)
  • Vegan foods

Find a list of these eligible and ineligible items and more by downloading the Generic Product Determinations (Excel spreadsheet) from the USDA SNAP Eligible Food Items page.

Finally, in certain rural areas of Alaska, you can purchase hunting and fishing items with EBT cards/SNAP including bows and arrows, harpoons, knives, fishing lines, hooks, nets, and other necessary equipment. Learn more about this exception on the Alaska Division of Public Assistance EBT page.

What Can’t You Buy with EBT/SNAP?

The USDA states that SNAP benefits can’t be used to purchase:[7]

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco
  • Any nonfood items including household supplies, soaps, paper products, cosmetics, grooming items, and pet food (dog food, cat food, etc.)
  • Vitamins or medicines
  • Food that will be eaten in the store
  • Hot foods

Any prepared or hot foods that are to be eaten on-premises, such as at restaurants, fast food places, and in-store cafes, are not eligible for purchase with EBT/SNAP. The only exception to this rule is the Restaurant Meals Program, which provides prepared food for the elderly, disabled, and homeless in limited areas from participating fast food restaurants.[11]

The Restaurant Meals Program is currently available only in California, Arizona, Florida (Alachua County only), and Rhode Island. You can find out more about fast food restaurants participating in this program in our article about which fast food places take EBT/SNAP.

Additionally, some particular items in eligible categories are not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. As a rule, anything that does not have a Nutrition Information or Nutrition Facts label is not considered food and therefore isn’t eligible for purchase with EBT cards/SNAP. Ineligible items include, but are not limited to:[7]

  • Bitters (alcohol-based flavoring such as liqueurs)
  • Canning jars and lids
  • Charcoal
  • Cod liver oil
  • Cough drops
  • Crabs (cooked and hot) — however, live crabs and fresh or frozen crab legs are eligible for purchase with EBT
  • Diapers
  • Dry ice
  • Energy drinks with Supplement Information labels (including 5-Hour Energy and G Fuel Energy)
  • Fertilizer and insecticides
  • Flax oil
  • Gift baskets that contain less than 50% food
  • Gourds used for decorative purposes
  • Ice cream cone/sundae (fresh dipped and made for on-premise consumption, such as at an ice cream stand or store window)
  • Livestock (live animals or birds)
  • Nutrition and dietary supplements with Supplement Information labels (including Metamucil, Body Fortress, GNC, and most protein powders)
  • Special occasion cakes that are more than 50% non-edible
  • Toilet paper

In Summary

If you have an EBT card and receive SNAP benefits, you can use it at the majority of grocery stores, as well as some gas stations and farmers markets, to purchase food items — as long as the item is not hot or prepared food that will be eaten on the premises. In general, any food that you take home to eat is typically eligible for EBT/SNAP, including food ingredients and cooking ingredients. If you’re not sure whether an item is considered food and therefore SNAP-eligible, the easiest way to tell is to read the product label. If the item uses a Nutrition Information or Nutrition Facts label, it is considered food.

For more about EBT/SNAP, we explain whether or not an unborn child affects SNAP eligibility and whether your benefits will roll over at the end of the month. We also list the grocery stores and gas stations that accept EBT.

  1. https://www.enfamil.com/reimbursement-support[]
  2. https://similac.com/count-on-similac[]
  3. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Is-baby-food-and-infant-formula-eligible-for-purchase-with-Supplemental-Nutrition-Assistance-Program[]
  4. http://content.dcf.ks.gov/ees/KEESM/Appendix/X-2_AN_EXPENDED_DEFINITION_OF_ELIGBLE_FOODS_7-01.pdf[]
  5. https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items[][][][][]
  6. https://dhhr.wv.gov/ebt/cardholders/Pages/What%20Can%20SNAP%20Buy.aspx[][]
  7. https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/snap/Food-Determinations-Eligible-Foods.pdf[][][][][][][][][][][][][][][][]
  8. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Are-energy-drinks-eligible-for-purchase-with-Supplemental-Nutrition-Assistance-Program-benefits[][]
  9. http://services.dpw.state.pa.us/oimpolicymanuals/snap/FSP_EligFoodList_2_18_05.pdf[][]
  10. https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/wr/snap-eligible-foods.pdf?_ga=2.255139085.46967995.1585141848-1340380686.1579544316[]
  11. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Can-I-buy-food-at-restaurants-with-Supplemental-Nutrition-Assistance-Program-benefits-For-SNAP-Clien[]