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Editor's Note: To help protect the food assistance program, or "SNAP", please take action hereThank you! -Elisa
Over the past few years, budget cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have hurt million of families and children across the nation. 48 million kids in our nation qualify for free and reduced lunch in schools, and at least in a handful of states, over half of their students quality for free or reduced lunch! 
A lot of us young and single families need SNAP. As we wait for the politics to change and advocates to continue fighting for us, here are some tips to budget on SNAP. Please keep in mind that many families do not receive as much aid as they need because of their hourly wages or the number of hours that they work. Plus, these tips are useful for anyone who wants to eat healthy on a budget!
Buy frozen vegetables and fruits in bulk especially during holiday seasons. 
Holiday season gives you the ability to buy vegetables -- frozen vegetables especially -- at sometimes a fraction of the cost. Buy extra in order to add to your dinners for the coming months. In addition, buying fruits and vegetables in season and planning meals accordingly save your SNAP benefits. 
Or buy in-season veggies & fruits!
You might have to incorporate veggies and fruits you do not use as often, but remember, all veggies make a great side for chicken or beef!
Shop at varying ethnic stores in your area. 
Growing up in a very diverse country before I immigrated, I was accustomed to ethnic shops. However, I found this particularly essential in this country to survive when I first became a SNAP recipient. 
The collective of El Salvadoran, Honduran, Mexican, Pakistani, Indian, and Middle Eastern markets have offered cheap produce, essential meats, and staples like rice and beans. In some Halal markets, I was able to buy chicken, especially, at way cheaper prices than going to any chain grocers. This was great to put in soups and add with the Latino staple: rice. 
When you are not buying vegetables and fruits on sale during the holiday seasons, these international grocers are essential to feeding your little ones with fresh fruits and vegetables. When I go, I buy as much as I can. I come home to chop them up and freeze them immediately. Whenever I am cooking chicken or beef, I open up the freezer and throw in some veggies. These are time and cost savers especially during a time crunch. 
Its hard to shop on SNAP with the budget cuts, and afford fruits and vegetables. The current SNAP benefits truly make it difficult to buy nothing else but carbs and low nutrition foods just to keep our little ones satiated. I know! I’ve been there! But this is where ethnic grocers help us!
The prices of herbs and spices cannot be beat! Oregano, parsley, thyme, cilantro, onions, bell peppers etc., are so much cheaper, making it nearly impossible not to feed your family nutritious meals. One Mexican market sells Chia seeds so cheap, I have a constant bag of those. 
If you are packing your child’s lunch, these shops are usually cheaper for lunchbox essentials if you are purchasing some overseas brands. My son is currently enjoying a mango juice box from Egypt. There are cookies and all sorts of treats usually containing less sugar, preservatives, and chemicals compared to American brands. This is also a cheaper option for keeping snacks in the car (so you don't have to make those dreaded stops at fast food joints when your kids are crying of hunger in the backseat).
Now, sometimes, one grocer will have the meat cheaper and you'll have to go to another one for the produce, but every once in a while it will all be at one stop. The good thing is that the Middle Eastern part of town and Latino part of town usually contains a variety of shops congregated into a general area. I have not been to a Latino or Middle Eastern market yet that does not take SNAP, but feel free to call ahead and ask! 
If you can't find any ethnic grocers in your area on Google, not to worry, a lot of them are not necessarily listed. You might have to explore a little, or ask co-workers or leaders of the communities where they shop for food from back home. 
If you are in a small town, rural area, or just live in a state that's not very diverse, farmers' markets usually accept SNAP. Note: If you are looking to shop for American or popular brands in these stores, they will usually be double the price. You'll have to continue purchasing those in American grocery stores. 
Always have a pack of chicken bouillon. 
At the Middle Eastern markets, you can purchase halal bouillon if that's to your liking. This is a great and quick way to add flavor to any rice, soups, vegetable dishes without having to spend extra on seasonings, especially when you're running out of funds at the end of the month. This occurred to me when I ran out of vegetables and all of my bottled seasonings, and had no funds left! We got through the week and my son was fed well with the chicken bouillon added to our rice, beans, and chicken. 
Keep a bottle of honey and peanut butter
I found that both of these are not only filling for our children's tummies on such a low budget, but complement so many fruits and veggies or crackers and breads. After dinner or after school, an apple with honey or peanut butter is a great snack. Both have great benefits nutrition-wise. I purchase my honey from Middle Eastern markets because they are all natural and sometimes even come with bits of the honeycomb. These are said to be better for our bodies especially for allergies! I have started buying Jif’s Natural Peanut Butter as it's inexpensive. It contains Palm Oil instead of partially hydrogenated oil.  
I hope these tips will prove beneficial for your little ones! Times are tough. I know some of us have faced hunger some nights, but these tips will hopefully carry you and your little ones over an extra couple of days or weeks. 

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