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Stretch Your SNAP Funds With these SDSU Extension Tips

BROOKINGS, S.D. - U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Purdue, authorized the early release of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds. January 20, 2019, more than 93,250 South Dakotans who depend upon SNAP to help feed themselves and their families will receive their February SNAP funds.

This is not an additional benefit. The early release is due to the partial government shutdown. We do not know how long the shutdown will last, even if it ends in February, individuals still won’t receive their benefits until March 10.

Receiving food assistance early could create a challenge, explained Kimberly Wilson, Family & Community Health Field Specialist, who works with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program (EFNEP) & SNAP-Education (SNAP-Ed). Typically, SNAP recipients would receive these funds February 10.

“South Dakotans need to make these dollars last, because this is their February payment,” said Wilson, of the funds designed to supplement a grocery budget by about $4 per-person-per-day. “Because these funds are only designed to provide a percentage of the money necessary to feed a family, sadly, for many families, when they receive SNAP benefits January 20, their accounts may already beempty.”

Wilson is among a team of SDSU Extension staff who are working with South Dakotans to help them stretch their SNAP funds.


“You are not alone. Our team is here to help South Dakotans. And, the information we provide is evidence-based and proven. The information is tested for more than five years before it becomes part of our SNAP-Ed curriculum.”

— Kimberly Wilson, SDSU Extension Family & Community Health Field Specialist

The SDSU Extension nutrition team is available in locations across South Dakota to meet over the phone or one-on-one with individuals and help them create low-cost, healthy meal plans.

SNAP funds don’t expire – plan to make them last

Once SNAP funds are issued, they are good for 12 months. They do not expire for a year and do not have to be used the same month they are issued. To help stretch the grocery budget, Prairey Walkling, SDSU Extension Family & Community Health Field Specialist, said to begin by meal planning.

“Meal planning allows you to take advantage of sales offered at grocery stores, it reduces the number of trips you make to the grocery store and, it allows you to plan healthy, low-cost meals,” said Walkling, who meal plans for her family of four a week at a time. “I encourage making a plan for five, low-cost main dishes. If you have ingredients you need for five main dishes, then you can re-purpose left-overs for the other two days in a week.”

Evidence-based tips to stretch SNAP funds

Below, Walkling and Wilson provide evidence-based tips to meal planning and more.

When meal planning be sure to:

  • Know how many people will be at every meal.
  • Plan menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, writing down all ingredients needed to prepare each item.
  • Check your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer for items you already have. If you do not need it, do not buy it.
  • Organize your list by the layout of the store - this will keep you from backtracking and possibly buying items not on your list.
  • Buy canned or frozen fruits and vegetables rather than fresh. Canned and frozen often cost less and will last longer.
  • Plan the use of leftovers. When safely handled, leftovers can be used in casseroles, soups, for snacks and in lunch boxes. 

When meal planning try to avoid:

  • Pre-packaged (convenience) foods like bagged salads and individually wrapped slices of cheese. These items are usually more expensive.
  • Frozen or boxed meals. These usually contain a lot of fat, sugar and sodium and can cost up to twice as much more as making it at home.
  • Fruits and vegetables that are already cut - they are usually a lot more expensive
  • Junk food (candy, sodas, chips…)

Also: Look at serving sizes of each package to determine how much food you will get from that item. Remember, prepared foods cost more than unprepared foods. Lettuce will cost less than bagged salad, just as a chunk of cheese will cost less than grated cheese. Buying fresh potatoes and preparing them yourself is usually cheaper than instant mashed potatoes.

To learn more about how to stretch your grocery budget or SNAP funds, contact one of the eight SDSU Extension Regional Centers. Find contact information for SDSU Extension Regional Centers online or below:

Aberdeen: 605.626.7120
Lemmon: 605.374.4177
Mitchell: 605.995.7378
Pierre: 605.773.8120
Rapid City: 605.394.2236
Watertown: 605.882.6300
Winner: 605.842.1267
Sioux Falls: 605.782.3290

an image of a recipe for confetti bean salsa and its nutritional value
Courtesy of USDA-SNAP

 This nutritious recipe can be re-purposed into three meals.

  • Meal 1: Prepare and serve over brown rice.
  • Meal 2: Add meats and cheese and roll it up in a whole wheat tortilla.
  • Meal 3: Use it as a foundation for a taco salad.