Do you prefer shopping for daily essentials on a budget? If you use an Electronic Benefit Transfer or EBT card, you’ll be amazed to know the range of purchasable items extends beyond the basic bread and butter.

While EBT cards are commonly used for food assistance through programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), you can buy some surprising things with EBT.

Let’s unveil some lesser-known but buyable essentials and treats your EBT card can provide.

What Is EBT?

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) is a government program in the U.S. that provides eligible low-income families and individuals with funds for purchasing food.

It’s a system allowing recipients of government assistance benefits to access funds electronically. Qualified individuals will receive an EBT card instead of paper food stamps or checks. The card functions similarly to a debit card.

What Are Some Surprising Things You Can Buy With EBT?

Here’s an exciting list of things your EBT card can help you get.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

You read that right! EBT isn’t only for canned or boxed items; EBT can be used to purchase a wide variety of fresh produce, helping you maintain a healthy diet.

So you can stock up on a colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables, from crisp apples to juicy tomatoes, making it much easier to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet.

The next time you want to grab a healthy snack or prepare a fresh salad, your EBT card covers you.

Seeds and Plants

This one will truly surprise you: In some states, you can use EBT to buy seeds and plants for growing your food at home.

Those with a green thumb wanting to grow their vegetables and herbs will be delighted. The satisfaction of harvesting your produce is unlike any other.

Organic Foods

There’s a common misconception that EBT doesn’t cover organic items. Contrary to popular belief, you can use your EBT card to purchase organic products as long as they’re eligible under the program guidelines.

So yes, you can opt for healthier, pesticide-free options with your EBT card.

Farmers’ Market Purchases

Supporting local farmers while putting fresh, locally-grown produce on your table goes hand-in-hand when you use EBT, which is now accepted in many farmers’ markets.

Not only do you get fresh, seasonal goodies, but there’s also the contentment of supporting your local farming community.

Note: Some community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs) also accept EBT payments. CSAs provide subscribers with regular deliveries of locally-grown produce throughout the growing season.

Online Grocery Shopping

Digital trends have also affected EBT, and some states with pilot programs allow EBT users to order groceries online. Some online retailers accept EBT payments for eligible food items.

Some Live Seafood

This has got to be one of the crazy yet surprising things you can buy with EBT.

If you’re in the mood for some lobster or crab, you can pick up live ones in many places with your EBT card. While this may seem extravagant, this option allows you to enjoy a special meal or even sell lobsters for an extra income.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

From milk and refreshing juices to calming tea or that essential morning coffee, you can use your EBT card to quench your thirst.

If you’re wondering whether you can walk into a Starbucks and use your EBT card, you cannot; it only covers non-alcoholic beverages intended for home consumption.

While not universally applicable, in some states, you can use your EBT card to buy energy drinks with a nutrition facts label (as opposed to a supplement facts label). But be aware of the caffeine content and drink responsibly.

Remember, while EBT does cover a range of drinks, alcoholic beverages are off the table.


As weird as that may sound, you’ll be glad to have your EBT card on hand during autumn and pumpkin season.

Whether you’re carving spooky Halloween faces or whipping up a homemade pumpkin pie, pumpkins are typically EBT-eligible. Although that doesn’t cover all pumpkins; decorative gourds aren’t a part of the deal – they’re considered ornamental, not food.

Bakery Items

Does your sweet tooth have you craving some sugary treats now and then? Or are you celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary? Luckily, EBT has your back.

Pre-made cakes and bakery delights, including bread, muffins, pastries, etc., are often included in the list of eligible items. Just be mindful of inedible decorations; these might not be covered.

The next time you pass a bakery, use your EBT benefits to indulge in a treat.

Snack Foods

Undoubtedly, it’s always best to prioritize nutritious meals. Yet, just about everyone enjoys an occasional snack.

With your EBT card, chips, cookies, or even some popcorn for movie night can all be part of your shopping list now. Snacks are many, and most qualify for EBT, including trail mixes and certain ice creams.

The next time you’re craving a treat, look out for those gourmet or specialty snacks – you might just be able to grab them with your EBT card.

Baby Formula and Baby Food

Parents of infants can breathe a sigh of relief. EBT benefits cover essential items like baby formula or baby food. Even the youngest family members get the nutrition they need, thanks to EBT.

While most non-food items aren’t covered under EBT benefits, there are exceptions. Parents will be delighted to know diapers may also qualify as eligible purchases under the program in some states.

Spices and Seasonings

Here’s something to delight cooking enthusiasts: enhance your dish’s flavors with various spices, from basic salt and pepper to exotic vanilla extract or cinnamon.

These are often overlooked culinary additions, but with EBT, you won’t have to compromise on the flavor of your dishes anymore.

Cold, Prepared Foods for Home Heating

Generally, the hot, ready-to-eat foods are off-limits for EBT card holders. But there’s no need to be disheartened; you’ll likely find some stores that sell prepared but cold items you can heat at home.

Think about items like rotisserie chicken – if it’s sold cold, it can be EBT-eligible.

Note: You can use EBT at select restaurants through the Restaurant Meals Program in certain states. This allows elderly, disabled, or homeless recipients to have hot meals prepared for them outside of their homes.

Things You Cannot Buy With EBT Cards

Here is a list of items that aren’t covered under EBT benefits:

  • Vitamins, medicines, and supplements: Items with a Supplement Facts label are considered supplements and aren’t eligible for purchase with EBT cards.
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, and tobacco: From low-alcohol beers labeled as non-alcoholic to liquor-filled chocolates, dealcoholized wine, and electronic cigarettes, none of these are covered under the EBT benefits. However, you can buy wine vinegar and cooking wine with your EBT card since these are cooking ingredients.
  • Hot prepared foods: Cooked, hot items, including stew, hot cocoa, chili, or prepared meats, aren’t applicable for purchase with an EBT card.
  • Live animals: The exceptions for this category are live fish, live shellfish removed from the water, and animals slaughtered before pick-up from the store.
  • Non-food items: Cosmetics, hygiene items, cleaning supplies, pet food, and cooking utensils aren’t applicable for purchase with an EBT card.

Things To Keep In Mind

As excited as you might be about the surprising things you can buy with EBT, you must also keep a few things in mind.

  • Each state has specific guidelines for purchasing items with EBT benefits. It would be wise to familiarize yourself with your state’s policies.
  • Not all items are eligible for purchase with EBT. You can’t buy hot foods, household items, or non-food items with your EBT card.
  • While SNAP primarily covers foods meant for human consumption, other EBT programs, like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), have a broader range but likely with additional restrictions.
  • Be mindful of your EBT balance. Know the remaining amount on your card before going shopping to avoid overspending.
  • Keep track of your receipts, as you may need them for eligibility checks or discrepancies.

With these tips in mind, you can make the most out of your EBT benefits and enjoy a variety of nutritious and delicious options with ease.

Surprising Things Your EBT Card Can Cover

EBT cards provide a vital lifeline for many families, covering a much wider range of items than expected. While restrictions exist, particularly on hot prepared foods, alcohol, and non-food items, the benefits extend to various products. 

Take advantage of EBT and make the most out of your shopping trips – whether it’s stocking up on nutritious foods or indulging in a treat now and then. Remember, every little bit counts when it comes to providing for yourself and your loved ones.

This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.


Jude Uchella is a passionate research writer whose work has been published on many reputable platforms, including MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Washington Times-Herald. He prioritizes research, writes comprehensively, and only shares factual and helpful content. He is a reader’s delight! Jude Uchella is also the founder of Health Makes and Inspired by Insiders – two sites with a mission to educate and inspire readers to make healthier life choices, and be the best version of themselves.

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