Can You Buy Cake With EBT?

Do you ever wonder what you can buy with your EBT card? Well, there are actually quite a few surprising things you can purchase. For low-income families who rely on food stamp benefits, it’s important to provide nutritious meals for their loved ones. However, it’s also nice to indulge in treats that make life more enjoyable from time to time.

To make the most of your SNAP benefits, it’s recommended to stick to dietary staples like meat, dairy products, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. But sometimes, you want to add a little something extra to make a meal special. Whether it’s a shrimp appetizer or a birthday cake for your child’s sweet sixteen, the food stamp program allows for some flexibility. In this article, we will explore the food stamp program, when you can use your EBT card, and what items are eligible for purchase.

A Brief History of the Food Stamp Benefits Program

The food stamp program has a fascinating history. It started in 1939 and underwent various studies, reports, and legislative proposals before becoming a pilot program in 1961 under President Kennedy. The Food Stamp Act was finally passed into legislation in 1964 by President Johnson, solidifying the program’s permanence.

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The program was designed to strengthen the agricultural economy and improve nutrition among low-income families. In 2008, it was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

What is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)?

SNAP is a federally funded nutrition benefits program that supplements the grocery budgets of low-income families. It is the modern version of the food stamp program provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Instead of physical food stamps, eligible families now use an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card to purchase food from various retailers.

Which Stores Accept Food Stamp Benefits?

Almost all grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and retail outlets accept food stamp benefits. You can check with your local SNAP office or the FNS website to find participating retailers in your area.

Can You Use SNAP Benefits to Shop Online?

Yes, many online retailers now accept SNAP benefits as payment. This is great news for those with limited mobility, who live in rural areas, or who don’t have access to transportation. Some participating online stores include Aldi, Walmart, Amazon, Safeway, and Albertsons. You can find out which stores serve your area by searching online.

What Can You Buy with SNAP Benefits?

With SNAP benefits, you can purchase a variety of food items. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Fresh produce, including most fruits and vegetables
  • Meats, poultry, and fish
  • Breads, cereals, and grains
  • Dairy products, such as butter, milk, and cheese
  • Other food items like snacks, spices, spreads, and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Fruit and vegetable plants or seeds for growing your own food
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For a full list of eligible food items, visit the FNS website and explore the various links for more details.

What Can’t You Buy with Food Stamps?

While you can buy most food and beverage items with food stamps, there are some exceptions. Here are a few examples:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco products
  • Vitamins, medicines, and supplements
  • Live animals (except shellfish and fish prepared prior to pick-up)
  • Prepared hot foods sold hot at the point of sale
  • Prepared cold foods mixed and assembled onsite
  • Non-food items like pet food, cleaning supplies, paper products, and cosmetics

For a comprehensive list, please visit the FNS website.

Surprising Things You Can Buy with Food Stamp Benefits

Although there are some restrictions, there are still some surprising items you can purchase with food stamp benefits.

Gift Baskets

Around holidays, low-income households can use SNAP benefits to buy gift baskets. However, the food items in the gift baskets must make up 50% or more of the total price. For example, Easter baskets filled mostly with candy and a few small toys are eligible items.

Vegetable Seeds

Seeds for fruit and vegetable plants can be bought using SNAP benefits. This is a great way to maximize your budget and save money. By growing your own produce, you’ll have fresh fruits and vegetables for a significant part of the year.

Hunting and Fishing Equipment

It may come as a surprise, but you can also purchase non-food items like hunting and fishing equipment with food stamp benefits. However, this is only available for remote Alaskan residents with a specially-marked identification card.

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Birthday Cake

Everyone deserves a birthday cake on their special day, and you can use SNAP benefits to buy one. Just make sure that the “food” part of the cake costs more than the decorations.

Restaurant Meals

In general, buying meals at restaurants is not eligible for food stamp purchase. However, there are exceptions. Some states have a Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) that allows certain individuals, like the homeless, disabled, or elderly, to use their food stamps at participating eateries, including fast food restaurants. Check if your state participates in this program and which restaurants are involved.


Believe it or not, you can buy lobster with food stamps. Of course, it’s considered a luxury purchase, but if you want to treat yourself to a decadent meal, it’s an option.

Farmers Market Purchases

You can use your food stamps to purchase fruit and vegetables directly from the farmers market. Fresh-from-the-farm produce often has more flavor and nutritional value compared to grocery store produce. Contact your local SNAP office to find participating farmers markets in your area.


Can you buy energy drinks with SNAP benefits?

Some energy drinks are eligible for purchase with food stamps, while others are not. Supplements like 5-hour Energy are not included, but popular brands like Monster and Red Bull can be purchased.

Can you buy protein powder with food stamps?

Yes, you can buy protein powder and other diet products with your EBT card. However, only brands considered as food items are eligible.

Can you buy formula with food stamp benefits?

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Baby formula falls under the category of dairy products and is eligible for purchase with food stamps. You can also purchase other baby food, cereal, snacks, and juices.

What can you buy with EBT at Walmart?

Walmart accepts food stamps and sells a wide variety of food items. You can buy practically everything you’re allowed to purchase with EBT at Walmart. Their low prices and accessibility make them a great option for low-income families.

Can you buy dog food with your food stamp card?

Unfortunately, you can’t buy pet food with food stamp benefits. However, you can buy food for yourself and share it with your pet. For example, cats often enjoy tuna fish, and you can get beef bones from the butcher for your dog.

Can you buy alcohol with EBT?

No, you cannot buy any type of alcoholic beverage with your food stamp card. However, you can use SNAP benefits for most non-alcoholic beverages, including mixers that go well with alcohol.

Can you buy Starbucks with an EBT card?

You can’t use your food stamp card directly at Starbucks coffee shops. However, you can buy Starbucks products at retail outlets since they are considered food items with nutritional value.

Remember, the main goal of the food stamp program is to provide assistance for low-income families to purchase nutritious food. While some items may seem surprising, they still align with this objective. So the next time someone wonders if you can buy cake with EBT, you can confidently say, “Yes!”

For more information on food stamp benefits and the SNAP program, visit Family Cuisine.

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Food Stamp Benefits

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