Getting Started: Once a Month Cooking with SNAP Benefits

On November 28, 2011 by Kelly

There was a time in the past, when I was a single mom struggling to raise and feed my three young boys ages 1-6. As most moms, I wanted to give my children the healthiest options possible for their growing little bodies. And before I was on food assistance, that was a very daunting task for me. Unfortunately, the healthy foods are the most expensive and there were some weeks when I could only put a Totino’s Frozen Pizza on the table.  So when I qualified for assistance, I was ecstatic to be able to offer my boys fresh fruits and vegetables and to prepare freezer meals ahead for those nights I didn’t have time to cook.

Freezer cooking while on food assistance can be done. In fact, it is a great way to stick to your food budget and still serve your family home cooked meals. Make sure to read the Get Started post on Saving on Cooking Costs. This is the first step in learning how to make the most of your food assistance dollars. Here are a few things that I tried to do when planning my freezer cooking for the month during this time:

  • Know your local grocery sales. Plan your menu around this!
  • Stick to recipes with a low number of ingredients – typically the more ingredients, the more expensive they are.
  • Plan to make recipes you know your family will like. This is not a time to try a new expensive recipe only to throw it in the trash because no one wants to eat it.
  • Prepare lunch options for yourself too. Eating out lunch during the work week can be expensive, this is also a way to have a variety of lunch options.
  • Learn to LOVE leftovers!  It isn’t always fun, but try adding an additional ingredient to last night’s meal to pep it up.
  • Remember that you will need to budget separately for your food storage containers (freezer bags, foil pans, aluminum foil) as they won’t be covered by your food assistance dollars.

Freezer meals can be a huge benefit to you and your family when you are on food assistance, offering you quality homemade meals at a lower cost than you might expect. And you can do an OAMM menu plan utilizing your food assistance dollars. When utilizing the menus on OAMM, I suggest trying a few recipes for the first month, as to not expend your entire food assistance budget soley on freezer cooking.

Start with a few recipes with staple, low cost ingredients such as ground beef, pasta, cream of soups, tomato based sauces. In the beginning I would actually print out the recipe cards, put them on a clip board and go through the store and price out each individual ingredient. Then when I came home I’d add things up and see how much of my month assistance I would need to prepare “X” number of meals. After a few months you will begin to know off the top of your head which recipe choices will be most cost effective for your family.

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  1. Such great advice! I’ve used your site for nearly all my research on getting started! I’m also excited I’ve gotten started slowly and I’m really looking forward to becoming a pro (i hope.)

  2. Question. If someone is on SNAP, how can they afford the membership? Is there a way to donate/sponsor memberships? I too was on SNAP years ago and I needed every dime of my TANF as well.

    1. Cherilyn, our resources were free at one point which helped many. Since we’ve moved to paid membership we still believe that it can help many. By doing one membership for a family of four, that $10/month can save hundreds throughout the month and year. Our recipes are all still free so it can be done on your own without the membership. The art of freezer cooking can save you money and time. Our membership helps you save even more time and energy, but we can still help you in many ways with the free resources on our site. We do have a few free Mini Menus on our site, as well as the free menu that comes when you sign up for our newsletter. Our series “Create Your Own Menu” shows you step-by-step how to do it all yourself, too: http://onceamonthmeals.com/cre…. If there is a great need for a scholarship, please email us and we’ll take it into consideration.

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