Benefits from the Colorado Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can be spent on a wide variety of food items. These benefits, also referred to as food stamps, will buy healthy items that can be cooked into meals at home. These benefits can also purchase snacks and cooking ingredients.
While there are many things you can buy, it is just as important to learn what your benefits cannot be spent on. Once your application is approved, it also helps to know how your benefit amount is calculated and when you can expect to get your funds each month. Learn more about the food stamps program in Colorado below, so that you can plan ahead when using your benefits.
Which food items can you buy using food stamps in Colorado?
The SNAP program allows you to shop at a wide range of places with your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. Note that this card may also be referred to as a QUEST card. Many supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores and even some farmers’ markets accept benefits.
In most cases, participating stores will display a QUEST logo in the window to indicate that benefits are accepted. If you are unsure of whether a store accepts food stamp benefits, you may also ask an employee before you start shopping.
Colorado SNAP benefits can be used out-of-state as well, due to the fact that all states use the same system to process benefits. This allows you to use your funds while traveling or visiting family in other states.
Overall, SNAP assistance can be used to buy a wide range of food items. Most benefits are spent on staple foods, which are items that make up a significant portion of your diet. Examples of food in this category include:
- Protein items like meat, fish, eggs or poultry.
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt or infant formula.
- Non-dairy products like tofu or almond milk.
- Grains, nuts and seeds, including bread, cereal or oatmeal.
- Produce including any fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
You can also use SNAP food benefits to buy plants or seeds and grow produce at home. Benefits can even buy accessory food items, which are foods that generally cannot be eaten on their own as a full meal. Examples of these items include:
- Certain snacks such as chips, candy or cookies.
- Cooking ingredients like flour, sugar, vegetable oil or baking powder.
- Condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise or hot sauce.
- Beverages including tea, coffee, sports drinks or soda.
This list is not all-inclusive. Learn more about the items you can and cannot purchase with food stamps when you download our free guide.
Products You Cannot Buy Using Food Stamps in Colorado
SNAP benefits cannot be used everywhere, as certain locations are not authorized to take EBT cards. These include casinos, cruise ships, liquor stores and other similar locations. Even if you found a food item that you could usually purchase with SNAP, you would not be allowed to buy it at a prohibited location.
In addition, food stamps cannot be taken out as cash at an ATM, or as cashback at the grocery store. There may be some confusion if you receive cash benefits in addition to food benefits on your EBT card. Just keep in mind that the SNAP portion of your benefits cannot be withdrawn as cash.
While SNAP is not available at all locations, there are also certain items you cannot buy. In particular, you cannot purchase any of the following things with SNAP food stamps in Colorado:
- Alcohol, including beer, wine or liquor.
- Cigarettes and tobacco products.
- Non-food items such as cleaning supplies, paper products, cookware or pet food.
- Vitamins, medicines and anything with a “supplement facts” label.
- Hot or ready-to-eat food items, such as a meal from the deli.
With very few exceptions, food stamps also cannot be used at restaurants. When a restaurant is allowed to take these benefits, they usually only serve SNAP participants who are elderly, disabled or homeless and cannot cook at home.
Misusing your card can result in penalties, such as a restriction on your benefits or even disqualification from the program. Always be sure to use your card properly so that you can retain your benefits.
How are food stamp benefits amounts calculated in Colorado?
The Department of Human Services (DHS) serves as the food stamp calculator for your state. Using the information on your application, the DHS will determine your benefit amount.
You will receive the same amount of benefits each month until your certification period is over. However, when you renew your benefits, your amount of assistance may change based on your current circumstances. For example, if your income goes up, you may receive a lower benefit amount in the future.
To estimate your potential benefit amount, you can use an online SNAP calculator and enter your household and financial information. Learn more about the amount of assistance you may receive by downloading our free guide.
When do you start receiving SNAP benefits after applying in Colorado?
Your Colorado food stamps will usually begin no more than 30 days after you complete the SNAP application process. However, benefits may start more quickly if the DHS is able to process your application sooner. In some cases, you can receive benefits in as little as seven days.
This may happen if the DHS determines that you have extremely limited resources and income. In any case, your benefits will be available in your account on the same day each month, even if this day falls on a weekend or holiday. This can help you plan ahead for shopping trips better.
Did you know? If you do not use all of your food stamp benefits in one month, the balance will carry over to the following month. You can check your balance and the expiry date of your benefits by calling the customer service number on the back of your benefit card or logging into your EBT account.
Last Updated: February 22, 2023