Frugal Living: Popcorn, the All-Season, All-Budget Snack

By ERIN TURNER

We spent spring break in Iowa.

With temperatures soaring into the high 80’s, there was lots of talk about corn. Do you plant this early and risk a frost? Or do you wait and potentially miss out on an early crop? It seemed like this was the buzz all over town…corn, corn, and more corn. Kinda like when it snows early in the season here in Montana, everyone is wondering if the ski resorts are going to open early.

But all this talk of corn made me a little hungry for my all-time favorite snack: Popcorn!

I loved popcorn when I was a kid, I ate it as my sole source of nutrition in college and have now passed on my love of the snack to my kiddos. It’s a great food -healthy, easy, and there are lots of variations.

I’m not sure how many years ago microwave popcorn came out but it changed the face good old-fashioned popcorn. Suddenly now you could through that package into the microwave and within minutes it pops up and it’s ready to eat.

But gradually the research started showing what those kernels were being popped in. Here’s an article about the health effects of microwave popcorn. Not that I don’t love the buttery smell and taste of microwave popcorn, but the health concerns are just too large for me to want to eat it. Aside from that, it is expensive and when you love popcorn like I do, it adds up!

Erin's favorite frugal snack: Popcorn!

So what is a popcorn-loving girl to do? Find other ways of popping it! Because I do love the ease of microwave popcorn and love that my kids can make a bowl by themselves, I found a special container which is made for popping raw corn kernels in the microwave. It’s handy and just as quick as a bag of microwave popcorn.

A couple of years ago, I found at a thrift store a brand new corn popping pan. You place it on the stove and with the handle you stir the seeds as they begin to pop. I use organic coconut oil to pop the seeds in and it gives the popcorn that awesome movie theater taste without all the nasty chemicals. I love using this pan but it is definitely not kid-friendly as it gets very hot and sometimes the oil spits out onto your hand. But the resulting snack is well worth the effort!

Another way our family pops corn is using my air popper from college. The kids think it is the coolest thing ever and act like it is so old-school. (Really!? I’m not THAT old!) This method of popping corn is the healthiest because there are no added calories or fat being added. But I’m a popcorn addict and I love to have a little flavor and kick to my popcorn so I usually add a little butter and seasonings!

Erin's variety of popcorn makers.

The seasonings is what popcorn is all about. When I was a kid there was a great store in Missoula called the Corn Popper. Anyone remember it? It had every flavor you could think of—sweet, spicy, savory, and everything in between. At home, I would try to create my own flavors, much to the chagrin of my parents and brothers. (Smart though, because I’d end up with the entire bowl to myself!)

I tried hot mustard powder and soy sauce, Tabasco and parmesan, and my favorite: Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, chili powder and parmesan cheese. Mmmm! It is fun to create and explore different flavor combos. My newest creation is kettle corn—adding a touch of sugar and salt creates a non-stop eating frenzy in my kitchen.

This winter when our family made a trip to the Amish Discount Store, I bought a five-pound bag of popcorn for a $4.67. That bag will last us a good number of months.

Costco also has big tubs of raw popcorn for a reasonable price. If you compare it to microwave popcorn, you’ll be amazed at the savings of popping it yourself. Plus, think of the savings in medical bills if you don’t eat all those deadly chemicals laden in the microwave bags – ha!

Whatever the farmers do in Iowa this spring – plant early or plant later – I hope the corn crop this year is abundant and there is lots of popping corn produced. It’s a perfect snack for all seasons, all ages, and all budgets.

Happy Popping!

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Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, and sticking to a budget in her previous posts: What I Love About Missoula, Frugal Living: Spring Cleaning on a Budget, and Frugal Living: Homemade Deli Meat. Be sure to check out the Missoula Save it Club.

   Visit the Coupon Queen’s “Save It”archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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