(You had me at cheap and easy.)
Popcorn is #20 on the list of 44 Healthy Foods Under $1. Whenever I say “Does anybody want popcorn?”, applause and cheers erupt from my crowd of kids. I usually take that as a yes, and I often join in with the applause and cheering too because it’s so easy to make.
We get to call popcorn healthy because it’s a source of fiber and polyphenols – a type of antioxidant that is linked to cancer prevention. This article from Science Daily says high dietary intake of polyphenols are are associated with longevity. (Yay! Live long and eat popcorn!) This article agrees but also says the benefits of popcorn are often oversold.
Basically, you can eat popcorn but that doesn’t get you out of eating your vegetables too.
There’s one caveat of course: you gotta make it yourself.
But more cheers and applause! It is indeed a healthy snack that goes easy your bank account.
The Cost Analysis
I did a little grocery research (my favorite kind!) and found that a name brand bag of cheese popcorn cost $3.99, with all sort of “fun” ingredients to boot. (i.e., vegetable and seed oils. read: not fun).
According to the package, a 9 oz bag contains 15.75 cups. So that’s nearly 16 cups of of popped corn for $4 bucks.
The store brand microwave popcorn was $3 for 6 bags. That’s $0.50 per bag, each bag contains 2 Tbsp of popcorn, which is about 4 cups of popped corn for $0.50, that’s 8 cups for a $1, or 16 cups for $2 bucks.
Pop Your Own Corn
A 28 oz package of organic popcorn kernels costs $3.50 with 17 (1/4 c) servings per container. (1/4 c popped corn = 8 c popped corn)
(I do choose to go organic with popcorn because the list of chemicals that gets sprayed on conventional corn is enough to make me run screaming down the grocery store aisles.)
$3.50 for 17 servings = $0.20 per serving –> 1/2 c popcorn kernels to make 16 cups of popped corn for $0.40.
The Cost Breakdown
Packaged pre-popped corn? $4
The equivalent amount of microwave popcorn? $2
Movie theater popcorn? $hameful.
Making your own at home from popcorn kernels? FORTY! CENTS!
Me doing all this math for you? Priceless.
Granted, making your own at home is not exactly $0.40. There’s some additional cost for butter or whatever you choose to top it with, and if you have to buy an air popper, there’s some investment up front too.
We go the air popper route, this is the one from my childhood! We’re talking 1980’s, it’s probably close to 30 years old.
You’re aging well, my friend. Must be all those polyphenols.
Ours is a Presto, and the Presto Hot Air Popper is still the best selling air popper on Amazon today for less than $20 dollars.
Brown Bag It
When I was writing this post I learned that you can make your own microwave popcorn with kernels and a brown paper bag.
(Are you kidding me?)
No, I am not kidding you! Stunned. I had to try it myself before I endorsed such blasphemy and sure it enough, it totally works! There were some unpopped kernels left in the bag (much like regular microwave popcorn) but it was very easy. If you want to make your own popcorn at home (cheap!) without questionable ingredients (healthy!) and skip buying another small appliance (I wouldn’t blame you), get yourself some popcorn kernels and brown paper lunch bags and have at it.
National Popcorn Day is Sunday, January 19
This was the other thing I learned while writing this post! HELLO National Popcorn Day is coming right up!
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? We are gonna celebrate this holiday like it’s 1999 and I’m a college student living in a dorm room burning popcorn in the microwave and making my roommates complain and moan. Popcorn garland! Maybe a popcorn tiara? A popcorn ball gown! Popcorn confetti! Good thing popcorn is so cheap. Maybe with all the money I save buying popcorn I can afford a Dyson? I think we’re gonna need good vacuum after this party. Perhaps I’ll just work on a fun popcorn recipe before the big day instead.