The Ultimate Cheapskate Snack

Posted on Posted in Healthy Eating For Less

popcornOur between meal snacks can add a significant, although often unnoticed, expense to our food budgets.

Yet its not just the added financial costs of potato chips, cookies, ice cream, and other snacks that hurt our budgets. The added calories also threaten our waistlines.

Recently, Ive been searching for snacks that are not only healthy BUT ALSO cheap. It seems one of the best is also an old time favorite POPCORN!

No, Im not talking about microwave popcorn loaded with salt, butter, and other difficult to pronounce preservatives. Im referring to the bags of popcorn kernels you pop yourself on the stove or in a hot air popper.

Popcorn kernels are dirt cheap. A typical bag of kernels costs around $2. Using a hot air popper, which can be purchased for around $10 to $15 at Walmart or Target, you can make popcorn for an insanely low 8 cents per serving!

As we illustrated in a previous posting, popcorn made with an air popper is quick and easy. It took us approximately three minutes and 18 seconds to air pop popcorn, compared to two minutes and 55 seconds to fix a bag of microwave popcorn.

062709popcornpopper1Not only is popcorn made with an air popper cheap, its also healthy. With an air popper theres no need for oil and you avoid all the salt and additives found in microwave popcorn. As a former dripping with butter popcorn lover who is now trying to watch my cholesterol levels, I have learned to love popcorn without the added heart clogging butter.

Popcorn is naturally low in calories and high in fiber. The perfect food. I make popcorn ahead of time and then portion it off into sandwich bags so that I have a cheap, quick, healthy snack whenever I want something to crunch on.

Aside: Why does popcorn pop?  Ive always wondered how popcorn pops. It seems that popcorn contains a starchy interior surrounded by a hard shell. The key to the pop is the very small amount of water contained within this starchy interior. When heated this water turns into steam and like a pressure cooker the steam increases pressure inside the kernel until the outer kernel shell explodes (or pops) giving us popcorn.

If you want to add a little flavor to your popcorn, you can always spice up this treat without butter. Put some zing into your popcorn by sprinkling a little cayenne pepper on the top.

Feeling more adventurous? Try a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese for additional flavor or add raisins, coconut, or sliced almonds.

For a true culinary adventure you can try Rachel Rays chili powder, paprika, and cayenne popcorn mix recipe or check out the East-Asian popcorn mix at

Using a hot air popper and bags of popcorn kernels you can create a snack that is both inexpensive AND healthy, and if youre feeling truly adventurous you can spice up your inexpensive popcorn treat.

Do you have a cool popcorn topping or creation that youd like to share?