Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Frugal City Popcorn

I love popcorn. It's my favorite snack, and if it's not doused in butter, it's quite filling, healthy, and low calorie. Over the years I have used an old-fashioned electric popcorn popper, a skillet, an air-popcorn thingy that spit the popcorn out the top, and most recently microwave popcorn. Once single-portion bags became available, it became my staple. As an manic recyler, I was bothered by the excess packaging - it comes in a box, with each coated bag individually wrapped, so there is a lot of waste, most of it non-recyclable. However, the popcorn was really good, so I went with it.
Until last week! I reached for the new popcorn box, and it turned out to be the same color and size, but was actually a box of tomato sauce cans. Whoops! Then I recalled I'd read on someone's frugal site (sorry not to be able to credit my teacher on this one) that you can pop corn in a paper bag in the microwave. So instead of purchasing another box of individual bags, I bought a bottle of gourmet popcorn and have been experimenting.
The results are great, and way less wasteful. Using a lunch-size paper bag (my current bag is from a drug store from some past prescription pick-up) put in about 2 Tablespoons of popcorn. Fold the top over once or twice and pop for 2 minutes on high. (This differs depending on the microwave's power.) Pour the popcorn into a bowl, spray lightly with butter-flavored oil, and salt with popcorn salt. I bought popcorn salt about 15 years ago and the bottle is still mostly full - it's just a finer grained salt. This popcorn is really good, and there is no waste. A higher percentage of kernels fail to pop, and I just dump them back in the bag and repop them the next time, adding another tablespoon or so of kernels. I was always afraid to do that, like unpopped kernels had something wrong with them, but that does not seem to be the case. I have used the same bag like 10 times already, and it was reused to begin with. You can be even more sustainable by purchasing organic popcorn. My electricity is wind-generated, so that adds to the sustainability, too. And this is frugal!!
After I posted this, a reader commented that some of the compounds used to manufacture microwave popcorn have been linked to lung disease in popcorn factory workers. I checked up on this, and while the big manufacturers have started to eliminate the compound from their products, who know what other ill effects just haven't shown up yet. One man who ate many bags of microwave popcorn a day has also turned up with lung disease, dubbed "popcorn lung". This is scary, and all the more reason to go with simple Frugal City popcorn.
I haven't calculated the cost per portion, but it has to be a tiny fraction of the bagged kind. For one thing, I'm not paying for the wasted packaging.
Enjoy your popcorn!

7 comments:

Michelle said...

I must try this!! What a great idea--totally healthy and oh-so-frugal. You'd think the bag would catch fire, but since it's been tested and I believe everything I read on the internet....I'm going to buy some popping corn and give it a try!! Thanks for the tip and I look forward to reading more!

bpt said...

I was skeptical when I read about this, but did feel guilty enough about all those microwave popcorn bags going in the trash, that I tried it. What is hilarious is that I've now used the same drugstore prescription bag about 10 times and it's in perfect shape. In fact, i think i'll go make some right now.

juicefairy said...

I have been meaning to try this trick to see if it works. Thanks for the directions.

vh said...

Whoa! That IS interesting!! My microwave came with instructions that said not to pop regular popcorn in a paper bag, 'cause it would start a fire.

Hmmm.... So it works, eh? Maybe I'll screw up my courage & try it. Right now I'm pretty pleased with just popping the same way my old mother did: in a kettle. Yum!

Aliza said...

I've been doing this for years, since I was a kid. It does burn more easily than the pre-bagged kind, depending on the microwave, if you're not careful. But it's also much healthier, and....

the fumes from the artificial flavor in the pre-bagged popcorn has been shown to cause severe lung disease for the workers in the factories making it. This avoids that, and frankly those fumes can't be too good for the consumer either over a longer period of time.

bpt said...

Aliza, thanks so much for this information. I found this online and you are 100% right - it poses risk not to just the factory workers, but also the consumer. Yikes. I'm off microwave popcorn forever! Here's the link.
http://pubs.acs.org/subscribe/journals/esthag-w/2005/nov/science/rr_popcorn.html

Midnightsky Fibers said...

I use an air popper for mine ($2 at a thrift store). I've always LOVED air popper popcorn since I was a kid- microwave popcorn in the little bags don't have really butter on them!

Do you ever put other things on your popcorn? I like to mix mine with some grated cheese (really finely grated, and only a tbspn or two), garlic and olive oil, a drizzle of carmel, different types of salts, etc.