Feeling the economic pinch on your grocery budget yet? I sure am. We’re working on creatively using leftovers in my house and finding less expensive, yet still healthy, foods for snacking. One inexpensive option that we make several times a week is popcorn on the stovetop. Popcorn is one snack food that my kids, and their hoards of friends that I’m happy to have trace mud through my kitchen weekly, never turn down.
In about seven minutes, I can pop enough to fill my biggest bowl using my dutch oven. I put a little olive oil in the bottom (I don't even coat the bottom of the pan completely like suggested.) When it's done popping, I put in two huge pinches of kosher salt, shake it up a bit, dump it into the bowl and top it off with a little more salt.
You know what? The kids love it. They don't miss the fake buttery taste of microwave popcorn. They never ask why I don't slather it with real butter. They probably don't even realize it's healthy.
According to popcorn.org:
 Popcorn is a whole grain food which makes it a complex carbohydrate that is not only low in calories, but a good source of fiber.
 Popcorn is low in calories — only 31-55 calories in one cup of unbuttered, and when lightly buttered, one cup still only has 133 calories.
 Popcorn has no artificial additives or preservatives, and is sugar-free.
  Popcorn contains energy-producing carbohydrates.
  Popcorn is ideal for between-meal snacking since it satisfies but doesn't spoil an appetite.
  Popcorn inspires creativity. While there's no doubt hot buttered popcorn is pleasing to any palate, popcorn also can be enjoyed when combined with seasonings, spices and other foods like raisins, fruit and cheese providing a nutritious, delicious snack.
Popping your own popcorn on the stove instead of microwaving individual packets is more eco-friendly, too. There's a lot less packaging involved. There's just one plastic bag that holds the kernels and it can be reused when empty. Compare that with the box, the individual plastic wrappers, and the individual bags that come along with microwave popcorn, and you’ve saved a lot of waste.
A whole bag costs me $1.39 and it makes about 6 dutch ovens’ full. Now there's a bargain.
Next time you're at the store, look at the bottom shelf below the microwave popcorn boxes. Chances are, that is where you'll find the bags of popcorn kernels. Pick one up and try it for yourself.
Question: What natural toppings do you like to put on your freshly popped popcorn? Me, I’m a purist. I just like salt. But I’d like to know what other people put on their popcorn to add a little flavor.
Image: superiphi

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Healthy, budget friendly popcorn
Looking for a healthy snack that won't break your budget? Skip the individual bags and pop your own kernels.