Overcome a craving in just minutes with this delicious and sustainable trick.

Jessica Ball, M.S., R.D.
August 31, 2020
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Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

Popcorn may make you think of the movies, or childhood memories of a carnival. But this humble snack food has evolved beyond the buttery, salty treat we would indulge in at special events. More and more healthy food brands are offering popcorn as a low calorie, high fiber snack option. Being low calorie and high fiber, popcorn on its own may even hold some weight loss benefits. In fact, it is technically a whole grain—something we could all be eating more of for their heath-boosting benefits. Instead of spending money on buying the prepared stuff, we found an easy hack for healthy homemade popcorn that saves you all the packaging waste too. 

Climate activist and National Geographic spokesperson, Kathryn Kellogg (follow her on Instagram @going.zero.waste) posted this genius hack for making popcorn in minutes–with no waste! She adds ¼ cup of plain popcorn kernels into a meal-prep container, closes the lid and then microwaves on the “popcorn” setting. To finish it off, she sprinkles on some of her favorite flavorings, in this case Umami Sea Salt– yum (Buy it: from $6.50, Amazon.com). For popcorn lovers, this trick is almost too good to be true… so we put it to the test.  

As Kellogg mentions in the video, buying popcorn kernels is significantly less expensive than buying prepared popcorn. Seven cups of popcorn kernels costs around $5 at most grocers and makes over 84 cups of popcorn, coming in at about $0.06 per serving. This is compared to a 10-bag box of popcorn, about 20 cups in total, that costs $14, which is roughly $0.70– over 10 times the cost of popcorn kernels. 

I added ¼ cup of popcorn to a standard container, sealed the lid and popped. Microwaves can vary, and mine took two cycles of “popcorn” mode for all of the kernels to be popped. Afterwards, I drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and tossed with nutritional yeast for a vegan-friendly “cheesy” popcorn snack. We have several other popcorn combination suggestions, from Everything Bagel Popcorn to Confetti Birthday Popcorn, so you can get creative with this versatile snack. 

Popcorn is low in calories, high in fiber and can be ready in just minutes. Ditch the added sodium and calories that come with store bought popcorn and instead use this hack to make delicious, waste-free popcorn flavored exactly how you want. Not to mention, it’ll save you money too. For more inspiration, check out our other healthy popcorn recipes.