Frugal Office Snack: Homemade Microwave Popcorn

I recently read Mark Bittman’s new book and discovered his recipe for homemade microwave popcorn. I don’t usually buy microwave popcorn because it’s expensive and I’m not a fan of the taste, but I’ve recently been craving popcorn like nobody’s business. My office supplies free snacks, so I could use their bags, but I still don’t like the taste or all the chemicals.

Today I gave the homemade microwave popcorn a test run and I’m hooked. It’s easy and cheap! Certainly a lot cheaper than the $1.20 you’d pay for each bag of microwave popcorn. As a bonus, it’s also better for you and you can better control the serving size.

Homemade Microwave Popcorn Recipe
Here’s what you need to make your own microwave popcorn snack:

Brown paper lunch sack
2 tablespoons popcorn
½ teaspoon olive oil
Towel, paper towel or napkin

Pour the kernels in the bag. Add the oil and salt. Shake. Fold the top of the bag down 1 inch and crease tightly. Fold down again and crease again. Place napkin or paper towel on microwave plate. Set bag upright on paper towel. Microwave 3 minutes, or until there is a 2 second pause between pops. Open carefully.

You may need to add additional salt. Some people use a pat of butter instead of oil. Others add butter or oil later – it’s not necessary for cooking, just flavor. You could also try seasoning salt, garlic powder, parmesan flakes, butter spray, butter flakes, popcorn salt, or any other topping that floats your boat. Make kettle corn by adding a couple teaspoons of sugar to the bag before microwaving.

The towel, paper towel, or napkin is very important unless you enjoy wiping oil off the base of your microwave.

Cost of DIY Microwave Popcorn
This recipe makes about half the amount you get in a typical bag of microwave popcorn.

Paper bag: 4 cents
Popcorn kernels: 4.5 cents
Salt: 1 cent
Oil: 2 cents
Total: 11.5 cents for 2 tablespoons of unpopped corn, about 2.5 cups popped corn. That would be 23 cents for the same amount you’d get in a $1.20 bag of microwave popcorn, but without all the dangerous chemicals.

Even better, if you have a few unpopped kernels, you can eat all of the popped corn and then microwave the bag again.

When I’m home, I still prefer my air popper and real melted butter for a decadent treat, but this is a cheap and easy way to enjoy a healthy office snack. To get it to work without messing up my lunch sack, I put the salt and corn in the paper bag and folded it up a few times. I put the oil in a tiny plastic container and then used a spoon to add it to the bag when it was time to cook it. Adding the oil too far ahead would just be messy, and cause the bag to soak up most of the oil.

If you’re already bringing your lunch to work to save money, consider packing in your snacks, too. This is a great one to add to your repertoire.

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