Planet-Saving, Money-Saving Homemade Popcorn

With grocery prices soaring, it’s nice to know that you can save loads of money on a simple, homemade snack.  We’ve been guilty of buying microwave popcorn in the past, but six months ago I began making it on the stovetop––it’s incredibly easy and requires almost no equipment!  Plus it will help you avoid the hydrogenated oils in packaged popcorns as well as the cost and packaging.  It’s great for the planet, your budget and your family’s health—and it doesn’t require a lot of work.  From start to finish you can expect it to take less than ten minutes, including cleanup.

  • Find a large, heavy pot with a lid. (Most people already have one.)
  • Generously coat the bottom of the pan with canola or vegetable oil and dump in about 1/2 cup of unpopped corn. (You can eyeball it.)
  • Stay near the pot until the corn begins to pop.
  • Shake it every thirty seconds or so. 
  • When it’s done popping, season it with your favorite ingredients.

Here are some popcorn seasoning options:

  • Olive oil
  • Melted butter
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Dill weed
  • Seasoning salt
  • Brewer’s yeast

Not only is home-popped corn delicious, it’s outrageously cheap.  A bag of popcorn kernels in the grocery store is just 4 cents per ounce, while microwave brands cost three to six times as much.  Microwaveable popcorn costs between 30-90 cents for a family sized bowl while the same amount of the homemade version costs less than ten cents per bowl—including seasoning!

If your family goes through one box of microwave popcorn (4 large bowls) each week, you’ll save a whopping 52 boxes of cardboard trash, 208 cellophane wrappings, and 208 paper bags by switching to homemade.  The same amount of popcorn prepared at home would cost less than ten dollars and create just four plastic bags.  (If you buy it in bulk and recycle the bags, you’ll achieve zero waste!) 

Homemade popcorn is also a great alternative to chips, pretzels and other expensive snacks.  As long as you don’t douse it with too much oil or butter, it can be stored in air tight containers and will still taste great the following day. 

One word of warning for parents—you’ll need to wait until baby is about 18 months to begin offering popcorn.  Moms and dads of toddlers: beware the effects of popcorn!  It can result in some very scary diaper aftermath.  (Similar to feeding them too much fruit.)  So let your little ones share in this treat, but don’t let them overdo it.

We’re looking forward to hearing your Thrifty Green Thursday tips this week—and would also love to know how you doctor up your homemade popcorn.  Thanks for enriching our popcorn seasoning list!


  1. Sprinkle some sugar in with the oil and you get kettle corn. Mmmm 🙂
    We’ve also noticed that coconut oil makes amazing popcorn – it nearly tastes buttery! Not as frugal, though, of course.

  2. We like to use nutritional yeast flakes. (Is this the same as brewer’s yeast?) For some reason I got it in my head to try it a couple months ago, and I will never go back to plain popcorn again!

    Joy, you have mentioned in a few posts that you recycle plastic bags food comes in. Here in Portland we can drop bags off at grocery stores to be recycled–but just plastic shopping bags, not plastic food bags. How do you recycle your plastic bags in Eugene? I’d always heard warnings to never throw them in with your other recyclables as one bag could get jammed in the machines and ruin everything!

  3. Too funny! I just made a big bowl of popcorn for myself (something I haven’t done in ages) right before I came on here to catch up on blogs!

    The two previous posters have already mentioned 2 of my favorite seasonings. One being throwing in a handful of sugar and a sprinkle of salt in with the oil to make kettle corn (shake a LOT with this method as it tends to burn easily).

    The bowl I had tonight had sea salt and nutritional yeast. Yum, yum!

    Another way I like it is with cinnamon and sugar (a favorite of the kids!)

  4. How funny–I wrote this week about using a microwave instead of a stove for making scrambled eggs! I totally agree with you though–making popcorn on a stove is much better than the microwave popcorn b/c there is a lot less waste, and it’s healthier. We make popcorn on the stove a lot at home.

    There are just so many factors to making “green” decisions! 🙂

  5. Gotta agree with you on the popcorn. Buying microwave popcorn is such a waste. I don’t like to use the microwave a whole lot because I worry about the radiation issue.

  6. I’ve always made popcorn on the stove (or popcorn maker) because I was a starving college student who coudn’t afford a microwave popcorn habit! And after trying microwave popcorn, I didn’t like the greasy taste of it compared to stove top popcorn.

    After experiencing ‘herb garden overload’ the last couple of summers, I’ve been trying a lot of herbs either in the cooking oil or sprinkled on the popcorn after the fact. My current favorates are basil/oregano (pizza popcorn!), chili powder, and cilantro (although the cilantro does best when heated in the popping oil first.)

  7. I have fond memories of my parents making us a big pot of popcorn on the stove (there were five kids in our family, so it had to be a big pot). Since I don’t make microwave popcorn because it tastes funny to me, I’ve used my Whirly Pop to do it, which is just like a cooking pot but it has a stirrer on the bottom. It’s nice being able to flavor it however you’d like. And I am always shocked at how far a bag or jar or popcorn kernels can go!

  8. Ooo, I’m glad for this tutorial. I admit I’ve never made stove top popcorn but I’ve been wanting to start this. I grew up eating popcorn every night b/c my dad loved it but he had an air popper.

  9. Thanks so much everyone for your wonderful popcorn topping ideas! I feel like we’re going to be elbow deep in popcorn all week as we try out each delectable suggestion!

    I’m sad to say that you were right about recycling food bags. We had no idea that we were possibly clogging the machines all this time by tossing the food bags into the recycling bin! The site below has clear directions about which bags can and can not be recycled.

  10. Kathleen W–I use a Whirly Pop, too! The best part is that I got it for $1.50 after I bargained the guy down from $2.00. I happened upon it at a yard sale when I was looking for a dedicated popcorn pan. It works very well and I’ve had it for years now, so I say I got my money’s worth.

    Joy, that’s too bad about the plastic bags. I was hoping Eugene had found a way to recycle them! If you bring your own bag to the store and fill it with popcorn from the bulk bins, you could still achieve a zero-waste snack! (I have to admit that I don’t do this because the bulk popcorn is about $.40/lb. more expensive than the packaged kind.)

  11. i know this is an old post, but i have to add my seasoning suggestions! we add braggs or soy sauce to the butter,olive oil or flax seed oil. and then when we are feeling fancy we add a couple of drops of truffle oil (not cheap, i know, but if you splurge on food items every once in a while, this is a fun one that goes a really long way). we also add spike or if we have been to eugene lately to pick it up we add toby’s tofu seasoning (from the bulk aisle at sundance). so good!

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