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organic living journey popcorn

The following is part of an Organic Journey guest post series written by Amy, a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.

In attempts to feed my kids a healthier snack, I was giving them popcorn.  Granted, it was microwave popcorn, but surely this was still better for them than goldfish or, heaven forbid, potato chips (one of my favorite snacks, not gonna lie).  I was choosy with my brand.  I bought the kind that said “Natural.”  And the ingredient list is pretty simple: Popping corn, Palm Oil, Salt, Mixed Topocherols (for freshness).  Okay, no idea what that last thing is.  A quick Google search reveals that topocherols is vitamin E.  So maybe my microwave popcorn isn’t all that evil.  But that is just the natural popcorn!  Check the label on yours just for kicks.  Many have “artificial flavorings,” and we all know that isn’t typically real food.  There is another new concern, though, that I have with my microwave popcorn–the whole GMO thing.

I’m hearing more and more buzz about GMO (Genetically modified organisms) and, honestly, I don’t like what I’m hearing.  My first thought about foods being modified was, “isn’t this kind of like hybrid tomatoes?”  Further reading has proven that thought very wrong.  It’s more like, “this kind of fish produces a natural antifreeze, of sorts.  Let’s pull out that gene and put into tomatoes so that they will be more resistant to damage from frost.”  So while that sounds creative and intriguing, it also just sounds weird to me.  More reading raised my eyebrows further.  GMO’s are often created so that the crops will be resistant to any kind of herbicide.  Then the whole fields are sprayed with lots of herbicides to kill off weeds, and the genetically modified plants are unphased.  That sounds like a bunch of chemicals on my food.  Not so good.  I am NOT an expert on GMO’s, and I’m not claiming to be.  I’m sure that there are many parts of this argument that I don’t understand, but I do know this, what I’m reading makes me want to steer clear for now.  And no, I’m not going to do that perfectly.  From what I’m reading none of us are going to be able to do it perfectly because of cross-pollination, but I’d like to continue to learn more about all of this and avoid what I can.  And why do I bring this up when we are talking about the yummy goodness of popcorn?  Well, it appears that the bulk of our corn is genetically modified these days.  Nice, hey?

I was also curious what I was really paying for in those bags of popcorn.  So, tonight, I cut one open.  It was disgusting how much fat was in there (not that I should judge seeing as we love melted butter drizzled all over our popcorn in high quantities).  Pretty gross stuff, but for the sake of all of our learning, I washed the fat off and measured the kernels.  In one bag of microwave popcorn, there was 2.4 oz of kernels.  Key information.  File it away, we will come back to it.

So, what’s a gal to do?  If my cheap, yummy, microwave popcorn was out, I needed a solution for movie night at our house.  I found it.  I found organic popcorn kernels for less than $1/lb.  Remember that there are 2.4 ounces of popcorn kernels in a typical bag of microwave popcorn?  Math time!

1 lb = 16 oz
16 oz (my pound of popcorn) = a little more than 6 bags (of 2.4 oz) microwave popcorn!

That means for $1, I was getting the a little bit more popcorn than I could get in box of microwave popcorn that had six packs!!  And it is organic!  No pesticides, no GMO.  Sounds good.

Now, how to prepare it.  Here are the three methods I know to make popcorn.  You can make it on the stove.  The only equipment needed is a pot and lid, stove, some high smoke point oil and your kernels.  The other method is new to me, using a brown paper bag.  Basically, you put kernels in a brown paper bag, fold it shut (roll it over 3-4 times) and then cook for 2-3 minutes.  There are varying approaches to this, but that’s the basic method.  One common complaint I read was that there are a lot of unpopped kernels with this method.  The third method is what we do in my house.  The air popper!  I asked for this last year at Christmas, and we have LOVED it.  I wanted to be cool and do the stovetop method, but let’s get honest, I had zero desire to clean up the pot each time we made popcorn.  So, yeah, an air popper takes up space, but it is beyond worth it to me to be able to have a healthy snack for my kids with little to no clean-up required.

You probably have one question left.  Where did I find non-GMO, organic popcorn kernels for less than $1/lb?  Networking has proven to be such a huge help to me in the journey.  I have a friend who was traveling up north this summer to visit family and was picking up some bulk grain purchases.  She grabbed a 50 lb bag of popcorn for me, and then I split that with a friend.  Shipping cost was nothing.  Nice, hey?  Yes, that is still a TON of popcorn, but stored in my bucket with a gamma lid, it should last a really long time!  Someone else commented that this site can help you locate a bulk food seller near you.

My baby step-making the switch to organic popcorn kernels.  It doesn’t cost that much more time or effort.  Yay for easy baby steps!!

So if you love popcorn, what ways have you found to get a good deal on it and to keep it healthy?

    • I love this post! Pop corn is my favorite snack all the time! I had an air popper as a kid, so we never got used to microwave pop corn. My sister in law bought us a new air popper last Christmas and it’s used at LEAST 3 times a week! We find bulk corn at places like Whole Foods and Sprouts, usually not very expensive. We keep a huge jar in the cupboard and always have it around for snack. One of my favorite things about it is that we can flavor it however we want. I will make a bowl with butter and parmesan (maybe not super healthy) and my husband likes soy and hot sauce (yuck). There are also lots of options in the pop corn seasoning line. Organic and air popped is the way to go! I couldn’t get through this season of glee without it!

      • amysanders

        thanks! how much is it per pound at your Whole Foods?

    • soilsenorita

      Just an FYI, organic production does not mean pesticide free, it is just organic based pesticides rather than man made pesticides. Also most field corn, used for animal feed, is genetically modified (GMO), pop corn is not, best of my knowledge, and neither is the corn you eat (roasting ear) either on the cob, frozen, or from a can. There is a new “roasting ear” corn that is a GMO, but this Bt gene has helped reduce the amount of insecticides sprayed on the corn, so you eat less insecticides.

      Despite the “weird” genes being inserted in the GMO field corn, this practice has been very beneficial to the environment, WHEN used correctly. The use of a Round Up ready gene in field corn has allowed growers to move to a no-till situation and reduce soil erosion and increase water use efficiency. Many of the other “weird” genes inserted in our field crops (most used for animal feed) are to help farmers/grower reduce their use of pesticides and be more environmental in their production practices.

      • organic mama

        Due to bees and pollination, they estimate that 95% of the corn grown period is GMO. Baker’s Creek Heirloom seeds estimates that they have lost 50% of their heirloom corn seed to GMO contamination since they have started testing for the franken genes. It is NOT beneficial to the environment and environmentalist are desperately protesting against this genetic modification. Guess what…..the weeds and many bugs have grown resistant to the Round Up and there is NOTHING left to kill those weeds and bugs. So now Dow and Monsanto are trying to come up with new pesticide combinations to combat this. Russia has now banned importing our corn because they are concerned with the health affects of it. Europe and many African nations have banned GMO’s period…..because according to their studies, human cannot digest it and it causes cancer. Our own govt. approved it with no safety tests completed. And the weird “genes” include the ebola virus. You really need to do some research because you are relaying some serious untruths. Maybe watch a documentary or 2…..King Corn or The Future of Food.

      • guest

        The following link has pictures of rats who have been fed a lifetime of GMO corn. No, I do not believe that it is safe. I will pay a little more for organic and not worry that I am potentially giving my family cancer or shortening their lives.

      • Thackejl

        I care FAR less about the environment than I care about feeding carcinogens to my family. There is a reason this stuff is being banned, and who cares about the soil if the people are getting sick as a result. Unbelievable that people will defend this stuff!!

    • malsides

      Round Up may have helped in the areas you suggested, but it a derivative of agent orange, a.k.a. nerve gas. I don’t care if there are side benefits to that, I don’t want that sprayed on my food!

    • Lana

      We recently ditched microwave popcorn too and bought a Stir Crazy popper. Trader Joe’s has organic popping corn for a great price.

      • amysanders

        thanks for the tip! (i have already shared it with a few friends) :)

    • I pop mine in a glass bowl with a glass plate over the top in the microwave. ABC Distributing has a glass microwave popper available too.

    • organic mama

      http://www.somethingbetternaturalfoods.com is a GREAT bulk organic food/grains supplier. Their catalog is on their website so you can look at prices. Add 10% for shipping and there is no cost to set up an account. They have shipping routes where they load up a big tractor trailer and deliver to certain points. The routes and schedule is also on their website.

    • Alison V.

      we love our stove top popper and hubby learned how to do sweet popcorn with it, yum! i read an article before that gmo crops actually use more chemical pesticides and herbicides than non gmo crops. and the people who work in the factories making microwave popcorn are getting lung diseases from breathing in the stuff sprayed into the bags. that can’t be good for consumers either! thanks for covering this!

    • guest

      Organic popcorn is also available in bulk from most local health food stores. Earth Fare and Healthy Home Economist Market (in the Charlotte and Hickory, NC areas) both sell organic popcorn in bulk for about $1.79 a pound.

    • A Sage

      Jenny this is so much cheaper and healthier. Don’t me started on all the research coming out of Europe about the dangers of GMOs with 2 year studies that they have done. SO bad for you!
      On a good note, the way we make our popcorn is after popping, melt some organic butter, 1/4 teaspoon powered stevia and salt to taste. Perfect Kettle Corn that perfectly healthy too.

    • Melanie

      We’ve done the stove top version for about 6 years now b/c (in the opinion of my husband and myself) you just can’t rival the taste! Also, I’m a stream-lined kind of girl and don’t like a lot of gadgets. I agree, however, about the clean up…not fun.

      • amysanders

        yeah, not fun! wish i was as diligent as you (it would equal one less gadget!), but glad we can all get there with what works for our family.

    • E

      If you keep small bags in the freezer, it keeps it fresh as well.

      • amysanders

        that is a great tip!

      • amysanders

        that is a great tip!

    • We ditched our microwave more than 5 years ago and haven’t looked back! I buy organic popcorn in bulk off Amazon and we pop with EVOO on the stove with a little grey sea salt…..tasty and healthy!

      • amysanders

        what drove you to get rid of your microwave? (i’m scared to ask, but thinking i probably need to know) :)

    • Nicole

      I agree – there are SO many flavor options available when you make your own popcorn! I keep kernals in one of those cereal tupperware containers so I can pour a few out at a time, and then usually just use a paper bag to cook them in the microwave.

      “kettle” corn with stevia and salt (and sometimes a little cinnamon) is my go-to favorite but lately I’ve been into smoked paprika and cocoa powder, cocoa powder and stevia, rosemary and sage, and oregano and true lemon (the kind in little packets). It’s also delicious with taco seasoning or pumpkin spice :)