Popcorn, Peanuts, Pumpkin Pie*

Snacks can kill a grocery budget.

I’ve often had a great week of frugal living, only to see my husband go out and buy three kinds of chips, two kinds of beef jerky, and Funyuns. FUNYUNS. Having a good frugal week derailed by Funyuns is a sad thing, indeed. To combat this, I started a new campaign, which is ‘I will have snacks and desserts available at home.’

This might seem odd, but I’m a person that eats all the salty snacks, if salty snacks are available, so I do not buy them. Thus, my husband’s frustration. Happily, he does like popcorn.

Popcorn is the best frugal snack, but only if you’re paying attention.  It’s baffling to me, but if you’re shopping for popcorn, prices vary wildly depending on where you are, and what kind you’re buying.

When I type ‘wildly’ I mean the ordinary flux of grocery prices, the come and go of things like ‘turkey is cheap in November’ and ‘eggs are cheap at Easter’ don’t apply, and more that HEB will have a pound of popcorn for sale at 99c for a 1lb bag, Randalls will have that bag for $3.99 and Sprouts will have popcorn in bulk for 69c/lb.  If you want a container of Orville Redenbacher? That’s likely to start at $4.99.  I’m not sure if I should start following commodities markets or what, but popcorn is one of  the strangest things, pricewise, that I regularly purchase.

In order to make sense of this single purchase, long ago I decided I only buy popcorn as bagged kernels.  I don’t buy microwave popcorn, popped corn, jiffy-pop, or anything else that comes down the pike (It’s only a matter of time before I can point my iphone at a bag of popcorn and make it pop, and I won’t buy that either) just kernels. It used to be normal for me to pick up a 2lb sack for about $1.50, and now if I see anything that’s about 99 cents a pound I buy it because I don’t know when I’ll see it again! And then there’s something like last month, where the HEB I was in had it super-cheap, 50 cents for a pound. If you find cheap prices. let Cheepie know!

For ages, I popped corn on the stove. Then I was at a friend’s house and met the Stir Crazy. I love this thing. The 6 year old can work it, and it’s entertainment, then food! Yes, it’s a single-use appliance that takes up space. But we use it a few times a week, and that’s more than the fireplace, and you don’t see people crabbing at me to get rid of that sucker.  I’ve popped on the stove, I’ve had an air popper, I’ve popped in brown paper bags in the microwave, and I’m here to say that the Stir Crazy is the way to go. Feel free to tell me I’m popping corn all wrong in the comments. Or share your topping ideas–I usually go with parmesan and ground mustard. How do you pop?

My other favorite snack is peanuts. We all love cashews, almonds, and those crazy smoked almonds that must be loaded with chemicals to make them taste like that. But peanuts are the nut that goes on sale on a regular basis at Sprouts for $1.99/lb. That’s the cheapest nut I’ve found, and I stock up when it happens. Someday, I’ll stock up enough to make peanut brittle, but we always just end up eating them before I get ready to melt sugar into lava while the kids run through the kitchen.

Then, there’s dessert. After twenty years, I’ve finally sorted out that sometimes my husband will take us all out to dinner, just because he wants dessert and knows there’s not anything like dessert in the house.  To combat this, I’ve started making dessert once a week, and trying to have ice cream in the freezer (stocking up on Bluebell on sale is fun!).  The kids love making dessert, and this way we save by having pie, bread pudding, or cookies at home, and not out.

*Apologies to Jay &the Techniques. For my mom, here’s the ‘video‘.


10lbs of Tiny Limes, Now What?

 If you went ahead and bought the key limes, thinking surely they were just tiny limes that could be used in the place of regular limes (yes, they can, you’re totally right), I’m here to share the most traditional key lime pie recipe there is. It uses a bunch of key limes, and helpfully also can occupy a youth of ages 6-12 for about 25 minutes.

I go ahead and cut the limes in half, and my 10 year old kid can do the entire rest of the work required for this pie. If your kid doesn’t have a signature recipe yet, feel free to tell him to learn this one. If you don’t have free labor available in your home, this is a 15 minute project.

The juice for this recipe will need about a little more than 1lb of key limes. So there will be leftovers. You can use them to garnish tacos on Taco Tuesday, or on glasses of water to make it seem more like you’re on vacation and less like you’re in-between laundry and dishes.

Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Pie

  • 9″ graham cracker pie crust
  • 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks (whites not used)
  • ½ cup Nellie & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice

Combine milk, egg yolks and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Pour filling into pie crust and bake at 350º for 15 minutes. Allow to stand 10 minutes before refrigerating. Just before serving, top with freshly whipped cream, or meringue, and garnish with lime slices.

It’s traditional because it uses no ingredients that need to be refrigerated. The Florida Keys, by virtue of being a chain of islands that didn’t get electricity quite when the rest of the US did, came up with this lovely dessert.   Eggs, tinned milk, and key limes don’t need refrigeration, and today we continue to not refrigerate graham crackers.  Feel free to start jamming those Honey Grahams in the fridge if it makes you feel better, though!

Now, you’ve got some left. You can use them as usual limes, or if you’ve decided that your key lime pie was delicious you can go ahead and juice them all and freeze that juice. Freezing whole fruit doesn’t go well, and freezing zest also loses a lot. The dehydration that comes with freezing just isn’t good for citrus, but for juice? It’s got water in it and can take a bit of stress.  So go ahead and get that kid, now that he’s had his pie, and tell him to juice the rest. Then you can freeze it in small plasticware containers, or an ice cube tray (Martha!), and then bag them up for future use.