Peeps candy and other snack food addictions

America's snack food addictionThe Peeps are here! The Peeps are here! Love 'em or hate 'em, those neon, sugar-coated marshmallow candy chicks that are synonymous with springtime landed in Easter baskets and showed up at holiday celebrations this weekend. And many peep-lovers blew both their financial and caloric budgets all in the name of a good "Peep fix."

Wanting to get to the bottom of this cult-like food craze, WalletPop decided to find out just why people will go out of their way to buy a box or two of marshmallow Peeps and discover exactly how much we're willing to spend on those cavity-inducing chickies.

"I spend more than $100 a year on those things," Peep-crazed Zachary Wilson of Chicago told WalletPop. "I just love them, and not just at Easter. Now they come in all shapes throughout the year, so I can always get my Peeps fix." Wilson says eating Peeps make him happy. "They're so cute, how can you be in a bad mood with a box of bright yellow marshmallow chicks on your desk?" he asks.

And Wilson is not alone in his love of all things Peeps. Far from it.

"I love those little marshmallow poofs of heaven," says Kristi Mendez, of North Aurora, IL, who formed her love affair of the squishy candy in college. "My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) bought me 100 ten-packs for Easter. After opening them and letting them "air" [apparently, they're better a little stale] I'd eat two or three (or five) in the evenings." In addition to getting a "sugar high," Mendez says, the Peeps made her feel happy, too.

Think Wilson and Mendez are crazy to love those bits of marshmallow fluff so much? Maybe so, but Peeps aren't the only thing Americans are food crazy about.

Can't say no to Nutella
The Marsa family readily admits to being hooked on Nutella, the hazelnut spread with Italian origins that doesn't last long on grocery store shelves. "We try and control ourselves, but we go through a couple jars a month,"' Linda Marsa, who hails from California, admits. "We spend about $20 a month on Nutella, which works out to $200 a year or more."

"We make Nutella everything," brags Pam Pacente of Scottsdale, Arizona. "Nutella pancakes, bread, pie, even cookies, not to mention how good it is over ice cream. One of the reasons I love it is Nutella reminds me of visiting Italy." Pacente's price for reliving a "dream vacation"? About $300 a year. "We go through a jar or two a week," she says. Sounds cheaper than visiting Rome, we'd say.

Move over microwave...there's nothing like movie popcorn
Hats off to anyone who can walk past a movie theater concession stand and not have the urge to dive into a vat of freshly popped popcorn. Top it off with theater butter, and, well, you had me at concession stand. And I'm not alone.

Once a week, Riana Reynolds of Orange County, California, stops by her local theater just to buy a jumbo-sized tub of popcorn. "I haven't gone to a movie in over a year, but I"m at the movie theater once a week, twice if I'm having a bad week," Reynolds told WalletPop. "I don't smoke or buy alcohol. This is my vice." At an average cost of $7 per tub, Reynolds says she spends about $400 a year on the popped golden goodness of her "vice."

When the moon hits your eye...
"My freezer is always stocked full of frozen pizzas, and I'm picky about the brand, so usually it's Tombstone, which run about $4.00 each," says Meggie Marrier, a University of Minnesota, Twin Cities student. Marrier says she eats about two frozen pizzas a week and has been doing that for the past three years.

"That's $1,200 just on frozen pizzas," she says, "and that doesn't even include all the times I've gotten pizza by the slice while I was out, ordered pizza for delivery to my apartment or opted to enjoy a homemade pie." Her estimated cost for three years of a pizza habit? Somewhere between $1,500 and $1,700. That's a lotsa pizza!

Lions and tigers and gummy bears, oh my
Seeing all those tiny, colorful, squishy bears inside the golden-topped Hairbo bag makes the mouths of many a candy lover water, including Russell Kinsey's of Pittsburgh. "I buy three to four packs a week," Kinsey admits. "And when I'm shopping, I buy them in bulk at the grocery store." All that chewing sets Kinsey back more than a couple of bucks. The average price of gummy bears is $2.49 per bag or per pound, if you shop in bulk. Kinsey estimates the cost of his food craze at about $475 (plus tax) every year. But he says, "That doesn't count the bags I get from co-workers and friends who know about my love of the gummies."
Sound off: Tell us what foods you just can't live without and how much you've shelled out to satisfy your food cravings.
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