Monday, October 12, 2009

Money-Saving (and maybe musical) Monday

This is a post about beans.

Yes, really. Beans.

The musical fruit.

(Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.)

I'm a fan of beans. Most beans are a high quality protein, are full of antioxidants, and are loaded with fiber. I could tout all the nutritional benefits of beans or you could read more about them here. (Or perhaps my friend, Tiffani--akaGooglemeister, could do a little research for us. Sorry that's sort of an inside joke, but I could not resist).

Anyway, back to beans and money-saving Monday...

Last spring I did a series of posts about my meal planning system, and I shared my time-saving tip about pre-cooking all my meat. My friend Diane commented on that post and told me that she did the same thing with beans. She buys dried beans, cooks up a big pot, and freezes them.

I never knew you could freeze beans. Did you?

I've been doing this for several months now and let me tell you it is not only easy but it is SO MUCH CHEAPER than buying cans of beans!

Here's the math:

For my most recent two-week meal plan, I needed 7 cans of beans--four black, two pinto, and one kidney.

The cheapest (Walmart, generic) can of beans is $.72.
$.72/can x 7 cans = $5.04

A one pound bag of dried black beans is $1.12 and equals FIVE cans of beans. That comes out to roughly $.22/can. A savings $.50/can.

I bought three (1lb) bags of dried beans last time I shopped. (For some reason, pinto beans are cheaper than kidney and black beans.) I spent about $3.20 for the equivalent of 15 cans of beans, saving me about $7.50 (for 15 cans).

Sure, that may not seem like a lot of saved money. And for some of you, the time you'd have to spend cooking a pot of beans is worth the extra cost of buying them canned. For me, it's a no brainer. I like saving money (even small amounts add up) and I have the time to cook up a pot every couple of weeks.

I generally pick a morning that I'm going to be at home, and soak my beans the night before (the instructions are on the packaging). In the morning, I just put a pot on and let them simmer away. For some reason, it always takes longer than the directions claim. I wonder if it's because I live at a high altitude? Next, I drain, rinse, cool and then package them in freezer bags, and freeze until needed. I've added frozen beans to the crock pot (for chili) and they turn out just fine, but usually I thaw them along with my meat.

1 1/2 cups of beans = 1 can

I've been buying my dried beans at Walmart, but I just noticed that my natural foods store sells organic beans in bulk. They come in a larger quantity (2lbs instead of 1lb) but the price per pound ends up being cheaper (for organic!) so I'll be buying those the rest of the winter.

Anyway, just thought I'd share my newest money-saving strategy. Thank you, Diane!

Here are some of my favorite bean recipes...

Pork and Black Bean Chili (this is CarpoolQueen's recipe, and it's oh-so good!)

Believe it or not, I'm not original in dedicating an entire post to beans. I recently found this blog (love it!) and she wrote about beans twice last week. I want to try some of her recipes soon!

Got a favorite bean recipe? Please share!!!


Moriah @ Please Pass the Salt said...

That's a great idea!! You know, for when I'm NOT pregnant anymore.

Amber said...

So smart!!!

Definitely going to try this!!! Super idea!!!

Anonymous said...

Have you tried cooking beans in the crockpot? Soooo easy. I hadn't been able to master cooking dried beans until I did them in the crockpot. And no need to soak overnight!! Just place the beans in the pot, add about 9 cups of water, set on low for the day. EASY-PEASY!

Gretchen said...

Okay, so NOW I need an idea for how to get the male contingent of the fam to eat legumes. Besides roasted peanuts.

It's frustrating.

One of them will go to China and eat all manner of squid and mystery meat, and yet, he doesn't like the texture of beans.

What's not to like???

And his son is the same way.

Must find some stealth measures to get what I want: bean consumption.

And thank you for your tips, as always ,friend.

Elizabeth said...

We love beans around here. And I like the idea of making them ahead and freezing them. My MIL freezes everything, and she always makes huge amounts of beans to feed us all when we're there for the holidays. I bet half her freezer is full of beans! I'm just curious how/if you season them. Just salt?

I've been craving your white chicken chili! It's on the menu for next week!

Tiffani said...

Beans, beans good for your heart...the more eat 'em...what?! you said "musical" right?! So, I thought we were singing!!

You cracked me up with the "Googlemeister"...I'm on it!! ;)

I do love me some beans too, especially here in the south we like a good 'ol pot of pintos with some cornbread and that's meal!!! YUMMERS!!

Katrina @ Pics, Pages & Purls said...

Oh I am going to be doing this for the fall and winter! Hopefully my Picky husband doesn't notice a difference for us to do it all the time...

Michele said...

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE dried beans. I will cook up a pot, and the kids and I will have some for lunch. . . one of my favorites . . . hoppin' john . . . blackeyed peas on top of brown rice topped with stewed tomatoes. . . yummy! I never thought about freezing them though. It probably would make life much simpler. Thanks for sharing.

*carrie* said...

Loved this post, Mer. I just tried freezing great northern beans last month. Black beans are next up, as I buy them most often. I posted one of our favorite bean recipes here:

I was just thinking recently that I wanted to try polenta, though I bet I can't buy a tube of it out here in the sticks! I think I'll see what I can concoct using your recipe as a base but omitting the tomatoes and making the polenta from scratch . . .

I made Santa Fe Enchiladas for lunch today. Yum-o!

Stephanie Kay said...

Ah, my southern roots loves a pot of pinto beans, home fried potatoes, cornbread and cooked spinach. YUM!

I also suggest you cook them in a crockpot. I don't have much luck on the stove but a crockpot works great. Throw in some salt and a couple of slices of raw bacon for seasoning if you want. :)

Another thought. If the beans are completely cooked before freezing it might be a good idea to add them to soups, etc, still frozen so that they don't disintegrate during the second cooking.

You inspired me with your last post about cooking chicken and freezing it. I've been doing that for a couple of months and it's been fabulous. Now I feel inspired to pull out my crockpot. :)

Diane@Diane's Place said...

Glad the frozen beans are working for you, Mer. :o)

Sometimes I plan 3 or 4 meals around a batch of beans and they never make it to the freezer. For example, we may have beans and cornbread, etc. for the first meal, then maybe red beans and rice using another portion of beans. Another meal might use a portion of the beans in chili and yet another portion of the beans might be used for refried beans to go with a Mexican themed meal.

I always freeze my beans in the bean soup, then if I want to rinse them I do it after they're thawed. The liquid helps protect against freezer burn.

I never presoak beans. I just wash and sort them, bring them to a boil, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. Sometimes I add a ham bone, bacon ends and pieces, salt meat (or salt pork to some) or other meat to season. I salt my beans when they're done and if I think they need it, I season with a little bacon grease or oil.

All this talk of beans has me craving them! ;o)


Rachel said...

I've had a pot of beans soaking all day...guess they'll get cooked tomorrow before I make chili. I use some canned beans, but like the home-cooked ones better and they are certainly budget friendly. I usually freeze in 2 cup portions and the texture seems to stay fine. had a good post last summer about how to prepare them and mentioned adding an acid to them to make them more digestible. And in our experience less "musical".

Becca~CapturingSimpleJoys said...

I just happen to have a ton of pinto beans but I never leave myself enough time to cook them and just put them back in the pantry. This would be a great way to utilize them right when I need them!
I totally agree on the cooking time, I think the altitude had a ton to do with it because, even with soaking overnight, I need nearly the entire afternoon and nearly the whole day to cook beans or they won't be done for supper.

Jennifer said...

Ah, this post is straight to this southern gal's heart! I do love me some pinto beans, fried taters, and cornbread! My problem is that my beans never have the right 'taste'. If that makes sense. I've tried the soaking and boiling method, uh no! Then the crock pot method. Worked better but still not with the taste. So I'd love some tips for just some good ole southern pinto beans. Yummmmy Now you have me craving some! LOL Hope all is well friend!

Chloe m said...

Not only is is cheaper to cook your own beans, it is better for you... have you looked at the ingredient list on a can of beans lately? They have managed to slip in High Fructose Corn syrup, yet again. Do I need this in my beans? NO! I will post a recipe for beans tomorrow.
Thanks for the tips!

lisa@littlesliceoflife said...

I think I also heard somewhere that beans, beans are good for the heart... ;)

I wish I could plan ahead like you do.

Anonymous said...

Drain a can of white beans. Put beans in a pan and add a can of diced tomatoes. Throw in some Italian seasoning and some parmesean cheese. Its a great side dish.

*carrie* said...

Hey, Mer. I cooked batches of both pinto and black beans yesterday--super easy in the crockpot! I used a "recipe" for the pintos (onion, seasonings) to make some into refried beans (all I did was puree the cooked beans).

I tasted the cooked black beans and was not too excited about the flavor--they were blah. I know they'll usually be mixed into stuff, but wondered if you added any seasonings to yours before/during/after cooking?