Thursday, February 28, 2013

Frugal Tip: Using Dry Beans

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When you look at ways to squeeze your grocery budget, there is hardly anything more rewarding than using dry beans. Here are some great reasons to give up on the canned stuff, and use dry beans: name a few. I also find that I can get away with half as much ground beef in many recipes if I add beans. Keep the protein and lose the fat! Yay! 

I may be biased because my dear sis-in-law works for a local dry bean producer.  Since we eat them all the time, it's handy to buy them in bulk at the local plant to save money. Plus it's a great way to support local food producers.  Last season we actually grew them ourselves! This is another reason dry beans are a good choice at our house. 

As for the money savings: using Pintos for an example: canned beans go for about 60 cents to $1 per can. One can has about 1.5 cups of beans. One pound of dry beans yields 6 cups cooked, so 1/4 a pound is the same as one can. Dry beans go for 80 cents (bulk price when I buy a 25lb bag) to $1.30 per pound at the grocery store. This means a 1/4 pound costs as little as 20 cents! Canned beans are 200% more expensive. (See, this is a homeschool post! How do you like my math?!)

Ok, on to the process. First, sort the beans. The best way to do this is to spill them on a clean counter-top, spread them out, and look them over. When they are harvested, tiny bean-sized pebbles can get into the mix. Some times you won't find any, sometimes there a several. But I will tell you, the first time you bite into one in a bowl of chili, you will wish you hadn't skipped this step!

sorting the beans into a colander

Then wash them. I put them in a bowl and cover with water, and agitate them with my hands. Pour through a strainer/colander, and we're done!

At this point I put them into the slow cooker and cover with water at least 3"-4" above the beans. I like to cook up 2+ pounds at a time in my 6 quart pot. This is for a few reasons, and none of them include me eating 12-15 cups of beans at one sitting. :)  I like the convenience of canned beans as much as the next gal, so I cook a LOT at one time and then freeze in "meal sized" portions, so they are ready to go, just as fast as canned.

I do all of this at night, and then put the pot on low and forget about them until morning.

~edit 3/11/13~ If you find they don't get done overnight, your slow cooker may by cooler on "low" than mine. I'm finding there is quite a variation. Try doing it on high if they don't turn out the first time. If your slow cooker was manufactured after 2007, it will cook at these higher temps. If it was manufactured before 2007, maybe you should buy one with all the money you're saving not buying canned beans!~

Also, as a commenter noted: if you are cooking Kidney Beans, be sure they do boil for at least 10 minutes to remove naturally occurring toxins. See this link for more information.

All that's left to do is strain them off...

Rinse well and bag them up....

and freeze!

Now wasn't that easy? I freeze them in quarts (about 3-4 cups) because my family is bigger and we like a lot of them. But you could freeze a can sized portion (1 and 1/2 cups) in a sandwich bag, fill a gallon freezer bag with those smaller bags, and freeze them that way. Another great way (sorry, no pics of this) is to spread them on a cookie sheet to freeze individually, then dump into gallon bags. Then you can use a cup measure to scoop out exactly what you need every time!

The Everything Beans Book
*affiliate link*
A note about, ummm, "the after-effects of beans":I am told it is the sugars in beans that produce the gas. The sugars in beans are water soluble, so many suggest soaking the beans before cooking, and draining off the water they soaked in. Cook in fresh water. To keep this a simple slow cooker routine you could soak (power off) overnight in your slow cooker.  In the morning, rinse and replace them there with fresh water, turn it on and cook on high for only a few hours. They should be done by lunch this way. Also, the fresher your beans, the less gassy they should be, so I'm told. We happened to grow these beans ourselves, so they were fresh!

Need a yummy recipe to use those beans? Try the Best Home-made Chili (scroll to end of post), that was demonstrated at our local farmer's market cooking demo. Also, our local bean producer puts out a cookbook! Be sure you try the Coffee Bean Brownies!

Here is my favorite chili recipe, using those beans:

Best Homemade Chili

(This recipe is a combination of two recipes from Taste of Home Country Ground Beef Cookbook: Three-step Chili from pg. 22 and Best Homemade Chili from pg. 23) I have adjusted it to be gluten free. 

2 lb. Grass-fed Ground Beef 
1 Large onion – diced
1 Tbs of chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1 clove fresh pressed garlic
3 cups cooked pinto beans (or 2 cans drained)
One large can of tomato juice (46 oz)
(or 1 qt and 1 pt of home canned)
¼ cup cornmeal
2 Tbs vinegar 
Cayenne pepper to taste

In large pot or Dutch oven, brown beef with seasonings and onions, until fully cooked. Add tomato juice and bring to a boil. Mix cornmeal and vinegar into a paste, and add a ladle of the hot tomato juice to it and then mix back into the entire pot (to avoid clumps). Return to a boil and then cook over medium heat for 15 minutes until thickened.  Add cayenne pepper to taste. 

If you like, serve it in a bread bowl!

Loved this post? Here are a few more things that you might love as well:

Here's a favorite recipe using dry beans:

Black Bean Chili!
Nothing can have a better start than bacon, can it? As you may know, I love cooking with beans, and I recently got a great deal on some dry black beans. So I cooked them up using my usual overnight method, and froze them in bags. Having that all done made this a quick and easy soup to assemble. My hubby declared it one of his new favorites. *score!*


[Originally posted in March 2012, this post has recently seen a lot of traffic thanks to Pinterest! I am joining with a few friends celebrating frugal tips, and this one is one of my favorites. I've brushed it up and added a great Chili recipe!]

Linked today:

Frugal Family 2013

For more great posts, be sure to "follow"! 


And if this helped you, leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you. :)

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