Friday, September 3, 2010

Cooking On A Shoestring Budget: Beans

Oh, you knew there would be a post about beans for saving money at the grocery store, didn't you? Beans are a great way to stretch the grocery budget and very nutritious to boot! I'll add some links to some of our favorite bean recipes at the end of the post.

I want to show you how very easy it is to have some beans in your freezer. I cannot remember the last time I bought beans in a can because I find it to be just about as convenient, once I get them made, not to mention much cheaper, to buy them dried. For every 1 pound of dried beans you get in a bag, you get the equivalent of 4 (15-oz) cans! For example, I buy lots of black beans because they are our favorite for about a dollar per pound. A 15-oz can of black beans would cost about 75 cents each. For me, that's a savings of $2 that I can spend on something else that I really want to buy at the grocery store. There are 4 steps to taking dried beans from the bag to the freezer:

Empty the 1 pound bag of dried beans into a large bowl and cover with water. Make sure you have at least 2 inches of water above the beans. Leave overnight or at least 8 hours. In the morning they will be plumped up.

Drain them into a colander and rinse.

Put the beans in a slow-cooker and cover with water. Turn on low and leave all day until the beans are firm but tender. Let cool. Alternatively, you could put them in a large pot on the stove, bring to a boil, and let simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or so.

When the beans have cooled put them in some kind of container like glass jars or in baggies. I save jars from pickles, salsa, and jellies that I buy at the store and use those to freeze some of my beans. I do measure out how much I put in each jar and label them with the date so I don't have to try to remember how much I put in there later. Just remember to leave about 1 1/2 to 2 inches of jar space between the beans and the lid because they will expand as they freeze.

If you want to use baggies for storing, measure out about 2 cups of beans with their juice into a small sandwich bag, which is about 15 ounces. Lay it flat in the freezer so that it will freeze flat, which will save on storage space in the freezer. You can double up the baggies if you want OR you can put all the little baggies after they have frozen into a larger freezer bag.

Some dried beans are even more convenient because they don't have to be soaked, like split peas and lentils!

Here are some of our favorite recipes for using beans to give you some inspiration:

Black Bean and Salsa Soup-the easiest soup I've ever made!

I'm linking up with Frugal Friday.

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