Beans, Beans the Frugal Fruit

By ERIN TURNER

It’s almost summertime so I’ve been practicing on my very own Baked Bean recipe because my family loves baked beans.  Plus, I also am gearing up for making oodles of Bean and Cheese burritos to freeze for my boys’ snacks and lunches during summer break!  So, I’ll be going through lots of beans!

I admit I am a canned bean user and lover.  I love the convenience of cracking open a can and having already cooked beans plus it seems at 59-79 cents a can, they are fairly frugal!

Oops, not so fast! Really, I have discovered canned beans are NOT that frugal.   While watching a cooking show this past week one of the chefs made a comment about dried vs. canned beans and the cost difference.  It intrigued me so I began researching the difference and was utterly floored at the mistake I have been making all these years!

1-lb bag of pinto beans were .50 cents at Mission General Store in St. Ignatius.

1-lb bag of pinto beans were .50 cents at Mission General Store in St.Ignatius.

I determined that 1 cup of dried beans converts roughly to 3 cups of cooked beans and there are about 2 cups of dried beans into 1 pould,  while one 13.5 oz can of beans is equal to about 1 ¾ cup of cooked beans.  Those are interesting and definitely important figures to know in the world of beans!

Okay, so I pulled out a 1lb bag of pinto beans which I recently purchased at Mission General Store in St. Ignatius.  I paid .50 cents for it.  So, according to my calculations above I just paid .50 cents for 6 cups of cooked beans!  That comes out to .08 cents a cup!  Meanwhile a can of pinto beans runs about 79 cents (a lot of times you can hit a good sale or use a coupon and get it for around 59 cents).  In order to get  almost the same amount of beans as my dried version, I’d have to buy 4 cans.  That would cost me $3.16 or 45 cents per cup.  That is a 33 cent difference PER CUP!  That adds up awful fast when you’re making baked beans for lots of summer picnics!

Beans are one of those overlooked and underappreciated pantry items.  We are learning more and more how important they are in a healthy diet.  Plus, they are tasty and very versatile.  This time of year I love white Cannelli beans splashed with olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh chopped garlic and fresh parsley! Yum!  So, in all reality we do use the meager bean a lot in our mealtime preparations, so if I’m serious about being frugal, buying dried beans will cut $30-45 off my monthly grocery bill!

A can of pinto beans costs .79 cents per can or .45 cents per cup versus .08 cents per cup of dried beans.

A can of pinto beans costs .79 cents per can or .45 cents per cup versus .08 cents per cup of driedbeans.

But what about the convenience?  Well, I researched that as well and found lots of different ways of preparing the beans so they are ready at a moment’s notice.  Here are some options:

1)      Soak in fresh water overnight.  Drain the water the next day and then cook in a pot of fresh water for 1 ½ hrs or until tender.

2)      Cook them in a slow cooker on high all day until tender. (Lots of different variations and cooking methods)

3)      Cook in a pressure cooker for 15-45 minutes (depending on type of bean).

With all of these methods, you would cook up a large batch and then bag them up in individual (1-2 cup) servings and freeze.  When you need beans, you just need to do a quick defrost and viola!  I may just keep one or two bags in the refridge so that I’m always ready for a quick, frugal and tasty meal without ANY hassle!  Plus, my recycling will be reduced without all those tin cans!

So, that’s my frugal tip for the week! Even though I knew dried beans were cheaper, I didn’t realize HOW much cheaper they truly are!   “Beans, beans…the magical fruit!”

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 Erin’s got tons of tips for saving money, couponing, sticking to a budget, and living sustainably in her blog archive.

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Erin Eisenman-Turner is proud to be a native Missoulian. Along with her husband and three sons, they raise chickens, pigs, rabbits, and vegetables at Turner Family Farms in the Orchard Homes area. When the farm chores are done, the coupons clipped, and the blog written, you can find Erin exploring Montana, collecting antiques, and trying to maintain a well-run, happy, and organized home for her family.

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