The following is a weekly feature brought to us by Sumiko from Near to Nothing. I’ve asked her to share tips and tricks (and recipes!) that show us ways to replace the items we’d typically buy canned or frozen from scratch at home for less! You’ll find a new From Our Pantry post each Monday.
A couple weeks ago, I compared the taste and cost of boil-in-bag brown rice and brown rice I made in my rice cooker. The result was a savings of $3.61 per pound by buying it in the bulk bins and cooking it myself. Another similar product is beans. You can buy canned beans, which are super convenient, but you pay a hefty fee for that convenience. Since I try to make a lot of our dinners with little or no meat, I often rely on serving beans and rice together to get a meatless complete protein.
I always start with dried beans rather than canned. Dried beans are cheaper than canned beans because they require less processing, the packaging is cheaper, they are not transported in water, and they do not spoil as quickly.
Not only do canned beans cost more, but they also have added salt and, sometimes, sugar. Yes, sugar! A few years ago I was looking at canned bean labels. The 15.25-oz. can of S&W kidney beans had 4 grams of added sugar per ½ c. of beans (that’s about 1 tsp. of sugar per ½ c. beans!).
Cooking dried beans is very easy to do. There is a huge debate about whether or not dried beans need to be soaked before cooking, both sides with their own studies, statistics, and philosophies. If you want to soak your beans, fine. If not, don’t. Soaking does reduce the active cooking time.
I used to soak my beans overnight and then cook them on the stove for two to three hours. But that requires me to be home during that time and keep an eye on them. Now I just toss them in the slow cooker and let them cook on high for about six hours. It couldn’t be easier!
I generally do not add any seasonings to the beans so that I can season them later when I use them. That way I can make a big batch of beans, freeze it in usable portions, and use it for all different types of dishes.
4½ c. dried beans
13½ c. water
Place beans and water in slow cooker; soak if desired. Cook on high for about 5-6 hours (less if beans have been soaked), or until beans are tender. Cooking time will differ with different types of beans. Yields 13½ c. cooked beans. Total cost: less than $3.
*Note: Red beans and kidney beans can contain toxins that are only destroyed at high cooking temperatures. These toxins cause stomach cramps and vomiting that usually resolves within a few hours without medical attention. While there have been no documented cases in the United States, there have been a handful of breakouts in the United Kingdom. Be sure your slow cooker reaches near boiling. I always cook my red beans in the slow cooker and have never had a problem.
We like eating beans with brown rice, and we always add corn.
Bean and Rice Burritos
Heat flour tortilla in skillet over medium heat. Top with beans, rice, corn, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and hot sauce.
Bean and Rice Bowls
Layer rice, beans, and corn in bowl. Top with cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, and hot sauce.
Bean and Rice Quesadillas
One of my husband’s favorites! Place tortilla in skillet over medium heat. Add beans, rice, and corn to one half. Cover with good amount of cheese and fold tortilla over. Flip quesadilla when first side starts getting crispy. Serve with sour cream and/or guacamole for dipping.
Leftover Bean and Rice Breakfast Burritos
Add scrambled eggs to bean and rice burritos.