Beans, Beans They're Good For Your…Wallet!

The following guest post is by Forest, from the frugal living blog Frugal Zeitgeist. Forest spent the last couple years living in Montreal, Canada, but currently lives in Cairo, Egypt, where he works full time online as a graphic designer and a blogger.  If you are not following his blog, you are missing some excellent frugal ideas (like one of my recent personal favorites on environmentally-friendly hobbit homes). Cool stuff!

2010 is as good a year as any to get the finances back on track and start eating better for you. One food that has been around forever in many forms are beans. There are tons of types and almost all are like little pockets of low fat protein, perfect for your healthy eating plan. The other great news is that they are also extremely cheap, especially if purchased dried. I know the idea of preparing beans from dried may sound like hard work but it really is not.

Introducing Dried Beans Into Your Diet

dried beans
Image Credit: CF Whitney

At this stage in 2010 a lot of us are looking at our sad excuse for a belly and sad excuse for a savings account and wondering what we are going to do about it! All of the infomercials, paid television endorsements and latest celebrity fad diet food will have us believing that eating well and staying healthy is a pricey affair. However this just is not the case.

In this article I am going to look at three common and nutritious dried beans and show you how you can easily prep them.

Firstly though, let’s take a look and see what beans can be used for:

  • Stews, chillies and curries:beans can easily replace meat in a good hearty chilli or curry. I make these every few weeks and use almost no oil and a whole bunch of veggies.
  • Dips:many beans can be blended with herbs, spices, tahini and other things to make really nice and nutritious dips.
  • Burgers: bean burgers are pretty easy to make and can be grilled or lightly fried.
  • Soups: Most soups can benefit from a few added beans

And much much more…..

You will get much better value buying all of these beans dried. If you have never looked at the dried beans and pulses section of your local supermarket then you may be very surprised at the prices and the amount of savings that could be had on many foods, if purchased dried. For example, in my experience, a bag of dried chickpeas containing the equivalent of around 2 or 3 cans will cost about the same as a single can.

Chickpeas

chickpeas
Image Credit: Phxpma

This is my favorite bean. I add them to soups, stews, chillies, curries, make hummus, burgers and even like them plain as a snack.

1/2cup (roughly 100g) will provide about 365 calories, 6g fat (only about 0.65g of that is saturated fat). You will also get around 19g of protein and 60.5g of carbs (17g of that is dietary fiber)…. Basically a very nutritious and hearty, healthy food.

Preparation from dried:

  1. Spread the chickpeas over a flat surface, remove any bad beans or foreign objects.
  2. Rinse the sorted peas.
  3. Put into a large Tupperware, fill with clean water, 2 or 3 times higher than the beans.
  4. Put in the fridge for 24 hours.
  5. Pour out the water, rinse and fill with the same amount of clean water.
  6. Transfer to a pot with a lid and put on medium heat.
  7. Boil until beans are tender, 1-2 hours normally, so check periodically.

Black Eyed Peas

blackeyed peas
Image Credit: Frangrit

These are great added to rice or salads. They also make a great dip and are nutritionally comparable to meat for many dishes.

A 100g serving will provide about 243 calories, almost 0 fat, 62g carbs (27g of those are dietary fiber) and 24g of protein.

Preparation from dried:

  1. Spread the beans over a flat surface, remove any bad beans or foreign objects.
  2. Rinse the sorted peas.
  3. Put into a large Tupperware, fill with clean water, 2 or 3 times higher than the beans.
  4. Put in the fridge for 6 hours.
  5. Pour out the water, rinse and fill with the same amount of clean water.
  6. Transfer to a pot with a lid and put on low heat.
  7. Boil until beans are tender, 40mins-1hr normally, check throughout.

White Beans

white beans
Image Credit: WontonBrutality

Quite a few Italian dishes call for white beans. They make excellent spreadable pastes, are great for pasta sauces and are good in stews, lasagnas, chillies and more. I also really like eating them cold as a snack, with a little salt and spice.

A 100g serving will provide approximately 335 calories, 0.9g fat, 60.8g carbs (15.5g dietary fiber) and 23.5g protein (there are various types of white beans so these numbers may vary slightly)

Preparation from dried:

  1. Spread the beans over a flat surface, remove any bad beans or foreign objects.
  2. Rinse the sorted peas.
  3. Put into a large Tupperware, fill with clean water, 2 or 3 times higher than the beans.
  4. Put in the fridge for 12 hours.
  5. Pour out the water, rinse and fill with the same amount of clean water.
  6. Transfer to a pot with a lid and put on low heat.
  7. I have found boiling time to vary greatly for these beans, so ideally check every 1/2hr or so until they are just tender.

See, nothing to it! I hope this post inspires you to try and get a few more beans into your diet. Let us know how it goes.

Comments

  1. Thank you for the great introduction!

    If anyone has any questions then please leave a comment and i’ll do my best to answer.

    I hope you all enjoy the post.

  2. tip: instead of cooking chick peas for 1-2 hours if you want to save energy cook it in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes (close to beginning of one whistle). hope this helps.

  3. My grandparents survived eating many a “pot of beans” living in the dustbowl during the war/great depression.It’s interesting that science is now yelling us this “poor folks” food is actually good for us!
    We usually eat some kind of beans at least weekly.I always have a selection of both canned and dried beans in my cupboard.

  4. I’m doing a Lunch Diet that I’m trying to improve the nutritional value of (Ramen noodles get old after a few months of them).

    I never thought about going the dried bean route… Is it much cheaper that canned beans?

    I’m more a Kidney, Baked and Lima beans kind of guy, but those Chickpeas and white beans have me curious… I’ll have to try them.

    I’m thinking about using broccoli as a cheap green vegetable in addition to the beans (and Ramen noodles).

    Thanks for the info…

  5. Ditto on the pressure cooker.
    I usually figure 1 cup beans/barley/grain etc to 2.5 – 3 cups water and pressure cook 15 minutes.

    I can come home from work, throw beans/barley/rice, some chopped up veggies/onions/seasonings along with a jar of homecanned turkey breast/elk/deer/goose in the pressure cooker and have a delicious homemade nutritious soup on the table in 30 minutes!

    Fast, good for you, and frugal :)

  6. @Aerosmith, Thanks. I really want a pressure cooker and it’s something I will be keeping my eye out for in the coming months. I am on a no buy spree for at least January but def after that.

    @Ronald, ha ha, very true. I am really interested in getting hold of some of the WW2 ration cookbooks that housewives in England used to have. I bet there are some genius recipes in them.

    @Money Reasons, I’d really try and replace those Ramen’s with wholemeal pasta if I were you! But if it’s all you can get then definitely try and nutri them up with some beans. White beans are very similar to kidney beans and work very well with rice and pasta but so do kidney beans. If you get time you should look up the West Indian recipe for Rice and Pea (It’s kidney beans, rice and a few spices, YUM!). Yes canned beans are much much cheaper.

    @Marci, this is exactly why I want a pressure cooker! I am just rushing through these comments and am actually off to make a soup. I’m making a variation on Minestrone just with stuff I have in the fridge, I am sure it would go much quicker in a pressure cooker.

    Thanks everyone for the awesome comments.

  7. Forest: Keep your eyes open at garage sales for pressure cookers, especially estate sales. Buy new rings or rubbers online or at your local hardware store. Much cheaper than buying a new one.

    Or… if you have a friend who works in the metal shed at the local dump/transfer station, have them look for one for you. You’d be surprised how many perfectly good, even new, pressure cookers, pots, pans are to be found discarded in our local metal recycling shed! Clean, bleach, sanitize, of course, but good as new!

  8. I love using beans, especially when finances are a crunch. A favorite of mine is black beans, cooked in broth and some soy sauce. But the trick is to put butter on it after it is served. Don’t ask why, but it is a lot better with butter!

  9. Money Reasons- I do a lot of cooking with dried beans for my large family and multiple houseguests, and yes, dried beans are much cheaper than canned.

    With canned beans you are paying for convenience (and I admit they are plenty convenient), and you’re paying for the water in the beans. You want to look at volume here, not weight. A can of beans contains about 2 cups of cooked beans. That pound of dried beans makes from 7-9 cups of cooked beans- depending on the bean (garbanzos or chickpeas and lentils slightly less).

    That means that there might be about ten cents worth of beans in a .39 cent can, while one .70 cents pound bag of dried beans will make as many cooked beans as four cans. Again, the cost will vary from bean variety to store to region- the important thing to keep in mind is that the average can of beans as about the same amount of beans as 1/4 of a bag of dried, and the average pound of dried beans makes up about four cans worth.

    I make up a big batch of beans from dried (which I buy in bulk bags of around 25 pounds each), and freeze the cooked beans for later use.

    I also don’t bother with a tupperware container. I soak the beans overnight in the same pan in which I am going to cook them, drain, rinse, refill and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer until done. Beans are generally done when you blow on the them and the skin peels back.

    If you forget to soak them you can bring them to a boil for ten minutes, let them rest for an hour, drain, rinse, refill with clean water, and bring to a simmer. They’ll be done in just a short time.

    I have reused the soaking water for houseplants and the flowerbed outside, too.

  10. I forgot- one more very, very cool tip. You can make ‘instant’ bean dishes if you have a grain mill or other grinder capable of grinding dried beans down to a flour.

    I make ‘cream’ soups without any dairy products at all by whisking white bean flour in boiling chicken (or other) broth or in water. Add grated potatoes, carrots and seasonings for a deliciously creamy and hearty cream of potato soup in just a few minutes.

    I can have split pea soup on the table in about ten minutes from start to finish. It’s as good as a pressure cooker for speed for recipes where you don’t need whole beans,

    I have some blog posts about it, with recipes. (there are others, searching may turn them up).

    I’ve heard you can grind beans in a coffee mill too, which would be really nice.

    In fact, supper tonight is burritoes made with instant refried beans (ground pinto bean flour whisked into boiling water for three minutes, various spices added) and ground venison given to us by a local hunter (deer here are vermin- we see up to 70 at a time in a cornfield less than a mile from the house).

  11. Read the label on canned beans sometime. More stuff in there than just beans (sugar, HFCs) I prefer to do dried beans (I grow my own but I know I am extreme) super easy to cook if you soak them overnight. I put mine in a pot on the woodstove and they simmer there all day using no extra energy. Must try the grinding tip above! That sounds perfect for me!

  12. Yes, I have read that canned beans can have some nasty preservatives. I use them out of convenience, although the tips in this post make it seem pretty easy to prepare dried beans. As far as black eyed peas go, I have a great recipe for Hoppin’ John, a stew that has kielbasa sausage. Yum!

  13. If anyone is trying to visit Frugal Zeitgeist right no it’s down sadly. MY host said there is a power outage at their Dallas center. :( , no eta for it being back up!

    @Marci, thanks for the tips. Being in Cairo they don’t seem to have so many yard sales but there are markets literally packed with old things from house clearances and business clearances… So I should go hunting there!

    As for the rubbish situation…. It’s extremely different to what we know and there is no dump to go and look at the metal section (that I know of). I plan to write about waste and Cairo very soon.

    @Anna, Yes black beans are awesome. I love Mexican food.

    @Deputy Headmistress, Wow, what fantastic tips. I will definitely be trying to find a coffee or flour grinder now when out looking for a pressure cooker! Thanks so much… This is the beauty of the net, so much to learn and so easy to get the info :) .

    @Lisa, I would love to grow my own beans, not settled enough here right now but as soon as I am. Just out of interest what beans do you grow and how hard is it?

  14. If anyone is trying to visit Frugal Zeitgeist right no it’s down sadly. MY host said there is a power outage at their Dallas center. :( , no eta for it being back up!

    @Marci, thanks for the tips. Being in Cairo they don’t seem to have so many yard sales but there are markets literally packed with old things from house clearances and business clearances… So I should go hunting there!

    As for the rubbish situation…. It’s extremely different to what we know and there is no dump to go and look at the metal section (that I know of). I plan to write about waste and Cairo very soon.

    @Anna, Yes black beans are awesome. I love Mexican food.

    @Deputy Headmistress, Wow, what fantastic tips. I will definitely be trying to find a coffee or flour grinder now when out looking for a pressure cooker! Thanks so much… This is the beauty of the net, so much to learn and so easy to get the info :) .

    @Lisa, I would love to grow my own beans, not settled enough here right now but as soon as I am. Just out of interest what beans do you grow and how hard is it?

    • Hey there forest. I’ve found the cot of 1 kg of kidney beans dried at harvest whole foods in ponsonby. It’s 4.95 a kg. not much saving compared to buying in cans. Can you suggest a better supplier in Auckland? Alex

  15. Yay, Frugal Zeitgeist is back up!

    @April, Yum sounds great. If you want to guest post the recipe in my blog email me. Forest.Parks@gmail.com… I’m vegetarian so would probably use Quorn Sausages, although I have not managed to find them here in Cairo yet!

  16. Lisa – you’re not extreme nor alone in growing your own dried beans!

    I grow what will work in my maritime zone here (NW Oregon) and that is mostly Scarlet Runner Beans. I get the fresh green beans while they are growing, and then when I let them grow longer, I get foot long bean pods filled with large brown speckled beans to dry – kind of the size of a small lima bean. I have tried limas and black eyed peas here, but the climate doesn’t work for them. I need a short season cool growing bean in order for them to make it to the dried bean stage in time.

  17. Thanks Forest, Just this evening I managed to persuade my ‘lesser’ half to allow me to grow some beans this year, and then I find your post! WOW what a lot of information!
    I actually have a couple of old English recipe books, from WW2 and before, and I can honestly say I have not spotted a single recipe for beans in them! As previously said, beans were a poor mans meal, and as such, couldn’t afford to buy a cook book. On the other hand, they have a lot of recipes that contain suet and cheap cuts of meat.
    If you really are interested in looking for an older cook book with bean recipes in it, may I suggest you look to the ’70′s. The Hippie trends of the ’60′s were filtering through to the mainstream by then.
    Sue

  18. @Marci, Runner beans grow really well in my experience and I may have to give them a shot here in Cairo… I love them too! Great nutritious food.

    @Sue, Thank you very much. There is a book from the 70′s written by a political activist who was in Prison that has some great cheap recipes and Frugal Living ideas…. Sadly it also shows you how to knife fight and other things I have no intention of doing!….. If you filter out the bad it’s not a bad book… If that makes any sense!. It’s called Steal This Book and can be found legally online here: http://www.tenant.net/Community/steal/steal.html

  19. The calorie counts you mention must be for uncooked beans. I was horrified to see 1/2 c of garbanzo beans coming in at 335 calories. However, when I checked the online calorie counters, I noticed that 1 cup of cooked garbanzo beans is 269 calories and 1 cup of my favorite, black beans (cooked), is 227 calories. Whew!

  20. Hey sorry for the delay… Yes I should have mentioned these were dry calories…. Pretty much all beans are in the healthy side of things for calories, fat and other things so as long as you eat moderate portions there is absolutely nothing to worry about there!

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