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With more and more American families looking to save some money at the grocery store, one of the easiest ways to do this, while still reaping tremendous health rewards, is done with beans.
But before you stock your pantry with a bunch of multi-colored cans, why not take a walk down the rice aisle? There you will find bags of dried beans or every variety: black beans, pinto beans, Northern white beans, kidney beans, garbanzo or chick peas, lentils, even packs of premixed dried beans with spice packs for delicious soups and Creole dishes.
With just a little bit of prep work, you can prepare and store any variety of beans at a fraction of the cost (and reduce your sodium intake, I might add, as this is used to extend their shelf life and firmness in the can).
Start with a 1lb bag of beans, which typically costs around $1 to $1.30 per pound. This one bag will yield enough cooked beans to equal around 4 cans, and there is substantially less packaging to throw away or recycle.
You can follow the directions and soak overnight, followed by a slow simmer on the stove…or you can follow the quick method saving you some time. However, my personal favorite, which you will not see on the packaging; toss the beans in your crock pot after rinsing, cover with 6 cups water, cover and set on low for 5 ½ hours for your thin-skinned beans such as black bean, pinto, chick pea or Northern white, up to 7 hours for you thicker skinned beans such as light or dark kidney. (Sitting on warm if you are still at work or out and about for the day won't hurt anything)
Once soft, you can scoop the beans from the pot using a measuring cup and store these beans with their liquid in any storage container. I personally use old sour cream and butter containers that I washed, which comfortably hold about 1 can's worth of beans, or I will use the large yogurt containers, which hold the equivalent of 2 cans for my larger recipes. I also write what kind of bean they are on a post-it note and stack them neatly in my freezer for future use.
Beans are a fantastic source of fiber and protein and very low in fat, and if cooked until the skins break DO NOT cause gas as the “magical fruit” song would have you believe. They are an excellent way to reduce your food budget at the grocery store if you are looking to add more meat-free dishes to your week or simply add more substance and protein to an already vegetarian or vegan menu. They also taste pretty good when throw in a pot with a ham bone, sausage or some other cheap cut of meat.