Sunday, October 19, 2008

Money Saving Tips

It's time to save some money. You know you have to. The economic climate today, wallstreet, blah blah blah. In the end you may or may not care what's going on in the world of everyone else's money but I know you care about your money and you don't want to spend anymore of it then is necessary unless it's on something really cool and/or fun.

So you want to save some money?

Let me hear you say "yeah!"
*crowd screams* YEAH!!!
I can't hear you
*crowd screams louder* YEAH!!
Then stop buying those damn canned beans!

Silliness aside, really the canned beans have got to go. I know what you're going to say. It's convenient, quick, ready to go, already cooked, etc. I hear you, they are pretty great but there are drawbacks and the alternative isn't as hard as you think.

Canned beans cost (at least in my area) between $0.99 a can to $2 a can, depending on what store you are in, if there are any sales, and conventional versus organic. In a can you get what? About 1.5-2 cups of cooked beans. The labels say 15oz.
For the price of one can of beans you can buy a pound of dried beans. Depending on the bean this roughly equals 6 cups cooked beans. That's equivalent to at least 3 cans, more for some beans. So that's what? $0.30 to $0.50/can? It's a rough estimate but like I said, every bean is a little different as far as weight and cooked size and of course per pound weight on beans varies. But unless I am buying a super special heirloom bean, I never pay more than $3/lb. Usually it's less than $2/lb and that's for organic.

Yesterday, my day off, I spent refilling my freezer with cooked beans. That isn't to say I spent the day slaving over a hot stove cooking beans constantly. I kinda just had them on in the background while I did other things like read blogs, do dishes, cuddle the kitty (even if he didn't want to), chase a bad kitty away so my kitty could come down from the tree so the birds would stop dive bombing him for being up in the tree, you know regular household day off stuff. You can even keep beans cooking pretty safely while you leave the house.

First you gotta buy some beans. Since there are so many colors and sizes I just keep jars of them on the shelves in my kitchen. I find them kinda pretty.
So cooking beans, for me is a vary, umm, unscientific process. Starting the night before I did some necessary prep work. Now I know this is already starting to sound like a long process and it kind of is but not really. Most of the "work" is hands off so hang in there. So the night before I picked some beans out the kinds don't matter. You can soak as much as you'd like, in my containers here about 1-1.5 cups (there are some markings on the sides) will expand to fill the container so I aim for that. Measure out your beans, dump them out onto a rimmed baking sheet (or somewhere you can spread them out without dumping them all over the floor) and have a quick look for nonbeans (you may find pebbles or bits of dirt, these are usually a similar size to the beans so they were not detected during processing), once they are picked over, rinse them and put them in your container. Fill the container with at least as much water as beans. I usually just fill the container with water, a little extra won't hurt them so no worries. Set them aside for 3-8 hrs (over night is easy).
Now when you come back to your beans you'll find them to be significantly bigger then when you left them. Maybe they are even trying to bust out of the container you put them in. It's pretty neat really. Well I think so anyway. Go ahead and drain off your rehydrated beans and now we are ready to cook them. Yesterday I had two cooking processes going. Like I said, I needed to completely refill my freezer so I was cooking a lot of beans.
I usually just use my slow cooker. Dump the beans in, cover with water plus an inch or two, cover slow cooker, set to low or high depending how quickly you need these puppies done. If I'm leaving them on while I'm at work I'll set it to low and they'll be done when I get home. This is perfect for chickpeas which are pretty hardy. I find my beans are done in 2-4 hrs when set to the high setting, the low setting may be too low on your slow cooker to get the job done in a reasonable timeframe but definitely experiment.
The other, no special equipment necessary, method is stove top. Medium size saucepan, cover with water as with the slow cooker and get the water boiling then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1-2 hrs. While the beans are going you don't really need to hover over them. Make sure the beans stay covered with water though. Get other stuff done, this is a perfect lazy day off task or to keep a steady flow of beans, do a batch once every couple of days. I hear pressure cookers are awesome for this but I have never had one or used one.
Once your beans are cooked . . . go ahead and try one silly, that's the only way to check if they are cooked. Unless you've really let them go and it's kinda a pot of mush. If that is the case then we'll call it soup just add some seasonings and enjoy. What I do is drain them and freeze them in freezer bags. Some people really like that bean gravy though so you might want to save that, it's tasty as a replacement for broth in recipes or whatever you can think of. You can freeze the broth separately in containers or ice cube trays then bag the cubes. Since I use freezer bags which are pretty thick/tough I reuse them (just give them a quick rinse and dry them with the rest of the dishes).
Like I mentioned before, my cooking methods here are decidedly unscientific but I dug up some sites to help.
Pressure Cooker cook times chart
Bean Cooking Chart (includes soaking times, regular stove top method and pressure cooker)

So in the end I'm actually going to say, some canned beans can be a good thing. A backup to your freezer when you accidentally use all the ones you had cooked and didn't make more before you needed to use them. Also in the event of an actual emergency, especially if you are expecting to lose power, canned goods are going to serve you pretty damn well.


Anonymous said...

I need to start making dried beans more - I love how pretty they are and how they get all wrinkly and then huge when you soak them.

Ginger said...

anasazi beans are my favorite. i fell into the habit of buying canned beans out of convenience for awhile, but i've been buying more dry stock lately because of the cost. it saves on waste/recycling too since there are no cans to recyle.
i'm also thinking of sprouting them for raw food recipes. i've seen a couple of recipes for raw hummus that look interesting.

Ricki said...

I almost always use dried beans--I've found so many different varieties that you can't get canned, and I really don't want all that extra sodium in the canned ones. That said, I'm with you--it's good to have a few cans set aside for an emergency or when you're really in a rush. But freezing the cooked beans is a fabulous idea (why didn't I ever think of that??) :)

Happy Herbivore! said...

you are amazing - thank you for posting this ---- !!! I am always looking to save $ I think thats partly why I started cooking at home! I am so jealous of all your beans - many I have never heard of. Curse you WF for only stocking "traditional" beans like green lentils and chickpeas.

I live on canned beans (partly because I'm lazy) and partly because I've been able to find sodium free organic ones but I should be more green and use dry! (hell, it would be cheaper) thanks for kicking me in the butt to get me moving in the right direction.


fantastic. I will not buy another can.. I will not buy another can. I actually have some dried beans but not in great jars.. which.. I have a bunch of jars cause My family (mom and dad far away) can the goodies from their garden and I ATE it!!

Sanja said...

You have so much different beans! I always forget to soak them. I should make write on my fridge 'soak beans!' or something, maybe then I won't forget to do it...

aTxVegn said...

I feel guilty buying canned beans since I've been cooking the dried ones. I buy a pound for same price as one can! I love to put on a pot of beans and you're right, once you get it going you really don't have to do anything more than check on them a couple of times. Too easy not to do. And far better testing.

Zoey said...

Hi Bex,

This is a great post on beans. I switched to using only dry beans when I started blogging and I love it. You did a really good job of explaining the process and showing how easy it really is!

Freezing cooked beans is a great idea- how long will they last in the freezer?

Bex said...

ginger - my anasazi beans are new. I have never tried them before. I'm really looking forward to it now though.

zoey-I'm not completely sure how long they last. I use them regularly because they are so quick and easy. I would assume they last as long as any other frozen veg. Get as much air out of the bag as possible (without squishing of course) to prevent the freezer burn.

Liz² said...

awesome post! especially that bit about turning over-mushy beans into soup, that's exactly what I do! (or dip if I can salvage it. Oh, and cool about draining the beans before freezing them... that sounds way easier than freezing them in a big block (which is how I've been doing it).

Kelly said...

Beautiful. I love the photos of the dried beans side by side in the jars.

Anonymous said...

You are so right - I really need to cut it out with canned beans.

Thanks for this post. I needed some cook my own beans inspiration!

p.s. I agree - beans in jars are very pretty!

Destiny's Vegan Kitchen said...

Your beans are so pretty! I love this post!

Erin said...

Gah. I totally need to start cooking my own beans. I'd like to say I don't because I'm lazy but it's not true, I have no excuse!

Vegan_Noodle said...

I've been trying more and more to use dried beans... I think they taste alot better than canned! Thanks for the tips!