Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cooking with Dried Beans

Dried Beans 

Dried  beans are one of the most economical dishes you can feed to your family and they taste great when prepared properly. A one pound bag of beans generally costs anywhere from $1.00 to $1.50 and sometimes up to $3.00 a pound for some specialty beans. 

You may think there isn't much savings when buying a bag of dried beans verses canned beans, but there are savings to be had not to mention the added flavor of home cooked beans. A one pound bag of dried beans will cook up to make the equivalent of around three 15 ounce cans of already cooked beans, so when buying dried beans over canned beans you will be saving money. 

Variety of Beans

When I was growing up my Mom made at least four types of dried beans: Great Northern, which we called Soup Beans, Pintos, Lima Beans and Black Eyed Peas. 

These days,in my frugal kitchen, I make all kinds of dried beans. I've come to realize that pinto beans are really not that flavorful. Have you ever tried Cranberry Beans? They are so full of flavor, even when cooked without oil, and are now my favorite bean and they can even be bought at Walmart these days. 

I currently have 25 pounds of beans on hand and they include, Great Northern Beans, 15 Bean Soup, 15 Bean Cajun Soup, Cranberry Beans, Split Green Peas, Lentils, 16 Bean Soup mix, Butter Beans, Lima Beans, Baby Lima Beans, Red Beans, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Pinto Beans, Yellow Eyed Peas, Black Eyed Peas, and Garbanzo Beans. 

Sorting and Soaking Dried Beans  

The first thing you need to do when getting ready to cook dried beans is sort through them to remove any pebbles or clumps of dirt. Beans are harvested in a way that does not always remove these things, so it is important to sort and then rinse the beans for any dust that may be on them. 

Usually what I do is the night before I want to make beans, I pour them onto the counter and sort them and then place them into a colander and rinse them under cool water. I then place the beans in a large bowl and cover with water up over the beans and allow the beans to soak overnight. 

Soaking beans has at least two major benefits. The first benefit is soaking breaks down some of the starches,  which can cause discomfort later after eating beans. I can always tell a difference when I've soaked my own beans at home verses beans I haven't soaked or canned beans. Another benefit of soaking beans is it makes cooking times shorter, which saves cooking fuel and money. 

Here is a photo of what the beans look like after soaking all night long. You can tell they have more than doubled in size. 

Cooking Beans from Scratch

In the morning, drain the beans and discard the soaking water and rinse again. I always discard the soaking water because to me it does not make sense to cook the beans in the water I soaked them in since that is where some of the unpleasantness of the beans is residing. 

Afterwards I place the beans in my slow cooker, but you can also make them on top of your stove. I used to make my beans on top of the stove, but that requires a great deal of what I call babysitting the beans.  I would have to check them regularly and add water as needed, but with the slower cooker I can turn them on and let them cook and not have to give them very much of my attention while they are cooking

Please excuse the photos as it was dark in the kitchen this morning as I was making these before work. I added an onion to this batch of 15 Bean Soup for flavor. 

What I do is place the beans in my slow cooker and cover with fresh water. Turn the slow cooker on high and cook the beans until they reach my desired stage of tenderness. We like some beans to be soupy and that requires additional cooking time. And I can always add more water to the beans as needed during the cooking process. You can cook them to whatever stage you would like. 

Here is the 15 Bean Soup after it has cooked all day and what it looks like in a serving bowl. 

It is a very hearty and delicious, stick to your ribs kind of dish. There is no oil in these beans although you could add some if you wanted for seasoning. My grandmother used to add bacon grease to her beans for flavoring and so did my Mother, but she eventually switched over to using vegetable oil for seasoning, which is what I had always done. I have used olive oil as well, which makes a great seasoning. But after doing my research this year, I change the way I make beans now and just add onion and some salt for seasoning. 

You can read about that update here

I've cooked dried beans for at least twenty-five years now, and I have made them as a main dish meal many times before. But it was not until this year that I have made them as a main dish meal on a regular basis. We eat beans almost everyday now and on days I am not cooking them we are usually eating beans from the batch made the day before. 

This is a change I've made in our diet to combat some of the rising cost of meat and groceries these days and in my attempt to eat a healthier, plant based diet . I made this 15 bean soup and it cost me approximately $3.00 to make and feed 3 people for dinner tonight. That works out to $1.00 per serving. Like I said about the onions, "I love getting a good bargain and feeding my family with food bought at the lowest price possible while still maintaining a healthy diet". 

CFO ~ Chief Frugal Officer
© Belinda & Frugal Workshop, 2011-2013.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Great Deal on Onions

Sweet deal at Aldi this week on onions. They have the 3 pound bags of onions on sale for 99¢. 

I bought four bags or 12 pounds of onions, which cost me $3.96. There were 28 onions in the 12 pounds of onions, which makes them 14¢ each or 33¢ per pound.  

I put them in an old pair of pantyhose and tied off each one. Here is the finished product. 

And here they are hanging in the pantry. 

They should last me a good, long time and I'm hoping at least a couple of months. 

I love getting a good bargain and feeding my family with food bought at the lowest price possible while still maintaining a healthy diet. 

CFO ~ Chief Frugal Officer
© Belinda & Frugal Workshop, 2011-2013.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Plant Based Diet

Recently I have switched our diet to mostly a plant based diet this year. I have spent the last six months or so researching this topic. 

Reasons for switching to a plant based diet include, disappointment over the rising cost of meat, wanting to lose weight and get better control over my blood sugar. As a result, I have lost weight and my blood pressure, cholesterol and A1C numbers are all down and my doctor is thrilled with my progress as am I.

What does our diet mostly consist of now? We eat a lot of vegetables and beans nowadays. I try to include vegetables for every meal including breakfast. 

In July I participated in an Unprocessed Challenge where we ate no processed food for 30 days. For breakfast I would eat steamed Kale to make sure I got my vegetable servings in for the day.

It has been an adventure to say the least and my family isn't always thrilled with the choices I've made. Like with anything else there is a period of trial and error. 

One of the things I've done is to remove as much oil as possible from our diet and I did it for health reasons, but this step has also saved money. One tablespoon of oil has 120 calories and I do not want the calories from the oil in my diet on a regular basis. I still have oil on hand for some things such as frying tortillas for the Tacos I made for a birthday celebration last week, but the majority of time I now cook without oil.  

You do not need oil to sauté food. You can water sauté your food and it is much healthier for you. Go ahead and Google "water sautéing"  and read about the topic. You will not only save money, but you are doing something healthy for yourself as well. Now I will be the first to admit that at least one person in my family complained about the lack of oil, used for seasoning, in dried beans when I made them without oil. But the savings and healthy benefits have been worth it to me. 

Another thing I've done is to eliminate meat from our diet as much as possible. Articles I've read over the last year state that people can expect to pay more for meat this year. According to an article on, multiple droughts in beef producing states have driven the cost of beef to historic highs. I had stopped buying beef roasts even before this year, except for a special occasion or holiday dinner, because the cost had skyrocketed to a price that I felt was out of my budget. 

We hadn't bought steaks or pork chops for several years prior to that because I felt the cost of these items were out of my price range. We don't have to pay more for meat if we don't want to or are unable to afford meat, but we have other options too. We can simply decide to do without meat and find other, more affordable, options to feed our families, which is what I've done.

I did buy ground beef last week, as a special request from a family member, who asked for Tacos for a birthday celebration. It was the first time I have bought meat to prepare at home since April 1, 2013.  So, we do still eat meat on occasion, but we have greatly reduced our consumption of it and have saved money as a result. 

In the weeks to come I will be sharing some of the things I've done this year and the changes I've made in our efforts to save money. 

Until then, 

CFO ~ Chief Frugal Officer
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without”
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