What if I told you that one tiny little change in your kitchen could save you up to 60% off select items on your grocery bill? Would you want to know what the secret was? Or would you turn a blind eye and be content with spending too much on real food?
Cooking beans from scratch is one of those real food tasks that’s kinda boring. I mean, have you ever seen anyone get excited about eating beans? I definitely haven’t, but it’s a sad story really. Beans have so much to offer!
And I’m NOT talking about the unpleasant, digestive side effects. Ahem.
Actually, there’s a really easy way to “de-gas” beans, so to speak, so you don’t have to deal with that.
First and foremost though, let’s talk about nutrition. Holy smokes! Name the bean and the odds are in favor that it provides a substantial chunk of your daily vitamins and minerals. Folic acid, fiber, iron… even the trace minerals like copper, manganese and magnesium that most of us don’t get quite enough of are found in those tiny little gems.
The fact that beans are naturally high in protein is a reason in and of itself to eat beans in my book, especially when just a 1/2 cup boasts over 8 grams. (No wonder why I included them as a protein source in my high protein smoothie eBook!)
To top if off, beans are frugal. Really, really, REALLY frugal. I’ve found beans as low as 99¢ per pound locally, but if you have the room, you can get them for even less when you buy in bulk.
So, are there any downsides to the great and amazing bean? I can only think of two.
1. You have to purposefully include them in your meals.
I haven’t met anyone that has said, “Hmm… I’m kinda hungry. I could really snack on a cup of beans right now.”
Until that happens, I try to incorporate beans at least once a week in our meal plans.
2. They tend to produce unpleasant, smelly side effects for some people.
There’s a reason why they’re called the magical fruit… if you know what I mean. Fortunately, I have a fix for that too.
Some people would claim that there’s a third downside to beans… That they take too long to cook from scratch, and it’s easier to open up a can when it comes time to make dinner.
In their defense, they’re right. It IS easier to open up a can than to cook beans from scratch. But in my rebuttal, I would say that canned beans:
- cost more
- don’t taste as good
- will likely cause those smelly side effects beans are known for
With a little bit of planning (and we’re really talking just a little, teeny tiny bit here), you can have both the convenience of canned beans AND the benefits that soaked beans provides (i.e. less gas).
Allow me to share how we cook beans from scratch to stretch the budget, eliminate the cause of foul-smelling gas and how we do it all each month without thwarting dinner plans.
How to Soak, De-Gas and Cook Beans from Scratch
Place beans in a colander and rinse well. Remove any whole or partial beans that are significantly discolored. You also want to check for pebbles and clumps of dirt. Unless you want to eat pebbles and dirt, but I don’t recommend it.
Measure beans into a large stock pot. Add 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans. One pound of dry beans yields 3-5 cups, depending on the size of beans, so you’ll need anywhere from 3-5 quarts of water.
It’s okay to overestimate if you don’t feel like measuring, but don’t underestimate otherwise you’re going to run into problems. I usually take the 30 seconds and measure, just to be safe.
If you’re making black beans, add 1 Tbsp whey or lemon juice for each cup of dry beans. All other beans are good with just water.
Allow the beans to sit undisturbed for at least 8 hours, or up to 24.
After soaking, strain beans into the colander and rinse very, very well with cold water. This step is pivotal in removing the enzymes that cause the gaseous side effects.
Tip: Consider saving the soaking water to water your garden for free.
Return the beans to the stock pot and add the same amount of water you originally used, plus an extra cup for each cup of beans. For example, if you started with 2 cups of beans, you’ll need 2 quarts (4 cups water per 1 cup beans) + 2 cups more.
Place the beans on the stove top and bring the water just to a boil. Stir, turn off the heat and cover the pot of beans with a lid. Allow the beans to sit undisturbed, for 2-8 hours.
Strain beans into the colander and again, rinse very, very well with cold water. If you haven’t guessed, the draining and rinsing of the beans is the all-important step in de-gassing the beans. You must eliminate the soaking liquid and rinse off the residue from the beans. Don’t get lazy otherwise you’ll pay later!
Tip: Again, consider saving this soaking water too for watering the garden for free!
Return the beans to the stock pot and cover with water so that the water line is at least 2″ above the beans. Bring the beans to a very low simmer and allow them to cook until desired tenderness. (Cooking low and slow yields a better bean, and better digestion.)
- For partially-cooked beans, this will take anywhere from 45-90 minutes. (This is ideal in situations when the beans will be cooked again, like in soups or stews.)
- For fully-cooked beans, this will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. (This is ideal when you need soft beans immediately, in dishes like hummus or refried beans.)
Periodically check the beans for doneness and add more water as needed to ensure the beans do not dry out while cooking. Season with salt and pepper to taste when the beans are almost done. Feel free to add additional seasonings too, like garlic, onion, cumin or Italian seasoning.
If you don’t want to cook the beans on the stove-top, here’s how I cook beans in a slow cooker.
Drain and allow the beans to cool before storing.
- 1lb dry beans
- 3-5 Tbsp whey or lemon juice (if making black beans)
- Place beans in a colander and rinse well. Remove any whole or partial beans that are significantly discolored. You also want to check for pebbles and clumps of dirt.
- Measure beans into a large stock pot. Add 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans. One pound of dry beans yields 3-5 cups, depending on the beans, so you'll need approximately 3-5 quarts of water.
- If you're making black beans, add 1 Tbsp whey or lemon juice for each cup of dry beans.
- Allow the beans to sit undisturbed for at least 8 hours, or up to 24.
- After soaking, strain beans into the colander and rinse very, very well with cold water.
- Return the beans to the stock pot and add the same amount of water you originally used, plus an extra cup for each cup of beans.
- Place the beans on the stove top and bring the water just to a boil. Turn off the heat and cover the beans. Allow the beans to sit undisturbed, for 2-8 hours.
- Strain beans into the colander and again, rinse very, very well with cold water.
- Return the beans to the stock pot and cover with water so that the water line is at least 2" above the beans. Bring the beans to a very low simmer and allow them to cook until desired tenderness. For partially-cooked beans, this will take anywhere from 45-90 minutes. For fully-cooked beans, this will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours.
- Periodically check the beans for doneness and add more water as needed to ensure the beans do not dry out while cooking. Season with salt and pepper to taste when the beans are almost done.
- Drain and allow the beans to cool before storing.
Fitting Soaking, De-Gassing and Cooking Beans from Scratch into a Busy Schedule
There are a few things that I do at the beginning of each month that helps to make cooking real food easier. One of those is cooking all the beans I need for the entire month, in one mega batch, and freezing in 1 1/2 cup portions.
The steps above sound like a lot, but much of it is hands off. In fact, there is practically no work involved in entire bean process until the beans are actually cooking, which happens in the last 2 hours.
Since I am a stay-at-home mom, I can soak and cook beans any day of the week. Simply start one morning and the beans are ready the following evening. It’s not uncommon to have pots full of black beans, white beans and garbanzo beans (the three I use most often) all going at one time. If you’re soaking and cooking one, you might as well be soaking and cooking three, right?
However, if you work outside the home, start this process on a Friday night before you go to bed. When you wake up on Saturday, start the second soaking process. Then when you start to prepare dinner that night, start cooking the beans. The beans will be done when everyone is done eating and cool enough to measure and store before you go to bed.
If it works better for you, start the process on a Saturday night instead.
For that matter, since you don’t have to actually be there until the very end, you can start this any night before you go to bed. While you’re preparing lunches or breakfast the next morning, bring the beans to a boil and turn off and cover. Then cook them when you get home.
There, now that we’ve covered every “I don’t have time to make beans from scratch” scenario, I don’t want to hear any excuses. 😉
As I mentioned above, dry beans can be found for as little as $1 per pound. One cup of dry beans yields approximately 2 1/2 cups of cooked beans, which means:
1 1/2 cups of cooked beans costs only 25¢
Compare that to a single can of beans that can cost anywhere from $0.50-$1.20 each!
I should note that not all brands of beans are created equal. The lower priced brands often include more broken beans, debris or non-uniformly cooking (or looking) beans than the higher priced brands. Once I bought a bag of beans from a non-mainstream brand and had to throw away almost a third of the beans because I felt uncomfortable feeding them to my family, they were so discolored.
You might pay less money with some brands, but you could be getting less beans (like in my situation). The better quality brands will have less debris, if any at all, meaning you’re actually getting what you paid for. Judging the quality of a product, and not just the price, is something I’m learning as we venture this whole budget thing.
At least beans aren’t something to be too concerned with in terms of buying organic. Just pay attention when you’re rinsing and sorting your beans and adjust your purchases as necessary.
Do you cook beans from scratch, or do you prefer to buy canned? How often do you incorporate beans into your meal plan?
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill. I love Bob’s Red Mill products and used them often in my kitchen, long before this blog was born. As always, I would never recommend anything on Crumbs that I wouldn’t recommend to a close friend or neighbor, and all opinions here are my own.