Every frugal site worth its salt promotes dried beans as the ultimate in cheap, nutritious meal foundation.
Using dried beans takes planning.
You’ve got to soak overnight, cook carefully without adding salt or acidic ingredients, then pull it all together in a meal before the beans turn to mush.
This means you have to remember that you planned to eat beans several hours before the children are gnawing on your leg demanding dinner, a skill that is not my strong suit.
Canned beans are so much more convenient, especially if you need to stretch a meal or throw something together fast, but they come at a premium. Canned beans are cheap – but they still cost twice as much or more than dried, take up more room in the pantry, and create more trash. What’s a harried housewife (or a bon-bon eating housewife, for that matter) to do?
You can make dried beans just as convenient at the canned stuff. Just use your freezer!
1. Rinse and pick your beans. I do 2-4 pounds at a time, might as well minimize dirty pots!
2. Quick soak. Bring beans to a boil for 4-5 minutes, then let soak, covered, for 1 hour. Note – the package will tell you to boil for 1 minute, but add the extra time so they’ll be more tender when you get them out of the freezer. Kidney beans need to boil for a minimum of 5 minutes to kill the toxins. Use plenty of water and don’t add salt!
3. Drain beans.
4. Package in quart sized ziplocs. A 15 oz. can of beans contains *around* 2 c., give or take. Use that as a guideline. Or you can freeze them in muffin tins and then package up your bean “pucks”. A muffin cup will hold 1/2 c., so 4 muffin pucks of beans = 1 can of beans.
5. Put your beans in the freezer. Try to lay them flat, so they’ll stack easily and also so they’ll break up easily when you want to get them out of the bag.
6. When it’s time for a meal – use the frozen beans just like canned beans (you’ll have to heat a little bit more.) Freezing causes the water inside to expand, tenderizing them. I like my beans on the firm side, but if you don’t just cook them a little bit and they’ll soften up. The smaller the bean the more tender they’ll be out of the freezer – small navy beans don’t take much cooking at all, but you’ll definitely need to cook garbanzos (chick peas) to soften them.
An added frugal bonus – full freezers use less energy, and therefore cost less to run.
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