Updated on 03.27.08

An Ode to the Inexpensive Bean

Trent Hamm

I’ve become convinced lately that the most cost-efficient food in our kitchen is beans, and it’s a food that people often overlook. Beans are loaded with protein and are quite flavorful, particularly as a substitute for meats in a vegetarian diet.

How Cheap Is It?
Here’s a real world example of how inexpensive they can be. My family quite enjoys bean soup with a wide variety of beans in it. Let’s say, hypothetically, that we were to order this soup from Amazon Grocery. You can get four 29 ounce bags of 13 bean soup there for $18.96 and free shipping. Now, when I prepare a pot of soup beans for my family, I use about a pound of beans, so each of those bags would in effect be eight meal preparations. Even more amazing – each batch of soup I make will feed my family of three (since my daughter isn’t quite old enough to eat such things yet) plus make at least enough to freeze two bags of completed soup, each of which will provide another meal for all three of us.

So, I get eight batches out of this $18.96 order, and each of those batches provides three family meals of bean soup, and each of those family meals feeds three of us. That’s 72 meals, meaning the cost of beans per meal is about a quarter. Even if I spent that much just on spicing it up with leftover ham, pepper, salt, and such things, that still means I’m paying $0.50 a meal. That’s ridiculously cheap.

Even better, you can easily just buy several one pound bags of various bean types and mix them yourself in a large Tupperware container. This substantially pushes down the price of the beans – you can reduce the total cost by 40% or more beyond this just by doing some frugal shopping and mixing them yourself.

Beans can be used in countless dishes – burritos, casseroles, side salads, soups, and even breakfast. It’s also very easy to accent their flavor: pepper, salt, leftover ham, and most savory seasonings work very well with beans. There’s also a substantial variety in bean flavor and texture, so it only has to be repetitive if you let it get repetitive.

Here are five of my favorite bean-oriented recipes that you can make at home very inexpensively. Pick up a bag of dried beans (or even a can of them, though it’s not as frugal) at your local grocery store and give these a shot.

General Dry Bean Preparation Tips
Dry beans are by far the cheapest way to purchase beans – and much tastier and full-flavored than canned beans, in my opinion. The only drawback is that there’s some preparation work involved – but don’t worry, you can get it started before you go to work and finish pretty quickly when you get home.

It’s easy. Before you go to work, get the biggest pot you have and add a pound of beans to it (roughly two cups). On top of that, put six cups of cold water and let it sit on the counter top all day.

When you get home, pour off the water they’ve been soaking in and pick out any bean skins that might have soaked off of the bean. Put two tablespoons of oil in there (this keeps it from boiling over), then pour on six cups of fresh water, add a half a teaspoon of salt, and put the pot on the stove to boil. Get it at a gentle boil and then just let it boil there for an hour and a half or so – once you get it right, you can easily walk away from it if need be, as the oil will prevent boiling over.

In the end, you basically have bean soup. You can drain off the liquid if you want to use the beans for other purposes, or you can just eat the soup as is. However, note that most soups taste better if you add all of the other soup ingredients early in the boil. Also note that after you’ve boiled the beans, you can just drop them in a container for storage in the fridge – they’ll be fine for a day or two.

Beans and Eggs
Easy as pie. Just crack four eggs, add half a teaspoon of milk and some pepper, and beat them rapidly until they’re consistent in texture. Pour the egg mixture into a skillet and add half a cup of cooked black beans (or a bean mix, if you prefer). Scramble the eggs by repeatedly moving the eggs around in the skillet as it cooks until it’s nice and fluffy and full of beans. Put some cheese and salsa on top and you have one of my favorite breakfasts in the world – plus it’s an ovo-vegetarian dish.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Bean Salad
Take two pounds of cooked beans, any variety you’d like, and add in a diced medium red onion. To this, add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, four finely chopped garlic cloves, a quarter of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, and mix everything together. Add some ground black pepper to taste. This makes a very big batch of the salad, which is a great thing to take to a potluck dinner – for home use, you should probably halve the entire recipe (one pound of beans, a small diced onion, one tablespoon of vinegar, two garlic cloves, and an eighth of a cup of olive oil).

Beef and Bean Burritos
Cook a pound of ground beef. As the meat is cooking, add half a cup of chopped onion and a minced garlic clove. Stir the meat often to break it up, then when it’s well cooked, drain it, and add to it two teaspoons of chili powder, one teaspoon of oregano, half a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of salt, and half a teaspoon of brown pepper. Mix it all together and you have the beef part of the recipe. Just fill a large tortilla with this meat, some lettuce, and whatever beans you like – I prefer black beans or pinto beans or even refried beans.

Sixteen Bean Soup
Just follow the cooking directions above with your favorite multi-bean mix, except add half a pound of leftover meat to the soup as it’s cooking. I like to add cubed ham myself, but you can add other meats. Also, add a small minced onion to the soup, too, just as it begins to boil, and also add salt and pepper to taste.

Bean, Ham, and Tomato Casserole
Basically, take the soup you made with the sixteen bean soup recipe and drain off all but a cup of the liquid. Mix into the soup two diced tomatoes, put a bit more pepper on top, and (optionally) put a thin layer of finely ground Cheddar cheese on top (the cheese is highly optional). Bake it at 350 F (160 C) for about ten minutes and it turns out surprisingly well and often very distinct in flavor from the sixteen bean soup.

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  1. Johanna says:

    I always heard that you are not supposed to add salt at the beginning of the boiling process because it prevents the skins from softening properly. Do you ever find that that is a problem?

    Cooked beans also freeze quite well. I freeze them either in ziploc bags or in empty 32-ounce yogurt containers. That way I only have to do the soaking/boiling once for several meals.

    This is what I had for lunch today, a fantastic way to make a lot of healthy food quickly:

    Vegetarian chili

    Chop an onion and saute it in some oil in a big pot. Add a 28-ounce can of chopped or crushed tomatoes, one small butternut squash (peeled, seeded, and diced), water to cover, and salt and chili seasonings (paprika, cayenne, cumin, oregano…) to taste. For richer chili, add a can of tomato paste too. Simmer until the squash is cooked. Add a whole mess of cooked beans (I usually use black or pinto beans), a splash of apple juice, and a handful of TVP (if you like TVP, which I do). Cook until the beans are heated and the TVP is softened. Serve over brown rice.

  2. Thank you for the info. Even though I’m a very good cook, I don’t know much about beans. I shall try to cook beans more.

  3. siobhan says:

    Beans are great! Also a great and inexpensive food are lentils. Lentils are also high in protein and fibre. Simiarly to beans they can be bought dry and cooked in a variety of ways. Some of the best lentil dishes use Indian spices.


  4. !wanda says:

    Beans for dessert, too.
    My mom soaks mung beans and then boils them with brown sugar crystals to make a dessert soup. You can eat it straight or add milk, sweet congee, or other flavorings. I guess you can do the same with red beans. Red bean paste, of course, is a pastry filling, and around here, you can get mung or red bean ice cream.

  5. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “I always heard that you are not supposed to add salt at the beginning of the boiling process because it prevents the skins from softening properly. Do you ever find that that is a problem?”

    The beans taste differently and have a different texture with the salt. I think they’re a bit firmer but a bit tastier. Of course, you could easily add salt at the end of the boil, too, for softer beans.

  6. Anne K says:

    If you have a slow cooker, there’s no need to soak the beans, especially since you’re home now, Trent. When I cook dried beans (once or twice a week, my husband is vegetarian so we eat lots of beans) I’ll throw a pound of them into the strainer, rinse them and pick out the icky stuff like pebbles and bad colored beans and whatnot. Then I throw the good beans into a slow cooker, add water to within 2″ or so from the top, and turn it on at the high setting. In 4-5 hours (depending on the bean type) I have beans ready to be eaten. Just drain, rinse, and add to recipes. So many people have slow cookers but don’t use them; if you don’t have a slow cooker you can probably pick one up really cheap at a garage sale, Freecycle, etc. Look in the library or online for slow cooker recipes. I use the slow cooker for parties and family get-togethers but not for everyday cooking, I like cooking too much to just hand it over to the slow cooker.

    I usually add salt afterwards. Adding salt earlier keeps the seed coat from becoming soft, meaning water can’t get through to the inside as easily. Boston Baked Beans for example are firmer because of the salt and baking soda added to the beans before cooking. Oh, no, my botany background is haunting me! lol

  7. Lentils and chickpeas are two of my favorite foods, and both lend themselves really well to cheap batch cooking. I find there isn’t a much better lunch than a bowl of chickpeas with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, fresh-grated Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and a colorful confetti of minced parsley. Mmm.

  8. Harm says:

    My Mom made a lot of bean dishes when I was
    growing up….and my Dad always made comments
    as to how he was a ‘bean lover’….He had spent the
    last winter of WW2 (1944-45) in Holland, and
    dried beans his family had stored helped keep
    them alive. The Nazi occupiers had stolen most
    of the meat and other foods.

  9. PK says:

    I have to ask..I like beans too, but don’t you have some “gastric issues” after? Well, it doesn’t matter if you are working from home, as you do now ;-)

  10. Laura says:

    I can’t wait for the cooking blog!! I’m going to try beans very soon!!

  11. Don’t forget the edible science experiment of sprouting beans. Adds a fresh, crunchy option to what you can do with them.

  12. Andy says:

    Yes, Laura…I agree. MUST…HAVE…COOKING…BLOG!!!

    Great Recipes, Trent.

  13. minnie says:

    from http://missvickie.com/howto/beans/howtosoak.html

    A lot of people have misconceptions about soaking beans. Here’s the reasons why I recommend soaking. The basic reasons to soak beans is to allow them to slowly absorb the moisture they need to cook evenly. Soaking also keeps the beans from splitting open or from the having the outside skin fall apart while the middle is still hard.

    For many people, eating beans causes intestinal discomfort, or gas because it is difficult to digest complex sugars in beans Here again, soaking will help to break down the oligosaccharides (the indigestible sugars that cause gas) in beans. The longer soaking time is recommended to allow a greater amount of sugar to dissolve, thus helping the beans to be more easily digested. Always discard the soaking water.The harder class of beans are also the most troublesome for digestion and soaking is especially helpful with these harder types.

    Another reason to soak beans — and probably the most important –is that it maximizes their nutritional benefit which is vital to good health. When beans aren’t soak ed it means longer cooking times before they become soft enough to eat. The longer the cooking times the more proteins, vitamins and minerals are destroyed in the heat – all the good things they we wanted when we selected the beans in the first place. Beans are protein, and pound for pound they are equal to a good cut of meat, but cost only a few pennies. As stated above, the longer you have to cook beans the more valuable protein will be destroyed and this can impact the nutritional needs of your family, especially if you do not serve protein in other forms to compensate.

    Frugal Tip

    Lastly we want to soak beans because it is economical, so listen up all you frugal shoppers. Also on the subject of dollar stretching if you are cooking those beans longer than necessary by not soaking first then you are watching your energy dollars go up in smoke – well make that steam – by using more natural gas, electricity or propane fuel in cooking.

  14. brent says:

    frugality tip: don’t buy so much meat that you’ve got ‘leftover’ ham and mince just lying around for putting into soup later on.

  15. deepali says:

    I love beans. Eat them several times a week. Chili is a great meal too, and you can add lentils to add extra protein and fiber. Or add the beans to brown rice or quinoa (both also cheap).

    And I recently found a recipe for black bean brownies!

  16. lorax says:

    What most of us want to know is – what do you do about the “side effects” of beans? Is there a type of bean that tends to create less flatulence?

  17. Hilary says:

    My husband and I eat beans all the time, and found the most useful information about soaking and cooking times in a small book called Easy Beans by Trish Ross.

  18. rich says:

    I don’t think I follow your math, 1 bag has 29 ounces, 1 pound has 16 ounces. If you use a pound of beans every time you cook, you would get two batches out of a bag (or a little less), not 8. At two batches per bag, 3 meals per batch and 4 bags per order you would get 24 meals from a bag, which is still pretty darn cheap, but am I missing something?

  19. Please don’t cook beans for an hour and a half – get a pressure cooker! It will take 20 minutes, and save a bundle of energy (and money). I actually learned about this in a third world country in South America. I had learned how to cook a particular local bean dish, and was talking to a local about it, and I complained about how long it took. They said they use pressure cooker. I thought it was ironic how they used more advanced technology than I did, to save on energy.

  20. Mrs. Micah says:

    Good stuff. I’ve been looking for the best way to prepare my dried beans. I found a good way to do lentils, but not black beans.

    Any tips on storing them if you don’t plan to use right away?

  21. Jordan says:

    Black bean soup is a staple of mine. Although I use canned beans.

    3 cans of black beans
    1 cup of salsa
    2 cups chicken stock
    2 table spoons cumin
    1 onion
    3 cloves of garlic

    Chop and sautee the onion and garlic with the cumin.
    With an immersion blender (or regular blender, or fork if you’re patient) mash 2 cans of beans (with the bean water included) into the chicken stock.

    Dump everything together into a soup pot, bring to a boil, simmer 20 minutes. It’s pure awesome.

  22. Bret says:

    Beans alone are a good source of protein. However, this protein is of a realativly Low Biological Value (LBV) and when eaten in tandem with another LBV protein food such as rice or pasta the combination’s effect is that of creating a High Biological Value protein.

    In isolation, the protein in grains and legumes has a low biological value (LBV). This means their amino acid content is low in one or more of the eight essential amino acids. By using different sources of protein you counter-act the amino acid deficiencies in each food and increase the overall protein value of your meal, with an amino acid spectrum that much more closely matches your body’s needs.

    Similar combinations can be seen in many traditional cultures:

    * dal and rice
    * beans and flatbreads
    * tofu and rice or noodles
    * stir-fries with nuts and rice
    * paneer cheese and rice
    * beans and corn tortillas

  23. Eli says:

    This really puts into perspective how much money most of us are wasting on food. It makes one think twice about going out to eat and all the money wasted.

  24. Kitzzy says:

    I am from Puerto Rico, so you’d think I would love beans, but I don’t. I do not like the texture of most beans. Like in soup, even the broth has that grainy bean taste. I am not sure I am explaining this right. Anyway, is there a bean that does not have this texture? All I can seem to eat are green beans and edamame.

  25. miguel says:

    I like this post, but 18.00 for 4 bags of beans seems really, really pricey. I think $8.00-$10.00 is more reasonable.

    I like to eat lentils, with some brown rice too. Especially w/ lots of cumin and paprika.

  26. Nothing beats homemade lentil soup!

    Also, chick peas are delicious just about any way that you fix them, especially when blended into hummus.

    I’ll have to give sixteen bean soup a try- it sounds mighty tasty!

  27. Yoav says:

    My wife is Brazilian. Beans are an important staple of life in her home country. Their national dish, if there is one, would have to be feijoada. It’s a bean stew with meat, served over rice. It’s fantastic!


  28. Melissa says:

    This is pretty funny. My fiance and I have been battling back and forth about the awesomeness of beans…he has been trying to convince me for months that they are great in everything and I’m so attached to meat I have been resisting…until this evening! I gave in and made some pasta with beans instead of meat and it was great! We will definitely be eating more beans from now on.

    Of course, then we read this post and now I’ll never hear the end of it! ;)

  29. Andy says:

    I’ve never been much of a bean eater, but since I will be moving out this summer and supporting myself financially, I think I am going to give them a fair shot.

  30. Ben says:

    “Beans, beans the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you go toot, toot”.

    I usually buy beans in bulk at a market and mix them up when I need them. Kombu is a Japanese ingredient that is used when cooking the beans to increase their digestibility.
    I have a fondness for home cooked baked beans. I will also chuck some beans in a big ol’ pot of minestrone soup.

    @Mrs Micah. I have read that you can keep dried beans in air proof containers in the freezer. I think this is meant to stop the beans going rancid.

    I also use pearl/pearled barley and buckwheat in my cooking as well.

  31. tabletoo says:

    I soak beans in the refrigerator for several days before cooking (a week is the longest I have tried). Just make sure the container is big enough for the expanded beans! If they are fully soaked, they will cook MUCH faster and be easily digested. Also I like having several kind of beans soaking so I can quickly improvise a meal. By the way, freshly cooked beans are usually really delicious. It’s OK to cook a lot and have some left over but freshly cooked is best. A pressure cooker is handy but not cheap – I recommend at least an 8 qt model if you do decide to invest in a pressure cooker so you can cook a whole chicken and make a decent amount of soup. But if you use a long soaking method you will find that beans cook almost as fast as fresh beans and a pressure cooker isnot really necessary.

  32. KimC says:

    My biggest hurdle was having beans ready to eat when we needed them. I finally learned not to wait until we needed them – just cook them and *then* plan to use them.
    Don’t forget the crockpot. For our large family, I soak 2 lbs. of beans ($.56/lb at WalMart) all day or night in a 6 qt. crock, filled with water.
    Drain and add more water, then cook on low overnight (or all day, if you soaked them at night).
    Sometimes I add a whole onion and several cloves of garlic while cooking, along with a tsp or 2 of salt. Just fish out the onion before serving, since it gets mushy. Sometimes we add a generous sprinkle of taco seasoning after they’re done (residual heat blends the flavors).
    Store them in the fridge, and you have enough to feed 10 or 12 people for just over a dollar.
    For a tasty treat, try spreading on a tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese, top with another tortilla and cook on a buttered griddle until toasty on both sides. Cheap, meatless, and enthusiastically received every time!

  33. lisa says:

    Great post. Thanks for some good ideas from all your readers as well. Another idea: Grind cooked beans up with a food processor, mix in spices, vegetables, cheese and/or rice, and make bean burger patties.


  34. Louise says:

    Lentils are great value for money and don’t need soaking. One of my favourite recipes is lentil and barley soup. Not only does it taste great but it gives you the complete amino acid profile in one dish, so you don’t need to add bread or any other grain products. Lentils also one of the easiest legumes to sprout. Just soak overnight, drain in a colander and then leave them in the colander in a dark place like a cupboard. Rinse under running water once or twice a day and they will be ready in 2-3 days. They also last very well in the fridge for a week, as long as they are not soaking wet when you put them away.

    I cook with beans all the time and love them. Ling soaking is the secret to reducing the gas factor. Also if you are not used to having them in your diet, introduce them slowly so your body has a chance to adjust. This also helps limit the gas factor.

  35. Jenyfer says:

    I’ve been cooking beans more often and have found that substituting chicken broth for some of the water gives a wonderful flavor–not as frugal, but another bean option!

  36. Deb Coyle says:

    Red beans and rice are a weekly staple at our house. It’s an easy pantry supper. I use canned beans as I’ve never had much luck with cooked beans and the Goya brand of canned beans is always on sale for about 50 cents. Lentil and pea soup is another winter time favorite. Beans definitely save my family money.

  37. Mark Krusen says:

    Beans are a great frugal way to eat healthy.They are also useful in clearing the living room when company has over stayed its welcome. I’m justa saying!

  38. Nancy says:

    I buy beans in bulk.. sold this way in some grocery stores and Health Food stores.
    VERY inexpensive..
    Our favorite use..
    Beans & Cornbread

  39. Amy says:

    I’d love to use more beans, to save money and be healthy–we are big meat eaters. But I hate beans. It’s the texture. I can tolerate (though I don’t enjoy) black beans mixed in with lots of veggies in vegetable soup or tortilla soup. But any dish where beans are one of the main ingredients…the idea makes me gag. It’s not a matter of needing to get used to a new flavor; I can’t stand how they feel in my mouth.

  40. Lisa says:

    I’d have to agree with the person who said the bean soup mix you’re getting from Amazon is pricey, Trent. If you’re paying $18.96 for 7.25 lb of beans, that’s $2.62 a pound. You can buy ground beef more cheaply than that. Unless there’s a compelling reason, like convenience, to buy your beans from Amazon, you might want to check your local grocery store, where they might be cheaper. Also, look into cooking lentils or split peas. Here, you can buy a pound of either for 50 cents.

  41. lulugal11 says:

    I love peas and beans (except green beans!) so I was really glad to see you recipes here.

    Thanks for shouting out the beans and showing people how versatile they are.

  42. Eldavo says:

    Bret is all over this. Read his response carefully. As a former vegetarian, I understand the importance of protein complementation. The 8 essential amino acids must be present in the meal at the same time and in the right proportions to equal complete protein. A quick shortcut is to keep eggs on-hand. They are the gold standard for protein. The book “Diet for a small planet” is the best resource I’ve ever read on this. I was at my peak of health on a vegetarian diet using the complementation techiniques detailed in this book. I added fish back to my diet to make it easier on my wife after we got married, not because I wasn’t happy with my diet.

  43. Carole says:

    Yes, the math was off, but it’s still barely pocket change to feed your family. Trent, the significance of leaving out the salt when cooking is that you significantly shorten your cooking time, making this a very fast and easy meal. You can still maintain a decent amount of firmness if you watch your pot.
    I have two crockpots (cheese dip size), and I fill one with rinsed kidney beans and one with brown rice. I let them warm while I’m at work, and then spice up the kidney beans, add salt and serve them. If you experiment and find the right spice for your taste, this becomes quite a family treat! I let my beans get very soft, and then mix the two with a bit of Ranch and a kick of viniagrette. Obviously discovered by accident! Sounds gross, but if you try it, you can’t stop eating it, LOL. By experimenting on a daily basis like this, I rarely serve the same meal twice, even though my meals consist of a short list. I just vary the ingredients, and especially the spices. You can create a theme by adding a certain spice blend, in some portion, to the main and side dishes of any meal. It’s interesting, and makes you look OH so gourmet, LOL! I can’t believe the compliments that I’ve gotten, now that I’m too lazy to cook an actual recipe. You wouldn’t believe the money you save, too (buy bagged spices at your grocer – they are usually only a dollar, and the volume is double that of your glass jar).

  44. Norman says:

    Great info about beans but the whole equation is not present in looking at the entire cost it takes to do the process described. Just to mention a few there are transportation costs to get the beans and other items, Cost of water, cost of fuel (Electric or gas) to cook the beans and the list goes on. I thought that the comment from Bret @ 7:11 pm March 27th, 2008 (comment #22) was wonderful information, Thanks!

  45. I eat beans often, partly because I’m a vegetarian and partly because they’re so darn cheap.

    Actually, I’m in the preparation stage for an experiment similar to the Hungry for a Month eating on $1 a day blog. This post has given me some additional ideas for ways to use beans – especially the beans and eggs recipe!

  46. Sheryl says:

    We love beans too, but my husband always complained about the “eruptions” after he ate them. A friend told me to add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to the soaking water and soak them for 24 hours.

    It works! The beans are MUCH less volatile than with the shorter, non-vinegar soaking time.

    I also use my slow cooker, and I cook up a couple of pounds at a time and freeze two cup portions (with a bit of the cooking liquid) in ziplocs. (I’ve got some black-eyed peas in the fridge that I cooked yesterday, waiting to be packaged up.) It’s a lot cheaper than the canned beans.

    I also cook up a dutch oven of brown rice and freeze it in one pound portions. It makes for a quick and easy dinner – we love hoppin’ John, and I always have the beans, rice, and ham in the freezer, ready to go. And I buy the ham on sale, so that’s cheap, too.

  47. boomie says:

    Ah, I get a 1 pound bag of dry bean soup (with 39 varieties of beans) from Wal Mart for $2.23. I soak all the beans overnight and then split it into four equal proportions and put into freezer zip lock bags and freeze. That’s 56 cents per meal, or for a family of 4 is only 14 cents each. I saute a little salt pork in olive oil, add onions, celery and carrots and the contents from one of my bags, water and I make a great big pot of soup.
    I think Amazon is charging you too much. Check out Wal Mart.

  48. partgypsy says:

    Our 2 kids go nuts over beans! At her preschool the teachers were asking the kids their favorite food. Other kids were saying pizza and icecream, and she goes “beans!”
    I confess we keep alot of canned beans in the pantry as it is something we know we can open up and the kids will eat. This post makes me motivated to get back to using dried beans (and it probably has less salt too).
    As far as soaking, When I do cook dried beans, all I know I am more successful when I soaked the beans beforehand.

  49. luvleftovers says:

    Trent, I went shopping last night and grabbed a bag of 16-beans in the Goya aisle. I think it was all of $1.49. I’ll probably try it next weekend. Hopefully, I’ll like this and be willing to make it regularly since I really need to make large batches of food and freeze them.

    Like many people, I don’t have much time or patience for cooking, and I need to improve my nutrition. Now I need to find a bean cookbook.

    Wish me luck!

  50. nicholas says:

    Regarding Bret and Eldavo’s posts. I was under the impression that you don’t actually have to eat the different kinds of protein at the same time. That so long as you don’t go long enough without one to become deficient you should be fine.

    If you look at the chart on the bottom of this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein_combining it shows that even if you ate nothing but brown rice you’d have enough of every protein but lysine. And you could probably eat a pretty small amount of nearly any of the things with lysine at any point in your day to make up for that.

    It also appears that the woman who wrote Diet For a Small Planet admitted she interpreted some studies wrong and changed her mind about the protien combining. Also, the studies were based off of what rats needed to eat rather than humans.

  51. mo says:

    Beans make up a good portion of my diet. I typically use a crockpot, but occasionally use a pressure cooker. Soaking is not something I regularly do. Canned beans usually have an odd flavor to, which is probably do to the salty water they sit in. Because of this, I typically stick with beans. I notice a difference when I start eating a typically western diet. With beans and veggies, my systems seem to flow, but when I eat large meat portions and loads of bread things start getting clogged!

  52. Annie says:

    I,too, love beans–esp. great northern, and lima beans. I do the quick soak–come to a boil–cover and let it sit for 1 hr–then cook in my pressure cooker (which I got on ebay very inexpensively and stainless steel) or my crockpot that I got at a yard sale. You can’t go wrong with beans!
    Amazon is good, but kinda pricey–I agree on that–check for salvage grocery stores in your area–I bet I can get a lb. of beans for .35!!! Now that’s a real deal!!! haha How can a dried bean go bad????? Certain areas of the country have salvage/dented can stores–check them out for beans. For flavoring I get these fat round plastic containers call soup base seasonings at any food store–they improve soups tremendously.

  53. Annie says:

    I forgot to mention–once they come to a boil–SHUT OFF THE BURNER, cover and let set for an hr. before cooking—sorry! Annie

  54. Amy K. says:

    @Kitzzy (Comment #24) – my boyfriend has the same complaint as you about the texture of beans. He surprised me by saying that he actually loves garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas). Give them a try!

  55. SwingCheese says:

    For the bean, ham & tomato recipe, you can also substitute hominy for beans. I actually just made that for dinner last night!

    Also, there is a theory that if we ate beans more frequently, we wouldn’t have the flatulence that goes along with them. Always rinse can beans off before cooking to cut down on any gaseous side effects, and if it’s that bad, keep Gas-X on hand. I can’t imagine giving up beans!!

  56. Tahlia42 says:

    If you are cooking up beans, save the broth when you’re done. It’s an excellent base for soups or for cooking up rice or rehydrating Texturized Vegetable Protein. You add tons of flavor with something that otherwise would have gone down the drain!

  57. I am a big fan of beans too. Indian cuisine uses a variety of beans in a variety of ways. But one thing that’s integrated in Indian cooking and surprisingly missing from American is the use of pressure cooker. It makes cooking those beans and lentils etc such a quick job. Not to mention the amount of gas it saves. I find it strange that Americans do not use pressure cooker while cooking. I can’t think of cook ing beans without a pressure cooker. I would strongly recommend everyone to give it a try. It takes a while to get the time of cooking right. But it makes cooking so quick. Definitely worth a try!

  58. matt says:

    microwaves are the least understood, most ineptly used kitchen appliance in my opinion.

  59. matt says:

    microwaves are the least understood, most ineptly used appliance ever. Presoak your beans to reduce flatulence, then cover a 2 qt microwave safe container with two layers of plastic wrap, 1 cup of beans with 4 cups warm water- microwave for 35 minutes on high, rest 20 minutes. (for large beans)
    1 or 2 cups beans with 4 cups warm water for 40 minutes- let rest 30 minutes (for small beans)

  60. sandspiral says:

    Hi, Trent–thanks for the very practical post! I have one question for you (or anyone else here) about burritos, which are quite possibly my favorite meal in the universe. I’ve tried making them at home from both a frugality and a health perspective, but I have never been able to achieve the “damp tortilla” effect that burrito shops get when they briefly slide the tortilla into that big boxy steamer and pump down on the handle a couple of times.

    The tortilla comes out damp, so it wraps firmly around the burrito ingredients and sticks to itself. My burritos never stay shut, and end up being messy bean-and-rice salad on my plate, with a plain and boring tortilla looking on forlornly from the side.

    Any thoughts on how to avoid this hearbreaking dilemma?

  61. Teri Pittman says:

    Only one person mentioned a pressure cooker?? Folks, you gotta learn how to use one. They make beans cook quicker. They will tenderize tough pieces of meat. You can whip up a soup in no time. And we’re talking about cookers, not canners. They don’t explode.

    I buy beans in around 25 pound sacks. If you look for ethnic markets, you can certainly pick them up (along with a big sack of rice!) We like the pink beans best, but I like to have an occasional pot of butter beans.

    On making tortillas, What you do is take a well seasoned cast iron frying pan. You put one tortilla down and heat it briefly. Put another on top and flip it over. Repeat. You wind up with a stack of slightly steamed tortillas, without any of them getting too brown.

  62. Lisa says:

    It is possible to take dry beans and make a soup in about 5 minutes. First take the beans (great northern, lentil or pea) and use a coffee mill or heavy duty blender to grind to a coarse flour. Then add 2T(thin soup) or 3T(medium thick) or 4-5T (thick) white bean flour per cup of liquid base and cook/stir for 3 minutes. For lentil/pea soups add 1T (thin), 2T (medium) or 3T (thick) per cup of base and cook/stir for 3 minutes. No time or expense presoaking/cooking. Blend if desired for a creamier texture. For more info, read “Country Beans” by Rita Bingham.

  63. Eldavo says:


    Brown rice is an exceptional food and if you eat enough of it, you can get complete protein. But you will be limited by the lowest common denomonator of the 8. This can be done with many foods if you wanted to eat extremely large quatities of them. Complementation accomplishes this with more reasonable portion sizes and gives you the variety you need.

    However, I must admit, it is quite easy to site conflicting studies and sources on the subject of diet. For example, I could site Mehmet Oz as a proponet of certain nutrients needing to be present at the same time in order for the body to properly digest them.

    So at this point, I will have to rest on my own personal, albeit anecdotal experience with the techniques described in DfSP. I would point out that much of the content in that book is politically charged and has been the target of corporate lobby in the past — someting even Oz is not above.

    This is my opinion and I respect yours as well.

  64. April says:

    If you do the cost analysis with really inexpensive beans, like lentils or pinto beans, the cost per meal goes down dramatically. I only buy umpteen-bean soup mixes occasionally because it costs more than twice as much as buying just plain beans. I’ve been thinking of making my own bean soup mix using bulk beans to cut down on costs.
    I grew up eating beans and cornbread (with a few slices of onion on the side), as well as beans and frybread (Oklahoma used to be Indian Territory remember…). In a normal week I eat beans for about half of my dinners in a wide variety of forms. Soaking and pressure cooking makes cooking time go down dramatically, but you have to put a few teaspoons of oil into the pressure cooker to keep foaming down (if it foams up a lot in the cooker a bean skin can plug the hole of the steam vent). Pressure cooking can have a nasty tendency to make the beans explode into much. So if you want really solid beans, say for a bean salad, don’t cook them this way.
    ALWAYS salt beans after they have cooked. Salting them before they have cooked can increase cooking time. Beans taste even better the next day.

  65. caryn verell says:

    love those beans…any kind. had slow-cooked pinto beans seasoned with a piece of leftover ham..and fresh baked cornbread that had been baked in the good ole iron skillet for my supper this evening. beans are the meal around here at least once a week, sometimes twice. with grocery prices going through the roof these days…beans are still a bargain and if things get worse which i expect they will, folks had better get used to eating simple food such as beans.

  66. huna says:

    Weird (but cool) post…I just tried awesome substitute for mashed potatoes using…Beans! You can use any “buttery bean” – like broad beans, white beans etc. Slow cook then for until they’re smooshable and drizzle garlic olive oil on the mash. You can do the usual things that you would do with mashed potatoes – bacon bits, cheese, herbs, splash of cream etc etc. Its a great alternative to potatoes. Sneak in other mashed veggies (like peas, squash and carrots) and kids won’t even have to be cajoled to eat their vegetables.

  67. Excellent post. Beans really rock. I am not convinced that it’s the most cost-efficient food. I think rice comes cheaper, at least here in Europe.

  68. deepali says:

    BV (biological value) as mentioned by someone else above is actually of lesser importance to most of us. Aside from its flaws, with our American diets (and access to foods), we don’t really need to worry about macronutrient deficiencies.

  69. Elden says:

    You can buy rolled oats for less than $18.00 per 50 pounds bag local here in Utah. Depending on how many pounds of oatmeal you eat, it is as cheap as beans.

  70. hdeering says:

    In response to sandspiral, I usually heat my flour tortillas on the stove. If you have a gas stove (or one of the flat, glass tops), you can heat the tortillas directly on the burner at a lower heat as long as you flip them quickly. Somehow they fold MUCH better than if you microwave them…

    Just an idea!

  71. hdeering says:

    Oh, and I meant to add that if you don’t have that kind of stove, then just use a skillet to heat them up. Whatever you do, don’t stick it directly on an electric stove!

  72. steve says:

    re: burritos: i don’t know how to “officially” make them (try just googling them or looking on cooking websites)but it’s not the steaming that makes the wrappers flexible, it’s heating them on a preheated cast iron grill, or even just over a burner. If you heat them first and fold the burritos while they’re still hot, they don’t fold right, don’t stretch right, and they tend to be inflexible and break. So heat up those tortillas on a hot preheated griddle first and you will be at least halfway there.

    re: beans

    pressure cooking is probably the most energy efficient method. You’ve really got to use your cooking table and timer with a pressure cooker, as 5 extra minutes in that thing massively overcook them.

    After seeing what a pressure cooker can do to a presoaked bean in 20 minutes, cooking them on the stovetop for 1.5 hours will seem godawful wastful of energy.

    i have never used oil in my pressure cooker when cooking beans, although that’s probably a good idea. However, I know my cooker inside and out (it’s a 70s aluminum Presto that my parents had in their cupboard unused for 30 years or so) and i only fill it 1/2 full or less with beans and water, which is what all the pressure cooker user guides always say.

    The slow cooker set at “low” and plugged into a wall timer for about 8 hours (experiment w/ the timing) is probably not quite as energy efficient as the pressure cooker, but the long slow heat does give nice results-soft, full yet unbroken beans.

  73. Charlotte Wilson says:

    Steve, the reason why your parents probably put that aluminum cooker away is because some believe that the aluminum leaches into your ingredients when you cook. It is believed to cause Alzeimer’s.
    I would switch to a crockpot if I were you.


  74. Elwin says:

    Anasazi beans. These are about the best bean I have ever eaten. We eat ham a couple of times a year, and I will cook up a batch of these with the ham bone in them in a crock pot. Phenomenal.

  75. Ala says:

    “You can get four 29 ounce bags of 13 bean soup there for $18.96 and free shipping. Now, when I prepare a pot of soup beans for my family, I use about a pound of beans, so each of those bags would in effect be eight meal preparations.”

    Each bag is less than 2 lbs — I’m not sure how you calculate that each bag is eight meals if you use 1 lb per meal??

  76. michael bash says:

    As comment #1 says, never add salt til the beans are cooked. This from a US guy who’s lived in Greece – where bean soup is the national dish – since 1973. Also see “Balkan Baked Beans” recipe on About.com Eastern European Food hosted by Barbara Rolek, from my mother-in-law.

  77. Angela says:

    Jordan…I tried your black bean soup recipe…it was wonderful! Thank you so much!!!

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