Thursday, December 23, 2010

Beans... Why buy dry?

I'll admit, I'm not a very savvy shopper. My sister is relentless about wanting me to use coupons and other discounts or purchasing based on price point. But the truth is, if it tastes good or is required for a recipe, I buy it. However, these days it's almost a necessity to be a little more frugal. One thing I have been paying closer attention to is how much cheaper dried beans are from canned ones. Sure, I still keep the canned beans on hand, but they're not my first choice anymore.

Since my dollar-to-dollar sense is not my strong suit, I won't go into the actual price comparison. What makes sense to me is that it takes three 15.5 ounce cans to equal one bag of dried beans. The canned beans have already been soaked and cooked, which means they've swelled two to three sizes bigger than their dry counterpart. Add in the water and other liquids needed to preserve the beans and there are going to be even less beans filling up the can.

The even bigger bonus for me, is that I don't always want to use the entire can of beans when I'm cooking for just me and my preschooler. DH works nights & DS is often out with friends or away for entire weekends, so when reducing recipes, I can easily stretch one bag of beans out to equal about 6 cans.

The other confession I have to make, is that I'm lazy. I love to plan ahead and I don't mind prepping the day before, but there are busy days when I'll get home and need something quick. Not something that has to soak overnight.

No worries! Dried beans can be soaked at your convenience, cooked and then cooled to room temperature. Then refrigerate the beans for up to four days in a covered container. Use the amount you need in any recipe, just as you would canned beans!

Soaking dried beans for six to eight hours will allow some of the gas-producing carbohydrates to be released, which is best for all, but if you find you don't have that much time, you can still use dried beans by doing a one hour soak. To prepare beans by this method, use a medium saucepan and enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute. Turn off the heat and allow the beans to soak for one hour. Drain and use as desired.

Now, what would a real food comparison be without looking at the nutritional differences?

Regardless of their store-bought form, all beans are rich in soluble fiber, which lowers the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Soluble fiber also slows down the absorption of carbohydrates, which decreases the spike in blood glucose levels. Beans are packed with protein, B vitamins and iron and are considered part of the Meat and Beans group, as well as part of the Vegetable group on the Food Pyramid. Vegetarians can fulfill their daily allowance by substituting the beans for meat, while meat-eaters can fulfill their daily allowance of vegetables by substituting beans.

Since canned or dried beans inherently contain the same good stuff, the only real difference is what's added to the canned beans.

The numbers aren't real dramatic, until you get down to the amount of sodium. From zero to 1174 mg of sodium!? Ouch. We all know salt tastes good, but unfortunately, it's not good for us. Salt is already in nearly every processed food we eat and we may not be able to avoid it completely, but we can choose to decrease the amount we take in. To reduce the amount of salt when using canned beans, instead of just draining, rinse them as well.

I don't think there will ever be a time when I don't have canned beans on hand, but just the same, there will never again be a time when I don't have dried beans either. I hope you give dried a chance, if not for the cost savings, or the satisfaction of making a whole recipe from scratch, then do it for your health.

My favorite Bean soup is my 13 Bean Crock Pot Soup posted on

1 comment:

  1. Great informative post. I made the resolution this year to serve more beans, so your blog is leading the way.


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