Canned beans are a more frugal protein source than meat. But if you are looking to cut your grocery budget to the bone, dried beans can definitely help you out! Not to mention, they are healthy and take up a minuscule amount of pantry space.
But dried beans take forever to soak and cook! Nobody has time for that!
You would think that dried beans would be much less convenient than canned, but you would be wrong! I’ll explain how to make pounds of prepared beans with moments of hands on effort.
Please note that I have used this method for black beans, great northern beans, white beans and pinto beans. I’m sure it would work for garbanzo beans (or chickpeas) as well. But not kidney beans!*
When you cook dried beans in the slow cooker, you may skip the overnight soak.
- Pick over the beans. To do this spread the dried beans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and be sure to remove any small rocks or questionable looking beans.
- Rinse the dried beans in a colander to remove any dust from the outside of the beans.
- Add the dried beans to the slow cooker with an adequate amount of water. I usually add in 4 parts water to 1 part beans.
- Cook on low for 9 hours. Cooking on high for all or part of time duration will decrease the cooking time. Cooking for a longer time (within reason) will not harm the final product. So feel free to go about other things while the beans cook away. Please note, this cooking time is approximate and will vary with with the size and power of your slow cooker as well as the type of beans you use.
- Cool and freeze any extra beans that you don’t use right away. Now you have prepared beans at the ready whenever you need them!
I would argue the effort expended is comparable for dried vs. canned beans. Preparing dried beans does take a bit of advanced planning.
- I think that cooking on l0w results in a better texture and more whole beans in the final product, which may make a difference if you are using the beans in bean salad, for example. Cooking on high is just fine if you plan to use the beans in something like beans and rice, soups or bean dip.
- It is often cited that adding salt to the cooking water makes the beans tough. I have salted the water in the past when making beans in the crock pot and didn’t notice much difference.
- I have experienced issues when cooking dried beans in the slow cooker with lots tomatoes in the cooking liquid. They remained hard and would not cook through.
- Home prepared beans will be quite bland compared to canned beans. They will need salt, but you get to control how much salt is added.
- Cooking beans in homemade chicken broth as the cooking liquid makes very flavorful beans!
Awesomesauce! Now, how much are we saving with our handy slow cooker device?
Articles already exist on the great interwebs with cost comparisons of canned vs. dried beans. I had to check out the facts and figures for myself. I prepared 1 lb or about 2.5 cups of dried black beans in the slow cooker. This resulted in about 6 cups of cooked beans. A 2 lb bag of black beans costs $2.29 at my grocery store. So that works out to $0.19/cup of prepared beans.
A can of beans contains around 1.75 cups of beans and costs $0.59/can. That works out to $0.34 per cup.
Therefore, dried beans cost $0.15 less per cup in this instance. We use about 8 cups of beans per week at our house and save $1.20 per week by using dried beans. Prices do vary for different varieties of beans so savings will vary accordingly.
Womp womp… $0.15 per cup, $1.20 per week. That is underwhelming.
I have to admit this isn’t the big money saver I thought it was. However ,there are still other benefits that will keep me coming back to the slower cooker. Bagged beans are a better use of pantry space (one 2 lb bag of beans works out to almost 7 cans of beans), less fiddling with the can opener and lower sodium content in the beans.
Do you have any habits that you thought were super frugal only to find out later that they don’t make that much of an impact?
*I will caution that some sources say that you should boil kidney beans to break down a toxin. For that reason I only use kidney beans occasionally and when I do, I just buy them canned.