Beans have earned the title of superfood, and rightly so. High in fiber and protein, they also contain essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B, calcium and iron. Add on the fact that beans are extremely affordable and you have found yourself one penny-pinching pantry item that just makes heart cents!
Because of the convenience, most of us gravitate toward canned beans. However, dried beans are a more economical option. Dried beans cost about 1/2 the cost of canned beans! With minimum effort and a little forethought dried beans can (no pun intended!) be just as convenient. It is true that dried beans require soaking and cooking that can literally take hours. “How is that convenient?” you ask. The preparation can be done ahead of time, the beans frozen, therefore, ready when you are. Here’s how to do it.
To save time, I cook beans in large batches. I cook 2 pounds at a time. This yields 6 1-quart freezer bags, which is essentially the same amount as a can of beans. This allows me to easily use recipes that call for a certain number of cans of beans. Zip-style freezer bags are great when I don’t want to use the whole bag. I simply remove what I need, rezip the bag and put it bag in the freezer.
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A couple of weeks ago I headed to the grocery store, list in hand, greatly excited about the prospect of purchasing a butternut squash and sweet potatoes, both of which were on sale of course!). I could already taste the spicy, roasted goodness of these vegetables. A day or so later, as planned, I cubed each of the veggies, placed them on a baking sheet, drizzled with a little olive oil, sprinkled them with warm spices (cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg), seasoned with salt and pepper, and put them into a low 250 degree oven and roasted them for about 2 hours until tender. Knowing that the amount of vegetables (2 sweet potatoes and 1 butternut squash) would be way too much for my 2-person family, I anticipated plenty of leftovers. So along with the vegetables, I wrapped a few cloves of garlic in some foil and tossed it in the oven to roast alongside the vegetables. A few days later I pulled the leftover veggies out of the fridge along with the roasted garlic and tossed them into a sauce pan with a little chicken stock. Using a stick blender, I whipped it all until it was smooth. Voila! Roasted sweet potato, butternut squash and garlic soup. A little dollop of sour cream and some crusty bread and we enjoyed meal #2. A few days after that I pulled the leftover soup out of the fridge, thinned it with a little more chicken stock and added to it some sauteed carrots and onions – a perfect pasta sauce – meal #3.
Let’s recap. Spending less than $2 gave us 1 side dish and 2 entrees. Now that’s some penny-pinching cooking!
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