By in Food

Beans: Cost or Convenience? Which Do You Choose?

I have lived much of my life going back and forth between convenience and being economical, when it comes to cooking beans.

I know that the cost of 1-pound of dry beans is approximately the same as a 15-ounce can of beans. Of course, if you have room to store a 50-pound bag and eat beans often, the cost per pound is much less.

But when is the cost of convenience more affordable than purchasing the most economical form, which equal amount in dried form will yield more than three times the amount of beans in a can?

All it takes is water and...

If you have not set aside the time for the preparation, the case could be made for the convenience of opening up the can of beans.

However, the only thing that is necessary to cook beans from their dried form is water. Of course, time and patience have to thrown into that mix.

Except for lentils, which do not require soaking and only take 30 to 40 minutes to cook, the minimum time to prepare them is 3 hours, if you use the quick-soak method and then cook them to a slightly firm texture. I prefer the overnight soaking method before cooking. (You can find how-to instructions in any cookbook or by doing a search on the Internet.)

A word of CAUTION!

It is important to note than many beans have a dangerous toxin that occurs in them naturally, especially the red kidney bean, which has the highest concentration of phytohaemagglutin (kidney bean lectin). If undercooked, eating as few as four or five beans can result in symptoms of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, as reported by . They further state: "Fortunately, the USDA reports that most people recover rapidly and without the need for hospitalization," but advise calling your doctor should symptoms develop from eating undercooked kidney beans.

Planning ahead for your favorites

When I cooked for more than just myself, it was not uncommon for me to cook up a pound of dried beans, and then freeze them in 1- or 2-cup portions, adding a bit of the cooking broth, so they did not get freezer burn. If I were using the beans in a recipe that did not require the moisture, I would simply rinse it off, once thawed.

Cooking for one or two people, this method would be just as easy.

My favorite beans are pinto beans, having grown up in Southern California with a tremendous Hispanic influence in that region. A bowl of pinto beans served raw onions, hot pepper sauce, and corn tortillas is comfort food for me. It is probably one of the least expensive meals, as well, whether I use dried beans or the convenience of opening up a can of pintos.

Do you value your time or money more?

If a can of beans costs $1.00 and yields 1 to 2 cups of cooked beans (depending on the size of the bean, and minus the liquid) that you can use immediately, is the time savings worth it to you?

Or, if a 1-pound bag of beans costs the same $1.00, and you can prepare the beans in a few hours to yield 6 to 7 cups of cooked beans that you can freeze in similar portions to the canned variety, is the cost savings more important to you?

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Sources: Personal experience and

Copyright ©2015 Coral Levang

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valmnz wrote on January 25, 2015, 2:48 PM

Like you, I alternate between cost and convenience. One thing I have noticed is I tend to have to throw out unused food when I go for the more economical make it yourself way. So, for me, sometimes it really is cheaper to go for the convenient pre-packaged version.

CoralLevang wrote on January 25, 2015, 2:53 PM

valmnz In the case of using dried beans as a protein source, they are easily stored, so I just need not to be lazy about spending the time to prepare them and then freeze them. One thing that I have done, which takes up little room is to package them in zipper bags in one cup amounts, making sure the air is out of the bag, and then lay them flat atop one another until frozen solid. I either store them that way, or stand them up in a plastic bin/basket (rectangular-shaped) in the freezer. I do the same sometimes with soups.

Kasman wrote on January 25, 2015, 2:53 PM

Considering the amount of additives which go into a tin of anything I'd say the dried bean option would be the healthier choice - never mind the cost!

valmnz wrote on January 25, 2015, 2:55 PM

Lol, and of course you always label the soups, don't you! Good morning, it's a sunny Monday morning here, about 9 a.m. and I'm shortly out the door for coffee.

CoralLevang wrote on January 25, 2015, 3:07 PM

valmnz Brat! *laughs* Of COURSE I do. It's amazing how similar spaghetti sauce and chili and tomato based soups look in the package. LOL

CoralLevang wrote on January 25, 2015, 3:10 PM

Kasman I agree, however, buying dried beans can also be bad depending on the chemicals used by the growers/farmers. I have bought tins of organic beans, which are nothing more than beans and water. They have cost me much, however.

Kasman wrote on January 25, 2015, 3:11 PM

It seems that living on a healthy diet is expensive!

MelissaE wrote on January 25, 2015, 3:24 PM

No matter what I do, I cannot make beans from scratch. They always taste bland.

CoralLevang wrote on January 25, 2015, 3:36 PM

MelissaE The first thing I do is cook the "bland" beans. Then, I use them as an ingredient for other meals. I prefer that, so they aren't "tainted" with anything. I do not even cook them with salt when reconstituting them as it toughens them.

JohnRoberts wrote on January 25, 2015, 3:55 PM

Being a single guy, I'll go with convenience of opening a can. Beans are still pretty economical even in cans.

CoralLevang wrote on January 25, 2015, 5:34 PM

Johnroberts I agree, and I'm not a single guy! emoticon :winking:

MegL wrote on January 25, 2015, 5:38 PM

Canned beans for me. I take into account the cost of electricity for storing them in the freezer!

PriscillaKing wrote on January 26, 2015, 6:25 PM

For me it's a question of how much humidity I can afford to risk adding to the air in the kitchen. In very cold dry weather, simmering dry beans (and a stock pot!) all day can be nice. Usually my goal is drier air, so canned beans seem worth the extra cost.

CoralLevang wrote on January 26, 2015, 6:29 PM

I can't imagine that the cost of storing them in my freezer would be more costly than the beans themselves, MegL .

CoralLevang wrote on January 26, 2015, 6:30 PM

PriscillaKing Ah, yes! There is something about a stockpot simmering on the back burner of the stove in the wintertime. :)

BarbRad wrote on January 26, 2015, 11:40 PM

I cook the dry beans periodically when I have time, and I also keep canned beans around for when I don't have time.

UK_Writer wrote on January 27, 2015, 6:51 AM

I know dried beans are less expensive than tinned beans, but I buy tinned beans for convenience. My freezer is not large enough to ever consider making up a batch and freezing them.