Beans Beans and More Beans – How we plan to reduce our grocery bill

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Beans – healthy, delicious, and cheap

Sure…beans make you fart, and deep down inside we all know that farts are funny…well…most of the time!  Let’s move on shall we.

Due to our recent but ongoing financial fast (which I recommend everyone try for at least one solid month) my wife & I have not been spending money on anything outside of our normal bills and expenses.

We stopped going out to eat which is saving us over $5,000/year.  We subscribed to Netflix and stopped going to the movies which saves us $600/year.  We are working diligently to reduce our monthly bills which has helped us cut at least another $600/year.  All told, since January of 2009 we have reduced our monthly spending by over $500!

I of course keep pushing by wondering…how I can cut this down even further?  Looking over our budget it appears that one of the few categories I can still reduce is our monthly grocery expenditures.  Enter “Beans Beans and More Beans”!

The remainder of this article is a quick break down of how beans, which beans, and why beans – with a core goal of – how to use beans to reduce costs.  Our specific goal is to reduce our grocery budget from $400/month to $250, mainly by using a ton of dry beans. An additional benefit my wife & I stand to realize from our great bean adventure is increased health.

The Low Cost of Beans (dry) vs (wet a.k.a pre-cooked)

Yes beans are cheap, but did you know that buying dry beans is a much more frugal choice than buying wet beans?  Wet beans cost more because of their swollen size & water weight.  You actually get about 66% less beans by weight if you buy them wet.  Companies selling wet beans actually have a brilliant business plan.  Take something they can get for SUPER cheap, soak it in water overnight, then sell 1/3 the amount at double the price.  It works for them because the wet beans are STILL super cheap!

Basically dry beans will yield 3x their volume once they are cooked.  This in turn means that you will get three times your money if you purchase dry beans versus cooked beans.

Okay, I’ll buy dry beans, what does this have to do with my grocery bill?

I’m glad you asked.  If you substitute dry beans in your recipes in place of other protein sources you stand to save big time!  When you are trying to make ends meet in these tough financial times, replacing high cost meats with low cost beans is just sound financial sense.  Don’t worry, beans taste excellent and have a good “meat-like” texture.  I am a big fan of meat in meals and thought I would have a tough time substituting beans, but I have not really even noticed much “missing”.  There are also a ton of health benefits when substituting beans for meat because beans are just so healthy!

The Health Benefits of Beans

Beans are one of the most nutritionally well rounded foods available to us.  They are classed as both a vegetable and a protein and are both high in complex carbohydrates and low in calories.

I know I said we were moving past the fart talk, but I just can’t help myself.  The reason beans make you fart is because they are SO VERY high in fiber.  That’s right, not only does that mean a lot of farts, but MUCH more importantly it means a cleaner colon for you!  More and more studies show that good colon health is directly indicative of good overall health.  Beans are also extremely high in protein; which supports our claim that there is no better meat substitute than beans.  Are you trying to lose some weight?  Beans are incredibly good for the waistline and may also aid in disease prevention!

Simply put, it is obvious why beans should be a part of any person’s diet.

Which Beans are Best?

When it comes to which bean is best it is quite simple, the darker the better.  The darker the bean the more flavonoid antioxidants it contains.  Black beans boast the most, followed by red, brown, yellow and white beans. (Brown and yellow beans are similar to the manteca-type beans widely eaten in Latin America.) A 3.5-ounce serving of black beans contains about 10 times more antioxidants than the equivalent amount of oranges.

Washing & Preparation

I do not want to reinvent the wheel with instructions in this post so I will make this very brief.  That is not hard since washing and preparing dry beans is very easy.

Wash your beans in a colander, then lay them out on a dish towel and scour for stones.  Once cleaned, soak most beans in three times their volume of cold water for six hours before cooking.  I make this easy and just soak my beans overnight…just set ’em & forget ’em.

Once the beans have been soaked I then bring them to a boil in their soaking water and then reduce to simmer for about an hour.  The amount of time can vary for each bean and since I do not feel like listing them go here to see the cooking times for different beans.  Here is another more in depth tutorial on using dried beans.


Last week we started our “Bean Adventure” by making a lentil & chickpea stew.  The entire meal cost us less than $5 and provided us with 10 servings or better! Here is the recipe:

Lentil & Chickpea Stew


  • 1 lbs bag dry lentils (wash & soak overnight before cooking)
  • 8 oz dry chickpeas (wash & soak overnight before cooking)
  • Soak beans in at least 14 cups of water
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 4 carrots sliced
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite rice (I use brown Basmati)
  • 6 cloves smashed & minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp whole wheat flour, dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3 Tbsp salted butter

Bring beans to a boil in their soaking water then let simmer for 60 minutes.  Add all ingredients except the cilantro, butter, lemon juice, and flour.  Stir together and let simmer for another 60 minutes.  Heat the butter & lemon juice in a sauce pan over medium heat and whisk in the flour slowly to create a roux.  Once whisked together add the roux to the pot and simmer an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, add cilantro and serve!

I am looking here for a bunch of awesome bean recipe

In Closing…

I will keep you posted on how our bean adventure pans out.    We will also continue to pre-plan our meals, but now plan on basing our meals around our local grocer fliers to save even more.  I am confident that these slight changes will enable us to cut the desired $150 from our grocery bill each month.  I am excited to have this experiment underway and am also pretty excited to be getting the added health benefits of all these beans!

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1 nickel

Is it bad that I’m amused to have found a personal finance blog that freely uses the term ‘fart’?

2 ObliviousInvestor

I wrote guest post for FrugalDad a while back that was about frugal living via cutting back on meat. For my wife and I, beans are a big part of how we do that.

Healthy, delicious, and cheap. What’s not to love? 🙂

3 DebtFREEk!

@Oblivious – tonight my wife & I had black bean taco salad with whole grain chips, it was awesome! Think I’m going to make black bean spaghetti next…

@nickel – I’m glad to bring humor to a usually dry topic! 😉

4 Victor

Great article!! 🙂 Don’t forget the infinite variety of chillies, stews and soups that are based on beans.

It’s quite easy to cut out meat completely, and not even for financial reasons. Meat takes about 10x more water and 10x more energy to grow per calorie than grain. In other words, eating an animal is like losing 90% of the energy and water. Clearly that’s a huge waste.

I find the biggest challenge is summer bbqs when others are eating burgers and such. I don’t like those fake meat burgers, so what I’ve started doing is bringing along portabella mushrooms. Cook them whole and they are like a patty!

5 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

Me too! I posted on using beans because of nutrition and frugality too. If you need a few more recipes, try here:

6 peter

A pressure cooker will cut the cooking time significantly. I picked one up at the thrift store for $8.

7 Meg

About the reason why beans make you fart. It isn’t because of the fiber. It’s because some of the sugars are indigestible, until they reach certain microbes naturally occurring in our intestines, which then digest these sugars which we were unable to, and the byproducts of that bacterial digestion is gas.
Beano works to reduce gas by using an enzyme specific to one of these otherwise indigestible sugars, that breaks it down into simple sugars we can digest.

Other ways to reduce gas, are:
According to Cooks’ Illustrated, the “quick soak” method, whereby you bring dry unsoaked beans to a boil, turn off heat, let stand one hour, then drain that liquid, add fresh water, and this time cook as you would properly soaked beans, gets rid of the bulk of those indigestible sugars.

Others claim that cooking beans with kombu (a type of kelp) tenderizes them and reduces gas, but I don’t know whether this has been substantiated.

Hope this helps!

8 Matt Jabs

Thanks Meg, excellent info.

9 Michel

I live in Brazil.
People here eat black beans every single day. Regardless of social class.
Everybody uses pressure cookers for beans.
But I don’t think beans alone can replace meat (i mean in the broad sense, beef, chicken, fish) effectively. I would say I have witness that it cannot. Because the very poor buy beans but cannot buy meat, and you can see the malnutrition before your eyes, you know. Lack of protein.

10 Squirrel

I do love beans, and while I understand how they’re a great way to reduce the grocery bill… what about your gas/electricity one ? Cooking them several times a week for one or two hours ?

11 Matt Jabs

Simple, do big batches and freeze.

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