Using Beans to Keep the Food Budget in Check

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I recently shared a very popular $250 sample grocery budget, and mentioned that one of the ways that I would stretch things out was with the use of vegetarian meals, most of which feature beans and legumes. Katie has written an incredible recipe ebook called The Everything Beans Book (keep reading for a coupon code!), which is chock full of recipes to help even bean-loathing families learn to happily eat more beans, up their nutrition, and keep costs down. And now, I’ll pass it over to Katie to share some of her tips with you…

Guest Post by Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship

Can you live a life with beans on more than just rice and beans?

I believe you can, and although I have beans and rice recipes to share for Mexican and Cuban style, plus a homemade twist on rice-a-roni, imagine 27 more ways to cook with beans. Definitely one way to cut your budget while using whole foods!

Keeping the Food Budget in Check

I dearly miss my coupons now that I make almost everything from scratch. Avoiding processed foods sometimes means forfeiting couponing, which takes away that receipt-loving triumph of, “I saved more than I spent at the grocery store!!!”

I’ve had to find other ways to trim the food budget, and cooking with beans is surely one of them, even though canned beans have doubled in price in a decade – doesn’t that make you want to cry?

Certainly a can of beans is still more frugal than a pound of meat, and you can cut the cost even more by using dry beans.

If you don’t know how to cook with dry beans, my frugal friends, now is the time more than ever as grocery prices continue to rise.

Why Beans?

I choose beans for equal parts nutrition and frugality, which isn’t something you can say often.

My frugal eBook, The Everything Beans Book, not only has 30 beans and legumes recipes but also 20 pages of information.

I’ll teach you:

  • How to cook with dry beans to maximize BOTH cost savings and your family’s health
  • Tips for bulk cooking beans to cut your time in the kitchen
  • How to pair beans with other simple foods to best utilize the protein (including some you may never have heard of even if you’re well-versed in complementary proteins)
  • Why you want to embrace beans in your meal plan
  • Ideas for picky eaters who hate beans (I was one of them not long ago!)
  • Frugal tips with every recipe to cut costs on all the other ingredients
  • And even a few tips on the whole flatulence issue

Lesson One: Three Ways to Sneak in the Beans

1. Use Lentils to Stretch the Meat

My husband hates when I reduce the meat or add fillers, especially in his favorite meals. He has stamped the seal of approval on tacos with lentils, however, so you can believe that they’re top notch. It’s simple: cook up some lentils (I do a huge batch and freeze them) and add them in a 1:1 ratio with a pound of ground beef for tacos. Use seasoning equivalent to two pounds, and I promise, no one will be any the wiser.

You’ve slashed your cost for a rather meat-based meal without compromising nutrition, and you might even have leftovers (which makes my husband very happy). This trick works just as well with really, really well-cooked white beans. They turn into mush and your taco meat looks surprisingly like a certain Mexican fast food chain that my husband may just be in love with.

2. Puree Beans in Spaghetti Sauce

Start with about a half can or one cup kidney or pinto beans and puree before adding to any spaghetti sauce. Protein boost!

3. Make a Sauce Out of Beans

This recipe is the free download from The Everything Beans Book, and it’s perfect for the bean haters:

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Recipe: Pasta with White (Bean) Sauce

If you don’t tell your dinner guests you’re serving beans, they’ll be hard-pressed to figure out the difference between this protein-packed white sauce and a standard Alfredo. You can choose to leave the beans whole for a lovely texture, too.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 1 4-oz. can diced green chili peppers, drained, or 1 chopped jalapeno or
  • Anaheim pepper
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs whole wheat flour or arrowroot starch
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 ½ c. whole milk
  • 1 ½ c. shredded cheese (any kind works, but Swiss or Monterey Jack is great)
  • 1 15-oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed, or 2 cups cooked dry beans*
  • salt to taste, likely about a ½ tsp.
  • ½ lb. Linguine or favorite pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • *If soaking dry beans, start with 1 cup before soaking.

Method:

In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed pot, cook onion and peppers (if using fresh) in melted butter until tender, adding garlic at the last minute. Stir in flour and pepper and cook two minutes. Add the milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly and thickened, taking care not to scorch the bottom.

Cook one more minute, then add cheese and stir to melt. Add the beans and canned chiles (if using canned) and stir to heat through. Feel free to add extra milk at any point if the sauce is too thick for your tastes. Serve over linguine or your favorite pasta. You might include steamed veggies right in the sauce for an all-in-one meal.

For the bean haters of the world: If you use an immersion blender and whiz the sauce, the beans (and their taste) disappear. You might want to add a bit of extra milk to thin it out, up to 1/4-1/2 cup.

For a printable version with all the frugal tips and ingredient variations, check out the free download of the beans recipe.

If I had time for a fourth, I’d share the amazing Black Bean Fudgy Brownies with you – guaranteed that no one without prior knowledge would guess that the main ingredient is beans, and there is zero flour involved! (Stephanie’s note: These brownies are SO good!)

Get a taste of what’s in the eBook with these other frugal bean recipes:

Meatless Chickpea Wraps

Veggie Bean Burritos

Tuscan Bean Soup

Katie’s Simple Cabbage Soup with Secret Super Food 

Take $4 off The Everything Beans Book!

Katie has generously offered a coupon code for Keeper of the Home readers to save on The Everything Beans Book. Regular price is $9.95, but you’ll get 40% off with code FRUGALBEANS, making it just $5.95!

How do you use beans in your meals to save money?

Top image by cookbookman17
This post includes affiliate links.

About The Author

This post was brought to you by one of Keeper of the Home's fantastic guest posters!

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Comments

  1. we use lots of beans! one way is to buy dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and soak and cook to make hummus or a few indian food recipes that we love. we make several mexican dishes with either black or pinto beans. i love homemade chili with beans and tortilla soup with beans as well. i have used lots of lentils in both indian food (red lentils) and the green in stews and tacos. i have even at times (when we were out of ground beef) only used lentils on a version of taco salad and season them like i would ground beef. my kids love it just as much as the meat version. i think there are so many great ways to use them to get nutrition and save a bit of cash.

  2. I am really liking all of your blog posts about using beans. I don’t know how to word this delicately, so here it goes: beans in things like chili gives my family gas; do they do the same in other dishes? If so, how can we remedy this or can we?

    • Are you using canned beans or making your own from dried beans? If you do your own and you give them a really good soak before cooking (12-24 hours) you can reduce a lot of the gas-causing properties in the beans and they should be easier to digest.

  3. JennErin@Moody says:

    Beans!!!
    Love them. They helped my husband and I get through seminary so cheap!

    Also I work in the college cafeteria where he goes to school. We use them in spaghetti sauce, alfredo, meatloaf, taco meat, cream soups… saves us so much money off the food service budget.

  4. Thanks for the great tips! Been trying to get our food budget under control and also cut back on meat so this helps alot! Used the coupon code and got the books! Thanks for the discount!

  5. Savvy Wolfson says:

    Question: How important is it to buy organic beans vs. just beans??

    • I haven’t felt that beans are an area that is a high priority for me, simply because they’re lower on the food chain and not as commonly a heavily sprayed product as many types of fruits and vegetables and grains (like corn, soy, etc.). If you need to prioritize organics, I would focus on fats and animals products and dairy first, then on the dirty dozen for produce, and then on things like grains, beans, etc.

  6. These are such great suggestions! My husband was skeptical at switching to a vegan diet, but only for half of one day, so I never know what to tell ladies who say they’d like to cut down on meat, but their husband absolutely will not. I now know some great suggestions for them, and I’ll refer them to your site. Thanks for the great post. We love beans at our house, and they really are so good for you.

  7. We use lots of beans, I toss black beans in southwestern salads, or cobb salads…I puree white beans for a pizza dough recipe or a homemade mac and cheese (similar to the white sauce mentioned).

  8. When does the coupon code expire?

  9. We LOVE beans! I like to do a 1:1 ratio of meat and beans in homemade soups which keeps the protein high and the cost low. We also like black bean chili, black bean brownies, white bean chicken chili, bean burritos, and many other bean meals. Another favorite is cheesy lentil toast. Whole wheat sprouted sandwich bread, add lentils on top, cover with a slice of swiss cheese and broil in oven until cheese is melted, then serve with a side of fruit and veggies. YUM!

  10. I don’t eat meat but cook meat once/wk for my family and fish once/wk so beans are an important part of our diet. My husband is originally from West Africa which means that he is used to beans as a staple so we have no issues there. Our favorite beans are kidney, black, garbanzo and black-eyed beans – the easiest of the bunch.

    We regularly eat beans in veggie soups/stews, rice bowls, rice/bean burritos and black eyed beans as a side (I love them sauteed with olive oil and onions and eaten on toast!).

    Thank you for the white sauce recipe; I will most definitely be trying it out. Thank you, too, for the free upgrade of your healthy snacks ebook.

  11. I have just recently started visiting the Keeper of the Home blog and have enjoyed stopping by. We already do tacos with beans and a vegetable soup that is bean loaded. The brownies and the book sound intriguing.

  12. Katie! I absolutely love your book! I’ve had it for a while and it has been such a source of inspiration. Thank you for all of the wonderful recipes.

  13. Ha! I didn’t know before starting to read that Katie wrote this post and was going to suggest in the comments to get her bean book! I just love it. I’m pretty creative in the kitchen, especially with stretching the food budget, but wouldn’t have came up with most of her bean recipes. Nice variety and we’ve loved them all.

  14. Great buy on the book! I love the KS Camping book it is wonderfully written– I’m sure the bean book is spectacular.

    We eat beans quite often. I have a whole series of ‘stretchy beans’ on my blog just to prove my bean obsession. Making one large pot of beans and turning it into three or so meals works out wonderfully for me and really helps with our budget. I usually cook beans in broth since the broth acts as a protein sparer and I feel it really ups the nutrition. Of course, beans are wonderful on their own too.

  15. I was just telling my husband last night that I’m cutting back on our meat consumption in order to buy higher-quality organic meat…so get ready for some beans! This is a very timely post! I already make burgers with half ground beef, half black beans and they’re great! Bean burritos, meatless chili, and lentil and veggie soup (with the addition of some sausage if you want) are all ways I cut back on meat. Thanks so much for the additional recipes! I can’t wait to try those black bean brownies!

    • You’re right on Emily! People ask all the time how we afford higher-quality pastured meats and I tell them it’s ’cause we eat a lot of beans :) I’d love to have your recipe for the half-n-half burgers…they sound amazing!

  16. Amanda Roggow says:

    I have your bean book and have started to use it all the time! Tonight I have the 3 bean soup on my meal plan- even before I read this post! :)

  17. Great to see you guest posting here today, Katie!! You know I love all your books–and, wow, $4 off is such a great buy for the beans book!! My little girl LOVES the black bean brownies from the book!!

  18. Thank you so much for sharing these tips! I often have to hide the beans when cooking with them as my husband does not like the texture, and will therefore shy away whenever he sees beans. I already do the bean/meat taco mix. We prefer the taste of black beans, so we use that instead of lentils. We sometimes make chicken patties with ground chicken and chickpeas. I use a 1:1 ratio, like the taco’s, season based on the total weight and fry them up like a chicken patty. No one knows the difference. I personally like the chickpea patty, so I will leave the chicken out entirely for me and my son.

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