My Foray Into Food Storage

A regular gal learning about Food Storage, Home Cooking, Canning, Gardening, and more!

Am I REALLY Saving Money? Part One: Dried Beans. Full Steam Ahead!

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Welcome to my new recurring blog series:  Am I REALLY Saving Money?  These posts are designed to help you decide if it is worth it for you to do more work in the kitchen to save money.  I hope you enjoy this series of posts.  If you have any ideas for future posts, please comment on this post, or email me at forayintofoodstorage@gmail.com.

Let me begin with a shout-out to my very best childhood friend, Karyn, who reads this blog and taught me this song:  “Beans, beans, the magical fruit…”   Do you remember that one?  I taught it to my boys who got a kick out of it and still do!  They still sing it even though they’re all old now, that funny little song about a food I love.

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit...

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit…

If you’ve read my blog, then you know how much I love bread.  Beans are a close second for me.  If I were stranded on a desert island for the rest of my life and could only have one food item, it would not be bread.  I would pick beans.  Probably black beans if I had to pick one kind, but, truth is, I’ve never met a bean I didn’t like.  They are versatile, full of fiber and protein, and a good source of iron (and other nutrients).  And best of all, they’re CHEAP!  Like super cheap!

A 16-ounce can of beans runs a dollar or two in these parts, depending upon the store.  And that little can contains 3 1/2 servings of beans.  Now, that’s a deal!   With a price that good, you may wonder if it’s worth buying dried beans.  In the can, they’re ready to serve or add to recipes.  There’s no soaking and cooking before you can use them like there is with dried beans.  After all, time is money, right?  Is it worth your time to use dried beans?

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Personally, I like to keep a couple of cans of ready to serve beans on my pantry shelf, even though I use dried beans most of the time.  Some days, I just don’t have the time or the energy to do much more than open, dump, heat, and serve.   Because I love easy prep and I love saving money, I decided to can some pinto beans.  Yesterday was my first time.  It went well, and I love that I have a ton of beans on my shelf, ready to go, and that I saved money!

How does this help you?  I’m going to break down all the costs, so you have the nitty, gritty details.  Then, you can decide for yourself what is best for you and your family.  I’m not here to tell you that you MUST can beans or anything else.  I’m not you.  I don’t know what works best for you.  I want to provide the info, so you can weigh your options and choose what option (or combination of options) works best for you, in your life, with the way you live.

Here’s the breakdown:

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A 10-pound bag of dried pinto beans costs $7.99 at my local Costco.  A pound of dried beans is about 2 cups of dried beans and serves 10.  This bag has 100 servings of beans making it about 8 cents a serving.

Canned pinto beans are about $1 a can with 3.5 servings, so it costs just under 29 cents a serving.  Although it is $1.99 at many full-service grocery stores, so if I were to compare their prices, it is about 57 cents a serving.

If I use dried beans, I save a little over 20 cents a serving or about 72%!  If I’m paying full service grocery store prices, I’m saving 49 cents a serving.  That’s 86%!  If something you use regularly was on sale for 72-86% off, you’d buy it, wouldn’t you?  I would!  So why isn’t everyone using dried beans?  To sum it up: Time, Knowledge, and Convenience.

Time – To use dried beans, you cook them before you can use them.  The most common method requires you to soak them overnight and cook them the next day so you can use them.  I don’t know about you, but I usually forget to do this, so I use a pressure cooker (different than a pressure canner) which doesn’t require you pre-soak the beans.   My beans are ready in less than 30 minutes from dried bean to table when I use a pressure cooker.  Amazon carries many pressure cookers, including this one*.

Knowledge – Many people don’t know how to use dried beans in their cooking.  They are a bit nervous to do it, because they’ve tried it before, and the beans were hard after cooking.  Plus canned beans are inexpensive and plentiful, so why risk having an inedible meal?   An inedible meal is a waste of money, so you really didn’t save anything, did you?

Convenience – We lead rich, full, busy lives.  It may only take 30 minutes in a pressure cooker to prep beans, but some of us don’t have 30 minutes!  When using canned beans, I can have a homemade bean soup or my “Cafe Rio” beans on the table in 15 minutes.  If everyone is asking me, “What’s for dinner?  I’m hungry!” every minute counts!

That’s where pressure canning your own beans comes in.  It requires a bit of time ONCE.  Then, you have the convenience of canned beans for half the cost (or less)!  While the entire process took me about 24 hours, because I soaked the beans overnight, it took me about 5 hours from the time I started cooking the beans on the stove until they were processed and done.  Most of that time was just sitting, watching, and waiting.  I ate dinner with my family and watched “Grimm” online last night while the beans were pressure canning away.  Not a bad way to spend the evening!

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DISCLOSURE – There are initial costs when one starts canning.  You need to buy the equipment (pressure canner, accessories, and jars).  So, in the beginning, canning costs quite a bit more than just buying canned beans.  But it doesn’t take long to recoup that investment, and you continue to save the more you use your canner.  Here’s a breakdown of my costs:

12 quart jars – $10

Pressure canner – $63

Accessory Set – $7

Extra Seals – $3.50

Beans (only takes about 8 pounds to fill 12 quart jars) – $6.32

Remember, the store-bought canned pinto beans are 29-57 cents a serving and a quart jar is equal to 2 cans.

Total Cost  – $7.20 per quart jar (including cost of beans, jars, pressure canner, and accessories)/ $1.03 per serving.  

– $1.36 per quart jar (including beans and jars)/ 20 cents per serving.  

– $0.96 per quart jar (includes beans and seals)/ 14 cents per serving.

So, if you have the equipment and only consider the price of the beans and the seals, it’s less than a dollar for one quart jar of beans (which equals 2 16-oz cans of beans).  You are saving 51-75% on every serving!

12 quart wide mouth jars – $10 (more or less, depending on where you shop.)  I usually pay about $9 for 12 jars at my local Walmart.  If you don’t have a Walmart near you, or you just want the convenience of having them shipped to your home, Amazon carries them for about $11. Smaller jars cost less, larger jars cost more.  I’ve bought Walmart brand jars for a few dollars less than the Ball and Kerr brand jars.

If you have Amazon Prime, they ship for free (2 day shipping, too!)  I signed up for Amazon Prime last year when I bought a part for our car.  I’ve enjoyed the free shipping and the free video streaming for 1000’s of videos.  My husband and I cancelled cable a few years ago to save money, but we still like to watch TV.  This has been a good value for us thus far.

Seals – The jars and rings are reusable, but you must have a new “seal” every time you can.  They cost about $3-4 for 12 quart size wide mouth seals.  Amazon carries them, as do many grocery stores.  I buy mine at Walmart, because it’s close, and they always stock them in my area.

Pressure canner – $80, new.  I paid $63.10+ tax because I bought one “used” from Amazon.  It was a return in perfect condition.  The only “problem” was that it didn’t come in the original box.  It had everything else, still factory sealed.  Keep in mind that a pressure COOKER is different than a pressure CANNER.  While you can use most pressure canners as pressure cookers, you can’t use a pressure cooker as a pressure canner.

Canning Accessory Kit $6.99 on Amazon

Want to learn a little more?  Here’s my step-by-step rundown.

I used a recipe from PickYourOwn.org.  It’s a great website.  All of their recipes are from reputable sources.  The bean recipe is from the Presto website, but PickYourOwn includes pictures and some helpful hints, so I like to use their website.

* * ALWAYS use a recipe from a reputable source when you can, and ALWAYS follow their instructions exactly. * *   I cannot stress this enough.  This will keep your food fresh and safe.

Enough talk.  Here we go!

I started with beans.  I store my dry beans in these nifty Gallon size Ball Jars.  These jars are not for canning, but are GREAT for pantry storage.  Each jar holds about 16 cups of beans (or about 8 pounds)

I started with dry beans. I store them in these nifty Gallon size Ball Jars. These jars are not for canning, but are GREAT for pantry storage. Each jar holds about 16 cups of beans (or about 8 pounds)

I emptied one jar into a pot.

I emptied one jar into a pot.

See?

See?

Then I filled the pot with water (at least a couple of inches higher than the beans).

Then I filled the pot with water (at least a couple of inches higher than the beans).

I've never soaked this many beans , so I had to add more water.  Honestly, I usually don't soak my beans.  I just put them in the pressure cooker.

I’ve never soaked this many beans before, so I didn’t know how much water I needed.  In the morning, I had to add more water. Honestly, I usually don’t soak my beans. I just put them in the pressure cooker.

Look how much those expanded!  They doubled in size, and this was before I even cooked them!

Look how much those expanded! They doubled in size, and this was before I even cooked them!

I drained and rinsed the beans, then added them to a big stockpot.

I drained and rinsed the beans, then moved them to a big stockpot.

I added water to the stock pot (to cover the beans by about 2 inches).

I added water to the stock pot (to cover the beans by about 2 inches).  Then I turned on the stove and let them boil for 30 minutes.

This is how they looked after cooking them for 30 minutes.  The beans were not fully cooked at this point, but they were ready to go into the canning jars.

They have cooked for 30 minutes and are ready for the next step. The beans were not fully cooked at this point, but they are not supposed to be.  The pressure canner completes the cooking process.

While the beans were boiling, I prepped the "seals" for the jars.

While the beans were boiling, I prepped the “seals” for the jars.

And I prepped my jars.  This recipe did not require me to sterilize my jars.  I simply washed them and put them in hot water (so the temperature of the jar and the temperature of the beans was about the same).

And I prepped my jars. This recipe did not require me to sterilize my jars. I simply washed them and put them in hot water (so the temperature of the jar and the temperature of the beans was about the same).

I got my tools ready.

I got my tools ready.

And I started filling my jars leaving one inch headspace.

And I started filling my jars leaving one inch head space.

My canning accessory kit came with this handy tool to make measuring head space (the distance between the food and the top of the jar) easy.

My canning accessory kit came with this handy tool to make measuring head space easy.  The “head space” is the distance between the food and the top of the jar.  Every reliable canning recipe will give you the head space required.

I added 1/4 teaspoon salt to most of my pint jars.  I forgot to add it to a few of the jars, but that's no problem, because salt is optional.  I can always season the beans when I use them.

I added 1/4 teaspoon salt to most of my pint jars. I forgot to add it to a few of the jars, but that’s no problem, because salt is optional. I can always season the beans when I use them.

Then I took some of the liquid I used to cook the beans, and I added it to the jars (leaving 1 inch head space).

Then I took some of the liquid I used to cook the beans, and I added it to the jars (leaving 1 inch head space).

And they looked like this.

And they looked like this.

I cleaned the rims of the jars with a wet paper towel, and added the seals, then the lids.

I cleaned the rims of the jars with a wet paper towel, and added the seals, then the lids.

I put the jars in my pressure canner, and sealed the canner.  There are these handy arrows which help me line everything up.

I put the jars in my pressure canner, and sealed the canner. There are these handy arrows which helped me line everything up.

I processed my jars according to the time in the recipe (quarts for 90 minutes, pints for 75 minutes).

I processed the jars according to the time in the recipe (quarts for 90 minutes, pints for 75 minutes).  Please refer to your pressure canner manual for full details about how and when to measure your processing time.

Some of my jars had a "line" on them.  I simply washed this off after the jars cooled completely.  This can take up to 24 hours, so don't rush it.

Some of my jars had a “line” on them.  This is normal.  I simply washed this off after the jars cooled completely. It can take up to 24 hours before you can move the jars and/or wash them, but don’t rush it.

Once the jars are cool, I remove the rings (lids) and store them on a shelf ready for use.

Once the jars are cool, I remove the rings (lids) and store them on a shelf ready for use.

I cooked 8 pounds of dry beans and got 17 pint jars and 3 quart jars which equals 23 15-oz cans of beans.

I cooked 8 pounds of dry beans and got 17 pint jars and 3 quart jars which equals 23 16-oz cans of ready-to-use beans.

 

Have you ever thought about using dried beans? 

How about canning them?

Do you think you would save enough to make it worth the work to can beans?

* * * This post contains affiliate links.  For more details on affiliate links, please visit my “About” page.  Thanks! * * *
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Author: Laurie Nguyen

I am a happily married, stay at home mom with four sons, ages 24, 22, 18, and 14. I'm not a professional blogger, and I'm certainly not a foodie or a chef. But I like food, so I think I'm qualified to write about my own life experience with food. Want to be a little more prepared for the unexpected? Check out my Food Storage Blog, http://forayintofoodstorage.com. Have a question about Food Storage? Email me: forayintofoodstorage@gmail.com.

80 thoughts on “Am I REALLY Saving Money? Part One: Dried Beans. Full Steam Ahead!

  1. This is so useful! I’ve always wondered about the difference between using dried beans and canned beans. Thanks for sharing all this information!

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  2. The dried beans don’t intimidate me, the pressure canner does. My mother was always afraid of pressure cookers/canners so we never had one. Therefore I have never seen one in use. This post was very informative and helpful. Thanks!

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  3. Wow, that is one detailed analysis. I’m happy with the conclusion. Personally, I like to use dry beans because it gives the option of sprouting them too, if I have enough time.

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I haven’t sprouted pinto beans, but I have done alfalfa and other traditionally sprouted beans (and corn). How do the pinto beans turn out?

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      • I have not tried pinto, but sprouted black-eyed peas, mung, alfalfa etc. But the others are harder and would take longer, I think. But just letting the sprouting process begin in the beans for a few hours would allow some B vitamins to build up, so I always try that.

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  4. this post is brilliant! Thank you! My husband and I have been chatting about this a lot lately. We have made dry beans before, but always seem to have a had time remembering to make them ahead of time. This was the motivation I needed!

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  5. Wow I am so going to do this. Your step by step pictures convinced me it is not so hard. Now to go buy a pressure canner!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m with you!! Cheap and great for you! So wonderful to have on hand as you do!

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  7. Nice breakdown, Laurie, both the cost and the process! Thank you.

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  8. For years I have canned my own ‘pork and beans’ – my husbands favorite. I do them in pints so he can take a jar for lunch. I use navy (or white) beans – and once cooking in the pot add bacon, onions, molasses, brown sugar, seasonings – let it all cook til done, then pressure can it up. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You may already know this, but I thought I would suggest it. If you put a couple of tablespoons of vinegar in the pressure canner along with the water, you shouldn’t have any hard water deposit on your jars. Thanks for sharing. I do lots of canning too.

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  10. Reblogged this on FabiFabu and commented:
    In Puerto Rico we are very familiar with dried beans, it is a staple in our cuisine what we dont do to frequently is the canning. So here is my question, do you leave the jars out of the refrigerator, until you decide to use them???. Thanks great information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Once you can the beans in a pressure cooker, it is shelf stable. The beans are cooked and ready to you, and it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It’s just like the cans you buy at the store, except that you made them yourself!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I can`t stop reading your fantastic and informative post. But now I need to go and sleep. I will be back soon.

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  12. I use kidney beans frequently and always buy them dried. I cook a quantity in the slow cooker overnight and then freeze them in 500g containers. That way they are always ready to use. I also make my own ‘refried beans’ in the slow cooker and freeze them also. The recipe and details are on my blog. http://organisedcastle.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/re-fried-beans-let-me-count-the-ways/

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  13. What is the difference between a pressure canner and pressure cooker? I am new to this and from the UK.

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    • Thanks for stopping by!

      Pressure canners are generally much larger than pressure cookers. My pressure cooker (which is a larger one than most) is 8 quarts. My pressure canner (which is an average size one) is 23 quarts.

      But the most important difference is that pressure canners have a gauge to measure the amount of pressure in the cooker. This is important, because different foods must be processed at different pressures to ensure that the food is safe.

      In a pressure cooker, there is no gauge to determine the exact pressure within the pot.

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  14. Excellent post Laurie. I found the information it very useful and will love try out! Thanks.

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  15. I have never done my own canning of beans but I love to use them in cooking. Unfortunately my husband is not keen on beans so we don’t have them as often as we would otherwise and it would not be worth me investing in the equipment. aside from that though I think this is a great post and really useful if someone is thinking of doing their own canning. IT would certainly save money over time, which most people are trying to do nowadays.

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  16. Thanks for this post. We generally use dried beans that we’ve grown. I usually forget to start them soaking the night before, so use the quick soak method (boil for 2 minutes, then cover and let set for an hour, drain and rinse)…. But that still takes a little over an hour. Home canning some to have a few jars of cooked beans on hand is a great idea. I’d never thought of it before. I appreciate the tip!

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  17. Awesome post! I’ve been switching over to dried beans & struggled with the time management (forgetting to soak overnite!), as well as sometimes the beans are too hard after cooking. I LOVE the idea of making a batch & canning them for future use. Its like the best of both worlds! I definitely see some bean canning in my future. Thanx so much!

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  18. Reblogged this on Frugal Tired Mom and commented:
    One of my favorite blogs….a wonderful tip for fellow Frugal Tired Moms! Turn your dried beans into canned beans with one day of prep. It’s the best of both worlds!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thanks for stopping by. This is very useful. Thanks a lot 🙂

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  20. I love bread and beans too! This was such an amazing, useful, organized post. I always want more details and pictures/examples out of useful directions like this, and you delivered! I am so happy you found me and liked my post, “An Object is Never Just an Object”, otherwise I would have never found you and your awesome blog!

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  21. Wow, what an awesome idea for a series! I’m always looking for a great way to save money, and I’m totally on the DIY/food storage wagon, so this post is totally up my alley 🙂 Thanks so much for all this info, I’m definitely checking back to see what else you find out!

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  22. Hi! I once did this calculation with dried vs canned chickpeas, as we love chickpeas at my house. However, I cook them thoroughly after soaking overnight and then freeze them in 1 cup portions. The advantage is that I don’t need to can at all. Disadvantage is that cans last longer and aren’t dependent on electricity. Great and detailed post! Thanks for dropping by my blog!

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  23. Wow Laurie! I admire u so much and as a mom of 4 who sometimes gets uninspired to try new things U have inspired me. My husband likes beans once a week in some form or fashion & we scowl everytime we buy 1 little bag of dried beans knowing how little they used to cost. So your wonderfully descriptive informative post is MUCH appreciated. Glad I found u and will keep checkin back. Happy canning!

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  24. Reblogged this on My Foray Into Food Storage and commented:

    The first in a series. I’m writing the second on bread. Any suggestions for a third? Which item would you like to have me compare the cost of homemade VS. store-bought? Please comment and let me know!

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  25. I’ve been curious about pressure canning. Maybe one of these days I’ll break down and buy one. Very informative post. I would love to see a post comparing homemade vs. store-bought pie crust or broth. Granted I think there is some flavor benefit with both of these to make homemade but I don’t know always know if it’s cheaper. Things like homemade yogurt would be interesting to contemplate as well, since I use quite a bit of that.

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  26. I think it may also be worth discussing the benefits of not buying pre-prepared food, money aside too. I mean, I have come to love dry beans, but I also love that they don’t come in containers packed with toxins, and aren’t loaded in salt and preservatives. Buying raw means you know what is in it. If it comes down to a few cents more, it’s worth it I think.

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  27. Thank you for this, great information. I never use canned beans, always buy dried, usually soak them over night, have a good fool-proof method for doing this, but I like the idea of canning them. Canning is something I am entirely new to and my daughter just bought me a Bernardin home canning starter kit for my birthday but of course this is just a canning bath which I believe is only suitable for chutneys, tomatoes etc. I think I may well have to consider investing in a pressure canner eventually.

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    • I started with water bath canning, and I had a lot of success preserving healthy foods for me and and my family. I just made the jump to pressure canning a month or so ago. It’s opened a whole new world of foods I can preserve at home.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog.

      Like

  28. This is so informative. You’re right, I don’t have a lot of time, and when I do I don’t wanna do anything. My mom used to cook dried beans all the time, so I had the pleasure of growing up eating this way. I haven’t had dried beans, but I think I remember them tasting a bit better than canned beans. I love eating beans with rice and an onion-lemon salad.

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  29. I love it, Laurie! Made me laugh. 🙂 My husband is vegetarian, so we eat a lot of beans instead of meat. I’m super excited to try canning them myself! I’m really kicking myself for leaving all my canning supplies in Utah when we moved last summer. I’m going to need to buy everything -again- so I really appreciate the cost analysis!

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    • I’m glad you liked it! Is everyone in the household pretty much a vegetarian, or is it just your hubby?

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      • Just my hubby. Every once in a while the girls will decide to go vegetarian — but that never lasts more than two days at most! However, given that Hyrum is vegetarian and that I hate to cook — we rarely eat meat (much to my 17 year old son’s great frustration). It’s so much easier to cook pasta and not mess it up. But I love this blog so much, Laurie. You have no idea all the ways you’ve been inspiring me every day. I don’t know how you keep coming up with all these great ideas, but it’s wonderful. I’m totally in awe. 🙂

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  30. Sauces – Besciamella, tomato sauce, marinara… 🙂 This is a reallt fab idea by the way, and will make for an interesting series I have no doubt.

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  31. Make use of the crock pot for dried beans if you don’t want to invest in canning equipment. Put the unsoaked beans in the crock pot at night, add water to cover plus a couple of inches, add any seasoning you want, cook on low overnight, and when you wake in the morning the beans are ready to eat. Can be stored in fridge and re-heated for dinner. I spent 30 years as a farm wife, canning everything in our large garden, raising 3 children, dealing with undiagnosed MS, and cooking for up to 40 farm hands every day. But when I would cook the dried beans, they went in the crock pot the night before with a ham hock or bacon for seasoning, and were perfectly cooked and ready to feed the entire crowd by lunch. Just had to make cornbread, potatoes and slice the ham and the meal was ready to go.

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    • Thanks for the suggestion! Yes, the crockpot is great. I’ve used it many times for beans and other yummy things. The only problem is that my hubby is not a bean lover, so I like keeping some prepped beans on hand when I have a hankering for them. 🙂

      Thanks again!

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  32. Laurie, what is the shelf life of the canned beans? It would be good to know this for storing them:). Thanks, your blog is great!

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  33. I just pressure canned garbonzo beans! This is a great pictorial inspiration, nice work!

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  34. This is great! I’ve been a fan of dry beans for a long time and my husband is teaching me how to can things, but it took us years to put the two ideas together! We now have some kidney beans and white beans home canned and I love it!
    I agree with an earlier comment about comparing yogurt costs, and maybe canned tomatoes as well. I use canned tomatoes all the time and we do can our own, but the time investment seems huge some nights!

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