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 email@example.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.
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?
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:
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!
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!
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?