When I think of being "Frugal" beans come to mind. Legumes like pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, white beans, etc, help cut our grocery costs tremendously. The trick to is preparing them ahead of time. And to save more time, prepare LOTS ahead of time. Bulk prepare your beans.
The cost of prepared beans in a can is still much cheaper than say chicken or beef to enhance your family's meals. The cost of dried beans compared to beans in a can is far FAR cheaper. Like I said though, the trick is to remember preparing them ahead of time.
If you have room in your freezer, I recommend preparing unflavored beans and freezing them.
How we do it using a crockpot:
1. Place a pound or two of dried beans in a crockpot (black beans are my favorite) and sort out the broken pieces and non-bean items. Because beans are an agricultural product, occasionally I have found a tiny little rock in them while sorting.
You can save these little half-beans and rocks to make toilet paper tube maracas for your preschoolers.
2. Rinse the beans and drain.
3. Add water to about twice the height of the beans.
4. Soak beans several hours or overnight. Eight hours is more than sufficient.
5. Drain the bean water in the morning. Add fresh, clear water to about two inches above the beans.
6. Turn the crockpot on low about 6-8 hours, or until tender. Do NOT add salt. It will prevent your beans from softening and cooking. Occasionally I will add a little bit of bacon grease for a less beany smell while it's cooking.
Now that you have cooked beans, turn off the crockpot and let cool. Sometimes I use some of the beans immediately, but this tutorial is about how to store them in bulk ahead of time.
Some recipes call for beans drained; some call for beans with their liquids. I save the liquid just in case.
Freezing your beans:
1. Using quart-size Ziploc freezer containers (4 cups), I spoon in beans up to the 3 cup line.
2. Spoon in some bean liquid up to 1/2-inch from the top of the container.
3. Put lid on top and place in freezer. Label it before you put in freezer so you know it's just beans and not soup.
Do NOT freeze in glass jars. They will break.
Using your beans:
1. Thaw in fridge overnight or on the counter in the afternoon. Or you can dump the beans in a glass dish and nuke them in the microwave.
2. Some food suggestions: use in chilis, soups, salads, tacos, taco salad, dips, burritos, or our family's laziest favorite dinner ever, Fast Beans.
Fast Beans How-to:
1. Mix precooked beans and their liquid, cooked brown rice, grated cheddar cheese.
2. Add these ratios to your taste preference.
3. Mix up and eat. My kids BEG for fast beans. They have no idea how cheap this dinner is or how nutritious. I see no need to discuss that with them.