Beans for Busy Families

You’ve had a crazy day at work and the last thing you want to do tonight is cook a homemade meal. How great would it be if dinner was already planned and prepared? And how awesome would it be if that meal was simply delicious, naturally nutritious, and cost-effective?

Planning and preparing for the week’s meals, and including nutritious, cost saving ingredients like beans in multiple meals each week is a great way to stay healthy and save time and money. Here’s some information and helpful tips to get you started.

Beans Are Simply Delicious

Beans’ satisfying texture and mellow flavor make them the perfect blank canvas as a starting point for any meal. Preparing a bag of dry beans at the start of the week—by sorting, rinsing, soaking, and cooking—allows you to easily prepare a wide variety of healthful, flavorful meals during the week. And of course you can also use canned beans, which cost a bit more per serving but save time.

Beans Are Naturally Nutritious

All beans are good sources of protein, excellent sources of fiber, fat-, sodium-, and cholesterol-free. Regularly eating beans may help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer.

Beans Are A Low-Cost Food

Beans are one of the lowest-cost per serving protein foods. A ½ cup serving of cooked dry beans costs a mere $0.07 per serving. Compare that to a serving of lean ground beef at $1.14. If a family of four substitutes dry beans for lean ground beef twice a week for a year, they could save about $450!

Make Sunday Your Menu and Food Prep Day

Carving out 1-2 hours of your Sunday for food prep can save you time and money during the week. You can make it something fun with the family or make it your own relaxing time.

  • Family Fun: Include the kids and make Sunday Food Prep Day a family tradition. Simple tasks like measuring, mixing, or even a little chopping for older children are great ways to involve kids in the kitchen.
  • Relaxation Time: Send the family out for a few hours, turn on some relaxing music, pour yourself a glass of wine, and make this a time for you to peruse cookbooks, cooking magazines, or your favorite online recipe site. We hope you include the Bean Institute site in your list of favorites! Even taking the time to write menu ideas for dinner Monday through Friday can take some of the pressure off during the week. You’ll have a plan, and you can start to prep ingredients on Sunday so that meal prep during the week is faster and easier. Cooking a big batch of dry beans on the weekend means you’ll have beans available during the week to add to your favorite recipes.

Cook with Dry Beans: The Four-Step Method

Dry beans are an excellent, versatile ingredient, but to start with beans in their dry form, you need to follow four simple steps.

  1. Clean the Beans

    • Place the beans in a shallow layer in a pie plate or baking sheet.
    • Pick out and discard any foreign objects like leaves, small stones or twigs, as well as any broken
  2. Rinse the Beans

    • Place the beans in a colander or strainer and rinse them under cold running water.
  3. Soak the Beans: The Hot Soak Method

    • Place beans in a large pot and add 10 cups of water for every 2 cups of beans.
    • Heat to boiling and boil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
    • Remove beans from heat, cover and let stand for 4 to 24 hours.
    • Drain beans and discard soaking water.
    • Rinse beans with fresh, cool water.
    • They’re now ready to cook!
  4. Cook the Beans

    • Place the beans in a large stockpot and cover with fresh, cold water.
    • Place over medium heat to keep cooking water at a gentle simmer to prevent split skins. (Beans expand as they cook so add warm water periodically to keep the beans covered).
    • Stir beans occasionally throughout the cooking process to prevent sticking.
    • Beans take 30 minutes to 2 hours to cook, depending on the variety. When fully cooked, the beans should be tender but not mushy.

Storing Cooked Beans

After the beans have cooked and cooled, place the beans and cooking liquid in an airtight container and refrigerate. Cooked beans will keep up to five days in a covered container.

Bean Counting

The following chart provides information on bean yield for various forms. Let’s say you want to feed your family of four a serving of beans at one meal every day next week, Monday through Friday. You’ll need 20 servings or 10 cups of beans. This means you’ll need to cook about two pounds of dry beans this weekend or buy 6 15-oz. cans of beans.

One pound bag of dry beans = 2 cups dry beans
One pound bag of dry beans = 6 cups cooked beans, drained
One cup of dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans, drained
½ cup cooked beans, drained = 1 serving of beans
One 15-oz. can of beans = 1.75 cups cooked beans, drained
One 15-oz. can of beans = 3.5 servings of beans

Your 5-Day Bean Plan

This sample 5-day beans plan shows you how to enjoy at least one serving of beans every day of the week in meals and snacks.

Monday Breakfast

Make a Breakfast Bean Burrito by filling a plain or whole grain 10” flour tortilla with a scrambled egg, 3/4 cup canned, drained, and rinsed reduced sodium black or pinto beans, and ¼ cup shredded cheese. Roll tightly to form a burrito, place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 45-60 seconds. Top with your favorite salsa and enjoy!

Tuesday Lunch Salads are a great way to get your veggies. Add ½ cup beans to your favorite salad. Cannellini and white kidney beans are a great addition to Caesar salads, and pinto beans go great with taco salads.
Wednesday Snack

A smoothie is so refreshing and delicious! Make a Berry Bean Smoothie by combining 1 cup non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt, 1 cup blueberries, 1 medium banana, 1/2 cup canned, drained and rinsed reduced sodium black beans, and 1 tablespoon honey in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a glass, add a straw, and enjoy!

Thursday Dinner Does your family love pasta? You can add navy beans to your favorite chicken Alfredo pasta recipe or kidney beans to your lasagna or spaghetti recipe.
Friday Snack

Hummus is one of the most popular snacks in the U.S. today. Treat yourself to some Pinto Bean Hummus by combining 1-15 oz. can of pinto beans (drained and rinsed), 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons tap water, 1 garlic clove, and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning in a mini food processor. Process until smooth. Grab some pita chips and snack happy!