An image depicting a woman buying dried beans

Dry Beans in the Emergency Pantry

As consumers across the country shelter in place against the coronavirus, it’s not surprising that packages of dry beans have been flying off grocery store shelves. Dry beans are an essential part of any well-stocked pantry, especially one that feeds families through an emergency.

These foods are among the most economical sources of nutrition. One pound of dry beans provides as much as 1,500 calories and 100 grams of protein for less than $2.00. While canned beans cost a little more, it makes sense to keep a good supply on hand for fast meal preparation.

To keep dry beans fresh for as long as possible, store them away from light and keep them sealed in plastic bags or jars. When properly stored, few foods rival beans as a shelf-stable choice. One study found that canned beans that had been sitting in pantries for as long as 30 years were still acceptable to most people who tasted them, at least for emergency meals. For optimal flavor and nutrition, aim to use canned beans within two to three years and dry beans within a year of purchase. After a year, dry beans can harden and take longer to cook. If you have beans that have been sitting in your pantry for more than a year you can still use them. Adding a pinch of baking soda to the cooking water is one way to speed their preparation and produce softer beans.