Are dry beans worth it?

Ever wondered how much money you save when you opt for dry beans instead of canned?  Well, here’s what you need to answer that question using the prices in your area.

  • 1 pound of dry beans will make 6-7 cups of cooked beans
  • 1 15-oz can of beans contains a little less than 2 cups of beans (drained)

Recently I priced bulk red beans at 80 cents/pound.  Eighty cents is also about the price I pay for a can of cooked red beans (generic) in my area.  That means that for me, dry beans are about 1/3 the cost of canned.  How does that compare to prices in your area?

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Dry beans do take a bit more planning, but they don’t take a lot of actual supervision, especially if you cook them in a crock pot.   The other day I decided I wanted to make chili the next day.   That evening I put 2 pounds of beans in a big bowl of water to soak overnight, a job that took no more than 60 seconds.  The next morning I got out my crock pot, dumped the soaking water off the beans, poured the beans into the crock pot, and filled with enough water to cover the beans by about 3 inches.  That job took approximately 3 minutes. By late afternoon the beans were ready to be combined with ground beef and seasonings, to then simmer for another hour.

I figure that using dry beans took me an extra 5 minutes time.  An equivalent quantity of canned beans (about 6 cans) would have cost $4.80.  My dry beans were $1.60.  That means I saved $3.20 with 5 minutes of work.  That’s about $38/hr.  Sweet, eh?

Using canned beans is probably not going to be a budget breaker for most people, but the most frugal choice is definitely dried. And the more often you choose the most frugal approach, the more money you’ll have in you wallet at the end of the month!

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  1. Hi Mary–I’m fairly new to your blog, but enjoy it. : )

    The main reason I have not cooked with dry beans as much is that I ALWAYS forget to soak them overnight. I am more of a 4:00 p.m. stand in front of the fridge and think “Hmmmm, what do i want to make for dinner tonight?” kind of gal, so planning for the NEXT night’s dinner has been hard to get used to. BUT I think all that is about to change: my in-laws gave me an old pressure cooker this past fall, and I was being slow to learn to use it. Until a friend commented that that is the only pot she makes beans in–and she cooks dry black beans in 20 MINUTES with the pressure cooker–with NO NEED TO PRESOAK!!! That is some serious time saver, AND makes cooking dry beans even easier, AND I can still whip them up for supper the same night AND it takes less gas/electricity than cooking them on the regular stove (not sure how compares to a slow cooker) so is more frugal to boot!

    My friend says the larger beans, like kidney and pinto, might take more like 30 min. But STILL this is total cooking time WITHOUT SOAKING!

    So I got out the pot and my mom’s Creole black bean soup recipe last night and got myself all psyched up–and then realized I had used up all my dry black beans! So I had to use canned beans. ; ) But I will be posting the recipe on my own blog later this afternoon, if you are interested in trying it–very easy (well, the way I make it!) and yummy and makes a LOT–good for a family the size of yours.

  2. I am a firm convert to dry beans since I started planning my meals a week or two in advance. I make a note in my day planner to soak the beans the day before I cook them. I let them soak for 24 hours with a little vinegar – seems to eliminate much of the gassy effect. They taste so much better than canned! I throw them in the crock pot in the morning with garlic and dried onion and before long the house smells heavenly. Don’t add salt until the beans are already soft or it’ll make the skins tough. Most of our meals are vegetarian, so we eat them over rice or wrapped in tortillas with salsa, jalapenos, sour cream, etc. With a side of vegetable or salad it makes a wonderful meal. That’s my comfort food!

    I love your frugal tips. Keep ’em coming.

  3. And if you make a big batch up, you can freeze them (w/out extra liquid) in can sized portions for those days that a recipe calls for bean & you haven’t planned ahead but still want to avoid paying extra for the can!

  4. I’m a convert, too. Mostly because the savings is so great, but they really are easy. If I forget to soak them overnight, it’s easy to put them on to simmer for a few hours while I’m doing other chores.

  5. Oh, I totally 100% agree with this. I compared the cost the other day and was amazed at how much money I can save just taking the time to soak and then cook the beans. It might take longer than just running to the store for a can or two, but it costs much, much less. Plus you gotta figure in the cost of gas running to the store and back. I will never go back to canned. I got 3 lbs of beans at Pollard’s for $1.49. When I cooked the beans, it gave me nearly 7 lbs cooked! That’s 7 lbs of cooked beans for $1.49! Yeah…like Headless Mom said, “I’m a convert”.

  6. As someone on a sodium-restricted diet, dried beans are the only way to go! No more added sodium that I can’t just rinse away.

    I’ve always soaked my beans before pressure cooking them. Do they really turn out okay without pre-soaking?

  7. We use dry beans, too. In my opinion, freshly cooked dry beans taste better than canned beans. I’ve bought them in bulk quantities to cook and can myself. There is something to be said for canned beans being available. We often throw about 2 cups worth on top of a salad for lunch.

  8. I love the savings part, but no one in my family (including me) can stand beans! LOL I’ve tried several different varieties in different recipes, and to no avail. I guess that’s not entirely true. We like baked beans. I guess I should revisit the bean situation. :0)

    Another reason to eat home canned or dry beans is that canned foods contain BPA. BPA is used in the lining of factory canned food. It’s a huge incentive to me to get away from canned food as much as possible.

  9. Wow, if you turn me into a dry bean cook, you really will be amazing. I really live life flying by the seat of my pants most days, which is definitely not the most efficient.

    Is there a way to make the sweet pork and beans ahead of time and freeze them (maybe in the crockpot)? If so, I might just have to try it.

    That would be incredible if I could learn to plan ahead that quickly, and it would be great for our family of seven budget!

  10. I have read that you can soak the dried beans, then freeze in 1 cup portions. When you pull them out of the freezer, they will cook up faster due to having been frozen. Would love to hear if this is indeed true! Would make it easier for those who forget to plan ahead the night before! For me, I usually don’t presoak the beans anyway. Just cook an extra hour or so.

    • I tried it and it didn’t work. 🙁 I added them to chili, which then cooked for a few hours and they were still tough.

      I now use an electric pressure cooker and love it! I freeze my extras for quick meals. I also puree cooked, white beans to use to replace the butter/shortening in cookies, brownies and quick breads. No one can tell and they are soo much better for you!

      • Yes, I cook mine before I freeze them too. FWIW, I’ve also heard that old beans take much longer to cook than fresh beans.

        • Older beans do take longer, because they’re more dried out.

        • Old Beans? Always buy with freshest date. In a Mexican Market I told the bean guy I intended to soak his dired beans overnight etc and he said ” no senor, 2 hours only and then just 40 minutes cooking”.

          Go to a reputable health food store and always look for a specific country of origin. Avoid anything not traceable, esp China!

          I love the extra large butter (lima?) beans sold in Lebanese shops.

    • I freese portions using a lovely silicone cupcake tray. Also Barley and Rice frozen. Beans AND grains are most healthy.

      simply throw them into a soup or let defrost on the hob in a little water.

  11. Would love to know more about freezing beans to have on hand, too.

    Thanks.

  12. This isn’t about beans but…yesterday I made your Stuffed French Toast Strata with blueberries. We only had a quarter of a cup of syrup left which I used in the recipe. I had remembered bookmarking your homemade syrup recipe to try “someday”. Yesterday just happened to be the day. My husband asked when he got home, “Is it really cheaper to make syrup than to buy it?” My response, “I was out of syrup and out of grocery money [he gets paid tomorrow]. I had all of the ingredients for the syrup, besides the maple flavoring, so I made it.” I must admit – even if it didn’t save money I think I may still make syrup. I thought that it was super tasty, with vanilla, and I like that I know what is going in to it! Thanks so much for two TASTY recipes!!

    • Emily,

      That is exactly the benefit of being able to make things yourself– whether or not it saves huge bucks to make it, avoiding the grocery store for a day or two will definitely save you money.

      Yay, you!!!

      • Same thing for me! I absolutely loved not having to get out of my jammies on a Sunday morning to run to the store for syrup (I even had the maple flavoring in a bin of extracts from g’ma, woo hoo.) Whether that saved money or not, I didn’t care. I got to stay home on a rainy morning 🙂 Mary is the best.

  13. Dried beans come with less packaging, too. They take up less storage space in the pantry and weigh less to carry in from the grocery store. As for time savings, I have a hate-hate relationship with my manual and electric can openers. Want to know how long it takes me to open a can of beans?

  14. My problem is I always forget to cook the beans ahead of time!

    Can you can your own dry beans to save the money and still have the convenience?

    • Katie, I personally would be hesitant to can them myself. Beans are low-acid, which makes them riskier. If you did can them yourself, you’d need to research it carefully and use a pressure canner.

      • I think my mother-in-law cans beans just by putting them in a jar with water & some salt! I haven’t tried it yet but have been wanting to b/c that would mean I wouldn’t have to soak or cook them for so long!! 🙂 I should ask her again what the amounts are and such.

  15. Great tip. Thanks for the info!

  16. I love and appreciate your frugal tips. We have always been frugal, but recently much more so (I got tired of paying the price for good whole wheat bread–now I make my own–it does not take much time if I plan for it, and costs me about 30 cents a loaf, as opposed to $3.00) I just bought a bunch of dried beans last week. My problem has always been that I forget to plan to soak them, like when I want to make hummus–which I will never buy again, homemade is soooo much better. So, I keep dried beans on hand for when I do plan well, and a few cans of beans that I buy on sale for the times when I don’t plan. Groceries have recently gotten so expensive, that I would rather save money or spend it on good produce, which really does matter to me.

    You have inspired me so much–next I am going to learn how to can. I want to make and can or freeze my own spaghetti sauce. Do you have any suggestions?

  17. I just can pureed tomatoes and add the seasonings when I cook them.

  18. I recently made the switch with white beans (can ONLY get red beans in a can here…bummer). It’s much cheaper (canned goods are expensive here) but the problem, as always, is that I have to remember to start the beans in time. I don’t have a crock pot or a pressure cooker, but I do the quick-soak method, where I bring the beans to boiling, cover and turn off heat, let sit for an hour, and then cook. It means I can remember as late as 4 what I want for dinner and we can still eat around 7:30 or so, which is normal for us. Of course, I usually don’t remember till about 5:30…

  19. I love using dried beans! And they store well also. Our family bought a 50lb bag of pinto beans in Texas over 2 years ago and we are still using them and I make something with beans at least once a week (family of 7 and counting)

    Refried pinto beans or black beans take a little longer to make so when I do make them I usually triple the amount and then freeze two portions so that I can pull those out some other day. Freezing doesn’t seem to bother the refried beans but I have never done that with whole beans of any variety.

  20. Hi –
    I’m a new reader of your blog, but absolutely love it. I personally just started blogging about my day to day adventures of living a frugal conscious life. It’s just for me, to help keep me on track.

    In terms of dried beans, I could not agree with you more, they are so much more economical. To me they taste so much better then canned, hands down.

    I only ever used canned to make a quick salad, never for cooking. Anad a few times I’ve been super rushed, I’ve thrown a bag intot he pressure cooker for 25 minutes, and voila, ready to go. No soaking.

    tanks for the work you do!

  21. Sarah in Georgia says:

    I discovered 90-minute, no-soak beans earlier this summer via The Paupered Chef (with thanks to my husband for pointing it out.) It sounds like pressure-cooked beans may be the fastest, but these can be a good compromise for day-of cooking. The follow-up column recommends adding half an onion to the beans while cooking, and I think that is really tasty. I usually add come cumin as well.

  22. how many hours did you cook them in the crock pot and did you use low or high? (I need specific directions if I’m going to try this! ) thanks

  23. Thanks for that link, Sarah in Georgia! Recipes from scratch for Refried Beans and Barbecue Baked beans, two of our favorites! I can do 90 minutes!

    –Sarah in Texas

  24. I have the absoulute easiest way to make dried beans. several have hit on it but here goes.
    I do this to any type of bean.

    1. Look Beans
    2. Wash Beans
    3. Put Beans in CrockPot/Slowcooker
    4. Add about 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil
    5. Add some Cooked Ham Meat
    6. Add Pepper
    7. Turn on pot on High cooks in about 4-6 hours.
    That is it!

    When they are soft then add your salt. Salt will make the skins tough if you put it in first. I will freeze bits and pieces of ham with the fat removed when I cook a ham just for beans. There is no need to soak the beans. My favorite crockpot to use is the one that you usually find at Walmart after Thanksgiving for around 4 dollars. You can’t really over cook them. Yes they Freeze very well. But they need to be DONE when you freeze them.
    as far as gas goes, when you get enough fiber in your diet gas will no longer be a problem.

  25. I find that when I do get canned beans, I spend 5 minutes rinsing them to get rid of the nasty juice. Dried beans are so much better and cheaper. If only I could get them to quit sticking and burning in the bottom of the pan that would help.

  26. We also eat beans at least 2x a week. Though I do soak them often and cook them, I also get together with my sister each summer and we can them in our pressure canner. We can pinto, black, and red beans. It takes us 2 afternoons but it’s nice to have some ready in the pantry for a fraction of the cost. (especially when we have jars everywhere needing to be used)
    We can pinto beans in quart jars and black and red beans in pints.

  27. Also, for those who are not sure how else to serve beans other thgan with cornbread:-)…I have a recipe here that we love. My kids love. It feeds a ton. It’s inexpensive. Gotta love beans! 🙂

    http://mybarefootfarm.com/?p=244

  28. i just learned that more and more evidence is showing that the chemical “lining” on the inside of our tin cans is bad for us. kind of along the lines of the flap about plastic baby bottles recently. so i’ve been feeling more motivated to use dried beans.

    i don’t have a crock pot because we don’t eat meat, but this sounds like a great use for one.

  29. Mary, You convinced me to try making dried beans today. I had only used dry beans before this to make bean bags:) I soaked the beans last night over night and cooked the black beans this afternoon. I am not sure if they were done. They were soft, but not mushy. I made my version of black beans and rice. It was a tasty dinner, that did not cost very much. It was a hit with my son and DH ate it-he’s kind of picky.

    I will be trying more dry beans in the future. I am looking forward to saving money and eating healthy. Thanks Mary for motivating me!

  30. I’ve always soaked them overnight and pressure cooked them in my stove top pressure cooker. Takes about 10 minutes. Saves electricity too. But i must say that the taste of slow cooked beans is unparalleled. Canned beans are honestly the worst. So slimy and limp. ugh.
    First time here. Love your blog. You must hear that a lot.

  31. In my area (Ohio) both canned beans and dried bean prices are much higher in the last few years. Dried beans are around $1.50 a lb here at the big superstore. Canned range from around 60-80 cents a can. Aldi has lower prices but less selection. Just a few years ago dried beans were around a dollar and canned kidney beans were 3/$1. I have tried dried beans more lately mostly because our daughter when she was our foster child got them with WIC. I can’t get kidney beans to cook well (hard or mushy) but I’ve found something called red beans that cook well and are just a bit smaller. Where do you get beans in bulk? So looking at what I just wrote dried beans are around 1.50 and 4 cans of beans would be 2.80 so still significant savings. Maybe that’s a good grocery budget goal. Precooking them and freezing them does make as convenient as canned.

  32. An unrelated comment, your restaurant style french toast recipe is so so good. I’ve been making french toast with just eggs and milk for 20 plus years and didn’t know what I was missing. The texas toast really does make it special and I think being thicker was better as leftovers and would probably freeze well.

  33. In the fall I soaked my kidney beans over night and then the next morning put them in a crockpot for taco soup. They cooked a mighty long time but they still were a bit crunchy. That night I got a horrible stomach flu bug. So I can’t even think about taco soup without shuddering. But…I may just try your method. Maybe the extra cooking beforehand will do the trick. Soaking overnight, then cooking in the crockpot (low or high?) for about 4 hours?, then using them in the recipe?

    • Carmen, I start them on high at 9 AM or so, and then add the rest of the seasonings around 5 pm. So a full 8 hours of cooking. I do check them in early afternoon, and if they are already really soft, I turn the crock pot to low for the rest of the cooking time, but most of the time they need to be on high for the whole time.

  34. That might not be a flu bug. You have to be careful with dry beans cooked in a crock pot. Kidney beans can produce a toxin if not cooked at a high enough temperature. Some cooks recommend you boil them on the stove FIRST and then put them in the crock pot. Apparently, dry beans have a higher amount of this toxin than canned beans, which were cooked before canning.

  35. I like using dry beans because I can get bulk organic for about the same grocery store price for regular dry beans. So ORGANIC beans for much cheaper than traditional canned. I cook up a bunch and freeze them in individual ziplocs (about the amount that is in a can) so I just grab them as I need them – not much more trouble than canned!

  36. I’m so amazed that you can use pureed white beans to replace the oil in baked goodies. I’ve been using applesauce for that purpose, but now, beans – wow! Live and learn! (Live 66 years and keep learning!)

  37. How long do beans keep? I just threw out a whole bunch (but they were moth-infested so really had to go!) and was contemplating on throwing out my 7 year old beans (!)

    My problem is that I’ve been lazy but I did just acquire a crockpot so maybe I’ll give that a try. Should I keep the ancient beans or start over?

  38. Mary, I have to say that I love, love, love this post, (I’ve been wanting to convert to dry beans for a long time, but since they are “unknown” territory, I find them a bit scary.) but I also love everyone else’s hints and tips! Thanks for being a great conversation starter!

  39. I prepare and freeze dried beans in 2 cup amounts. The price is right, and – I know exactly what’s in them.
    Cas
    And I do the overnight soak and crockpot prep too.

  40. Elizabeth says:

    Here’s my funny bean cooking story for you! 🙂 I’ve been using your book lately, trying out different suggestions, and one of the items I tried was to cook dried beans in my crock pot. Your other related suggestion was to throw in an extra bunch in order to cook for more meals at one time. WELL, I thought, if one bag (yes, bag) of beans is good, two bags would be even better! (I can hear the chuckles already) A couple of hours later, I went back to check on them and suddenly had visions of my entire house flooded with 2 inches of beans all over the floor! If I’d had your number, I might have called, but instead called my mom who helped me figure out what to do. I even saved most of the beans, albeit in TWO batches rather than one. Ah, well. Who knew that beans would swell up so much?! Lessons learned…

  41. my single son puts his beans to soak in the morning before he leaves for work and then drains them and puts them in the crock pot when he get home to cook on low over night( he only sleeps 6 hrs)Says he doesn’t remember to soak the night before so he bumped everything.My dad doesn’t soak at all, just rinses and then cooks at a good simmer( not boil) for a couple hrs.

  42. You know what I would like to know is the savings after the water and electricity used to cook the beans and a/c to keep the house cool after having hot food going all day (I live in AZ)? Would it still be more economical than canned beans then?

  43. Jennifer says:

    This is an older post but wanted to add my tip – I’ve always used dried beans, cook up a big bag now and then over the wknd, once they are cooked I freeze what we don’t use in quart freezer bags with some of the cooking liquid, ready for quick meals. A few yrs ago we moved to coastal Maine and all of a sudden my beans didn’t cook up well, stayed hard or got mushy and just didn’t have the right texture. Found out, it was the minerals in the hard water I was cooking the beans in – read the solution on a bag of Maine beans – if you cook in hard water, add scant 1/8 tsp baking soda per quart of cooking water (I add it to soaking water too). Now my beans are back to normal! CA bean board states that baking soda can destroy some of the thiamin in beans and that a better alternative is to use bottled water but frankly that’s not about to happen in my kitchen.

    I usually cook beans on stove top but sometimes use crockpot. However, if your crockpot doesn’t boil it isn’t hot enough to cook beans properly. Mine does boil, but I find I get a much better end result if I soak then boil my beans for 10-20 min on the stovetop before adding them to the crockpot.

  44. It’s a myth that adding salt to beans at the start of cook time makes the skins tough. What DOES toughen the beans is acids like tomato and tomato products and vinegar. Sugar also (especially molasses, which is how baked beans can cook for many hours and still retain their shape). If you want salt in your beans, it’s BETTER to salt early, as you need to add less salt because it takes a while for the beans to absorb the salt.