Friday, December 10, 2010

Beans and frugal cooking

Feeding a large family on a budget can be challenging.  Sharing ideas and strategies with others is a very helpful way for us all to make ends meet in economically challenging times.

When our oldest was a senior, doing a consumer math project, we estimated the cost of all our usual meals; breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We found that dinner is the most expensive meal of the day and that having dinner leftovers for lunch the next day made lunches more expensive.  So, we stopped doing this and started having cheaper lunch options and saved leftovers for dinner, or the beginnings of dinner, for the next night.  We also found that, even a more "expensive" grain that may cost as much as $3/lb, could make an inexpensive lunch.  As was the case with Quinoa (Keen-wha) which expands greatly when cooked.  We have found that a pound will feed our family. How good is a meal for 11 that only costs $3?

In order to stay within our grocery budget a meal needs to cost less than $5.  An occasional $6 or $7 meal would be acceptable, especially if breakfasts are much less.  Once we got that established I went on the rampage to find the least expensive "good-for-us" foods and recipes available to create our monthly menu.

By the way, having a menu is the easiest way to make your groceries go further.  We have a weekly menu, which I have written about before, but will repeat here.  Mondays are beans, Tuesdays we have chicken, Wednesdays is soup and bread, Thursdays-hamburger, Friday - Pasta, Saturday - Pizza, Sunday - venison roast.  I have three or four favorite ways of cooking each thing, except pizza, which is always the same, so at the end of the month we have had 4 bean dinners, 4 chicken dinners, etc.

Many people tell me they don’t like beans. I didn't either... until I had no choice.  We began by adding a can of black or red beans to our hamburger dishes to make them go further, then a can added to a soup or casserole, and finally were able to eat and enjoy chili, red beans and rice, 3 bean casserole, meatless tacos, or BBQ beans.  Using dried beans is less expensive than canned, but we use both, depending on time and convenience versus quantity needed.  Today when I say we are having "Dirt Cheap Tacos" everyone cheers. It has become a family favorite and is likely the cheapest dinner we make.  You can find the recipe here:  At Work Again

3 Bean and our cornbread also get “MMMMM” when announced.
1 c. copped onion
30 oz (cooked or canned & drained) kidney beans
30 oz (cooked or canned & drained) black beans
30 oz. (cooked or canned & drained) other beans
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ tsp mustard
1 c ketchup
½ c vinegar
1/12-2 c brown sugar
Put everything in a pot and cook over medium low heat 1 hour.

Corn Bread
2/3 c butter
1 c sugar
3 eggs
1 2/3 c milk
2 1/3 c flour
1 c corn meal
4 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
In mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar, add in eggs and milk.  Mix well.  Add all dry ingredients and mix.  Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Bake @ 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Poke all over with a fork.  Melt together ½ c butter and 1/3 c. honey, pour over cornbread. Serve.

BBQ beans

I do not have amounts, just go by taste.
Large amount of cooked and drained black beans.
Pour over any original style BBQ sauce, add brown sugar to taste.
I have added left over ham bits to this, or a sliced buffet ham for a potluck type meal.

Red Beans and Rice

16 oz dry kidney beans, cooked and drained, or 32 oz canned beans, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tsp salt, less for canned beans
2-3 tbsp ham broth or left over ham bits
2 bay leaves

Cook on medium heat 20 minutes.  Serve over prepared rice (about 4 c. dry)  with sour cream and grated cheddar cheese if desired.  Use leftovers for dirt cheap tacos.


  1. I like your idea of having a certain thing on a certain night, might have to try that. :) We eat a lot of beans too, saves a ton on our grocery budget. :) I'll be trying your dirt cheap tacos soon, always looking for ways to save on our meals.

    Love your blog, by the way. :)

  2. please share your lunch menu as well. I didn't think that it would be more expensive to use leftovers for lunches. Do explain.

  3. Yeah!
    Thank you very much. I was just trying to compile a list of things that I could start using beans in. This post is perfect as a place to start.

  4. If you use your pressure cooker it takes a fraction of the time to cook those economical beans. I am just learning the art of pressure cooking.


  5. THANK YOU! I'd love to hear how your thrifty recipes for the other days of the week if you decide to continue this topic over the next few Saturdays then I, for one, sure wouldn't mind!

  6. I too would love to hear more about the lunch menu. My oldest can not have gluten so we do a lot of fresh raw veggies for lunch with leftover meat from the night before. Looking for new ideas as I am spending way to much on our food budget.


Your comments and input are very much appreciate
- Blessings!

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