Today I’m going to put one popular grocery savings strategy to the test: is it worth it to cook dry beans from scratch? Join me to find out!
Drop Caps There are lots of tips for saving money out there, but some of them can be pretty involved and time consuming. It often leaves me wondering, is it worth it? Today I’m going to put one such money saving strategy to the test:
It often leaves me wondering, is it worth it? Today I’m going to put one such money saving strategy to the test: is it worth it to cook dry beans from scratch?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen just to save a few pennies. I want to know whether any given money saving tip is really saving me money and whether it’s worth putting in the time it takes.
Like I’m always telling my grocery savings students, the point is not to make everything from scratch (unless you’re doing it for health reasons). Sometimes, cooking from scratch saves several hundred dollars a year with just a little bit of effort.
On the other hand, I’m just as much on the look out to find strategies that masquerade as ways to save money on groceries that don’t really save much or just aren’t worth the time.
After all, I have two little kids and a business and a home to run. I don’t have any time to waste!
Is it worth it to cook dry beans from scratch?
It takes a simple calculation to find out if it’s worth it to cook dry beans (or any food) from scratch.
This example is based on my personal grocery price list for grocery prices that I can find in my area and for the amount that my family eats.
You can simply replace the numbers from your own price list to find out if it’s right for your family. If you haven’t started a price list of your own yet, you can download a free printable here.
How much do you save?
Cost for Canned Beans
For this example, we’ll consider canned black beans vs. dried black beans. Both are organic.
The cost at Costco for canned organic black beans is $6.79 for 8 cans.
$0.85 per can /3.5 servings per can = $0.24 per serving
Cost for Dry Beans
Dry, organic black beans at Azure Standard are $1.41 per pound.
$1.41 per pound / 8 servings per pound = $0.18 per serving
How much do you save?
Our family eats about 32 servings of black beans per month. Of course, this varies, but let’s say that’s a good average.
Amount Saved: $1.92 per month
Even though dried beans are 25% cheaper than canned, you’re going to have to eat a lot of them to amount to much grocery savings!
How long does it take?
It doesn’t take much hands-on prep time to make dry beans from scratch.
Just dump them in a pot, cover with water, and let them soak overnight. The next day, turn the stove on and let them boil for 45 minutes or so. You can get complete instructions here.
I’d say I would spend maybe 20 minutes total for the month. However, to save just $1.92 that’s not a very good return on my time.
I’ll tell ya, I was pretty skeptical when I started this little exploration. It turns out my hunch was right. If you’re doing it to save money, cooking dry beans from scratch isn’t really worth your time.
However, there are several other reasons you might still want to cook dry beans from scratch. These are why I will keep choosing dry beans over canned.
- Beans are a cheap source of slow burning carbohydrates, fiber, protein and minerals that will keep you feeling full. In that respect, beans in general (whether canned or dry) are a good way to save money on groceries.
- Canned goods almost always contain BPA.
- Canned beans are also high in processed salt.
- Soaking beans helps to neutralize phytic acid and makes them easier to digest.
Even though cooking dry beans from scratch may not save much money, the health and nutritional benefits may be enough to justify the small inconvenience.
22 thoughts on “Is it worth it to cook dry beans from scratch?”
Thanks so much for this post, Shannon. This is something I have often wondered about. I try to cook beans from scratch as much as possible for all of the reasons you mentioned. That being said, canned beans are one of my go-to items when I need a meal in a hurry. Cooking from scratch requires a lot of forethought and time in the kitchen. Once in awhile, something prohibits me from finding the time for either. Now I can feel less guilty about cracking open a can of beans rather than cooking them from scratch. Thanks, again, for the helpful post!
We definitely cook ours from scratch more for the health benefits. I cook mine in a crockpot though after soaking them overnight. I usually do a big batch and freeze them. I tend to only like beans with my Mexican dishes or chili. So a big batch for me 12 2qt bags that will last me 3 months.
I think it’s absolutely worth it to cook beans from scratch! I don’t even soak mine. I use the recipe from 100 Days of Real Food and do them in the crock pot overnight. So easy!!
I often cook dry beans, but in quantity so I can freeze them in meal sized packages. Very convenient to do it this way. Of course, if I run out, there’s always a can!
I’ve been cooking dry beans in my rice cooker, but haven’t quite got the timing down to get cooked beans that aren’t mush. I’ll have to try the crock pot.
Thanks for the post; I really appreciate the time you took to “do the math”.
One of my family’s favorite meals is Cuban black beans and rice. If I remember to soak the beans, even for a few hours, I can cook the beans and brown rice together in my pressure cooker in less than half an hour. Love my pressure cooker for both beans and rice! I wouldn’t bother cooking beans from scratch otherwise.
Soak and sprout=no gas or bloating. Totally worth it, even if it were to cost more, which of course it does not
I use both. I have canned beans on hand for when I need to throw a meal together quickly, but when I’m on my meal-planning A-game, I soak dried beans.
For some recipes, I like to mix different kinds of beans to get a good variety of nutrients!
So, for me: worth it!
I have been meaning to can some beans in the pressure cooker. Then I can have the convenience of canned beans with the nutritional benefit (and reduced risk) of home cooked beans! One of these days… when I get my round ‘tuit.
To save on the gas we don’t want in our tummies……I put the beans in water to cover and bring to boil, then add a half handful of baking soda. I let it fizz up and the water will turn a light green. I let it boil for a minute or two and then drain off the water and rinse with lots of cold tap water. All gas is gone, don’t have to soak it overnight….which saves me much time, and the beans cook faster and are much more delicious….and no worry about tummy gas! Everyone who I have told about it and tries it loves it and loves the no gas thing too. Learned this trick from my mom and grandma who were fabulous cooks!
This is such a great tip! We do the quick soak method often, but I’ve never added the baking soda before. I will definitely have to try it!
Another reason to cook beans from scratch is that high pressure cooking reduces the amount of resistant starch in beans. You need that starch to support a health microbiome in your gut. Also cooking and cooling then reheating adds to the benefit. Which means those people cooking ahead and freezing…totally worth it.
I soak beans overnight then rinse and cook in the slowcooker. There is no added salt or sugar, they are healthier but the best thing is that they are also tastier!
The small amount of money saved does actually add up over time and makes a difference overall. Dried beans are far cheaper than canned ones here fortunately.
I also freeze some so I have meals ready to use when in a hurry.
Would you mind sharing instructions for cooking in a slower cooker? How long? High or low? Type & quantity of liquid (chicken broth?) ? Thanks!!
I learned so much from your videos. <3
I use both, but I thought of something else–you have the power cost to think of when cooking your own, whatever cooking method you use so that puts canned vs. dried even closer together, especially if cooking on a stovetop. But–I like knowing what’s in them and where I live a can of black beans on a great sale is still $1. We don’t have any bulk stores. So with our costs, it’s cheaper for me to cook them at home as I use either a slow cooker or an electric pressure cooker. It’s a matter of a couple buttons and I don’t have to even mind them. I can leave them all day or have them done in 30 minutes from un-soaked if better for my schedule. I’ve quick-soaked beans too, but am going to try the baking soda method mentioned here. I use a pinch of ginger in my beans when cooking them to help cut down on the gas issue. Wonder if the soda soaks in at all and would it matter health wise?
Great point Barb! I love the way you think. :) I haven’t tried the ginger, but I will soon. Do you do dried or fresh? Or does it matter?
My family doesn’t eat many beans, but we enjoy refried beans when I make tacos, enchiladas, or any other Mexican type dish. I have found that for about a dollar for the dry black beans that I can make two refried bean sides. It is easy and my family loves it.
I cook a big batch of dried beans several times a month for different meals- black beans, pinto beans to use for homemade refried beans, etc. I use my InstantPot, which cooks them very quickly- there is both a soaked and non-soaked method. Then I divide out for meals and freeze as necessary. Although, before my InstantPot, I typically bought beans because I would always forget to start them early enough to be ready :)
We are a family of 9 in Alaska. Groceries are crazy expensive. A 14 oz can of plain, store brand beans is $1.19. I buy dry beans in bulk and can them myself. A 25 lb bag of dry beans yields 100 pints (16 oz can equivalent). Cost per jar: $0.22. That’s a savings of $97!! Baked beans are even more expensive – $5/28 oz can. By canning my own baked beans, I save over $260!
I purchase dried pinto beans at 56 cents a pound. One pound of dry beans will make almost 4 cans worth of cooked beans. So even if canned beans were 56 cents a can, they would be almost 4x as expensive as dried beans.
7 cups of cooked beans for 56 cents (plus nominal water/cooking costs) is a great deal for me!