Early on in this series, 52 ways to save money on a healthy diet, I shared an example of comparing a particular legume and nut-based meal to a meal based on grassfed meat where I was surprised to find that my grassfed meat meal was cheaper. The point of that illustration was to show that when you calculate the price of a meal, there could be surprises. However, it wasn’t meant as a derogatory remark towards legumes as they are an amazing tool in the frugal and nourishing cook arsenal. When you make beans from scratch they are very, very frugal.
I think that the reason we don’t enjoy beans more is because we may only know them in boring recipes. But let me tell you, beans are anything but boring when made the right way!
I know that my paleo friends here at The Nourishing Gourmet won’t be able to utilize this post for their own needs, however it is worth noting to my GAPS friends that both lentils and white navy beans are allowed on the full GAPS diet, as long as you tolerate it well.
For all of those who enjoy beans, I also wanted to note that beans do not have to be gas producing for most people. Some say that it may cause problems the first couple of times you eat beans, but then your bodies regulate and it’s no longer a problem. I’ve found that soaking 12-24 hours in warm water, and then cooking with a bit of kombu seaweed helps them be very digestible, personally.
Beans are very adaptable, as you will see in the following suggestions and recipes. They actually take on the flavors of other ingredients quite well, allowing you to use them in a wide variety of ways! For example, check out this first tip!
1. Blend beans in smoothies: Yes, add beans to smoothies! They add thickness, protein, and nutrients, and no one needs to know they are in there. Smoothie ingredients can be expensive, but beans certainly aren’t! Check out this cocoa-bean smoothie for just one idea out of many.
2. Make beans into hearty soups: My Italian Sausage and Lentil soup found in Everyday Nourishing Food is GAPs friendly as well as delicious! In that recipe I use the lentils to add great flavor and protein and carbohydrates to a very nutrient dense meal. You will also find many bean soups in my cookbook, Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons. You don’t have to look long to find mouth-watering bean soups because beans are well suited for soups, which make hearty and frugal meals easily.
3. Bean Dips: Whether making hummus, white bean dip, or lentil dip, bean dips are a yummy way to add inexpensive protein to a meal. You can use it on a sandwich in place of the meat, or instead of mayo (which is more expensive to buy/make), you can serve it with crudités or crackers, or you can simply eat it straight! Check out this recipe for Curried Bean dip, shown above, for a delicious example.
4. Beef up Chili with Beans: I LOVE chili in all forms. My recent eBook has a new favorite version that is paleo (that is, beanless) and it’s actually quite frugal. However, it’s even more frugal when you substitute some beans for the meat. The easiest way to do this is to make a double batch and add one recipe worth of meat and one recipe worth of beans (I’d say about 3 cups cooked). The recipe then becomes even more frugal while still nourishing. Of course a vegetarian chili is good too! I simply prefer to have some meat in a recipe as it provides certain protein value and vitamin value hard to get in a completely vegetarian meal.
5. Stretch out taco meat with beans: I’ve always loved kidney beans with my taco meat, probably because that was what was served to me growing up. But black beans, pinto beans, or lentils could all work as well. You can make large batches, and freeze it in portions and have frugal taco filling ready whenever you need them too!
6. Add beans to green salads: I don’t see beans on salads often enough, which is sad because beans are AMAZING in salads. That is why several of my salads in Fresh: Nourishing Salads for all Seasons contain beans. I added them because they are delicious, but it’s also super frugal as well. For example, I use chickpeas in my Leon salad, and black beans with my Mexican salad. They take on the flavor of salad dressing very well, and when chilled, add a cooling, buttery texture to the salad that I love. If you haven’t tried adding beans to a green salad yet, try it.
7. Make lentil or pinto re-fried beans: Pinto beans are traditionally cooked simply and then mashed and fried in lard (use home rendered) for an amazingly delicious and simple side or main dish that is also very frugal. If you can’t have pinto beans, lentils actually make a great substitute.
8. Use beans in sweets: There are a plethora of sweet bean recipes out there –everything from traditional Asian sweets based on red beans, to black bean brownies, chocolate chip cookies with beans, and white bean cakes. The great thing is not only that they make a more protein packed dessert, but they also allow you to cut back on healthy fats (such as grassfed butter and coconut oil), which definitely cuts down on costs. Find a cookie dough hummus recipe here! Another traditional sweet recipe is bean pie.
9. Beans and rice aren’t boring and have long traditions in many different cultures. Take a cue from older recipes and spice and flavor them well, and no one will complain about the missing meat. One simple example, Red Bean and Rice.
10. Sprout them for extra nutrition and digestibility, and make them into fabulous dishes. This curried lentil dish has been popular on my site (please note the comment recommendations to reduce the salt content- I was working with a very coarse salt which threw off my measuring recommendations in the recipe).
11. Make beans into bean based salads: A great summertime dish is taking beans and dressing them with a flavorful dressing, diced vegetables and herbs, and whatever else you’d like (cheeses work great!). One example, Simple Lentil Salad.
12. Make wonderful bean-based pasta sauces: Beans can make creamy, nutritious pasta sauces with or without dairy. Check out this one.
13. Make traditional baked beans (using navy beans for a lovely GAPS meal). All of the traditional ingredients (generally including molasses and bacon) are dirt-cheap! You can serve with brown bread if you are really feeling traditional.
14. Make a bean and rice bowl night: Make a pot of beans of choice and brown or white rice. Top with your choice of avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, crumbled chips, etc. It’s actually quite tasty.
15. Make it into salsa: Beans actually make fabulous salsas! Check out this pineapple black bean salsa recipe!
16. Enjoy simple natto: Although it actually has a bad reputation, we love natto when served with mustard and tamari! It’s one of the best and cheapest sources of vitamin K2 too!
17. Make Egg and Black bean Burritos:These burritos are super frugal and very delicious! They make a great breakfast, lunch or dinner!
18. Instead of making oatmeal, make a traditional Thai mung bean pudding made with coconut milk! This sounds super filling, protein-rich, and yummy! I’d just replace the sugar with coconut sugar.
19: Make gluten-free lentil crepes: Now these are a fun way to eat your lentils!
20. Make Chickpea Bread: This traditional flat bread is delicious and great to serve with dips.
These 20 ideas are just the tip of the iceburg. I’d love to hear your suggestions too!
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