March is here and it is time to begin the MyPlate on My Budget Project in earnest! Project creator Jenny, of Teaching my Baby to Read, is hard at work sharing what she has discovering while attempting to feed her family of four with less than $20 a day. Among the topics she has already discussed are the cost of produce, meal planning, and finding a butcher. Be sure to click over and check out her progress.
During the project I will be chiming in with my own healthfully frugal ideas. Everything I contribute to the project comes from my own observation and experience. If I provide an example you are unsure of or feel is incorrect, jump in and provide an alternate perspective. I welcome your comments throughout the project! I hope to see readers chime in with their own experiences and tips for eating heathfully on a budget.
You can participate by following the MyPlate on My Budget Pinterest board and, as I just mentioned, adding comments to any and all of our posts throughout the project.
Now – let’s get busy combining fiscal fitness with nutritional health!
In my mind the most frugal meals use inexpensive ingredients to stretch those that cost a bit more. One of my favorite stretching ingredients is beans! They are good sources of fiber and protein, there are a great variety to choose from, and they are common in most if not all global cuisines. For this discussion I am talking specifically about those beans that are sold as “small white” beans. They are pretty basic and should be easy to find in most parts of the U.S.
Please note: These are non-scientific numbers based on the products I found in my local grocery stores. Specific nutritional content varies by brand and the costs may fluctuate by region. The foods compared here are all conventional, at this point I am just looking at the least out of pocket expense for each item.
I have been taking note of the prices for dry and canned beans in my local grocery store and here is what I have come up with:
- 1 pound of dry white beans cost as little as $1.09. After soaking or boiling for about an hour 1 pound (approximately 2 1/2 cups) of these little beans should equal around 6 cups of cooked beans.
- 15 oz. cans of white beans began at $1 per can (on sale) and increased to well over $2 depending on the brand. 1 can yields approximately 3.5 servings of 1/2 cup each or 1 3/4 cups per can. Side note – I find that after rinsing the volume of beans generally rounds down to 1 1/2 cups.
The Bottom Line: 1 pound of dry beans = 4 cans of beans. Purchasing dry beans means a potential savings of at least $2.91 for the same volume of food.
When it comes the nutrient content of dry beans versus canned my untrained eye can find very little difference. That is until we get to the sodium content. Sodium does not come up very often in my discussions. For the record, I am of the opinion that it is much tastier to choose the amount of salt that is added to foods. Some salt gives food a brightness in the mouth that allows it to really shine. Too much salt muddies flavors, confuses tastebuds, and can leave an unpleasant feeling in the mouth. Beyond the flavor, sodium is a big factor for many people when choosing which foods to enjoy and which to avoid.
Now for the numbers:
- 1/4 cup (store brand) small white beans should equal just over 1/2 cup after boiling in water: 150 calories, .5 g. fat, 11 g. fiber, 9 g. protein, 5 mg. sodium
- 1/2 cup of S&W Premium White Beans from a can: 110 calories, .5 g. fat, 6 g. fiber, 7 g. protein, 440 mg sodium (The low sodium variety has 220 mg. of sodium per serving.)
Side Note: Does Rinsing Canned Beans Reduce the Sodium Content? YES! The on-line health community agrees that even a quick rinse under running water can reduce sodium in canned beans by 30% or more! You can read more here and here.
The Bottom Line: Sodium content has a big impact on taste and nutrition. For the lowest sodium option choose dry beans and add salt to suit your personal taste or health needs. If nothing else make sure to give canned beans a good rinse before using (this is also helps reduce gas!).
Whew! Are you still with me? That was a lot of numbers! I can get carried away when it comes to finding the best nutritional bang for my hard-earned buck. Now go grab a bag of beans (on sale) and get started on this healthy budget-friendly chili!
White Bean Chili with Chicken
This simple-to-prepare hearty chili is packed with protein and fiber. You can make it in a big pot on the stove or leave it simmering all day in a 6 quart slow cooker. Boost the flavor with herbs and spices. Cut the salt by using home made broth or one with little sodium. Cut the cost by using dry beans and the meat from a whole chicken.
Prep Time: 20 minutes, Cook Time 1-8 hours; Yields 10 servings approximately 1 1/2 cups each
- 1 yellow onion diced into 3/4 inch pieces, 2 cups when diced
- 2 – 4 oz of caned fire roasted diced green chilies
- 6 cups of rinsed white beans, canned or 2 cups dry beans boiled until tender
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
- 1 (15 oz) can fat free refried beans
- 4 cups low or no sodium chicken broth (make your own)
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon Italian dry herbs
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup corn kernels
- Saute the diced onion over medium high heat until they soften and begin to brown. Stir in diced chilies and saute two more minutes. Put the onion and chilies into the slow cooker or soup pot.
- To the onions add the white beans, refried beans, broth, water, herbs, cumin, and pepper. Do not add the corn.
- Cook in the slow cooker on low heat for 8 hours or high heat for 5 hours. If preparing on the stove top in pot, simmer chili for an hour.
- Add the corn shortly before serving, allowing enough time for the kernels to heat through.
Garnish ideas: sour cream, plain yogurt, fresh squeezed lime juice, chopped cilantro, diced avocado, or crumbled tortilla chips
Approximate nutrition per serving: calories 188, .6 g. fat, 266 mg. sodium, 34 g. carbohydrates, 11 g. fiber, 11 g. protein, PP = 4