I know that I have mentioned Stretchy Beans quite a bit lately as part of my 13 Week Menu Plan. It occurred to me that every time I mention them, it is part of another post or a page. I was thinking today that Stretchy Beans being incredibly popular and useful at my house deserved their own post.
I was first introduced to the concept of Stretchy Beans a few years ago on a blog that I would visit. That blog was appropriately titled Lentils and Rice. The blog author shared many of her wonderful Stretchy Bean ideas. Sadly, the blog is no longer around.
I’ll admit I was no stranger to beans prior to reading that blog. Growing up, my mama usually made a large pot of pinto beans on Friday night and we ate on them all weekend. As a young (very broke) adult I also cooked pintos fairly regular and used the leftovers to make a delicious chili. But during my non cooking years I had pretty much got out of the habit of beans.
When I found the Stretchy Bean idea it came at a time when our budget really needed it. Beans were a logical thing to keep cooking when we began to switch to a real/whole/traditional foods diet. Their cost makes them very real food friendly and by saving a little serving beans we are able to add other more expensive things to our diet like grass fed beef and real milk. Beans and legumes are also an important part of our pantry stocking/food storage plan. They keep wonderfully!
What are Stretchy Beans?
Stretchy Beans is a concept of making one big pot of beans and stretching that pot into many meals. It is the same idea as taking one chicken and turning it into numerous meals which Jenny from Nourished Kitchen demonstrates beautifully in this post. Of course, the beans are usually the more frugal option.
The first step is deciding what kind of beans you want to use in your Stretchy Beans. Pinto, black, white, garbanzo, mung, kidney, lentils, lima or probably any kind of bean will work. Then I sort the beans to remove any foreign material or funny looking beans.
Beans need to be soaked before cooking. Some do better with soaking in an acidic liquid in order to eliminate the phytic acid. I love this guide that Wardee of GNOWFGLINS has on Cooking Dry Beans in which she lists which bean needs what regarding amounts of acidic water (cooking instructions are also included) for a more in-depth bean education check out Wardee’s Fundamentals eCourse. I do hate to admit this but quite often I soak in plain water. This seems to work well for us.
Cooking usually comes next. Beans take a bit of time to cook so planning ahead is necessary. I like to use my crock pot to cook my beans. For my cooking liquid I try to use whatever broth that I have made that week. I think the broth ups the nutrition a bit by adding in all the wonderful protein and minerals that a good bone broth contains. I do not usually add any seasonings to my beans when I cook them preferring to add my seasonings to the finished dish. But you could go ahead and season if you like.
You may have noticed that I said I usually cook them at this point. I do not cook my mung beans or lentils. Be sure to keep reading to see what I do with those.
Once my beans are soft (about 6 to 8 hours later in the crock pot), it is time to start working with them. I take out the amount of beans that I will need for that night’s dinner. Sometimes all that is required is seasoning the beans and serving them along with my side dishes. Sometimes I’ll turn it into something slightly different which may require a little more work.
I divide up the rest of the beans into the future meals and put in the refrigerator (sometimes I make an extra large pot of beans and stash a meals worth in the freezer for the future).
The next two night’s taking my beans out of the fridge is as easy as opening a can (and home cooked beans are so much better for you than canned ) and really aids in getting a frugal meal ready fast.
What about Lentils and Mung Beans?
I do treat these different than my other beans. I still soak them but instead of cooking I start to sprout them. The first night I use a non sprouted recipe for each. The lentils are used the second night in a semi sprouted state and the third night well sprouted. For mung beans I skip a night to let them sprout a little more and then we have sprouted mungs for two nights.
Surprisingly, my family hasn’t indicated that they get tired of eating beans three nights in a row. I think the fact that each meal created is a new meal helps tremendously. Even though beans are usually the main component of the meal, we will sometimes have a small amount of meat. I make chili’s and soups that will usually have a little hamburger or stew meat in them. Or occasionally I might serve some sort of meat chunk on the side. Since I usually decide to do that at the last minute you won’t often see that on my menu.
Some of the meals lend themselves to a logical side (in my opinion). We do almost always have some sort of fermented item with our meals to aid in digestions. At my house we call these ‘toppers’. I’ll set out an assortment of items and everyone can top their dish as desired. Keep reading for specific sides and toppers.
A chili or spicy soup seems to beg me to make corn bread and to be topped with creme fresh.
Of course a taco, burrito or enchilada meal always sounds good with all of the trimmings especially lacto-fermented salsa and/or Cortido, creme fresh, shredded cheese, etc, etc.
There are nights when we have our beans quite simply with rice and a raw or fermented vegetable (or both). On nights I make rice, I’ll usually make a large batch so we can use it for future meals (Stretchy Rice?) or snacks.
Recipes and Meal Ideas
If you are looking for bean ideas, recipes and suggestions check out my 13 Week Rotating Menu.
Beans are an excellent source of nutrition. They are a good source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. They are a terrific source of folate. Using broth as the liquid for cooking beans or as part of the final dish will also help increase nutrition.
Keep in mind, if you are not used to eating beans regularly you may wish to add them into your diet slowly to help avoid any digestion issues.
Do you have a favorite bean recipe?
Shared at Common Sense Preparedness
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