Saving money is something that has always been important to me. I love spending money on other people and helping with gifts and needs when I can, but I am a natural saver. Some (like my husband and my family) think I go a little too overboard, and I have been learning lately that some habits are not as thrifty as I once believed. But in my life of paying for college, and living with four kids on a missionary budget I have learned some tricks for saving money and I would like to share one every Monday with you for a few months.
Eating real food is another passion of mine, and I have learned not to let that get in the way of my frugality. Bean and rice is a favorite cheap meal enjoyed around the world. I take my dry beans and rice and soak them in water overnight with a few tablespoons of vinegar added.
Ways to save money on beans and rice meals:
- Use dry beans instead of cans
- Use dry rice, not precooked
- skip the toppings of cheese, bacon and chives (I still use cultured cream or sour cream though for the spicy ones)
- mix your own seasonings
- use water or make your own veggie/chicken or beef stock
- skip the cans of condensed soup (either make your own or use a different recipe)
- buy your mineral salt in bulk
- Bulk it up with carrots, celery and onion, it adds nutrition and depth
- Mix up the beans, you don’t have to just use one more expensive type, mix in differently priced beans.
- There is a lot of research saying that white rice isn’t as bad for us as we’ve been told, but I’m not here to give health advice necessarily. We use white rice and brown rice interchangeably and sometimes mix it up half and half to reduce the cost. Black rice is my favorite but its expensive so we use it sparingly.
- Add lentils the last 20 minutes
- Keep it vegetarian
I don’t use a recipe but rather more of a formula. I mix bean and rice about half and half, cover in two inches of water or stock/broth, add some extras (roots, etc, not veggies at this stage). I either cook it on Medium-high on the range and then simmer on med for an hour or two (I do use kettle water instead of cold water, that saves some time), or start the slow cooker. Slow for 6-8 hours or high for about 4-6.
seasonings – a new favorite would be a paprika mix I mentioned last week. It is paprika, salt, peppers, cayenne, oregano and basil (I’d add onion powder if I had but can’t find it in South Africa most of the time).
My oldest prefers more of a sage mixture and we enjoy chili seasoning mixes, taco, fajita, a Moroccan inspired blend (read:we just throw seasoning in there) curry inspired and even Italian. Using beef stock or soup and adding garlic, onion and parsley is delicious as well.
There is no right way or wrong way (unless you make it taste like charcoal, I have a special ability of making it burn when I’m reheating the leftovers). Your only goal is to boil the rice and beans in water until they are soft. If there is more water left than you care for, boil it off without a lid. If there isn’t enough water, add more.
Most often I cook all the beans and rices together despite the different cooking times, but if I need leftover rice, I’m happy to bake the rice (about 375 with 1:1 water to rice for 20 minutes, 35 for some types)
It might not be perfect the first time, but you can try again until you find your favorite. I will share more recipes as I think to write down our favorite combinations.
Using the leftovers:
- Make the first batch a less exotic seasoning
- Always add butter and or water to reheat, even if you use a lid
- Serve the leftovers with tomato, guacamole, taco seasoning and sour cream
- Serve the bean and rice (even if not Mexican flavored) over tortilla chips or in tortillas
- pan fry the leftovers in a little butter with garlic and onion
- add greens to the menu to add a little nutrition and diversity
- cook the leftovers with tomatoes and change the flavor (without clashing the original seasonings).
- Add broth and veggies and make it a soup.
- Add meat and make it heartier.
- Add toast, garlic toast, rolls, cornbread, biscuits, etc
- Some flavors would do well with a fried egg on top of pan fried leftovers
- Could also bake leftovers in a a muffin tin with an egg on top for little nest meals.
Creativity with leftovers keeps it from being boring. Even just making cornbread or biscuits to accompany makes a world of difference in the perception.
And there you have our first Money Saving Monday post, I know beans and rice are not all that exciting, but it is almost always the first meal idea in the budget conscience so it seemed fitting.