Saturday, November 5, 2011
Dry Beans vs. Canned Beans
I can thank Huz for introducing me to this change back in our early married years.
I'm not now, nor have I ever been, a grand connoisseur of beans. But when I do eat them, I used to be more prone to reaching for a can. For green beans, I admittedly still do (although I do try to grab the "no salt added" variety as much as possible). When Huz asked me to cook them from dry, raw beans, I had no idea what to do. Thankfully the instructions on the bag of beans clarified things. Now we can hardly imagine eating them from a can. They're not really that hard to cook, we just have to think ahead and have them soaking for a good part of the day before prepping them. No frills, just beans and water. I usually don't add salt. Amazingly, Dot loves most kinds of beans as long as they're not spicy.
I did some quick research to compare dry beans to canned ones. Here are some of my findings.
Cheaper: Wal-Mart has Bush's Canned Great Northern Beans listed for $0.92 for a 15.8-ounce can. That sounds fairly cheap, but keep in mind that the price is for the combined weight of the cooked beans and water. Apparently, according to some measurements I've found online, that's only about the equivalent of about 5 ounces of dry beans. If I recall correctly, I can buy a whole pound of dry Northern beans for about the same price, maybe a little more. If I cooked the whole bag, that would be nearly 3 pounds of beans. So the Cheaper winner is the dry beans, hands down, even if the beans are organic and thus more costly.
Healthier: I researched both the ingredients list and nutrition information for each. Of course, the dry beans just have one ingredient: beans. The canned beans also have water and salt. Pretty innocent, except that they have a LOT of salt. A half-cup of canned beans has 20% of your daily sodium intake. If you omit the salt when cooking the dry beans, it's just a fraction of a percent. Other numbers were comparable, but the dry beans appear to have more iron in them. If you're worried about heart health, definitely skip the canned beans. If there were a "low-sodium" option, the canned ones might be all right, except for the fact that cans are reported to be lined with BPA--but that's a topic for another post.
Greener: Not really a major part of my analysis, but the dry beans would be Greener to an extent. Buying the bags of beans from a regular grocery store means that you have a plastic bag to discard. I sometimes reuse them for dog waste pickup, but yeah, it ultimately ends up in the garbage. At least cans can be recycled. The ultimate Greener solution would be to get them from the bulk bin at a place like Whole Foods (which I don't frequent due to the distance from my house) and put them in a glass jar.
Easier: Canned beans definitely win here. Much more convenient--just dump in a pot and heat. For me, though, the Cheaper component beats out the Easier one as I'm home during the day, and it's not a big deal for me to start soaking the beans in the morning. We even did this when we were both working--just put them on the stove to soak in the wee hours of the morning, then started cooking them when the first one of us got home.
Overall winner: Cooked dry beans
Any good bean recipes out there?