Cheaper Baked Beans

Baked Beans

I got this email from reader Carol:

I've written you before about how much we enjoy your "calico baked beans", as I refer to them with my family. We are really pinching pennies right now and I compared making the recipe using canned beans vs. dried beans.

If I make it as listed (using bought on sale ingredients) my cost is $3.51. If I substitute home prepared dried beans, it drops to $2.21. Only $1.30 less, but if I can do that with every meal I serve, that's $27.30/week or $109.20/month!

I am able to feed my family of 6 (including 2 teens) on $400/month with another $50 for nonfood grocery items. This is a great recipe -- a "keeper" here! Just wanted to share that dried beans would make this an even more economical dish. I'd also add that if cooked ground beef was added, and biscuits served, it's like a corn pone.

I am still trying to get into the habit of thinking ahead enough to always use dried beans instead of canned! It's just too easy to change my mind (and therefore my menu!) at the last minute and need to open a can.

One thing that helps me is to cook extra beans when I'm making them and freeze the leftovers for the next time I need quick beans. (I do the overnight soak method, so I need to plan at least 24 hours in advance if I'm using them dried!)

Just last week I got a 5-pound bag of dark red kidney beans. I've already used some (see photo above!) and they were delicious -- much better than canned, in my opinion! And the beans expand so much when they're soaking. I have no idea how many "cans" my 5-pounds of dried beans is equivalent to, but it's a lot. :)


Once I was making chili, only to find that I didn't have any cans of kidney beans. I was in a panic, going through my cupboard in disbelief. I always have a couple of spare cans of kidney beans. But not that day. And all the other ingredients were already simmering in the pot.

In my frantic search for a can of beans, I came across a half bag (1/2 pound) of pinto beans. I put them in with the chili, added four cups of water and about 1/2 tsp salt, and let it simmer for about 4 hours. It was the best chili I'd ever made--my kids raved about it. How weird is that?


I use the dried beans method of soaking the whole bag overnight (with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar or whey) and then cook them in the morning and freeze what I won't be using that day, then of course label the lid or bag and voila! they are ready to be thawed which happens quickly.

I had cooked two whole chickens earlier and was dividing the chopped meat to freeze and wanted to keep some out for supper so I put some in the crockpot with BBQ sauce and realized it may not be enough for 6 of us, so I added a box of the frozen beans and about 1-1/2 c. of my frozen chicken broth, served on buns they enjoyed it with some sides. The leftovers were served over rice which was good too.

I just soaked some brown rice overnight and then parboiled that and froze it so that is ready when needed, since br. rice takes longer to cook and sometimes I don't think ahead enough.

Just my .02
I enjoy your blog and recipes a lot Tammy. My DH used to come home practically everyday for lunch and we usually had leftovers or something simple now he just started a job where I need to pack a lunch and it is getting very challenging already. He can't warm anything up. He works outside all day for 10-12 hours so I did suggest that he pace out what he eats but he has come home and said 'please pack more' :)


I love the convenience of Canned beans, but for cost and health purposes (they have soo much salt!) I prefer to use dried. I too struggled with planning ahead to use them and finally figured out a solution that works great for us. I cook up a big batch of beans and pressure can them! It works out great! I Cook the big batch, it takes just as long to cook a small batch and I then can them. This only adds an hour or so to my cook time that day, but the inconvenience pays off with convenience down the road.

I use a variety of beans in our homemade chili and can cook them all together in one jar. It makes for an even more convenient solution when I want to make a small batch of chili. Opening one jar of mixed beans instead of opening 3 different jars and having to come up with creative uses for the leftovers!

Just a thought!

Don't forget that dried beans are also much better for you because they contain all of the salt that canned beans do:)


I actually meant to say that dry beans do NOT have all the salt that canned beans do!!LOL


Great job on using dried beans. It is very economical and I think tastes better too. When I had all my children at home, I used to pressure can my beans so that I had jars all ready to open. I used the recipe in the Blue Book by Ball. This took a little bit of work, but then I had them all ready to use without having to soak and cook each batch separately. I did this with many different types of beans. All were good!

Hi, Carol and Tammy,

For many years I have used dried beans for lots of recipes but only recently have I started to make a big batch and then freeze them in individual baggies. Approximately 2 cups of cooked beans is equal to one can. So I know that when I take out a small baggie of beans, its like having a can of beans ready to use. One pound of dry beans will give you about 4 cans of cooked beans. Another thing I've done is buy a big bag of dried beans each time I shop and cook them up and freeze them until I have different kinds of beans in my freezer to use when I need them.

1 pound of beans is equal to 4 (15 oz.) cans of beans, generally.

Hope that helps!

I freeze soaked beans too! Just remember that freezing tenderizes them somewhat, so you need less cooking time. Unless you like bean mush,LOL!

I know that I am guilty of having dried beans in my cupboard but reaching for a can instead! *blush* I need to be better about planning ahead, but I use the overnight soak method, too, so I don't always remember it. Is there a better way (quicker?) to do it? I like Darcy's comment above - storing in 2 c. quantities in bags is an easy way to have beans ready to go when needed. Do I need to put water in with the beans when I freeze them (I've heard others do this)?

Thanks! :)

I freeze my cooked beans in a container in the freezer -- no water. I don't usually have them in there for more than a few weeks, though, so I don't knowhow they would do long-term as far as freezer burn... :)

You can boil most beans for about an hour and then simmer them in whatever you are cooking. In my experience this works for all beans but soy beans and chickpeas, those definitely need to be soaked first.

I commented before, but I guess my comment got lost in cyberspace. I apologize if there ends up being 2 from me!

I buy dried beans and cook them. Then, I pressure can them. It only takes a little bit longer on the prep side of things, but the conveniece is well worth the extra effort up front.

We use a variety of beans in our homemade chilli and find it very convenient to have them all pre-mixed in one jar. I just have to dump the jar and go. Especially helpful for making small batches!

For the sake of being frugal, I look for beans on sale and buy them when they are extremely cheap, this makes my price per jar mere pennies. You can also buy in bulk and share the prep and cost with another family. The jars are reuseable, so I am not filling up the landfill with the "can waste".

Good luck,

I make my dry beans in a slow cooker. I usually fix up about two different types of beans each week and freeze them in baggies.
Just rinse and sort the beans. Cover with water and cook on low all day. Check to make sure there is enough water periodically. Add more if needed.
They come out perfectly every time.

For those who don't plan ahead, we do a quick soak by either covering the beans with a few inches of boiling water, then letting them rest for an hour or so, till swollen double. This uses electricity or gas, depending on your oven. An overnight soak is free but not always convenient. Sometimes the beans split a little more, not too bad.

We do cook our beans instead of canned but we also make our own canned beans to have on hand when we don't have the time or the forethought. =)
It's fairly easy if you have a pressure canner. (The Ball canning book has instructions.) You would have of course have the expense of the propane. The canned beans (we use pinto and red or kidney) taste just like refried beans you would buy!

I got a pressure cooker for dried beans. I can cook them in about 7 to 10 minutes. Works beautifully.

I'm glad to read a comment about cooking beans quickly in a pressure cooker. I'd heard you could do that, but don't have a pressure cooker, so I haven't tried it myself. I think twice in the last month I really wanted to cook something with beans fairly last minute, but didn't have any canned, cooked or soaked. I kept telling myself I'll get a pressure cooker, but I haven't been able to find a cheap used garage sale or thrift shop one yet.

I also find that even if I get dried beans at a high price and canned at a low price, the canned beans are still 2-3 times as expensive as dried.

Great tips about the conversions between dried beans, soaked beans, and canned beans. I am a large user of dried beans, and I have to go with Carol in saying that I calculate the price difference out over the long haul. It really does equal a large savings!
Homemaker Barbi

Freeze cooked beans or can your own! I like the convenience of canned, but cannot justify the expense when I have so many dried beans already, mostly given to me by people who do not use them, which makes them free.

I cook them in a pressure cooker most often without soaking in about an hour. It is not very long!

We've tried the method of cooking a bunch of beans then freezing them. The problem is that they take AGES to defrost- we do most of our defrosting in the microwave, and pound for pound they seem to take twice as long as meat to defrost.
Am I missing something?

I either thaw mine in the fridge (longer thaw time), on the kitchen counter (shorter thaw time), or just throw the frozen lump into a big pan of soup (the didn't-think-ahead thaw time!). :) (No microwave here...)

I have never seen a recipe for these but we used to buy them in NM and now I do them at home. I cook the beans in the crock pot and then rinse them when they are cooked. Then I just spread them on the fruit leather liners in my dehydrator. Then dry them ! You can run them in the blender for refried beans or bean dip or toss them whole into chile .They rehydrate very fast!

Thanks for answering my question, everyone! :) Twenty cans doesn't seem like too much to use (we love kidney beans!) so now I'm not worried about how long that 5-pound bag will last! :)

I paid $7 for the 5lbs of organic dark red kidney beans... so that would be $0.35/can for organic beans. (We could never afford organic otherwise!) 

so that I can measure out my cooked kidney beans in that amount to freeze?
Also, do you spread your beans out so they won't freeze in one big clump?

They are just under 2 cups once you drain off the liquid. If you go by serving sizes and the amount in a can it comes out to 1 3/4c. I store mine in 2 cup containers and just make it not quite all the way full.

As for flash freezing, you can do that, but as long as you remember to thaw them, you can just dump them into anything. Just don't put any water in as that makes it take longer to thaw, and the beans turn out mushier.

Also a tip I have, is if you plan on freezing the beans you are cooking, don't cook them all the way. If they are a little hard they turn our perfect once you thaw them and 'cook' them again.

Hi! I was wondering if you have a copy cat recipe for Bush's Grillin Beans? My family loves those and I prefer to make the beans myself. I haven't found any yet that taste like may not have ever tried them, but I still thought you may have seen a recipe somewhere or heard someone else mention them before. Thank you. I really enjoy your site.

I hadn't heard of Bush's Grillin Beans before... I guess I'd have to try them and then try to recreate the flavors! I have not had very good success with making my homemade baked beans taste perfect without adding a can of Bush's though! (I don't, however, like Bush's baked beans without changing them quite a bit, either!) :)

I love Bush's Grillin' Beans, too and have been looking for a recipe to can. Let me know if you find one!

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