Lately I’ve felted charged to cook much more frugally.

Mainly because well, our bank account told me, “you have to spend less money.” It’s weird, those words ACTUALLY came out of it’s mouth. Yes, my bank account has a mouth AND it speaks.

I refuse to accept the idea that eating frugally means eating processed carbs you purchased in bulk because you had a double coupon for them. Or getting the family value meal at whatever fast food place offers enough food to feed 4 for less then $10 is the best option for saving money. While I realize this may SEEM like the best option, before I accept that it is, I am determined to prove it isn’t.

I’ve never made homemade beans. I always buy them from a can. I just assumed that was a cheapest option. And it is, compared to buying meat. But beans in a can are actually quite expensive compared to buying dry beans. I bought a bag of red beans on a whim, determined to use them to make a cheap healthy, delicious meal. It took me MONTHS to finally use them. They intimidated me. I thought I’d totally botch them up. So, I decided my first attempt at making homemade beans would be using them to cook for a crowd of 10 people. Ya, that’ll toooootally minimize any nervousness you have about preparing a new dish, right? Idiot, idiot, idiot.

But like I said, I’m determined to be more frugal, prove it can be done. So why not start off by cooking for a crowd, making an entire meal for under $10? Ok, fine, if you insist.

“Nervousness, I have no room for you in my life, good bye. These beans will turn out.” That was the manta I kept repeating to myself.

We were having friends over to watch a marathon of Dexter. Yes, Dexter, the TV show about a serial killer, fan-freaking-tastic is what it is! We do this every year. The 10 of us get together and watch the newest season that came out of DVD. We all bring some kind of cuban themed food, or Dexter-ish food and settle in for a nice cozy, light hearted day.

By the way, I think someone should start a blog of Deb-isms. I’d subscribe. Just sayin.

I did it, I made an entire meal: beans, rice, chicken for $10 for under $10. In case you aren’t good at math, that’s $1 per person. And in case you only speak ‘fast food,’ that’s the equivalent to 1 taco from the dollar menu.

Do you know what everyone said about the beans? They were the best beans they’d ever had. Um, ok, it kinda made me blush a little, and it also reinforced my notion that I can cook frugally, and it can taste REAL good.

Red Beans
1 bag (16 oz) dried kidney beans

Soak the dried beans in a bowl, covered with water. When I say covered with water, I mean, cover the beans with water that’s 4 inches higher then the beans. So, use a LARGE bowl. I say this only after learning from experience. I soaked my beans, and then had to add EXTRA water because as the beans soak, they expand. So you want to make sure you add enough water to keep them covered as they expand.

Drain the soaked beans and pick out any beans that look funky and wrinkly. This is a suggestion, but not MANDATORY. Honestly, I didn’t pick out any weird looking beans.

In a large pot, add the beans and cover with water. Cook over high until the water starts to boil, then simmer on low for about 2 hours (until the beans are tender).
*You can do this in a crockpot too. Cover the beans with water, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Drain the beans and voila, you have yourself the same beans you’d buy from a can, but for a fraction of the cost.

At this point you can salt, flavor and season them to your liking.
*I made a big batch and froze whatever beans I didn’t use. I just let the beans cool and sealed them in a ziplock bag and put them in the freezer. They’ll be perfect for some chili later on (or for more Cuban Red Beans)!

Cuban Red Beans
Serves 8 as a side dish
Cooking time: 45 minutes (inactive time)

Ingredients
28 oz kidney beans (2 cans OR 4 cups of your fresh red beans)
1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 onion, diced (white, yellow, red, whatever you like)
1/2 cup vegetable stock (use chicken stock if you don’t have vegetarians)
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire (leave out to keep it vegetarian/vegan)
1 tbsp dried cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
juice of 1 lime

Directions

In a large saute pan, saute the onion in a little olive oil (about 1 tbsp). Once the onions are soft, add the garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds then add the remaining ingredients.

Cook over high heat until it boils, then lower the heat to low and simmer for about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to cook it longer if it is reducing enough. The liquid should reduce and the consistency will be similar to a chili. Serve with a side of rice, and garnish with cilantro.

Freeze and leftovers in a ziplock bag or Tupperware container.

This batch of beans, a small bag of rice, and 4 chicken breasts fed 10 people. And that my friends is how you can feed 10 people for under $10. How did I make the chicken? Good question. 4 chicken breasts, 1 jar of tomatillo salsa (24 oz), 2 limes (juice and zest), 1 tbsp minced garlic, and 1 cup chicken stock. All in the crockpot for 6 hours. Shred it, and serve it. It is sooooo extremely easy. And everyone loved it as well.

Beans are an excellent source of nutrition for adults, AND babies! Since my baby started eating finger food, I always have small batch of some sort of bean or chili in the fridge for a quick meal for her. The more flavor, the better! Not spicy, but flavorful. This is one of her favorite meals, red beans!