My Story: Beans and Rice

contributed by Melanie J.

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With many families trying to fight inflation at the grocery store, I have seen lots of posts about "going veggie" a few meals a week or eating beans and rice. Some posts I have seen online have lamented about beans and rice as a boring meal, something that would be unbearable for even one meal a week. Here are some tips that are sure to make basic beans and rice the family favorite in your household!

Use dry beans. If you really want to reap the financial benefits of eating rice and beans, try using dried beans. Many times a bag of dried beans is the same cost as a can of beans. You can get many meals from a bag of dried beans, instead of one meal from the recipe-ready can. You can make dried beans recipe ready by presoaking them. Instead of just soaking enough for one recipe, soak the whole bag, and freeze the remainder in 14-ounce portions. (The size of a supermarket can of beans.)

Use real rice. The same principal holds true for rice. Large bags of plain white or brown rice are more cost effective than boxes of rice that come with spices. Use your savings to purchase fresh veggies like onions, peppers, and tomatoes for flavoring the rice.

Add flavor. For basic rice and beans, turn to recipes that kick up the flavor a notch, such as Cuban Black Beans and Rice or Ranch Style Beans.

Think outside the box. There are many variations of rice and beans, but it may be the case that after a while your family tires of looking at rice and beans on a plate, even if it tastes good. That's when you have to get creative. The reason beans and rice is a cost-effective meal is because it makes a complete protein, therefore eliminating the need for meat. Make a few simple changes to the presentation of basic beans and rice, and you have a cost-effective meal that the whole family will love.

  • Cheese and Bean Quesadillas with Spanish Rice and Broccoli: Tuck the beans inside a kid-friendly quesadilla for a rice and beans meal no one will refuse.

  • Veggie Soups: Beans can be a star ingredient in soups like Minestrone, Tortilla Soup, or Black Bean Soup. Add rice to the stew to create a more filling meal, or serve on the side where soup can be drizzled over the top. Otherwise, you can simply trade in the rice for a nice slice of whole grain bread to dip in the stew. This trade is in keeping with the beans-and-rice philosophy of serving wholesome, budget-friendly meals.

  • Veggie Chili or Nearly Veggie Chili: If you are already a fan of ground beef chili with an ample amount of beans, simply eliminate the beef and substitute an equal amount of beans. If your family feels it isn't chili without meat, simply cut the amount of meat in your favorite recipe by a quarter or half and substitute an equal amount of beans.

  • Veggie Burgers: This only counts as a low-cost meal if you make your own. What are the basic ingredients in your average veggie burger? Beans and rice. Never buy pre-made veggie burgers again! This recipe is a basic beans and rice burger, but you can also find more exciting versions with different flavors and additional ingredients.

  • Falafel: Again, it only counts as a low-cost meal if you make your own. Falafel is a tasty recipe made with garbanzo beans and lots of additional flavors from fresh veggies. Serve on pita bread with a side of rice.

  • Hummus: Hummus is a tasty treat that is easy to make if you have a blender or food processor. Serve hummus with fresh veggies, pita, and crackers for a snack.

I hope these tips have helped you think about beans and rice in a different way. Look for any recipes that feature beans instead of meat, or rice to bulk up a meal. Your grocery bill will fall without sacrificing enjoyable fare at the dinner table.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to

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  • Not only are beans frugal, but also they're extremely good for you. They are typically low in fat and contain no cholesterol. Beans are also a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.
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