I think anyone you talk to will tell you that beans are an excellent addition to any diet. For those who don't eat meat (and everyone else for that matter), they add an excellent amount of protein to your diet for pennies on the dollar. When checking out the rows and rows of cans of beans in the grocery store, you'll see that you can probably get a 15oz can of any of your favorite beans for about $0.50 - $1.00 depending on brand and any sales. Not bad, right?
Well, I can do you better. Look around the cans - below, above, to the right or left and you will see bags of dried beans. In my area, I can get a 1 pound bag of dried beans for about $1. Maybe less, maybe more. Now, you are probably wondering what is so great about that - the cans are a comparable price or less! However, a pound of dried beans is equal to 4 cans of beans! That's right! Buying a pound of dried beans for $1 is like buying 4 cans of beans for $0.25 each. A sweet deal.
I'm not going to kid you, though. Cooking with dried beans does take a little extra planning and time. But for a little extra time and preparation, you can save a great deal on your groceries. The directions for soaking and cooking beans are normally right on the bag, but you can also check out this page for basic bean preparation information. The quick rule of thumb is as follows, though:
1/2 cup of dried beans (pre-soak) = 1 15oz can of beans
1 1/2 cups of beans (post-soak) = 1 15oz can of bean
Yes, you heard me right. The beans will TRIPLE in size when you soak them. Do not make the mistake of thinking that they look so little. The first time I worked with dried beans - I had more chickpeas than I could figure out what to do with. Storing dried beans is easy. They should be stored in air tight plastic or glass containers (bags work fine, too) and they can be kept indefinitely if stored at room temperature.
Want to know more about beans?
Basic Bean Prep
Storage and Soaking
Cooking Your Beans