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I’m a huge fan of beans of just about any kind. We also rely on beans and rice as part of our food storage. But are beans and rice the best choice for you to use as a backbone of your food storage? There may be legitimate reasons you should not have beans and rice as the main part of your food storage.
Let’s face it, beans have a reputation. I’m sure we’ve all heard the “Magical Fruit” diddy. Yes, beans can cause gas; but they can also cause cramps, bloating, and indigestion.
Beans are very high in lectins, which are carbohydrate-binding proteins (source), and may prevent the absorption and use of minerals in the body.
For some people, these issues are difficult to overcome. If you ever came to a point where you needed to solely rely on your food storage, suddenly eating beans and rice might cause extreme physical discomfort at a time when you need to be at your optimum health.
Keep in mind, all beans are not equal. You may experience digestion issues with one variety of bean or legume but have no problems with others. And proper bean preparation by soaking first can make a world of difference. Including beans in your diet know, when you are not relying on them as a major food source, can help your body adapt to them so if you do need to eat more beans, you can.
While dry beans and rice are wonderfully shelf-stable and, when properly stored, will last for a very long time, they need water to make them edible. While we should all have water storage, will you have enough water on a day-to-day basis to rehydrate beans and rice?
Before cooking, beans should be soaked to help reduce the tummy troubles listed above. The water used for soaking is discarded and fresh water (or broth) is used for the cooking process. A basic recommendation is to use 3 cups of water per 1 cup of beans for soaking. You’ll need approximately the same amount of fresh water when cooking.
For best results, rice should be rinsed before cooking. This helps yield separate grains, instead of a sticky mess. It also rinses away debris and other undesirables. All rice should be well rinsed before cooking. White rice doesn’t need to be soaked before cooking, but for maximum digestion, it is recommended to soak brown rice. The water to rice ratio for soaking is 2:1. The soaking water can then be drained off into a measuring cup (so you know how much is reserved) and used for cooking. When cooking rice, the ratio is also 2:1. If you soaked your rice, you’ll use the same amount of fresh water that was left over after soaking (this is why you drain into a measuring cup). While white rice doesn’t need to be soaked, it will shorten the cooking time if you do soak it.
Time to Cook
Beans and rice both are slow-cooking foods. The soaking methods mentioned above will reduce your cooking time. But even so, you need to plan on long cooking times for beans, usually several hours. Soaked brown rice will cook in around twenty minutes, about the same time as non-soaked white rice. Soaking white rice can shave up to 10 minutes off of the cooking time.
Keeping these long cooking times in mind, you will use more fuel to cook beans and rice than you would just heating something up. Do you have a plan for fuel?
If the power is off and all you have is an electric range, how will you cook and heat food? Will you use a butane or propane portable stove? Maybe a rocket stove or other open fire cooking method would work well for you. During the winter, I love to cook beans on top of my woodstove. I’ve also used a Sun Oven, a haybox cooker (or a Wonderbag), or just a cooler with some towels. Each of these options will work for beans or rice.
If you have a gas or propane range, a pressure cooker is a great way to cook beans in a shorter amount of time and conserve fuel. In my everyday life, I often use my Instant Pot for cooking beans. They turn out wonderfully! As do beans cooked in a crockpot. Of course, in a case where the electricity is out, these would not be options. And keep reading for why these might not be the best options on a normal day…
Undercooked Beans Can Be Dangerous
Remember those lectins we talked about? While some people are particularly sensitive to them, they can be a problem for everyone. Beans should be soaked (for at least twelve hours, but possibly longer if you change the water out every twelve hours), rinsed, and then cooked thoroughly in order to soften the beans and disable to action of the lectins. Once this is done, most people will be able to consume beans.
However, simmering raw, unsoaked beans at low heat, such as in a slow cooker, or undercooking the beans will not remove all the lectins, resulting in food poisoning-like symptoms for some people. Soaking your beans will not only shorten cooking times but will help reduce the lectins.
Kidney beans are a special case and require special treatment. Eating raw kidney beans can be toxic. Phytohaemagglutinin, also called kidney bean lectin, is found in several varieties of beans but is particularly high in kidney beans. Eating only a few of these beans raw can cause illness. Too many can cause death. Yikes. White kidney beans, broad beans, and lima beans also contain this toxin in smaller, yet still dangerous, amounts.
The Proper Method for Cooking Kidney Beans
Beans containing phytohaemagglutinin should never be cooked solely using a slow cooking method. To enjoy kidney beans, follow this method:
- Soak the dried beans in water overnight
- Discard the soaking water
- Rinse the beans and cover them with fresh water
- On the stovetop, bring the beans to a rapid boil and boil for at least 10 minutes.
- After the 10 minute boil, it is safe to finish cooking them in the crockpot, on the woodstove, or in a haybox or Wonderbag.
Kidney beans, broad beans, and lima beans should not be ground into flour. And if you choose to sprout these beans, do not eat the sprouts raw. Boil them for 10 minutes first. Personally, I do not sprout these beans. It’s not worth the risk.
But sprouts for other beans and legumes are a wonderful option! Sprouting beans reduces the lectin content. And the longer you sprout, the more lectins are diminished. When sprouting beans, you’ll still need the same amount of water as used in the soaking step and then a daily rinse (I find this uses less water than cooking beans). Sprouting reduces (or eliminates) the need for a long cooking session.
Lentils really lend themselves to sprouting and many people enjoy the taste of raw, multiday-sprouted lentils in salads. At my house, we lightly steam sprouted lentils, then let it cool for salads or turn into taco filling, burgers, soups, and more.
Many people find soaking and then sprouting beans to improve the digestibility, substantially making a dish they couldn’t eat before (because of the tummy troubles mentioned above) now a possibility.
If you are concentrating on food storage specifically for an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it event, beans and rice might not be the best option for you. While beans and rice are two of the most economical items to fill your pantry and/or food storage, they really lend themselves to being an everyday food — not just an emergency food.
Have you heard the phrase “store what you eat, eat what you store”? To make your food storage work best for you, think about the foods you regularly eat and plan your storage around these foods.
When we first started getting serious about food storage, we were already eating a lot of beans. We were just finishing a particularly trying financial time, resulting in several meals of beans and rice each week. Storing beans and rice made sense for us. We already knew we could tolerate them well. We knew how to prepare them. And we knew what recipes we love.
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If beans and rice are not already a part of your diet, or you are not willing to make them a part of your everyday diet, think long and hard about making these the focus of your food storage plan. If you are already eating these things or want to add these wonderful and nutritious morsels to your diet, be sure to check out my Stretchy Beans articles for tips and ideas on how to make this work in your home.
And remember, there are many reasons to start food storage and times these stored foods can be of a huge advantage. Storms or blizzards, job loss, localized power outage, surprise expenses, loss of a family member, and more. Imagine how wonderful it would be to have food on hand.
Are beans and rice part of your food storage? Why or why not?
Stock the Real Food Pantry
A wonderfully stocked, real food pantry will save you money and time, plus give you peace of mind.
But where should you start? What if you don’t want to fill your pantry with foods devoid of nutrition? What if you prefer to focus on real, whole, or traditional foods consuming the highest quality ingredients your budget will allow? How do you do this if your food budget is already stretched to the max?
Stocking your pantry can seem like a daunting task. This is where my handbook, Stock the Real Food Pantry, comes in. I provide details, tips, and knowledge to help you make the most of your food dollars and begin building a pantry that will soon pay for itself in money, time, and peace of mind.