Stretch Your Budget with Stretchy Beans

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Stretch Your Budget with Stretchy Beans. |


I know that I have mentioned Stretchy Beans quite a bit lately as part of my 13 Week Menu Plan. It occurred to me that every time I mention them, it is part of another post or a page. I was thinking today that Stretchy Beans being incredibly popular and useful at my house deserved their own post.

I was first introduced to the concept of Stretchy Beans a few years ago on a blog that I would visit. That blog was appropriately titled Lentils and Rice. The blog author shared many of her wonderful Stretchy Bean ideas. Sadly, the blog is no longer around.

I’ll admit I was no stranger to beans prior to reading that blog. Growing up, my mama usually made a large pot of pinto beans on Friday night and we ate on them all weekend. As a young (very broke) adult I also cooked pintos fairly regular and used the leftovers to make a delicious chili.

When I found the Stretchy Bean idea it came at a time when our budget really needed it.

Beans were a logical thing to keep cooking when we began to switch to a real/whole/traditional foods diet. Their cost makes them very real food friendly and by saving a little serving beans we are able to add other more expensive things to our diet like grass fed beef and real milk. Beans and legumes are also an important part of our pantry stocking/food storage plan.  They keep wonderfully!


What are Stretchy Beans?

Stretchy Beans is a concept of making one big pot of beans and stretching that pot into many meals. It is the same idea as taking one chicken and turning it into numerous meals. Of course, the beans are usually the more frugal option.

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The Method

The first step is deciding what kind of beans you want to use in your Stretchy Beans. Pinto, black, white, garbanzo, mung, kidney, lentils, lima or probably any kind of bean will work.

I sort the beans to remove any foreign material or funny looking beans.

Beans need to be soaked before cooking. I try for at least 12 hours soaking time. I don’t add anything to the water when soaking.

Cooking usually comes next.

Beans take a bit of time to cook so planning ahead is necessary. I like to use my crock pot to cook my beans. For my cooking liquid I try to use whatever broth that I have made that week. I think the broth ups the nutrition a bit by adding in all the wonderful protein and minerals that a good bone broth contains.

I do not usually add any seasonings to my beans when I cook them preferring to add my seasonings to the finished dish. You can season now if you like.

You may have noticed that I said I usually cook them at this point. I do not cook my mung beans and (sometimes) lentils. Be sure to keep reading to see what I do with these.

Once my beans are soft (about 6 to 8 hours later in the crock pot), it is time to start working with them. I take out the amount of beans that I will need for that night’s dinner. Sometimes all that is required is seasoning the beans and serving them along with my side dishes. Sometimes I’ll turn it into something slightly different which may require a little more work.


Stretch Your Budget with Stretchy Beans. |

I divide up the rest of the beans into the future meals and put in the refrigerator (sometimes I make an extra large pot of beans and stash a meals worth in the freezer for the future).

The next two night’s taking my beans out of the fridge is as easy as opening a can (and home cooked beans are so much better for you than canned ) and really aids in getting a frugal meal ready fast.

Stretch Your Budget with Stretchy Beans. |

Meal 2: Garbanzo Bean Patties in a Pita

What about Lentils and Mung Beans?

I do treat these different than my other beans.

I still soak them but instead of cooking I start to sprout them.

The first night I use a non sprouted recipe for each.

The lentils are used the second night in a semi sprouted state and the third night well sprouted.

For mung beans I skip a night to let them sprout a little more and then we have sprouted mungs for two nights.

Bean Boredom?

Surprisingly, my family hasn’t indicated that they get tired of eating beans three nights in a row. I think the fact that each meal created is a new meal helps tremendously.

Even though beans are usually the main component of the meal, we will sometimes have a small amount of meat. I make chili’s and soups that will usually have a little hamburger or stew meat in them. Or occasionally I might serve some sort of meat chunk on the side. Since I usually decide to do that at the last minute you won’t often see that on my menu.

Side Dishes

Some of the meals lend themselves to a logical side (in my opinion).

We do almost always have some sort of fermented item with our meals to aid in digestions.  At my house we call these ‘toppers’.  I’ll set out an assortment of items and everyone can top their dish as desired.  Keep reading for specific sides and toppers.

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The Garbanzo Bean Curry pictured above is delicious serve on top of rice, sprinkled with preserved lemons and flat bread on the side to scoop up all of the wonderful juices.

A chili or spicy soup seems to beg me to make corn bread and to be topped with creme fresh.

Of course a taco, burrito or enchilada meal always sounds good with all of the trimmings especially lacto-fermented salsa and/or Cortido, creme fresh, shredded cheese, etc, etc.

There are nights when we have our beans quite simply with rice and a raw or fermented vegetable (or both). On nights I make rice, I’ll usually make a large batch so we can use it for future meals (Stretchy Rice?) or snacks.

Recipes and Meal Ideas

If you are looking for bean ideas, recipes and suggestions check out my 13 Week Rotating Menu.

Garbanzo Beans: Cooking and Favorite Recipes

Pinto Beans: Cooking and Favorite Recipes

Red Beans: Cooking and Favorite Recipes

Lentils: Cooking and Favorite Recipes

Black Beans: Cooking and Favorite Meals


Beans are an excellent source of nutrition. They are a good source of magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. They are a terrific source of folate.  Using broth as the liquid for cooking beans or as part of the final dish will also help increase nutrition.

Keep in mind, if you are not used to eating beans regularly you may wish to add them into your diet slowly to help avoid any digestion issues.

Do you have a favorite bean recipe?

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Millie Copper
Millie Copper is a Wyoming wife and mama. After reading Nourishing Traditions in early 2009, her family began transforming their diet to whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods—a little at a time while stretching their food dollars. Millie is passionate to share how, with a little creativity, anyone can transition to a real foods diet without overwhelming their food budget. Millie began blogging in late 2009 and has amassed a collection of frugal recipes and methods. Her specialties include cooking with wild game and creating “Stretchy Beans”. Discovering a love of writing, she has penned four books focusing on healthy eating on a budget and is trying her hand at fiction writing. Learn more at


  1. Andi

    >Hey thanks for sharing my recipe, I am really enjoying reading about your stretchy beans, giving me some great additions! Blessings!

  2. Farmgirl Cyn

    >So funny that you are posting about beans as that was on my mind today. I have been wanted to cook up a big batch, then put them in freezer bags for future meals. Now there will be bean burritos on the menu for tomorrow evening! I am going to try Wardeh's recipe for sourdough tortillas, so with the beans soaking and the dough all prepped for the tortillas, I feel like 1/2 of my supper is prepared!

  3. Millie

    I'm happy to share your recipe. Let me know if you try Stretchy Beans on your own.

    That's partly how I feel about beans too. After the soaking and the cooking so much of the work is completed. I really like it. I keep some beans in the freezer too. I really like to add them to soups.

  4. jpatti

    I do something similar, but we don’t eat them 3 days in a row.

    I soak 2 cups of dry beans in a brine for a couple days, then cook in bone broth, yielding 6 cups cooked beans. I freeze in 2-cup portions, getting 3 portions. We commonly use pintos, navy, canellini, black and butter beans – 5 types of beans. So when I do the beans, I start a new batch soaking every day, and within a week, I have 15 portions frozen.

    I consider these the equivalent of a can of beans in recipes, as it’s close enough.

    It really takes no time to soak and cook the beans, maybe 5 minutes a day for a week, and I wind up with several months worth of beans that are just as convenient to use as canned beans.

    Course, they’re way better cause cooked in bone broth! Both tastier and more nutritious. I use them in soups, salads and risottos all the time.

  5. Pingback: Feeling Overwhelmed? 7 Ways to Keep it Simple in the Kitchen « Real Food for Less Money

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