Pam’s 365 Day Rice and Beans Challenge

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on April 15, 2010

All I have to say is…you go girl!  Listen to her story…

Several months ago my husband and I were looking at our finances and decided we needed to make some major changes if we were going to attack our student loan debt. Since I have chosen to be a stay-at-home mom I felt that I could best contribute by cutting our food and household expenses so I started following couponing blogs and eventually cut our grocery budget to $200 a month for our family of five.

If you are a Dave Ramsey listener, you know he challenges people to “live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else,” be willing to “be weird,” and to eat “beans and rice, rice and beans.”At the beginning of this year I decided to challenge myself to not only prepare our meals based on the $200-a-month budget, but to also prepare something with beans or rice EVERY DAY for a year. I felt we needed the daily accountability to help us remember that right now we are living “like no one else so later we can live like no one else.”

Honestly, the beans and rice challenge has been a bit more difficult than I expected. I was really excited and the beginning and didn’t think it would be too hard since there are lots of varieties of beans and rice, but after a few weeks I hit a plateau and had to force myself to keep going. My sweet family has never complained, but after two months I could tell they were also tired of beans and rice.

Day 54 was a break-through day for me. I was writing a guest post on lentils and was experimenting with them a bit as I wrote my article. I didn’t realize that unlike dried beans, lentils have a fairly quick cooking time, and so I cooked my pot of dried lentils WAY too long and they were practically mush. I was ready to throw the whole pot away and start fresh…then I had an idea.

Several recipes back I had made black bean brownies which sound gross, but are actually a moist, fudgy brownie made with black bean puree instead of eggs and oil. The pot of mushy lentils reminded me of the bean puree so I decided to do a bit more experimenting and came up with an apple-cinnamon muffin and oatmeal chocolate chip cookie which both featured lentil puree. The best thing about these recipes? No one had a clue they had beans or lentils in them!

Since the mushed lentil incident I’ve come up with several ways to sneak beans or rice into some of our favorite meals. Sneaking them in helps me stick to my beans and rice challenge, helps stretch the meat by adding an additional protein or grain, and adds fiber to our diets.

French Toast Casserole is an example of a meal I came up with after buying some marked-down bread. We loved the results and no one had a clue it featured mashed white beans. Of course you could leave the beans out, but the puree aids in binding the bread chunks together as well as adding fiber to make the dish more filling.

French Toast Casserole

  • 1 loaf bread ($0.39)
  • 6 eggs, beaten ($0.63)
  • 1 cup milk ($0.18)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla ($0.10)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon ($0.05)
  • ½ cup canned white beans, rinsed and pureed, ($0.20)
  • Fresh blueberries and strawberries (more Manager’s Specials–$2)

Tear up bread slices into bite size chunks. Place in a well-greased 9×13 casserole dish. In a bowl whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over bread chunks and let bread soak up the liquid. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Serve with favorite French Toast toppings (syrup, jam, cinnamon sugar, etc.).

Cost: $3.55

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Pam is an over-commited wife and mom of three who attempts to keep life creative everyday as she cooks, cleans, homeschools, scrapbooks, blogs, coupons, and, and, and. . . .

What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate rice, beans or lentils into your diet?  Have any recipes that you can share with us???

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Crystal April 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Pinto Beans and yellow rice with fried cabbage and cornbread is one of my all time favorite meals. I guess it has a lot to do with my mom cooking them when i was a child. Growing up I had no idea the meal was “budget friendly” I just thought it was yummy. So this is the way my family still gets there serving of beans and rice and we love’ em to death!

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cherry April 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm

it would be nice to have a “print this post” button on the guest posts. i want to try this recipe!

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom April 15, 2010 at 4:40 pm

@cherry,

Updated for you with the print link :)

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Amy April 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm

We recently tried an Alton Brown veggie burger recipe that uses split peas and rice as part of the mixture.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/split-pea-burgers-recipe/index.html

My husband liked it much more than Boca/Morningstar burgers, which is great since these ingredients are so cheap. I was thinking that this kind of recipe could probably be adapted to use black beans for a different flavor, but I’m not confident enough with my ability to substitute to try it.

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Pam April 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm

@Amy, I made black bean burgers (http://keepinglifecreative.com/beans/day-26-black-bean-burgers/) and they were really good. Maybe you could omit the meat and use rice. I’ll have to play around with that. Sounds yummy.

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Sara @ ThrivingMama April 15, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Beans often grace our table – in Three Bean Chili or as a side next to Fajitas or Spanish Rice Bake. Indian Daal is a great curry based lentil dish that is a great way to mix things up. All recipes (except the Daal) are on my website :)

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fairydust April 15, 2010 at 3:29 pm

That’s great! Just the other day I’d blogged about having bags of lentils in my cupboard and not a whole lot of inspiration, and someone mentioned Alton Brown’s lentil cookies. I haven’t tried them yet, but the idea of using mashed beans/lentils in place of fats and eggs in various other things like brownies and cookies is really cool!

Good luck to Pam – that’s one heckuva challenge!!!

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Pam April 15, 2010 at 10:29 pm

@fairydust, I just found a recipe for a sweet bread that has mashed lentils…can’t wait to try it!

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Demetria April 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm

So excited to try these recipes! We are HUGE Dave Ramsey fans! Our family has recently grown to 5 and I will be coming home from outside part-time work for good next month to be a true SAHM. We have eliminated over $30K in 29 months on a $55K/yr. income. The grocery budget is always the first to be squeezed when we want to make more progress on our debt. We’ll be debt free by late this year/early next thanks to living cheap! Thanks for these recipes. They’re so helpful in keeping expenses down so we can reach our bigger goals :)

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom April 15, 2010 at 6:32 pm

@Demetria,

Rock on Demetria! Great work on your debt reduction! These recipes will certainly help stretch that grocery budget so you can put more down towards your debt!!! Keep it up!!!

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Aman December 8, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I always wake CD up bainngg pots & pans or unloading the dishwasher. It drives him crazy! I could eat that entire bowl of chocolate hummus. Sounds perfect, and yeah, I don’t think it would be as good made with lentils.

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Annie Harbert April 15, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I have totally heard of the black bean brownies! I have yet to try them but I will try anything once!
I really enjoy Ham Bean soup which you can make from a bag of 16 beans from the store. I don’t use the seasoning packet in the bag since it contains many unpronouncable additives and way too much sodium. I add a little left over ham or no ham at all after the beans have been in the crockpot all day and wah-laa! It’s super delish! Don’t forget the corn bread! I also enjoy a good bean burrito from homemade refried beans and a side of Mexican or Spanish rice.

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charlotte April 15, 2010 at 6:19 pm

I am addicted to your blog. I like to combine my favorite chili (veggie or meat) and serve it over pasta instead of rice. Very filling but perfect after a cold day hike. And during the summer nothing can beat a 3-bean salad with freshly steamed green beans instead of canned. The trick is to use more vinegar and no sugar. I despise sweet, mushy bean salads from a deli, yuck! Throw some finely diced red onion in there for crunch, great fo picnic potlucks!

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Jenna April 15, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Here’s one of my favourites: Black Bean and Yam Quesadillas (http://www.wholesomebabyfood.com/solidfoodadventures/?page_id=90)

I’ve even premade the filling and frozen it, or frozen cooked quesadillas cut in 1/3 for lunches.

In fact, this is what we’re having for dinner tonight.

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Linda April 15, 2010 at 9:58 pm

How about Chick peas in Coconut Curry sauce? I think Dave Ramsey should have started a Beans and Rice Recipe column but I’m glad you are working on it. Good Luck with your budget.
Saute chopped onion in a little oil, add 1tsp red powdered curry (or more to taste) and a couple tbl flour. Add 2c chicken broth and 2 diced potatoes to cook for 10 minutes. Then add a handful of frozen peas, a can of rinsed chick peas (garbanzo beans) and 1/2 can coconut milk. Serve in a bowl over brown rice with chopped peanuts on top.

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Alexis April 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm

WAY TO GO!! That is incredible & yes…if you live like no one, later you will live like no one else! It’s certainly not weird when you have accomplished so monumental in the end. Keep it up! Love the recipes!

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DeeAnna April 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm

My father was raised in a farm labor family. They had 5 children and were very poor. They had beans, potatoes and cornbread for at least one meal every day. (Sometimes two meals a day.) He used to make that meal for us growing up and it was a treat! They were all hard workers and had to make sacrifices every day. Go rice and beans!

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Sarah April 15, 2010 at 11:53 pm

I just “invented” a recipe yesterday, to use up some refried beans that I had bought in bulk. :-) The whole recipe is very budget-friendly and easy to assemble. I think you could even make the refried beans yourself, by mushing up your favorite type of bean, and you can make your own enchilada (or mole) sauce if you want.

The recipe is posted here…..
http://womanshallnotlivebycoffeealone.blogspot.com/2010/04/im-just-makin-it-up-as-i-go.html

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Michelle K April 16, 2010 at 9:39 am

I tried to find the black bean brownie recipe on your site and couldn’t locate it. Can you post a link?

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom April 16, 2010 at 11:06 am

@Michelle K,

The link should be working in this post…click through from the post.

Erin

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Kathy April 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

I recommend a book called “Country Beans” by Rita Bingham, available on Amazon.com, as well as other sites. It teaches you how to use bean flour, among other things. I have a wheat grinder and have started grinding dry beans. No need to soak or cook! The flour can be made into a delicious cream soup, which can substitute for canned cream soups in all kinds of casseroles or to eat plain. It is much more nutritious. I also use a little of the bean flour (2 or 3 cups substituted for that portion of the wheat flour) in making homemade whole wheat bread. It adds a wonderful texture and the flavor is mild or not even noticed. I’ve tried white beans and pinto beans for this. Experiment with it! If you don’t have a wheat grinder, but have a STRONG blender, you can try that. Grind the dry beans, then use a sieve to strain out larger chunks.

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Shandra April 16, 2010 at 10:28 am

Hello all,
Well I’m not so sure of this yet simply because Pam you have 3 small children that don’t eat very much and are probably not picky eaters.. I have 13,12 and 8. I sent Erin a challenge to see if you all could come up with a way to fed my family for around 75 a week. I currently spend any where from 150 to 250 a week and i clip coupons and make alot of Erins meals. What else can I do?
Shandra

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Megan April 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

@Shandra, I’m not so sure you could do it for $75 a week but I do think it could be done for less than $150 a week. Only buy items that are on sale and you have a coupon for. Start keeping track of the prices of the thinks you buy most like milk, eggs, bread, meats, etc. In about 2 or 3 months you should be able to see what the lowest prices are and that’s when you want to stock up on those items. There are lots of ways to cut food costs some of which are using powdered milk instead of fresh, serving cheap sides with a meal to help fill everyone up, make koolaid/tea or use frozen juice cans to make drinks instead of soda or more expensive juices or boxed drinks, make your own cleaners instead of buying them, shop at a few different store to get the best sale prices, etc, etc, etc. It may take a little more work to save more money but it’s certainly worth it. Good luck. Remember too that just because Erin’s meals always come in under $5 doesn’t mean yours will too. In order to do so you need to watch sales and use coupons wisely but it can be done. Heck, I live in So Cali and I find the same prices, sometimes better, on stuff as Erin does.

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Karen April 16, 2010 at 11:14 am

that is genius. It gets the protein in w/o buying the expensive cuts of meat!

I never know what to do with myself, its just me and my husband, and he is the breadwinner, and we tend to eat individually but I am noticing that since he isn’t eating dinner @ home for the next 2 1/2 weeks, I consume a bit more than he does. (he only has lunch and dinner)

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SW April 16, 2010 at 11:53 am

The Jessica Seinfeld “Deceptively Delicious” cookbook has a great recipe for chocolate chip cookies with garbanzo beans inside. You just put them in whole (and you can’t tell in the finished product). They are really delicious. Can’t find the recipe online, but if you can check the book out at the library, there are a number of great recipes for “sneaking” in things like vegetables and beans.

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Beth in Ohio April 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm

I’m going to follow Pam’s challenge through the end. I’m very interested!

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Jen April 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I admire the challenge!! I think I’ll be trying to incorporate that as well. Just saw this recipe on allrecipes and thought of the post.
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Tasty-Lentil-Tacos/Detail.aspx#

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Alta April 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm

What an amazing challenge – I don’t think my tummy could handle beans EVERY day, but we could certainly incorporate some more of these ideas. I’ve made a version of the brownies with black beans before – I love your idea of using beans in other baked goods! The kids would never suspect..

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karen April 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I got a book a few years ago, I wish I could remember the title, but it was all about grinding beans into flours and using them in recipes to add nutrition/fiber, it was by Rita Bingham. If you looked it up on Amazon.com it might give you some more ideas to use beans in unusual ways in meals.

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Cheryl B. April 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Fairydust stole my thunder on the lentil cookies. I have not tried them yet, but still have that episode on my DVR. I was raised on lentil soup and my own children make it now that they are grown. I cooked a pot of beans and froze in serving sizes to have for my lunches. I think once you get used to eating a lot of beans they don’t bother you as much.

I can’t wait to try brownies with beans! I think Pam might have the makings of a book! Think Julia and Julia or the 365 crockpot site.

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Barbara(fast, fit, frugal, foodie April 20, 2010 at 7:21 am

Hey Pam, I love your challenge! I am such a bean fan and the reasons are 3 fold- nutrition, cost and taste. I could see how one could tire of them tho if eaten daily, so utilizing them in creative ways in food is going to be a must. I know I have pureed white beans with potatoes and a tablespoon or so of cream cheese, and that made a creamy rich tasting mashed potato. I also blogged about a crostini that I topped with pureed whitebeans flavored with rosemary, oh and one of my favorites- a pasta served with pureed chick peas and cherry tomatoes, my family loved that dish! (really inexpensive as well !)

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Condo Blues April 21, 2010 at 11:10 am

I’m making this for dinner tonight! To make it even more cheaply (and basically this is what’s on hand in the pantry) I put dried white beans in water in the crockpot overnight so they’d be ready to mash for dinner. I made a small loaf of bread in the bread maker since all we have is gluten free (coupon bargain!) and I’m not too sure how it will work.

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Anonymous cheapskate November 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I’m 20 years old and just went from making $30 to $40,000 a year and decided to really crack down on my budgeting.

By packing my lunches, cutting down on my meat intake, buying generic, I can cut my food budget to about $150 a month – maybe less than that.

it costs me about $1300-1450 a month to live, and I save about a $1100 a month. My intended goal is to buy a 1-2 yr old used toyota tacoma and move back to Colorado where I can be closer to nature.

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Therese May 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

We make cowboy beans and serve it with cornbread or add cooked barley to the beans. The original recipe I found used canned beans and cooked everything on the stove, but I’ve adapted the recipe to use dried beans and cook it in the slow cooker.

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