Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Doing the Math ~ Pinto Beans

I spent over an hour last night standing on my feet sorting 25 pounds of organic pinto beans.  As it got closer to midnight my back hurt and I was really thinking that it was more trouble than it was worth, but I figured that by this morning I'd be glad that I had slogged on.  One night's work was going to save me from sorting beans for the next 3 months.

I picked over the beans, pulling out bits of gravel and shrunken beans, then repackaged the beans in freezer bags.  I ended up with 5 cups of beans soaking for tonight's supper, 11 full packages (5 cups each) of beans, and one half package (2.5 cups).  For the next 11 weeks I will be able to grab a bag of beans from the freezer and set them to soak without needing to sort them.  It may only save me 5 - 10 minutes of time per week, but it moves bean soaking into a task that a child can do easily, or one that takes me almost no time when I realize at midnight that I forgot to soak beans.

I found some added benefits to having processed the entire 25 pound bag in one fell swoop.  I've never known exactly how many batches of beans I get from a bag, nor did I know the weight of the beans I use each week, making it difficult to determine how much each batch cost.  I don't have a kitchen scale and I didn't know how many cups were in the bag.  Since I ended up with 12.5 batches of beans I now know that I cook 2 pounds of beans at a time, that there are 2.5 cups of pinto beans in a pound, and that there are approximately 62.5 cups of dry beans in a 25 pound bag.

I also didn't know how many beans I use over the course of the year; now I know that the answer to that is approximately 100 pounds of beans.  I also know when to order beans again from the co-op.

I was able to figure out my cost per batch, which is $1.78 for the beans and another 7 cents for garlic and salt, bringing it to $1.85 per batch.  I make a lot of beans each week; we eat the beans as a soup the first night and then use them in two more suppers during the week (usually tacos and some sort of bean casserole).  The main (organic) protein for 3 suppers costs me only $1.85 and sometimes we even have extras for lunches!

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