Read time: 3 min

By: Eliot Dittmer, UW Oshkosh Senior Peer Wellness Educator

In these certainly unprecedented times, many people are finding new hobbies and ways to fill up their time. A great new hobby to adopt is cooking. Learning to prepare meals that will be both nutritious and cheap is an invaluable skill that will carry across through a lifetime. Additionally, cooking meals that will last over extended periods of time not only saves time, but money as well. Two staple foods that are often found in the back of people’s cabinets and are often rarely used are lentils and a variety of beans. These foods are part of the legume family and are cheap, nutritious and very versatile across many dishes. 

Beans come in many different forms such as pinto, great northern, black, garbanzo (chickpea), and many more.  Black beans have 7g of protein and 8g of fiber per ½ cup serving, which is very beneficial in keeping the body full and energized throughout the day. Canned beans are very cheap and convenient, however dried beans are even cheaper and very easy to prepare. Additionally, dried beans can last up to 2 to 3 years in the pantry. According to The Bean Institute, “Dry beans cost less per serving than canned beans. For example, a one pound bag of dry pinto beans costs, on average, $1.79 and will make 12-½ cup servings of cooked beans whereas a 15 oz. can of national brand pinto beans costs $1.69, a store brand can cost $1.19, and each provides 3.5-½ cup servings”. Also, a half-cup of dried beans prepared at home costs only $0.17 (UNL Food). How does one go about preparing dried beans? The easiest way to prepare the beans is just doing an overnight soak. For every pound of beans, add 10 cups of cold water and cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day they can be rinsed and cooked just as one would with canned beans. This method is very simple and only takes a few minutes of preparation. 

Lentils are very similar to beans in nutritional value with 9g of protein and 8g of fiber per ½ cup serving. They are also extremely inexpensive. A 16 oz. bag of lentils from Walmart comes in at $0.98 or $0.06 per ounce. Luckily lentils do not have to be soaked like beans. The first step in preparing lentils is to rinse them off with water. The lentil to water (or other liquid such as broth or stock) ratio is typically 1 cup to 3 cups. The only other steps are to bring the mixture to a boil and cover and reduce heat for around 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft and tender. 

Next time you’re at the grocery store, try to stock up on some dried beans and lentils. As mentioned they check both of the most important boxes when looking for food at the store, cheap and nutritious. Keep an eye out for recipes featuring beans and legumes in future postings on the UW Oshkosh Student Recreation and Wellness Center social media pages.