Food Security in Beans and Peas, by CJ

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In recent years, I have thought a lot about food security. Food security means not relying on a “just in time” (JIT) delivery system that would, not could, fail in the event of a major national disaster. Just in time delivery is part of an automated inventory control system used by major grocery store chains. It allows a store to only order and stock in the warehouse what has been predicted to sell within a given time period. The advantage of this system for the local store is less waste and spoilage, and a smaller warehouse footprint provides an overall cost savings. It’s a brilliant system, as long as the store can get their deliveries in time. In the event of a major disaster, transportation would be disrupted and the entire JIT system would break down overnight.

The global economy has introduced threats to food security that we never worried about when I was growing up. We now have bananas from Ecuador and avocados and oranges from Costa Rica!?! As our society became more industrialized, people moved into the metropolitan cities and away from agriculture. Over the years, we have relied on importing many foods, often at a lower cost than growing it ourselves. Many people think you get food from a grocery store with no idea where the food comes from. What happens when imports stop for one reason or another, such as a world war? What happens when the grocery store shelves are empty? Many people don’t even know how to grow a garden, raise chickens for eggs and meat, or make and bake a loaf of bread! Fortunately, there is an enormous movement in the United States that can be described as “back to the earth”, “back to basics”, “organics”, “survivalist”, and “prepping”. The Internet has allowed for a phenomenal knowledge acquisition via YouTube videos, blogs, and websites. It’s the kind of information that Grandma and Grandpa learned from their parents and that was passed down from generation to generation, in person. It’s now available to anyone with an Internet connection. (However, my daughters still call me for tips and tricks to cooking certain recipes that I only know because my mother or grandmother taught me.) Even though the threats to our food security feels insurmountable, thanks to technological innovation most people can learn self-sufficiency and combat the threats to food security on a small scale. Everyone can begin to develop a plan. With that in mind, I decided to spend some time analyzing the food value, cost, and recipes associated with beans and peas, because you can purchase them in bulk at a relatively low cost. Dried beans and peas have a shelf life of at least a year and can store indefinitely in a cool, dry place.

Health Benefit

According to US Dry Bean Council, dried beans offer a number of advantages including:

  • Beans are one of nature’s nutrition powerhouses.
  • Beans are cost-competitive.
  • There are numerous varieties of U.S. beans to meet local preferences.
  • U.S. dry beans are all natural and non-GMO.
  • Beans have a long shelf life.
  • Beans are well suited for both emergency and development programs.
  • All beans provided meet USDA grading standards.

Beans are nutrient dense, low in sodium, and high in dietary fiber, protein, iron, and potassium. They’re also low in sodium with no trans fats and are a good source of carbohydrates. Across the family of beans, the micronutrients vary only slightly. Calories per serving vary between 60 and 120 calories, and one serving is amazingly filling. I analyzed the micronutrients of the following beans:

It was interesting to discover that small red beans were highest in fiber (18 G per serving) and lowest in calories (60). Lentils came in high in fiber as well (11 G) and low in calories (80). The beans with the highest potassium value are Great Northern, Baby Lima, Black, and light red Kidney with correspondingly high caloric value– 90, 117, 100, 100 calories per serving. I didn’t realize that people with certain health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, could greatly benefit from a diet rich in beans and peas. I always thought beans were “fattening”, and that’s about all I knew about them. Wow, did I learn a lot about these Super Foods!

Cost

I have started to shop at a local store named Cash & Carry Smart Food Service for bulk items. Many items I could get at Costco but not for the same low price. Walmart is another favorite store I use for stocking up, but Walmart does not always carry the bulk sizes I am interested in. C&C has locations in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The name is a misnomer; you don’t have to purchase with cash, though I’m advised to do so for the purposes of OPSEC. They have Point of Sale systems where credit and debit cards can be used. As well, they don’t advertise and are a food wholesaler. I called their headquarters to find out if I could purchase as an individual rather than a small business or non-profit, and HQ said that I could. I own a small business and a small non-profit, so I could have produced the licenses, but I didn’t need to. They carry everything you can think of, if you are in the food service business,including a large fresh foods section, bulk meats, and high quality frozen chicken, along with all the cooking and service supplies you could imagine. Their website allows you to select your local store and shop online by creating a grocery list that you can print out before you go, and it is useful for cost comparison with other stores. The downside is that I didn’t see organic food items. For the purposes of stocking up, I focused on household supplies and cooking supplies, such as bleach, white vinegar, olive oil, paper products, dried beans, flour, sugar, coffee, spices, some canned goods. I purchased bulk supplies in the 25 lb quantity, because I don’t reasonably have room for 50 lb bags nor the energy to repackage anything larger than a 25 lb bag. I spent approximately $270, but I won’t have to purchase certain items again for at least six months. The staff was very helpful in loading my car, and my family unloaded when I got home. As a disabled person, it was difficult to walk through the store and push, drag, pull heavy items onto the large cart; it took me a couple of hours to accomplish this task, but I was determined to explore this store myself. Even though it resulted in a lot of pain, I felt great about being able to do it. I’m sure the store staff would have provided a helper for me if I had asked. Next time, I will take someone with me for the heavy lifting, now that I am familiar with the territory. Below is a quick cost comparison chart I created by using the C&C and Walmart websites. For approximately $275, you could stock up on 275 lbs of beans and peas at C&C.

Type

C&C 1 LB

C&C 25 LBS

Walmart 1LB

Navy

$0.96

$23.99

$1.72

Pinto

$0.59

$14.78

$1.00

Great Northern

$1.30

$32.57

$1.34

Baby Lima

$1.34

$33.38

$1.98

Black

$0.68

$17.09

$1.53

Kidney (light red)

$1.26

$31.49

$1.50

Red small beans

$1.02

$25.57

$1.42

Green Split Peas

$0.78

$19.58

$1.37

Garbanzos Chick Peas

$0.95

$23.77

$1.37

Lentils

$0.76

$19.09

$1.27

Blackeye Peas

$1.37

$34.17

$1.75

Total

$275.48

A handy conversion chart is available online at the Bean Institute to help figure out dried beans as compared to canned beans serving sizes. The following chart is copied from the Bean Institute website:

½ cup cooked beans, drained

equals

1 serving of beans

one 15-oz. can of beans

equals

1 ½ cups cooked beans, drained

one 15-oz. can of beans

equals

3 servings of beans

one pound of dry beans

equals

2 cups dry beans

one pound of dry beans

will yield

6 cups cooked beans, drained

one cup of dry beans

will yield

3 cups cooked beans, drained

As I mentioned, the downside for shopping at C&C was no organics, but remember beans are naturally organic and non-GMO. We have attempted to move towards locally grown, home grown, organic and non-GMO, non-processed, high nutritional value foods. I can’t even put “fast food” in my mouth any more. I bought a McDonald’s hamburger recently, because I was on a road trip and had not eaten a meal in 24 hours. I can’t tell you how revolting that hamburger tasted, and I was surprised at my reaction. Back in day, as a single working mom with four young children, fast food was a part of our diet at least once a week due to sheer logistics. Now, as an empty nester who is not yet retired, I have more time to think, plan, shop, and prepare meals. As well, I spend time stocking up and cooking from scratch. Recently I became aware of the nutritional value of bone broth and began to experiment with making various soups and stews, hence my interest in beans and peas. We purchase our beef and pork from a local rancher who is dedicated to organic, grass-fed ranching. The feed they purchase for the pigs is 100% organic, and they don’t even allow the feed to be pumped up with vitamins and additives. Ever year, we purchase a side of each– half a pig and half a cow. The meat is processed locally, packaged, and immediately put in a deep freezer. The cost is very competitive, especially with the cost of beef soaring. We have a commercial freezer in our garage, and the meats fill it. We share the meat with our large family and friends throughout the year. It makes us feel good that we can contribute in this way. We have yet to source fresh, local, organic chicken that is reasonably priced and can be purchased in bulk. I keep teasing my husband that I’m going to start a business raising meat chickens, and then we both laugh because we can’t physically do anything that challenging. We sincerely appreciate our local ranchers, and they even deliver!

Last, but not least, learning how to cook a variety of meals with beans and peas that your family will actually eat could be a challenge for some, so start slow. Soups come to mind first, but stews, salads, dips, and shakes (yes health shakes made with cooked beans, spices, and green tea blended together) are all ideas you could expand upon. My favorite lunch is black beans and garbanzo beans mixed with a little Vinaigrette. I had fun creating a soup using a pork shank, fresh garlic, sea salt, stewed tomatoes, and pinto beans. I just threw it all in a pot and let it simmer all day. It is DELICIOUS with homemade Rosemary and Cheese Bread slathered with organic butter. Get the kids involved and let them create a recipe. I love red beans and rice rolled up in a tortilla; it doesn’t have as many calories as you would think and is certainly a fraction of the calories in a hamburger and fries! The Bean Institute provides recipes and recommends checking out the Culinary Institute of America’s World Bean Kitchen. I never knew that beans were so interesting. Think about it; a one pound bag of nutrient-dense beans, about six cups cooked, with a small piece of meat and/or lots of vegetables (from the garden if possible) plus a loaf or two of homemade bread could provide a delicious and very low-cost meal for a family of six. Bon appetite!

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