Many poor people in the United States don't buy fresh fruits and vegetables because they are expensive relative to processed foods. I agree that a $1 hamburger will fill you up much more than a $1 apple (and, yes, they can cost that much).
The issues of farm subsidies going to corn and meat versus healthy vegetables will not be solved on Snack Girl (not today at least :) BUT, the cheapest food you can buy in the U.S. is not meat.
For a mere $1, you can get a POUND of dried beans. A pound of beans will serve 6 people. Yes, for less than 25 cents per serving, you can serve beans.
And, if you combine beans with rice, you will get a complete protein the replaces meat and almost NO fat, a ton of fiber, vitamins, iron, etc. Most of the world subsists on beans and rice and it is really healthy and filling.
You can make it tasty, too! Just figure out how you like your beans flavored and you can have many delicious meals for almost zero money. I like salsa on my beans and rice. I lived in the Mission district of San Francisco for years and was influenced by all my neighbors from Central and Latin America.
A creamy luscious pinto bean and rice combination makes my heart pound with joy. How can you make cook beans so they will be delicious? My solution is the ubiquitous crock pot AKA slow cooker.
The problem is that beans need to be stewed for a long time to make them edible. I don't have TIME to monitor a pot on my stove to ensure it doesn't boil over for 3 hours.
The slow cooker's invention was inspired by the electric bean pot. This thing is MADE for cooking beans (along with pot roasts). It is so simple to soak your beans and then toss them in the slow cooker for a few hours. You can choose to season them with chiles, coffee, bay leaves, etc.
My favorite book for bean cooking is the great, "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook" (see below - only $1.98 used). In it, they go through the best way to cook beans and the different times associated with the different varieties of beans: pinto, black, navy, black-eyed peas, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
If you start making your own beans from dried beans, you will save A LOT of money over buying canned beans. $1 usually gets you a can of beans while 1 pound of beans is equivalent to about 4 cans. At this rate, you will pay for your slow cooker after you cook about 12 pounds of beans.
The calorie amount above refers to 1/4 cup beans, 1/4 cup rice, and some salsa spooned on top. This is a fantastic healthy snack.
Have you tried rice and beans? What is your favorite way to eat them?
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