by Paul Fassa
August 11th, 2013
With our economy declining while food prices continue rising, you might feel compelled to not eat as healthily as you’d prefer. Or if you’re a meat eater, you may be discouraged by the higher prices of humanely treated organic grass fed meat sources. Have no fear, though – a few tips on eating healthy meals on a budget is just under your nose.
Choosing the Right Stuff
One tip for consuming meals that are satisfying while packing in the nutrition is to redefine certain ‘low-life’ food. This is about quality rice and beans’ merits; hopefully deconstructing this combination’s negative reputation as low-life food can lead to countless tasteful, quality meals to your dinner table.
Firstly, avoid all canned beans, even if they are organic. By now you probably know about the dangers of the linings in cans and their toxic BPA content. Besides, canned beans are more expensive than bagged dry beans and have been precooked, heavily compromising their nutritional value.
Don’t bother with any packaged rices either. You’ll spend more for less and probably not get the best quality rice.
Go to the bulk sections of your health food store where there are organic beans and rice. For optimum nutrition, buy mostly organic brown rice of any variety. White rice is okay too, if you select organic basmati white rice, especially if it’s “parbroiled”. (Parbroiling is an Indian technique for removing the bran from rice while ensuring most of the nutrients remain intact. Parbroiled basmati rice is used in virtually all Ayurvedic (ancient medicine of India) recipes because it is easy to digest is boosts basic health.)
But you may have to go to a store that specializes in Eastern or Indian foods to get parbroiled basmati white rice.
Related Read: 16 Foods that Store for 15 Years
A Fast Start Mini-Course for Cooking Beans and Rice
Dry bulk beans need to be soaked in good quality water before being cooked. This releases the phytate in them, making them easier to digest. Black beans need to be soaked for longer than most other beans.
Make sure you put 2-3 times more water than beans in the container. The beans will absorb the water and swell considerably. Let them soak overnight so they’ll be ready to cook the next day. If you start soaking the same day you plan on cooking, you’ll be able to tell the beans are ready to cook when you can easily bite through them.
Lentils, another member of the legume family, don’t need to be soaked before they are cooked, but it’s a good idea to sort through them in a shallow pan or dish to get rid of those pesky tiny rocks that sometimes come along with the lentils.
Lentils cook in around a half hour or less, with a 2:1 ratio of water to lentils. They go well with brown rice for dinner on a budget. Most brown rice usually needs very little rinsing.
Basmati white rice requires a thorough rinse to get rid of the oil coatings used to protect the rice during storage and shipping. Rinse in a fine mesh strainer under with high pressure water from the sink faucet until the milky quality from the oil coatings vanishes. Rapidly shaking the strainer back and forth sideways while the water flows through speeds this process up.
If you don’t have a ricer or rice cooker that’s not aluminum, you might want to browse the internet for cooking advice.
Then it’s ready to serve. Cooking lentils can be synchronized along with this 40 minute rice cooking period. But other beans, especially nutrient-rich black beans, need more time and should be started earlier.
Related Read: 5 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Time to Eat
You can use a variety of combinations to dress up beans and rice, such as premium organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and lime or lemon, or a fermented soy sauce (tamari) or liquid amino sauce such as Braggs along with chopped cilantro, onions, tomatoes or some finely chopped nuts or seeds.
Brown rice with lentils or garbanzos is great too. Peas and chopped nuts can be used with either brown or white rice as well. Instead of oil, organic butter or ghee is terrific, especially with white rice combos. A dash of real sea salt and whatever herbs you favor tops it all off. All yummy, filling, and nutritious.
Trial and error with various combinations will be inexpensive, fulfilling, and healthy. Many people find they have a problem with a budget type dinner that has only veggies on the menu. But adding high fiber bulky foods like beans and rice makes all the difference.