Tonight: Red Beans and Rice.
By far the most economical meal of this week's menu, I will cook 1 lb of dried red beans ($1.19) and 3 cups of rice (probably about $0.75 worth of my 5 pound bag) and we will have enough food for three filling meals.
The beauty of red beans and rice, besides the economy of them, is the nutrition. Meats, fish, and eggs are complete proteins, which means they provide all the amino acids the body needs. Plant products are considered incomplete proteins since they have a low concentration of essential amino acids. However, if you eat certain incomplete proteins together their concentrations add up to make a complete protein. These wonderful food pairings are called complimentary proteins. An example of this is wheat bread with peanut butter, and -- wait for it -- red beans and rice! This makes eating tonight's meal just as beneficial as last night's pork curry, but without the additional saturated fat. And, beans have iron, potassium, calcium, and fiber.
Americans only get about 30% of their protein from plants, while the rest of the world gets 65% of their proteins from non-animal sources. In 2008, my mother spent some time in Tanzania and reports that the bulk of their diet comes from red beans and rice. It is delicious, filling -- with about 475 calories per serving (or more if you devour cups and cups of cooked rice like my guys do) -- and nutrient-dense, all for about $2.00.
Using dried beans is much more economical, but it takes extra time. As they say in Tanzania, "You Americans may have the watches, but we have the time." Here's how to make red beans and rice:
1 lb dried red beans
water to cover
3 cups rice
6 cups water
Things you could add if you weren't on a budget:
A few soup bones, for flavor
A chopped onion or 1 T dried minced onion
1 t celery seed
Sort through beans to make sure there aren't any rocks and then soak overnight, or at least 4 hours.
Drain soaking water, place beans in a pot and put enough fresh water in to cover by 2 inches.
Add soup bones and onion, if using.
Simmer uncovered two hours.
Partially mash the beans and season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce if desired.
Cook rice according to package directions, serve with beans on top.