Red Beans & Rice . $3.72

Years ago, my son and I had Red Beans and Rice in New Orleans – and if you’ve had that experience, you know how the flavors of that dish can literally haunt you; you’ll think about it, taste it again in your mind, and not be satisfied until you have it again. Luckily, its only a food or I’d sound like some kind of crazy stalker…

New Orleans' style Red Beans and Rice
New Orleans’ style Red Beans and Rice

When my son was young, he once tried to undermine my authority at a school conference and said we had “no food” in the house. (Really, he meant junk food – he was terribly jealous of his friends with freezers full of hot pockets and pizza rolls.) The teacher, knowing I loved to cook, just looked him up and down and said, “Well it’s not like you’re eating beans and rice.” My son and I both started laughing, because that is exactly what we had the night before and were planning on having again that night; left over it’s even better than the first night.

We often have to use sausages available here in the north at a reasonable cost instead of the lovely andouille – a basic smoked sausage or even a keilbasa, but do stay away from turkey sausage for this dish, which lends an “off’ flavor. If you’d like a bit more heat, pass the hot sauce. While many serve this as a simple meal on it’s own, it is a bit light on the veggies and can be heavy – think smaller portions and why not go full on Southern and pair it with super healthy Braised Turnip (or other) Greens?

If you love the wonderful cuisines of Louisiana, you may want to check out my recipe for Jambalaya and see how I make my Dark or “Red” Roux.

Red Beans & Rice, 8 Servings (generous)

  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 bay leaves
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pound red beans, rinsed (I like the small beans, not kidney, if available)
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 7 cups water
  • 1/2 pound andouille sausage, smoked sausage or kielbasa
  • 6 cups cooked rice
  • hot sauce
  • chili relish (optional – this has been very difficult to find in the north in recent years)

In a Dutch oven, preferably a heavy one, cook bacon till lightly browned. Remove all but a tablespoon of fat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently till soft. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds longer.

Add the rest of ingredients up to the sausage, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a vigorous simmer (should be steaming and several bubbles breaking the surface) and cook, uncovered, stirring now and then till the beans are soft and most of he liquid is absorbed, about 2 1/2 hours.

Stir in sausage and cook till liquid is thick and creamy, about 30 minutes, stirring now and then.(I often add my sausage in a bit earlier.) Serve over the rice with the hot sauce and/or chili sauce passed as a condiment.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

  • Dishes that make a large amount like this one have a huge potential for waste: It’s served the first night, maybe the second, someone uses some of it for lunch, then the rest languishes as the family grows tired of it. It migrates toward the back of the fridge and eventually someone looks at it, sniffs it, and pitches the rest.
  • Instead, when serving these types of dishes, think about serving the first night and then freezing the rest to pull out a few weeks later. This dish freezes quite well for short periods – put a layer of plastic wrap directly on the top. It’s always better to keep them wanting more.
  • This dish also seizes up and becomes very thick the next day – which means that someone could easily eat huge portions of it in a very concentrated state. Thin the left overs with a bit of water and it will stretch further.
  • Make sure you have a use for the other half of the sausage or freeze it. Might I suggest Jambalaya? Left Over Rice may be used in Fried Rice.
  • Bacon: Used to be an inexpensive ingredient, its price has risen with its popularity. Let’s face it, bacon isn’t the healthiest – we seldom use it here on its own as a meat, but do use it in small amounts in recipes, where I consider it as a “flavoring” rather than a protein. I buy on store specials and take advantage of coupons – my go to price is between $2.00 and $3.00 a package. I freeze until needed, partially thaw (until a knife will go through) and cut across the bacon from top to bottom. 1/16th is the same size as a strip. I wrap the bacon back up and freeze again. Cost for the bacon, $2.89 a pound, 4 slices (4 ounces) is 72 cents.
  • Onions: They keep well, so try to buy on sale. Aldi’s is a good place to find reasonably priced onions. Always less expensive in the fall/winter months, the pricing in my area runs from 33 to 66 cents a pound. Store them in a dark, cool place but not near potatoes. If you’ve bought too many onions, don’t let them go bad.
  • Slice or dice them, saute and portion into Ziplocs labeled “onions” and freeze. You’ve just saved yourself a step for next time you make a dish. If you have enough, consider making French Onion Soup. If you use half an onion, consider if you can sauté the rest and put it in a Ziploc in the freezer. If not store in the door where you’ll see it when you’re cooking next. 1 at 33 cents a pound, about 10 cents.
  • Bell Pepper:  There are two types of sales, per pound or per pepper. I usually look for the per pepper pricing; in my area it’s generally cheaper – I’ll then buy the biggest, most gorgeous ones I can find. The peppers are often bagged and sold by a unit price, too. A really good price in our area is about a fifty to seventy cents a pepper for the red, yellow or orange ones, and 40 to 75 cents for the green bell. Cost 66 cents.
  • Celery: Generally inexpensive, but does go on sale from time to time, so I buy extra when it does. Celery keeps so well, there’s no reason to not buy when it’s not on sale. Remember to use your leaves, they’re full of flavor, and if you don’t use them in your cooking, save them, along with the bottom parts for soup or stock.  Always wash your celery extremely well. To keep longer, slip a plastic bag loosely over the exposed top of the celery. A good price in my area is 98 cents a sleeve, with about 15 or so stalks in a sleeve. Cost for a stalk, 10 cents.
  • Garlic:  I look for a price of about $2.99 a pound, or about 54 cents a head. Check the pricing of the bulk per pound as opposed to the packaged. I never really find it on sale, but I use so much, I pay attention and buy a bit more when I see the price is lower.  Cost for 4 cloves, around 5 cents.
  • Chicken Stock:  If you read me regularly, I make my own with scraps of vegetables and bones – here’s the basic recipe I use for Best Turkey or Chicken Stock - it’s not particular and though it simmers for a long time, the burner is barely on – I just count it as free.
  • Beans: The lowly bean is one of the healthiest foods one can eat – eating beans regularly basically eliminates the issues so commonly known. Dried beans are so inexpensive to start with that they are seldom advertised as being on “sale,” but they often are after any Holiday in which Ham is considered an option for the main meal. Check for great pricing, too, in the ethnic aisles of the grocery store, as well as the pasta/bean aisle. Prices range, on sale, from $.79 to $1.00 a pound. Aldi’s had three pound bags for $2.39, which is the lower number. I paid $1.29 for this package, 50 cents too much, but I didn’t shop around and didn’t check to see if I had any when the Dec/Jan sales prices were available.
  • Sausage:  Brand named sausage goes on sale regularly, often at the same time the producer issues coupons. Watch your coupon sites. I normally pay 50 cents to a dollar for a package of smoked sausage, and the “fancier” ones are aggressively marketed and sometimes free. Cost for 1/2 package, 50 cents.
  • Rice: Look for the best pricing on rice around Holidays when coupons are most often available, and if you see a coupon, wait for the accompanying sale. Check your market near the pasta/rice aisle as well as in the Ethnic aisles. For a long time I was buying at 8 cents a cup (raw) but haven’t been finding that pricing lately. One cup = two cups cooked, so I’m guessing a bit here until I can figure out the exact amount. 25 cents?

Nutrition: This might be a day you want to sneak a lot of green/yellow vegetables in elsewhere.

Per Serving: 494 Calories; 7g Fat (12.7% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 78g Carbohydrate; 15g Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 672mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 5 Grain(Starch); 2 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 Fat.

Put your own spin on it:

Vary the sausage, as I did, and vary or increase the vegetables.  You can also throw in a ham hock, taso, or other ingredients to up the flavor quotient and add to the creaminess of the dish.

My Pay Off:

A filling, hearty, very cost-effective meal with plenty of leftovers.  I actually like to put a serving of rice covered with a serving of beans and freeze in a tupperware for lunches, before it’s wolfed down.

Pricing History:

Red Beans & Rice made September 2011 for $2.57. Remade and repriced in April of 2014 for $3.72. The only sales pricing that was actually more was the Rice and the Bacon; the sales prices are holding steady for the other items. Part of the extra cost was I didn’t wait for a good sales price on the beans and spent about 50 cents extra and made this when peppers (the most expensive of the vegetables) were out of season: I overpaid about 66 cents.

By the way, if I carelessly spend an extra 66 cents a meal, it’s an extra $722.70 a year – not a huge mistake, but it adds up. For some it’s a pittance, for others a meaningful amount. It’s all in the perspective, isn’t it?

Comments and discussion always welcome - tell me what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s