You ever see those articles or snippets on websites or in magazines that offer all this extraordinary advice on how to save money on your grocery bill? Well being that my husband and I are both in post-higher-education-poverty, I always check those little tidbits out when I happen upon them. And what to I gain from them. Not. A damn. Thing.
I already buy dry beans instead of canned. I make my own bread. I shop sales and use coupons. I go to outlet stores. I don’t buy processed foods. I buy from the bulk section. The farmers’ market is right down the street. We never have candy bars or soda pop or any other high fructose infused junk food sitting around our house. And if I had a space to grow a garden in that wouldn’t get vandalized, I would. So I sigh and huff and get a little irritated that there seems to be nothing more I can do to save on our food bill, aside from just not eating of course.
But there is one thing these frugalites have overlooked: the cost of stock. Sure if you eat meat you can buy whole chickens, use every piece and then make stock from the bones. You can’t exactly do this with a piece of tofu, however. And if you’ve ever seen the amount of vegetables it takes to make veggie stock, you’d cringe. For awhile I’d stalk the organic stock section at Freddy’s and wait for one of them to go on sale – I’d find a two for $5 sooner or later. But even at that price it’s expensive. You can use an entire carton just to make one soup. I know, I know, you can just use water. But water has no flavor and, obviously, no texture. My cost effective solution? Bean juice.
That probably sounds a little funny as the word ‘juice’ makes you think of something you drink – can you imagine a version of V8 made from pintos, yuck! But this juice is simply the liquid leftover from cooking dry beans.
I started buying dry beans a long time ago as they’re way cheaper and give you more control over the end result. And as I continually kept throwing all this leftover liquid down the drain, it occurred to me I could use it in more things than simply thinning out hummus.
There are around 40 grams of protein in a cup of most beans before their cooked, except pintos, those seem to only have about 12 grams. I’m no scientist but it seems to me that some of this protein is going to leach into the water as they’re cooking, and judging by the thick goopiness that is typical of my bean juice, I’d say I’m correct. And aside from the thickened texture element, there is flavor there as well. If you salt the water a bit while the beans are cooking, there should be a fairly substantial flavor remaining in the liquid when the beans are done cooking. It may not be the exact flavor of veggie stock, but it’ll work in many cases to impart some complexity to whatever you’re making, be it a sauce or soup or just sautéing some veggies.
You gotta be careful, though, on which bean juice you use. Cannellini (white bean) and chickpea liquid (pictured above) seems to be the most versatile. I’ve added them to tomato sauce, white pasta sauce, butternut squash soup, veggie soup and many other things. Black bean juice has lots of flavor, but it also has a lot of color. I made corn chowder once and threw some black bean juice in it… The taste was awesome but it was gray, and who the hell wants to eat gray chowder? So I’d reserve colored juices, like black bean and kidney, for applications that those colors, and flavors, benefit.
You can store bean juice in the fridge safely for I’d say about a week. If it starts smelling, and believe me you’ll smell it, pitch it. But you can also freeze this stuff. I usually just divide it into small containers, but you could also freeze cubes of it in an ice cube tray to allow for greater ease of use.
So there you have it. My probably not so original idea of using bean juice in place of veggie stock. It’s not the most glamorous of blog posts I know, but it saves you money and reduces water waste!