Beans are one of the best values around when it comes to the amount of nutrients for your dollar. One cup of cooked pinto beans provides 14 grams of fiber, 14 grams of protein, less than one gram of fat and around 230 calories. You get all of that at a cost of only 17 cents!Variety of dried beans

Many people don’t want to cook beans because it takes too long, but beans can be easily prepared in the microwave or slow cooker.

To prepare in a slow cooker, you must prep the beans by placing them in a saucepan with enough water to cover them, bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain the water and place the beans in the slow cooker in six cups of fresh water for every pound of beans. Cook on low for 6-12 hours.

To prepare in a microwave, place one pound of washed beans with 8 cups of water in a 5-quart casserole dish. Microwave the beans on high for 8-10 minutes or until boiling. Cover the dish and let stand for one hour. Stir several times and add water as needed to keep the beans covered. Cook at full power for 8-10 minutes or until the beans boil. Then, cook at 50% power another 15-20 minutes or until the beans are tender.

Dry beans triple in volume when they are soaked and cooked. If you cook one pound of beans (2 cups dry) you will end up with six cups of cooked beans.

Once beans are cooked, they need to be stored in the refrigerator and used within two to three days. Cooked beans can be frozen. To freeze, spread cooked beans on a tray to cool and then place in the freezer to allow the beans to freeze individually. Once beans are frozen, they can be placed in freezer storage containers or bags. This method allows you to take from the freezer only the quantity you need.

This time of year, many people put beans in their chili. That is one great way to use beans but there are many other options. Add beans to your favorite soup or casserole, toss thawed beans on a fresh salad, or mash your beans, add spices and make a healthy bean dip.

Next time you’re at the grocery store, be sure to pick up a bag of beans. You will save money and add some great nutrient value to your meals.