Beans, bullets, and band-aids. A classic combination for survival. The beans most people store are dried beans, usually stored in big buckets. I have a few of those buckets myself, but over the years, I have also stocked up on plenty of canned beans. I use them in my chili to make the recipe come together faster, but it’s a smart idea to stock up on canned beans.
- Long shelf life — Canned beans have a long shelf-life and can be stored at room temperature. I’ve had canned beans on the shelf for at least 5 years, and they were plenty edible when it came time to use them. You want to make sure that all your stored food is in the coolest part of the house, if you want to maximize the shelf life. Old beans won’t suddenly become poisonous, but they will lose their color, nutrients, flavor, and texture. Still edible, just not as appetizing.
- High nutrition level — Beans provide plenty of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, potassium, and various trace nutrients, such as magnesium. During the canning process, a small amount of nutrients may be lost due to the added heat, but overall canned beans remain a nutritious food for storage. Add a tablespoon or two of oil and a bean meal will stick to your ribs for several hours.
- Pre-cooked — This is a biggie, to me. In a crisis, I may not have time to cook a meal or even heat up water for a Mountain House dinner, but for sure, I’ll be able to open a can of beans. They’re already cooked, so I don’t have to use up my fuel and won’t have to soak them overnight and then cook them for a several hours as I do with dried beans.
- Eat cold or hot — I’d rather eat canned beans heated up with some chopped onion and sliced jalapeno, but if I had to, cold canned beans aren’t a bad way to get a good dose of nutrition. It would also be a way to eat a quick meal without giving away your location due to the scent of food cooking.
- Variety — I’ve stocked up on canned beans of almost every color and size: lima, navy, pinto, black, garbanzo, kidney, red, and if I ever see any different varieties on the grocery store shelf, I’ll buy those, too! Not all beans contain the exact same nutrients and calorie amounts, so I figure that with a variety, I’ll have all our nutritional bases covered.
- Inexpensive — Usually I wait until I see beans on sale, but I also look for coupons to make them even cheaper. Canning dried beans is another very inexpensive way to get canned, cooked beans, and if you have beans you’ve been storing for 5 years or so, start canning them because sometimes dried beans reach a point at which they will never fully soften when cooked — no matter how long you cook or what kind of trick you use to get them to soften up. If you think that in an emergency, one can of beans would be a “meal”, then you really are getting a bargain when you stock up. I’ve also noticed that bean-based meals tend to be very economical — Cajun beans and rice, for example, or a bean burrito.
- Versatile — We put canned beans in my chili (I usually use 2 or 3 different kinds of beans at a time), add them cold to taco salad, and years ago, my wife even made some cookies that called for mashed pinto beans. We use garbanzos in stew and once my son learned how to make hummus, we’ve been going through a lot of cans of those beans.
A final reminder to keep your food storage in a dark, dry, and cool location. Fortunately, with canned beans, you don’t have to worry about insects chewing their way through the metal — or, at least I’ve never seen that happen. But you do need to worry about rust if you live where it’s humid, as I do.