Dried vs. Canned Beans For Prepping: Why I Store Mostly Dried Beans


I’ve been storing mostly dried beans for long term storage, but I have collected canned beans for short-term emergencies.

Bulk dried beans are superior to canned beans as survival food in long-term storage. They can be boiled, sprouted, planted in the garden, or ground to flour. Dried beans are also less expensive, lighter weight, easier to store, with a proven shelf-life of 30+years.

I may be giving you the impression that canned beans don’t have a place in your emergency storage, but that isn’t the case. Let’s take a look at some pluses and minuses of each type of bean and when to use them.

Cooking Dried Beans Uses A Lot Of Water

Dried Beans require a substantial amount of water to prepare. If you’re new to storing food for survival, you may not know how important water is to survival.

According to FEMA, you need to store at least 1 gallon of water per day, per person to stay clean, hydrate, and to prepare food.

Federal Emergency Management Agency

To conserve water supply, canned beans are better for short-term emergencies because they require no additional water to make edible. To prepare dried beans requires approximately 3 cups of water per cup and 10 cups per 1lb.

Canned Beans Are Better For Short-term Emergencies

Just say no to Dried Beans for short-term Emergencies, canned beans are a clear choice.

Canned beans are better than dried beans for short-term emergencies because they are a shelf-stable, non-perishable food source that doesn’t require additional resources to make them edible. In an emergency, they can be eaten out of the can without heating.

Dried Beans Take A Lot Of Time & Preparation

Dried beans take a lot of time and resources to prepare. Not something you want to focus on when the world is falling down around you. Dried beans are for after the dust has settled and things are in working order.

In a survival scenario, dried beans need to be pre-soaked for 6 to 8 hours and cook for 45 to 90 minutes, and if the power is out, you are burning up a ton of emergency fuel and using precious emergency water.

Dry Beans Are Superior For Long-term Storage

Most of my survival beans are dried. All things being considered, it’s much easier to stock up large quantities of dried beans than it is canned.

Dry beans are superior to canned beans for long-term storage because they are less expensive if purchased in bulk, weigh less, take up less storage space, and provide a 30+ year shelf life.

Dried Beans Need To Be Repackaged

If you don’t plan on storing a large cache of survival food, say you just want the 3 day food supply suggested by FEMA, Canned beans are the clear choice because they don’t require repackaging.

Dried beans have to be repackaged for a maximum shelf-life of 30 years. The best DIY hermetically sealed storage containers for dry beans are Mylar bags,food-grade pales with oxygen absorbers.

I store all of my dried beans in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. If I have smaller batches to repackage, I use 1 gallon Mylar bags and store them in a plastic tub.

If I’m storing 33lb of beans or more, I line Food-grade buckets with a large 18×28″ Mylar bag, and throw in a 2000cc oxygen absorber, and seal the bag. Bam, a thirty-year shelf life.

Scott Ready Squirrel

Learn how to store dry beans by watching Ready Squirrel’s YouTube video, Storing Food In Buckets, and Mylar Bags.

Storage of Dried and Canned Beans

To maximize shelf life, 99% of everything in your emergency pantry needs to be stored in a controlled environment. Beans are no different.

Keep dried and canned beans in a cool, dry location, out of direct sunlight at 75° Fahrenheit or less but above freezing, if possible. Keep beans off the floor for airflow and away from hot appliances or areas with drastic fluctuations in temperature.

Take care of your beans and they will take care of you!

Dried and Canned Beans Have Similiar Nutrition

I was kind of worried about this with the canned beans. I’m not too fond of the idea of surviving long-term on something that isn’t fresh and has less nutritional value, but all being equal, they are about the same nutritionally.

Canned and dried beans have virtually the same nutritional value. Both types are boiled before consumption, and the canning process has little to no effect on a bean’s nutritional value. Canned beans may contain sodium, preservatives, or additional ingredients; dry beans do not.

Beans are boiled before they are eaten to remove lectins (poisons) present in the raw form.

Taste and Texture of Dried Beans: It’s a Personal Thing

Dried and canned beans indeed vary in texture and flavor, but you will have to decide which you prefer. Most people prefer the taste of dried beans that are pre-soaked, boiled, and mixed with meat and spices.

If I’m going on taste and texture, I prefer dried beans. In our house, they are more of a Sunday meal. When we don’t have a lot of time, we depend more on the canned variety.

Canned Beans Have Additives

Canned beans contain added sugar, salt, preservatives, or other ingredients. If this concerns you, stick with dried beans.

Rinsing Canned Beans Removes Sodium

In a survival situation dumping out the juice in beans wouldn’t be my choice, but if you are salt adverse, this is an option.

According to Kansas State University, reduce the sodium in canned beans’ up to 41% by draining and rinsing before eating.

For Maximum Shelf-life Avoid Beans With High Acid Ingredients

If you rotate your food stock then you don’t really have to worry about high acid ingredients in beans but they won’t last as long.

For the longest shelf-life on your canned beans, avoid beans with high acid ingredients like tomatoes. Canned foods high in acids have a shorter shelf life than base PH foods like canned vegetables.

Bulk Dry Beans are Cheaper

One of the reasons I rely heavily on dried beans in my emergency pantry is cost. If you purchase dried beans in bulk, they are much less expensive per cooked serving than canned.

Dry Beans VS. Canned Beans: Cost Per Cooked Serving

Let’s take a look at how much a 15oz can of beans will cost in relation to a pound of dried beans. You may be wondering what you get for your hard-earned money.

At the time I’m writing this one pound of dry pinto beans averages $1.60 per pound and provides approximately 6 cups of cooked beans. The average price for one 15oz can of pinto beans is $1.59 and provides approximately 1 3/4 (1.75) cups of cooked beans.

Chart: Average Cost of Dried Pintos VS. Canned

Bean TypeServing Size (cup)Average Cost Serving Size (cups)Average Cost
Dried Pinto Beans1.75 $0.266 $1.60
Canned Pinto Beans1.75 $1.596$5.45
When looking at the cost of dry beans, don’t forget to figure the cost of storage-supplies and shipping.

Dry Beans Weight Almost 50% Less

Before purchasing beans, think about where you will store them and how much weight your shelving can hold. Canned beans weigh almost double what dried beans weigh because of extra water weight and heavier packaging.

You would need to Store 171.42, 15oz cans of beans, weighing 91.81lb, to equal the cooked serving amount provided in one 50 lbs bag of dry beans.

Ready Squirrel

15oz Can(s): Weight In Long-term Storage

#15oz cans of beansServings (cups)Weight
11.7515oz
58.754.68 lb
1017.59.37lb
1526.2514.06lb
203518.75lb
2543.7524.43lb
5087.546.87lb
75131.2570.31lb
97.59 (Equivalent to one 50lb bag of dried beans without container)171.4291.81lb
10017593.75lb
129.30 (Equivalent to 66 lb of dry beans)226.28120.93
195.91 (Equivalent to 100 lbs of dry beans)342.85183lb
200350187.5lb
300525281.25lb
400700375lb
500875468.75lb
1,0001,750937.5lb
One 50lb bag of dried beans will provide approximately 300 cooked, 1 cup servings. For long- term storage, repackage dried beans into food-grade buckets weighing approximately 2lb each, depending on construction quality.

Top 10 Reasons To Sprout Dried Beans From Long-term Storage

Dried bean sprouting is like the secret weapon of long-term storage because sprouts provide a bounty of fresh emergency nutrition in just about any situation.

I’ll admit it, I don’t really like the flavor, but think of sprouts as ready-made vitamins in a true survival situation.

Ready Squirrel

Imagine you are in your bug-out location. Outside there are 2ft of snow on the ground. You’re out of root vegetables, and the garden is long gone. At this point, you are relying on dry stored foods with nothing fresh in your diet. You pull out a bag of white beans and sprout them for some fresh nutrition.

10 Reasons Sprouts are Awesome For Survival

  1. Can be Grown All-Year-Round. 
  2. Don’t Need Light To Grow (put in the sun for chlorophyll)
  3. Sprouts Contain: Vitamins, Amino Acids, Micronutrients, and Protein
  4. Bean’s remain viable for Sprouting, 1 to 5 years
  5. Frozen Beans Remain Viable Up To 20 Years
  6. Sprouts Are Eaten Raw Or Cooked.
  7. Sprouts Can Be Grown Indoors Regardless of Weather Conditions
  8. Sprouting is Easy
  9. Sprouting Equipment and Seeds Are Inexpensive
  10. Sprouting Animal Feed/Fodder, a 50lb bag of beans, can be sprouted into 300 lbs of animal feed

Viability of Sprouting Beans

Keep in mind, if you pull out a 30-year-old bag of dried beans, they probably won’t be viable, meaning they won’t sprout for eating.

  • Seed Viability: If beans are too old or stored improperly, they won’t sprout, and Beans need to be dried properly. Fresh green or soft beans won’t sprout.
  • Irradiated beans are dead and won’t sprout

To learn more about sprouting beans and seeds, check out the Ready Squirrel Article, Sprouts Are An Excellent Survival Food.

Grow Stored Beans In Your Survival Garden

If you plan on sprouting beans in a survival scenario, it is probably better to start collecting beans from garden plantings because it is a sustainable way to avoid running out of beans to plant or sprout.

You can sprout beans from your long-term storage, as long as they are viable and haven’t been irradiated.

Grow Beans For Storage and Gardening

Plant non-hybrid seeds, grow plants, and collect the seeds annually.

Dry and store some of your harvest for sprouting and for next year’s garden. That way, you will always have viable bean-seeds to sprout, plant, and harvest for eating fresh or canning.

MI Gardener: How to Save Bean Seeds

Learn How to Save Bean Seeds

Dried Beans Can Be Ground For Flour

Another excellent use for dried beans in long-term storage is to grind them into flour. Good if beans are old and tough or as a protein supplement with wheat flour.

Use a Grain Mill to Make Flour From Beans

I just purchased a Country Living grain mill to grind wheat berries I haven’t received it yet but I think it’s going to be a game-changer giving me the ability to make flour from grain and beans

The downside I had to buy a special auger to mill larger stuff like dried beans and dent corn.

If you are planning on milling beans to flour make sure your mill has the capability and/or you have the attachment on hand.

What Can I do with Bean Flour?

Bean flour is overlooked survival food. It contains 21 to 27% protein by volume and can be used as a backup or supplement for wheat stores.

Combine bean and wheat flour to bake bread, you get a full Protein. Not to mention, bean flour makes some quick dips for things like crackers, bread, and fresh produce.

Ready Squirrel

11 Uses For Bean Flour

I haven’t made any of this stuff yet but when I get my mill I will.

  • Make: gluten-free bread, crackers, tortillas, pizza dough, biscuits, cream soups, bean dips, gravies, and tamales
  • As a thickener for soups, stews
  • As a protein additive.

8 Popular beans for flour

Chickpeas, Navy beans, Fava Beans, Black Beans, White beans, White kidney beans, Lentils, and Green Peas.

8 Reasons Dried Beans are Excellent for Making Flour

One of the first things I’m going to do with my new mill is grind some pinto beans into flour for home-made bean dip. 8 reasons beans are excellent for making flour.

  1. Easier to hand grind than wheat
  2. Bean Flour gives a feeling of fullness
  3. Gluten-free
  4. Dried Beans last decades longer than wheat flour
  5. Add Protein to soups and stews
  6. Add protein to vegetarian dishes like vegetable fritters from your survival garden
  7. Quickly make cream soups and dips
  8. Use as a substitute or to stretch wheat flour

Dried Beans Have a Longer-Shelf Life Than Canned Beans

Dried beans are the better choice for the bulk of your long term storage. Not only because they are more flexible but also because they can be predictably stored for so long.

The shelf-life of properly stored dried beans with less than 10% moisture, stored in a cool, dry location in a sealed Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, is 30 years. The expected shelf life of a can of beans is indeterminate.

Canned Beans: Best Buy Date

Some preppers use the best by date on a can of beans to determine when they are no longer edible, but the “best by date” isn’t an expiration date.

There are no hard and fast rules on canned bean shelf-life. Choose dried beans over canned for long-term storage. You can generally determine how long they will last if stored properly.

Ask yourself, “what’s the shelf life of a can of beans?” The answer, “they go bad when they go bad.”

Most hardcore preppers will say that canned beans last much longer than 5 years, maybe a decade or more but we don’t have a reliable way of knowing just how long canned beans will store.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service, there are three Dates that may be on food products and none of them tell you when canned beans are inedible.

  1. A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  2. A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date and is not required by law.
  3. A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for using the product while at peak quality. The manufacturer of the product has determined the date. The Use-By date is typically on refrigerated foods like milk and eggs.

Read the entire USDA document concerning Food Product Dating. See the link under resources at the end of this article.

Signs That Canned Beans Have Gone Bad

Avoid using cans of beans that show any of the following signs:

  1. Leaking or stained
  2. Swollen
  3. Rust
  4. Badly Dented
  5. Cracked
  6. Foul Odors
  7. Missing or loose lids
  8. Meat in the can has a change in color or odor
  9. When in doubt, throw it out
  10. Don’t taste-test meat you are not sure of

How to Cook Dried Beans Quicker and Soften them Up

One drawback to cooking dried beans when compared to canned is they take so long to cook. Also, as beans age, they may get tough, especially if they aren’t stored properly. Try using Baking Soda to Soften them up and salt to quicken cook times.

Baking Soda Trick To Soften Tough Dried Beans

In a study performed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the addition of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in pre-soak water and/or cooking water reduces cooking time and the toughness of beans. Add 1 tsp per 3 cups of water to soften and speed cooking time.

The more baking soda used, the quicker beans will cook and soften but use too much, and your beans will have an off-flavor and become mushy.

Grind Beans Into Flour: When all else fails, make flour with tough old beans.

Add Salt To Dried Beans They Cook Faster

Some cooks say adding salt to beans before cooking makes them tough, but according to the United States Department of Agriculture, dry beans cook quicker when salt is added to the cooking water because it breaks down the bean’s tough outer coating.

I’ve cooked beans with and without salt and I can’t tell the difference.

Conclusion:

Ultimately, it would be best if you had both canned and dry beans in emergency storage. Canned beans are excellent for short-term emergencies; they are more convenient and take fewer resources to make an edible meal. Dried beans are preferred for long-term, bulk storage because they are less expensive, more flexible, and longer shelf-life.

Stay Salty.

Scott

Sources:

What Bean Is The Best For Long Term Storage, Ready Squirrel, Scott Foster link

Food and Water in an Emergency, FEMA Pamphlet 477, A5055, August 2004 link

Cooking with Dry Beans: Food Science Insights and Strategies from Dr. Guy Crosby link

Development of Rapid Methods of Soaking and Cooking Dry Beans, U.S. Department of Agriculture PDF

Cooking with Beans and Legumes, Connie Bretz, Walnut Creek Extension District PDF

DIY Sprouted Fodder for Livestock, Mother Earth News, Sarah, Cuthill, link

Food Product Dating: USDA United States Department of Agriculture link

Shelf Life of Food Bank Products: Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank link

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