In Praise of Pork & Beans

A topic that seems to be near and dear to everyone’s heart lately is the rising cost of living, in particular, food. After the economic crisis exploded a few years ago, few people remained untouched. Suddenly, everybody was talking economy. Thumb through your favorite magazine and where once before there were recipes for gourmet goodies, there are now articles on how to stretch your grocery dollar. Beans have never been more en vogue! Turn on your television and the commercials are focusing on phrases such as “frugalista” and “fashionomics” (thank you, Winners!) My mother and I had a good giggle a few years ago after reading a list of tips on how to cut back yet still live a rich and fulfilling life in the wake of the economic collapse – all their tips were things Cape Bretoner’s had been doing for years!
Whether out of necessity or a good dose of common sense, more and more people are giving their shopping lists a frank perusal and looking for the places they can cut back. Being budget conscious has become trendy, and frankly, that’s a good thing on a lot of levels. Not only do you save money, but occasionally there are other benefits, such as a healthier diet and lifestyle, and a greener home. In our household alone, we made a decision to stop buying bottled water and to reduce the amount of processed and pre-packaged food we purchased. Two years later, I wonder why we ever purchased bottled water in the first place, and cringe at the thought of all those bottles. Giving up the pre-packaged stuff wasn’t a big deal; we were never that into it anyway, although I did occasionally throw candy and snacks into the cart “just to have on hand.” Inevitably, these goodies got cracked open while I was putting the groceries away. Simply by not allowing them in the door, I’ve eliminated the temptation and saved money!
Making frugality into a challenge and a game is great, but it can be even trickier depending upon where you live. As anyone who’s ever lived “off the beaten path” can attest, the further your provisions have to travel, the more they’re going to cost!!! In particular, if it’s heavy or fresh, you can almost guarantee it’s going to cost a lot more than the national average. This is the case in our neck of the woods. And although we may grumble about it on occasion, it’s just part of the reality of living in the North, and you learn to adjust. For myself and a lot of people I know, that means watching the flyers and stocking up on basics when they are offered at a good price. You can imagine the excitement that ensued last week when our local grocery store announced it was having a CASE LOT SALE!!!
For those of you not familiar, a case lot sale, (or truck load sale as they’re also known), happens when a retailer brings in large quantities of certain items and sells them at a discount for a limited time. Generally, these items are sold in bulk on flats. It’s a great time to stock up on canned and dry goods, such as tomatoes and rice.
Among the items I purchased was a case of beans and pork. I consider beans and pork to be one of the most charmingly retro staples money can buy. They are low-fat, filling, and have stood the test of time. No camping trip is complete without them! And during case-lot week, they were dirt cheap. In our household there is always a debate between tomato and molasses; this time tomato won (in case you were wondering, I prefer molasses!).
Now, while there is nothing wrong with eating the beans “as is,” they can get a little dull. As I was getting ready to heat up a few cans for lunch yesterday, I got to thinking about the ways people jazz up good old pork and beans. My dad likes to put relish on his (regular green will do but my mom makes a zucchini relish that’s unbelievably great!). A friend of mine adds pineapple chunks (this was really delicious!! I’m going to try it some time with a few chunks of leftover ham thrown in as well.) And let’s not forget beans and wieners!!!
Inspired, I decided to try my own interpretation. To two 398 milliliter cans of pork and beans in tomato sauce, I added half a 796 milliliter can of drained, diced tomatoes, a handful of frozen peppers and onions, another handful of frozen corn, a teaspoon of chili powder and a generous squirt of chipotle hot sauce. The result was terrific, Barbeque Baked Beans that I would have no problem serving alongside ribs instead of my regular slow cooked baked beans!
In future posts I’ll be revisiting the concept of using every day, sometimes boring ingredients in new and delicious ways, as well as ways to stretch your grocery budget. If you have a trick or tip, email it to me at .
In the meantime, I’d love to know if you have a creative way of dressing up canned beans! Share in the comments!

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