Thursday, December 2, 2010

Calculating the True Price of Food: Bean Edition

I absolutely truly love you.
Because otherwise I wouldn't have just spent about 2 straight hours doing this -->
trying to figure out some information to share with you. I don't particularly like feeling stupid, but after some intense head banging, head scratching, phone calls with smart people I know, and emails and chats and Facebook posts, trying to figure out some intense math work (and consequently realizing why I was not built to be a mathematician), I came up with a chart that will help you figure out the true cost of beans, and the part that had me stumped for so long- how to figure out how much you're paying per gram of protein.
I really hope you appreciate this!

There are two charts here.

Calculating the True Price of Beans


The first shows what type of bean, how many grams it started off originally, and how many grams of cooked beans I got. It then shows how much I paid per pound originally, and how much I paid per pound of cooked beans, and, most importantly, how you can plug in the prices where you live to find out how much you're paying per pound of cooked bean.

The preparation for the raw beans was soaking them in warm water with baking soda for 2 days, with a water/baking soda change at the 24 hour mark, and then cooked until soft but not falling apart. (The lentils were not soaked- when I tried soaking them, they got so completely waterlogged that I couldn't include them on this chart.)

The preparation for the canned beans simply is the net weight vs the strained weight.

Beans
Type
Original
Final
% of Original
Original $/lb
Calculations to get $/lb cooked
$/lb cooked
Green lentils
Dry
250
396
158.4%
$1.25
Price times 0.63
$0.79
Navy beans
Dry
250
684
273.6%
$1.25
Price times 0.37
$0.46
Navy beans
Frozen
800
800
100.0%
$1.72
--
$1.72
Navy beans
Canned
410
260
63.4%
$1.58
--
$1.58
Black beans
Dry
250
650
260.0%
$1.75
Price times 0.39
$0.68
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Dry
250
575
230.0%
$1.25
Price times 0.44
$0.55
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Frozen
800
800
100.0%
$1.72
--
$1.72
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Canned
400
230
57.5%
$1.79
--
$1.79
Broadbeans (Fava Beans)
Dry
250
608
243.2%
$0.87
Price times 0.41
$0.36
Broadbeans (Fava Beans)
Canned
400
230
57.5%
$1.79
--
$1.79
Black eyed peas (Cowpeas)
Dry
250
612
244.8%
$1.62
Price times .41
$0.66

Reading the Chart:
From this chart, you see that canned beans and frozen beans are quite expensive per pound where I live! Outrageously so! This chart also helps me figure out that the cheapest beans are, in order: broadbeans, navy beans, chickpeas, black eyed peas, black peas, and then lentils being the most expensive of the dried beans I tested out.
You do the math:
For you to figure out the price of cooked beans where you live, multiply the price of the dry bean with the amount listed in bold on the chart above.

The second chart is the one that took the most brainpower, and I completed it only by sheer determination, after endless tears, and even so, I'm not absolutely positively sure that its 100% correct. If my math is wrong (I'll explain below), feel free to point it out to me!

Beans
Type
Weight (g)
Price ($/lb)
Percent protein
Amount
protein (g)
Price of protein (¢/g)
Calculating price of protein
Green lentils
Dry
250
$1.25
23.00%
57.5
1.2¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 0.96
Navy beans
Dry
250
$1.25
22.00%
55
1.25¢
Original $/lb
Navy beans
Frozen
800
$1.72
8.20%
65.6
4.61¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 2.68
Navy beans
Canned
260
$1.58
7.30%
18.98
4.76¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 3.01
Black beans
Dry
250
$1.75
21.60%
54
1.78¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 1.02
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Dry
250
$1.25
19.30%
48.25
1.42¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 1.14
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Frozen
800
$1.72
8.84%
70.72
4.28¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 2.49
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Canned
230
$1.79
5.00%
11.5
7.87¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 4.4
Broadbeans (Fava Beans)
Dry
250
$0.87
26.10%
65
0.73¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 0.84
Broadbeans (Fava Beans)
Canned
230
$1.79
5.50%
12.65
7.16¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 4.4
Black eyed peas (Cowpeas)
Dry
250
$1.62
23.80%
59.5
1.49¢
Original $/lb multiplied by 0.92

Reading the chart:
Again, this chart shows that broadbeans are the cheapest bean in terms of protein alone and not final weight. With the prices I pay for beans, I'm only paying 0.73 cents for each gram of protein when I'm buying broadbeans, as opposed to 1.2 cents for green lentils and 1.25 cents for navy beans, the next two cheapest proteins. In comparison, when buying canned chickpeas, I'm paying 7.87 cents per gram of protein- that's more than 10 times the price I pay for broadbeans!
Wow! I need to start buying broadbeans more! (I think I've bought dried broadbeans a total of 2 times in my life- and not because I don't like them. They're actually delicious!)
In order of most protein for my money to least protein for my money, the list is dried: broadbeans, green lentils, navy beans, chickpeas, black eyed peas, black beans... and then frozen chickpeas, then frozen navy beans, then canned navy beans, then frozen broadbeans, then frozen chickpeas.

You do the math:
If you want to figure out how much you're paying per grams of protein, you multiply the price you pay for the bean by the number written in the chart above and bolded. (Navy beans cost the same cent per grams of protein as dollars per pound.) Remember the price for protein is in cents and grams, not dollars and pounds.

The way I worked out the math is first I converted the dollars per pounds to cents per gram of food. To do that, I multiplied it by .22 . That is because 2.2 lbs are in a kilogram, 1000 grams are in 1 kilogram, and 100 cents are in a dollar. So you get 2.2 times 100 divided by 1000, and you get .22 .
Then I divided .22 by the decimal version of the percent protein. If something was 34% protein, I divided .22 by .34, getting .64, and would tell you to multiply the original price by 0.64.
Did I do the math correctly?

What stumped me really was trying first to do it in my head and trying to change dollars per pound to cents per grams, and then once I got that... I was at first mistakenly trying to figure out numbers based on the prices for cooked food from the chart above, and then I was trying to figure out percentage protein from the cooked food...
Yea, I was very confused.

So, here you have it. Now you know which beans are really most worth your while, and what has the best prices out there. You can even figure out how much you're paying per gram of protein, now that I did all the hard work for you!

Notes:
I did not actually buy the frozen beans, by matter of principle. They just were so expensive that I skipped them. I just assumed that their defrosted weight would stay the same, and just treated them as cooked beans, but I could be wrong.
The final price of the beans did not include water or cooking time, so that might adjust the prices somewhat, but they all used similar amounts of water and took similar times to cook, so I doubt the difference in price would be meaningful.
I did not include split peas, red lentils, black lentils, kidney beans, adzuki beans, cranberry/pinto beans, or some other beans in this chart. The first three because they fall apart so much that I wouldn't be able to get an accurate measurement of their final weight vs original weight, and the last 3 because I never buy those and they're even more expensive round these parts...

Soooooooooo, readers, I expect a thank you. That was really hard work, but I made sure to get the price per gram of protein after a reader of my starch price comparison thought I only cared about filling bellies with water, not nutrition. :-D
P.S. I already made a similar chart for different cuts of meat, and will be sharing that shortly, as well as a post on price comparison of healthier starches (upon reader's requests). After all's said and done, I will be making a post comparing the different prices of different proteins, including beans, meats, fish, dairy, nuts, etc...

How much do you pay per pound for different beans where you live? What beans do you usually eat? Do you usually eat canned, dried, or cooked and frozen? Do you think this chart will get you to rethink what types of beans you'll be buying next time?
Oh, and for people out there with a good head for math- does it look like I did my math correctly?

Linking up to Real Food Wednesday and Works For Me Wednesday and Pennywise Platter Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Friday Foods, Foodie Friday, Vegetarian Foodie Friday, and Frugal Friday.

2 comments:

  1. You are wonderful to have gone through all this work. It is very helpful. I do appreciate the time you put into this and I will make use of the conclusions you came to.

    And yes, I was sort of surprised by the some of the answers, especially in the grains one you did. I have had a sneaking suspicion potatoes weren't as cheap as tradition would have me believe.....

    Learn something new every day, don't we?

    Thank you again,

    Kim

    ReplyDelete
  2. As a SAHM and an economics nerd, I love when people do crazy awesome things like this. You have eternally made my life easier, and my heart is overjoyed to see the auto-calculations when I plug in the prices.

    ReplyDelete

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