One thing I had never used/cooked were dry beans. I do not know why these tiny beans that can be found so cheap were so daunting to me. Sure I've used them plenty of times for arts and crafts and in a texture table for preschoolers...but I ALWAYS bought the canned beans. Boy, was I paying a premium!
While reading through A Year of Slow Cooking, I stumbled upon how to use your crock pot to cook the beans. It is so easy really, you may be kicking yourself for never trying it before.
First, buy a bag of beans. Any kind will do, I have done black beans and garbanzo (aka chick peas) I get the store brand, its $1 for 1 lb. Take this bag and open it up. Dump bag in crock pot( I have used both a 5.5 and 6 qt). Search through them and take out any non bean items(I've yet to find any) and any split beans. Cover the beans with water. Let sit for 6-8 hrs or overnight. In the morning, drain off the water and fill again about 2 inches above the beans. Turn crock pot on low for 6-8 hours(depending on the bean and your cooker) 6 hours works best in my cooker for black beans. Once they are done, drain again and divide.
But what if I don't need 1 lb of cooked beans? EASY! Measure them in 1 2/3 cup increments and place in either a zip top bag, container, or what I've been using press and seal. Wrap/seal and they can go right in the freezer. Then when you need them, just pop them out of the freezer and pop them right into your soup(or thaw for other recipes.) This is the only way I use beans now...and you are cutting down large amounts of sodium AND saving a bundle. After all, 1-1lb bag will give you 3-4 "cans". 1 can in the store can cost you 75 cents...unless you hit a good sale!
Needless to say we do eat a lot of beans now!