Rice & Beans On The Road To Financial Independence

Why do rice and beans get such a bad rep? Such a beautiful and colorful dish. So fulfilling and packed with nutrition. I can’t, and won’t, stand for it any longer. I have to speak out for what is right!

Rice and beans are my favorite food

It helps that I am from the Caribbean, where rice and beans are part of just about any lunch and dinner. In other words, I didn’t have a choice but to like rice and beans, unless I wanted to starve.

If you ever have a chance to visit either the Dominican Republic, or just a Dominican restaurant, you’ll inevitably see a dish called “La Bandera”. This translates to “The Flag”. This dish will typically consist of white rice, kidney (red) beans, some type of sautéed meat, and a small salad (lettuce and tomatoes) drizzled with oil, vinegar and salt.

Since I grew up on rice and beans, naturally I would continue to eat them when I left my parents’ house to strike out on my own. And so far, it has served me well.

Rice and beans remove decision fatigue

Obviously, we all have to eat and we have to do it daily. That means every single day, after using up all of our brain energy at work, we have to come home and make yet another decision about what food to prepare and put into our bodies.

I was amazed to learn of my wife’s eating habits. She would see what she was in the mood for at the time, go to the grocery store and grab only those items, and then spend another hour plus cooking. My wife is a great cook and I enjoyed the spontaneity in the beginning of our courtship. But I knew this method was wildly unsustainable and would lead to eating-out more often than not. Especially as careers start to get more demanding and you add kids to the mix.

Every day, I know I will (most likely) eat rice and beans. The only question is, what vegetable I will pair with my meal and wether avocados are in season (on sale).

I like to cook in 3-4 meal batches so I can pop it into the microwave and eat as soon as I get home. But, white rice takes only 20 minutes to cook and canned beans take about the same. If you have some kind of stigma about using canned beans, fresh beans normally have to be soaked the night before or cooked for a few hours. I have yet to master the art of cooking fresh beans.

Rice and beans are versatile

I don’t restrict myself to just white rice and red beans. No sir! There are so many variety of beans. Black beans are popular here in the U.S. Garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) are also delicious and usually consumed in the form of hummus. You also have green and red lentils which are packed with protein and fiber. And many more!

Personally, I toggle between red beans and black beans, with lentils sprayed in between days, when I want to change things up.

And when it comes to rice, I like to use plain white rice. But you can opt for brown rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice, etc. Be prepared to pay a premium for these options.

Rice and beans are cheap

In the Financial Independence (FI) community, there is an unwritten goal to keep the cost of each meal to $2 or less. If you did the math on that…$2 per meal, eat 3 meals per day, 365 days in the year…you’d spend $2,190 per year. That comes out to $42/week or $183/month. These numbers are in line with what I remember spending when it was just me, no family, before discovering the world of FI.

A pound (2 cups) of rice might cost you $1 on the high end these days. And you might be able to get 2 cans of beans for $1 if you get them on sale. Of course you’ll need the right seasonings (Goya, obviously) and other add-ins, but those costs are mostly negligible when spread over their use. In other words, I refuse to calculate the cost of a dash of salt.

With this combo, 2 cups of rice and 2 cans of beans, I can easily make 4 meals. Thats $0.50 per meal. I can then pair that with any vegetable of my choice to make my meal complete. Even back when I was a heavy meat-eater, I would pair my rice and beans with chicken and still stay around these levels.

Rice and beans – Nutrition facts

Rice is often shunned by many American fad diets because of carbohydrates (carbs). I don’t subscribe to it. All I know is that rice and beans are natural foods, and together they provide plenty of protein and fiber, among other things.

Obviously Im not a doctor and nutritionist, I just go off of my observations and what makes sense. This is going to sound crazy, but Asian people consume lots of rice and are generally some of the slimmest people around.

Full disclosure, as I am approaching 40 and starting to feel my age a little bit, I’ve been struggling to get (back) in fighting-trim. Dropping 10 lbs takes significant effort for me these days. I’ve experimented with cutting rice out of my diet for a period of time and did not notice a difference.

Bottom Line

I realized that when asked what a typical meal for me consisted of, without being asked further I would immediately explain or try to justify why I eat rice and beans.

Whenever I read an article or listen to a podcast about getting your finances in order (for example), inevitably they would mention eating rice and beans as some kind of ultimate sacrifice.

Enough already! I love eating rice and beans and I have obviously passed down my eating habits to my kids. Well, at least to my 3 year old. She eats a rice/bean/veggie combo daily. My other baby is just starting solids and I can’t wait for him to discover this wonderful world. I hope it serves them well on their journey to (2nd generation) FIRE!

The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus, who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, “If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.” Said Diogenes, “Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.”