The First Thing You Should Do with a New Bag of Dried Beans

updated Apr 20, 2021
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Someone holding a bag of beans.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

I have a fairly robust collection of dried beans in my pantry. (Coolest brag of all time?) I store them in upcycled glass jars, original labels removed, lids spray painted, and new chalkboard labels affixed to them. This system makes the most sense for my pantry, because once a bag of beans has been opened, it becomes pretty difficult to store. I’d rather decant each bag and then be able to easily measure out what I need — without having to worry about floppy, hard-to-organize bags.

Usually, my jars are large enough to hold an entire bag’s worth of beans (it’s all part of my well-thought-out plan!). But every once in a while I have more beans than jar space. Luckily, I have a smart use for the rest of those beans. And you might want to steal this, too, even if you don’t re-home your dried beans. In fact, it’s so smart, you might want to do this the next time you bring home a new bag of dried beans.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Use Dried Beans to Make a DIY Heating and Cooling Bag

Many of us have used a heating/cooling bag stuffed with beans, rice, or corn. Maybe you first bought one from a kiosk in the mall? You can nuke them in the microwave, warm them up in the oven, or stash them in a freezer and they’ll provide relief when you have an injury or discomfort. Even the weight of the bag itself offers succor. If you don’t have one of these bags at the moment, you can make one!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Here’s how to make and use your own.

  • Grab a long (clean) tube sock: If you know how to sew, you can stitch together a simple rectangle instead. 
  • Fill with beans: Pour your beans into the sock and tie a knot in the end or stitch the opening of your fabric rectangle closed. For an aromatherapy element, you can add a few drops of essential oil.
  • Heat it or cool it: If you want to use it as a cold pack, just stash it in the freezer. To heat, put it in the microwave for short bursts of time, rearranging the beans with your hands between each heating session, so that no one part of the bag gets scorched. 

Just note that this DIY bag is really meant for temporary use. It will need fresh refills every now and then (and maybe you don’t want to leave a sock full of food on your bedside table night after night). My tip? Use the opening of a new bag of beans as a reminder to check on your DIY bag and maybe make a new one.

Do you have any other surprising uses for dried beans? Tell us in the comments below!