Budget Meals: 6 Unique Ways to Eat Beans and Rice

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Welcome back to the collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m here to give you tips on living a healthy, happy life on a budget.

Finding cheap, healthy meals to fill you up can be a challenge. How many times have you made a meal with what’s left in your fridge and been sad and unfulfilled by it? There is a solution! If you’re tight on your budget, but don’t want to order off the dollar menu, I suggest rice and beans.

Rice and beans is often thought of as a side dish to a Mexican meal. But the truth is that rice and beans is a powerful, healthy combo. Together they make a complete protein! Which means that you don’t always need animal protein with your meal in order to feel full. That’s what makes rice and beans such a great choice if you’re tight on your budget.

What kind of beans and rice make a complete protein?

ANY! Actually any whole grain and legume combined will make a complete protein with all of the amino acids your body needs. There are endless combinations.

Whole grains to try:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Teff
  • Millet
  • Farro
  • Bulgur
  • Amaranth

Check out my article on cheap grains to keep stocked in your pantry for more ideas on what whole grains to combine with your favorite legumes.

Legumes to try:

  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Edamame
  • Kidney Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Fava Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Peanuts
  • Adzuki Beans

Today I am just going to focus on rice and beans. I’ll give you some unique recipe ideas to make, but know that you can always switch out the rice for another whole grain you have on hand. Use whatever is already in your pantry, so it won’t take a lot of effort to make a delicious wholesome meal.

6 Unique Ways To Make a Meal out of Beans and Rice

1. Make it Asian-inspired.

Brown rice is already a staple of Asian cuisine, so throw some fava or edamame beans into your fried rice or stir-fry and you’ve got yourself a full meal deal.

Recipe ideas: Brown Rice & Adzuki Bean Bowl or Vegetarian Sushi Bowl

2. Have a fiesta!

It’s really easy to create a fun Mexican meal with rice and beans. Throw them in a burrito, taco, salad, or quesadilla and your meal is ready to go!

Recipe ideas: Black Bean Burrito Bowl with roasted sweet potato or Black Bean Burrito

3. Serve it Southern-style.

Cajun spice and barbecue are two of my favorite ways to flavor beans and rice. They’re a southern tradition, and make a delicious main course.

Recipe ideas: Red Beans & Rice or Healthy Southern Baked Beans served with rice

4. Make a burger.

Rice and beans actually make a great base for a veggie burger. Combine them with a few other ingredients and you have a cookout worthy meal!

Recipe ideas: Black Bean-Brown Rice Burgers or Easy Grillable Veggie Burgers

5. Throw it in a soup.

Make rice and beans the base of a hearty soup. You can make it creamy, broth-y, or tomato-y. The choice is yours!

Recipe ideas: Vegetable Wild Rice Soup or Spiced Fava Bean Soup with Rice and Tomato

6. Use Indian flavors.

Indian spices and flavors are one of the most delicious ways to combine rice and garbanzo beans (otherwise known as chickpeas.) Curry is my go-to!

Recipe ideas: Masala Chickpeas with Coconut Rice or Turmeric Chickpeas and Rice


A meal doesn’t have to be extravagant to be healthy and filling. Protein can be found in the simplest of places. If you keep your pantry stocked with whole grains and legumes, you’ll always have something delicious, cheap and easy on hand. Hopefully this inspires you next time your budget is low and stomach is hungry!

Follow along!

Over the next few months I’ll be covering a variety of ways to be healthy on a budget. Keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further