My favorite market has a bulk foods section. Buying my dry beans and grains there saves me money, especially when compared to buying beans by the can, couscous by the little cardboard box, or oatmeal in individual packets (less packaging too!). Once home, I store most things in a variety of glass jars. It's easy to find and use things, plus I can see when I'm getting low on something. Besides, having everything in sight, as opposed to stuffed into a dark cupboard, makes it that much more likely I'll use it.
I like the way it looks too - so homey - decorative, and colorful too. Dry beans, especially, come in such a variety of colors - lined up in glass jars they can almost look like art. Around here, we usually have a "legume of the week." Each weekend, I cook up a big pot of a different bean, and then refrigerate the leftovers. Legumes come in such variety, we can go for weeks without repeating. And then, I can vary the way I use them throughout the week, too. It's nice to have something readily available for dinner on days when I don't feel like cooking.
Over time, I've developed a pretty good eye when it comes to buying in bulk. I'm pretty good at eye-balling how much will fit in the jar when I get it home. When I have a bit too many beans though, or a last little bit left in a jar before buying more, they go into the confetti bean jar. When I have at least four cups in there, I make confetti bean soup.
My Confetti Soup recipe originally came as a gift in a jar. I've since adapted it to put together my own gift baskets. I layer scant cups of black, red kidney, green split peas, white great northern, and brown pinto beans in a quart jar (or just fill with all of them mixed together), and then add a seasoning packet, pint jar of home-canned tomatoes or tomato sauce, and a recipe card.
Confetti Bean Soup (12 first course, or 6 entree servings)
4 cups mixed dry beans (best if some of them are split peas)
16 oz. stewed tomatoes
3 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
3 tablespoons dried chopped chives
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried savory
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
Sort through beans and remove any stones or shriveled beans. Rinse in cold water. Quick-soak in 9 cups water: heat to boiling over high heat, boil 5 minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let stand one hour. Drain soaked beans, rinse, drain again.
To drained beans, add 8 cups water and seasoning. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 2-3 hours or until beans are tender.
Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf, and serve.