Though we don't really need beans or grains to store, we did buy another bag of brown rice that was on sale this week because I used some gift "buy yourself something" money to buy a rice steamer. I've looked at these before but felt that having to store a single (limited) use appliance was a bad idea for us, and I actually started out looking at crock pots. However, I've learned that some of them can be used for making other things, especially if they include a steaming basket, and so we changed our minds at the store.
The model we bought has the steaming basket and is insulated and seals tightly, generating little heat, which should make it a better choice for summer meals than the stove top. There are instructions for using it to make other things, like stews, so it even functions as a sort of crock pot. It even includes a timer, so it could be set up to start steaming the brown rice to be at exactly the right stage to add the vegetable steamer when we get home. Normally I'm leery of electronically controlled appliances because things can go wrong with them so easily, but this was very reasonably priced, and the steamers without the electronics weren't insulated and didn't seal tightly.
So, we'll be playing with it quite a bit this week. We tried steamed rice and vegetables yesterday, and the rice was very good and effortless. The vegetables went in late, so they didn't get completely steamed, but that's a matter of experience. Cleanup is pretty simple, just the pans to lift out to wash, with fewer pieces to clean than with sauce pans. I want to try using this to make my beans and rice dishes for my lunches. I think I might be able to steam my lunch hot dogs in the steam basket while they cook, which would make this extra efficient.
Although this should save us some money and a lot of time, my main reason was trying to improve our diet, especially this summer when vegetables are cheaper. Brown rice is much better for us than white rice, but as it also takes much longer to cook, we often choose something faster when we're tired in the evening. And steaming vegetables on the stove top often seems like too much work when we're tired. But with this, we can set up the rice before we leave in the morning and have the vegetables already in the steaming pan in the fridge, ready to pop in when we get home. We can also put pre-cooked meat on top of the vegetables to warm up for a complete meal---we normally cook up large batches of chicken breast meat at one time and freeze them in meal-sized portions, and that would be excellent with this.