01 October 2016

Weekend Cooking: Budget Bytes by Beth Moncel

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Review: Budget Bytes by Beth MoncelAs you've likely figured out by now, I love to cook and I love to use fresh, good-quality ingredients. On the other hand, I'm often astounded by our grocery bills. It's just the two of us, we eat meat only three times a week, and still our bills are ridiculous.

What do families do? Especially those of you with teenagers.

Anyway, I am often on the look-out for ideas that fit my Campaign tastes but that will push me into a beer budget. Enter Beth Moncel, whose cookbook and blog, Budget Bytes, are focused on just this issue.

I'm still exploring Moncel's blog, but I've been devouring the tips in her cookbook, which start with her six principles of sticking to a budget. Some of these I've learned on my own--like using ingredients wisely and remembering to take advantage of the freezer. But some of Moncel's shopping tips are new: I didn't know, for example, that curry powders and pastes are often less expensive in Asian and Indian markets than they are in the grocery store.

Many of us here at Weekend Cooking have logged a lot of hours in our kitchens, and so I need to say that the focus audience of Budget Bytes is younger, more inexperienced cooks. At the same time, however, even an old hand like me found some fresh ideas. Besides, basic, easy recipes are perfect for everyday meals after a long day at work, and I'm always happy to cut that supermarket bill down to size.

So what are the recipes like? You might be surprised that I'm particularly interested in the breakfast chapter, which includes several make-ahead meals. Wouldn't it be great to streamline a busy morning?

At the heart of Budget Bytes are the main-meal recipes, most of which are freezer friendly. New cooks and young people watching their finances can rejoice: Moncel has proven the point that easy plus inexpensive doesn't equal boring. She has recipes for Southwest taquitos, Asian-inspired chicken sliders, Greek salads, and down-home barley soup.

All of the recipes are within the skill level of new(ish) cooks, and together the recipes offer a good starting point for anyone trying to eat well and save money. Note too that Budget Bytes includes a nice percentage of vegetarian and vegan recipes, most of which do not rely on soy products.

Each recipe is flagged by cost ($, $$, $$$) and by whether it can be frozen. Moncel also gives us useful cooking and buying tips.

Recommendations: Beth Moncel's Budget Bytes not only has delicious doable recipes but is also a solid resource for helping us make smarter choices at the store and for figuring out what dishes can be frozen. In fact, Budget Bytes has now become my favorite new cook/first apartment cookbook for friends and family. Hummm, Christmas isn't all that far away, is it?

Quick Salsa
Makes 3 cups
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 medium jalapeno, stemmed & seeded
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole or diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 medium lime, plus more as needed
In the bowl of food processor combine the garlic, onion, and jalapeno. Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are finely chopped.

Add the canned tomatoes and their juices, the cilantro, salt, sugar, olive oil, and lime juice and pulse the mixture until it reaches the desired consistency (longer for a smooth salsa, or less for a chunkier salsa). Taste and add additional salt, cilantro, or lime juice until the flavor is to your liking.

Published by Penguin Random House, Avery, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781583335307
Source: review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 10/1/16, 6:08 AM  

I love cookbooks that include "tips" like that!

Tina 10/1/16, 7:10 AM  

I'm always up for a cookbook with good tips, plus I love just looking through cookbooks. The breakfast fare is of interest to me too as we have hectic mornings and I sometimes any more of choice than we currently have.

Melynda Brown 10/1/16, 8:17 AM  

I love her recipes and did not know she wrote a cookbook. I have been reading her recipes on her blog for some time now, apparently missing the part about a book! Thanks for the review.

jama 10/1/16, 8:25 AM  

Will have to check out her blog and this book. Sounds like she offers some great tips. Now I'm craving salsa! :)

Katherine P 10/1/16, 8:27 AM  

I've gotten this book from the library a time or two and always enjoyed it though never used that many recipes because they veered towards to basic. The salsa sounds great!

Kailana 10/1/16, 8:44 AM  

I find ideas like this are really American. Things are a lot more expensive in Canada so all these great ideas always end up costing me more...

bermudaonion 10/1/16, 9:03 AM  

Eating fresh, good quality food can be expensive! I need to check this cookbook out.

Claudia 10/1/16, 11:38 AM  

You're right, a good time of year for a great gift book idea. I'm making use of freezer stuff today!

Deb in Hawaii 10/1/16, 12:06 PM  

Thanks for sharing! I am not familiar with the blog but I will check it and the book out. I like to hear about cookbooks that have good tips and tricks making them good to give to new cooks. I also like that this one includes a good amount vegetarian and vegan recipes--which is something I look for.

I'm linking up two reviews today. ;-)

Vicki 10/1/16, 1:39 PM  

I'm thinking about buying a copy of this cookbook since non of the libraries around here have this book. I'll also check out her blog.

Nan 10/1/16, 4:32 PM  

I recently bought a cookbook for a gift that is along the same lines. It is called The Working Class Foodies Cookbook. Real Food, For Real People, Real Cheap. 100 Seasonal and Organic Recipes for Under $8 Per Person by Rebecca Lando. I haven't spent too much time perusing it, but I may write about it sometime. This is such an important topic.

Peaceful Reader 10/1/16, 6:37 PM  

I have two young adult children cooking in their own kitchens that could benefit from a book like this. Putting it on their wish lists.

Debbie Rodgers 10/1/16, 7:41 PM  

I've subscribed to Beth's web-site for a couple of years now and have discovered dozens of great recipes. I have to check out this book - if some of my favourites are there, it will be worth it to have a bound copy!

Sue Jackson 10/2/16, 11:54 AM  

Sounds like a great resource! Our CSA helps reduce our grocery bills, as does eating Paleo - I buy loads of fresh produce, a few meats, eggs, and the only stuff I get from the middle of the store is a few items like coconut milk, roasted red peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, etc. (and yes, curry paste!). The biggest thing that has reduced our grocery bills is having both of our sons away at college this month! ha ha

This sounds weird, but I have never even considered making salse from canned tomatoes. I make it all summer long with fresh (amazing!) tomatoes from our CSA, but I never make it homemade the rest of the year. I'll have to try that!


Linda 10/2/16, 3:14 PM  

I've been a fan of the blog. I'll have to check out the cookbook.

nishitak 10/2/16, 10:31 PM  

Having two kids and a dog makes for such a huge grocery bill especially when one of them has fancy tastes! I am always on the lookout for discounts and buy one get one offers, and have pretty much given up on finding useful cookbooks that take practical matters into consideration. This one sounds like a great find! Will definitely be trying out that salsa.

Margot 10/3/16, 2:02 AM  

Budget tips sounds good to me. Our groceries bills keep going up too. The salsa recipe looks great - quick and easy too.

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