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The Short Version: Budget Bytes is a recipe blog that offers affordable options for couples who want to cook at home. The recipes can fit within a tight budget, yet they don’t sacrifice flavor or healthiness to meet price points. Couples can search the blog to find simple recipes inspired by their favorite restaurant dishes or freezer aisle meals. With the right recipe, they can enjoy the benefits of cooking together on date night.
Imagine a couple is on a budget but still wants to plan a special date night. They turn to a blog called Budget Bytes for inspiration and guidance.
They decide to start the date night menu with Summer Gazpacho, a cold soup with a variety of vegetable add-ins that they can alter depending on their tastes. The recipe calls for a can of crushed tomatoes, vegetable juice, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and lemon. They top the soup with avocado and feta.
Beth Moncel shares the total price of every recipe on Budget Bytes, and she breaks down the cost of individual portions, too. The Summer Gazpacho recipe costs a little less than $4 for all the ingredients, which comes out to around $1 per serving.
Next on the menu, the couple chooses a main dish of One Pot Lemon Garlic Shrimp and Rice. They want a flavorful entrée that doesn’t require them to spend the rest of the evening cleaning up. The meal incorporates shrimp, lemon, rice, butter, broth, water, parsley, and Tony Charchere’s seasoning in a straightforward recipe. Even with the seafood, the recipe costs less than $8 total, with each serving coming out to less than $2.
This is part of Beth’s philosophy for the blog. “Most of my recipes include a small amount of expensive, flavorful stuff like meats, cheese, and nuts. I couldn’t believe how inexpensive those types of recipes can be,” she said.
Date night wouldn’t be complete without dessert. A couple can add a bit of sweetness to their evening by making 5-Minute Funfetti Mug Cakes in the microwave. The cakes incorporate flour, sugar, baking powder, rainbow sprinkles, milk, butter, and vanilla extract for an easy sweet treat. Best of all, they cost about 49 cents each.
The total price tag for this three-course meal comes to around $13 — a fraction of the cost of going to a restaurant on a date.
These three recipes highlight the spirit of Budget Bytes. Every recipe is simple to make and fits in a budget. All of the options are flavorful and healthy as well.
Budget Bytes is a great resource for couples. Its recipes range from quick, weeknight meals to more elaborate weekend splurges. But nothing on the blog is too time-consuming or expensive.
Beth said she started the blog in 2009 because she wanted budget recipes for herself. Fresh out of a bachelor’s degree program in nutrition, her student loans were in repayment, and she was working a low-paying job. Then, she said she started tracking her budget, and she found that only her food budget had any wiggle room.
“I started keeping track of what I was spending on food on a granular level, and I was able to figure out what items in my food budget were eating up more than they needed to,” she said.
Once she recognized which foods were more expensive than others, she could alter what she purchased and how she cooked. At the same time, she said she wanted to make sure she wasn’t replacing more expensive items with low-cost, poor-quality ones. She said she knew these types of foods would be more expensive in the long run because of their impact on her health.
She started posting the recipes she created to her personal Facebook page. So many people responded with likes and comments that she decided to start a blog where she could reach a wider audience.
“A lot of people were in the same place I was. They had student loans and weren’t earning a lot of money. A huge audience was there waiting for the content I produced. Once I started getting feedback about how helpful it was, I decided I had to do this. I had this set of skills that was perfect for it,” Beth told us.
Budget Bytes has found a wide audience of readers from all over the world. Many of them are millennials or younger folks who are just starting to cook or use a budget. Others turn to the website because the ingredients are easy to find at any local market.
This simplicity is a key facet of the recipes Beth creates. She knows that many home cooks aren’t going to search for 10 spices if they want to create a dish. So she creates recipes like Cauliflower Chickpea Masala that highlight Indian flavors without incorporating too many spices.
This strategic cooking helps couples save money during the week — so weekend date nights at their favorite restaurants can be even more special.
“The more you can eat at home rather than eating out will make a big difference for your wallet. You can enjoy the authentic version once a week or for special occasions, but I have the recipes that give you the fix in the meantime,” she said.
Cooking together is a great bonding activity for couples. Beth suggests choosing a visually appealing recipe that engages every sense. At the same time, she recommends opting for simple recipes so couples can spend time together.
For instance, she recommends the Sheet Pan Chicken Pesto Dinner because it cooks on one pan, but looks good enough to be served at a restaurant.
Cooking with a partner has benefits beyond date night as well.
“When you learn to cook with your date, it sets the stage for how you work together as a couple. You might end up running a household when you’re dating someone,” Beth said.
Research supports this trend. As the Culinary Institute of Virginia notes, couples who cook together collaborate more effectively, improve their communication, and know one another more fully.
After 12 years, Beth has turned her money-saving recipe project into her full-time job. Her blog has over 1,000 simple and delicious recipes available. Beth has even published a cookbook called “Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half.”
Budget Bytes has grown from a one-woman side hustle into a full-blown blog and mobile app with a small team behind it. And Beth said the blog is still growing. This year, she plans on acquiring more studio space so she can add more people to her team. For instance, she gets a lot of requests from readers to write Instant Pot or Air Fryer recipes, but she is already working beyond her individual capacity.
How has Beth stayed inspired to create new recipes all of these years? She said she writes better recipes when she follows her own cravings and taste preferences. For instance, she said she often finds inspiration to recreate dishes from restaurants or prepared meals in the freezer aisle, as these two options tend to be pricier than cooking from scratch.
She also returns to her older recipes to develop new types of dishes based on flavor combinations she has noticed readers enjoy.
Before she started Budget Bytes, Beth was working in a hospital lab as a microbiologist. She always knew she wanted to impact people’s lives, but she didn’t expect to have such a direct effect as she has had with the blog.
“It has been the most fulfilling thing I ever experienced. It was more than what I thought my life was going to be. The thank-you emails I get on an almost daily basis are touching. I didn’t think I would do anything that directed people in such a direct way. It’s special,” she told us.