By Stephanie Oh, Markets Media Life Correspondent
Let’s be honest – there was a point in our lives when we subsisted on “canned beans and ramen noodles night after night.” But stepping into the adult world means at least some focus on a balanced diet and healthy eating. This does not have to be limited to salad – you can do bold things with simple ingredients and simple directions.
Markets Media Life had an exclusive interview with Beth Moncel, creator of Budget Bytes. We asked Beth how to practice fine gastronomy on an affordable budget.
Markets Media Life (MML): Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do outside of the kitchen?
Beth Moncel (BM): The blog has really been my life for the past six years, but I until last fall was working as a microbiologist at a local hospital. Now that I officially have one job (the blog), I love spending time outside with my dog tending to my yard, and getting exercise. Physical activity is something that I’ve always enjoyed, so finally having time to get it is the ultimate reward for all my hard work over the past six years.
MML: When did you start cooking?
BM: I started cooking at a very young age. I grew up in a large family, so my mom was almost always in the kitchen. I spent a lot of time just watching, but as soon as I was old enough to start helping out, I did. I was always fascinated by both the scientific and artistic aspects of cooking. My favorite rainy day activity was picking a recipe out of one of my mom’s cookbooks and trying to make it. Candy making was always particularly exciting because it was very technical and science-y.
MML: How did you come up with “Budget Bytes”? Any hidden meaning behind the name?
BM: I don’t remember the exact moment when the name popped into my head, but I made the decision to spell bytes that way because it is an online or computer-based source for recipes. I didn’t put much thought into it at the time because I honestly never thought anyone would ever even see the blog, but I think it’s worked out well. Short, sweet, and catchy!
MML: You always come up with creative and fresh recipes. How do you get inspired?
BM: I get inspiration from so many different places. I obviously spend a lot of time online and there are food photos everywhere on the Internet so that often sparks an idea in my head. Even just seeing a photo without looking at a recipe can inspire an ingredient or flavor combination, or encourage me to try a new technique. My favorite place to get inspiration, though, is in the freezer aisle. I love looking at frozen dinners to see what the current consumer food trends are and trying to replicate those from scratch at home.
MML: I noticed you have some talented skills at capturing the step-by-step process, and your final result always looks good: you position the food in a way that it looks so delicious and appealing. Have you taken any professional photography classes? What device do you usually use to capture the cooking moments?
BM: I’ve always been interested in photography, so I knew how to use a manual camera and work with Photoshop before I began, but it had been at least ten years since I had actively taken photographs. So I’ve been learning as I do. I always take mental notes when I look at other food photographs and have watched and read a few tutorial online. When I started the blog I only had a camera phone (we’re talking low resolution, non-smart phone camera), but soon invested in a cheap point and shoot digital camera. As the blog progressed, I realized how important the photographs were, so as soon as I could afford it I invested in a base level DSLR (Nikon D3100). I still use that camera today, although I may finally be ready to upgrade soon! Photography is fun and there’s always so much more to learn!
MML: What’s your most favorite recipe you want to share with our fans?
BM: Dragon Noodles! The dish is so fast and has so much flavor. I also love that it can be modified so many different ways. My readers have shared so many of their creative twists on this base recipe, like adding peanut butter to the sauce, or adding sautéed shrimp. I’ve thought about doing a whole series of variations because there are so many things you can do with these awesome noodles.
MML: Which part of being a food blogger gives you the most pleasure: is it cooking, taking pictures, or eating your final result?
BM: My favorite part of being a food blogger, in general, is that there is always something new to learn. Whether it’s on the technical side with things like SEO, the creative end with cooking techniques and photography, or just running and managing a business, I’m always learning something new. Because of the budget focus of my blog, I also have the unique bonus of helping people in need. So the best part of working on my blog, in particular, is knowing that I’m helping others. The stories that my readers share and the letters of gratitude are beyond amazing. Being able to do something I enjoy that also has a real impact on people’s lives is more than I could have ever asked for.