I had the nerve to ask Beth, creator of Budget Bytes, for an interview. Considering how busy she is, I figured I’d get a polite, “Lady, I’ve got far too much to do!” But to my shocked delight, she agreed.
I have to admit, Beth is a powerhouse dynamo. I mean, she’s a freaking microbiologist. And created Budget Bytes…which led to a cookbook. And a dozen other media publications, just this year. She’s got a great sense of humour, and, judging by her pic, totally rocks a colander hat.
And I thought wrangling the Minions was an accomplishment, LOL!
On to the interview….*one armed Kermit flail* Yaaaaay! Here’s Beth! Yaaaaay!
Imp: Microbiologist by day, Budget Bytes by night. Do you ever see giving up microbiology for the world of food?
Beth: Absolutely (and hopefully soon)! Microbiology is fascinating, but nothing beats working for yourself. There are so many things that I want to do with the blog that I simply don’t have time for now. I can’t wait until I can fully dedicate myself to the blog.
Imp: You’ve been featured in numerous publications…Huffington Post, Oprah.com, Edmonton Journal (my old stomping ground!) Good Housekeeping, just to name a few this year. Things seem to have exploded for you in that regard! How else have things changed since publishing your cookbook?
Beth:I feel like I have less time for the blog! I love all the publicity, but phone interviews, radio shows, video shoots, etc. take time away from creating recipes. I’ve definitely posted fewer recipes since things have exploded, but hopefully that will change soon. I want to stay rooted in my main goal: providing healthy, easy, inexpensive recipes for people who are just learning to cook.
All of the publicity has also kick started a nice little freelance career for me as well, which is very exciting. I get to work on so many fun projects that I never would have thought I’d be involved with. I can’t believe this is my life!
Imp: Since starting Budget Bytes, what’s the thing that’s surprised you most?
Beth: How much I have learned!! I thought I knew how to cook when this started the blog and boy was I wrong! Five years in, I still learn something new about food and cooking every day. The whole back-end of blogging (SEO, coding, monetizing, legal stuff, etc.) is much more than I ever expected, too. Luckily, I love learning so I’m drinking it all up!
Imp: How did you manage to juggle a day job as a microbiologist, a food website, *and* writing a cookbook?
Beth: I almost died. Ha! It was the most stressful time period in my entire life, but I’m driven by accomplishment and it was just one of those opportunities that you can’t turn down. I knew that no matter how hard it was, it would be over soon, so I just had to put my head down and keep working until it was done. Despite feeling like my body was shutting down, I survived and am so glad that I didn’t give up. (I should probably learn to say “no” sometimes, though.)
Imp: How did the cookbook start out? Self published, contacted by a publisher…?
Beth: That’s actually a funny story. In the summer of 2012, I planned a vacation from my day job specifically to write a book proposal to shop around to publishers. When vacation time came, I said, “screw it, I need a vacation.” and decided to just chill out. While on vacation, I got an email from an Editor at Avery/Penguin saying they were interested in publishing my book and the rest is history!
Imp: What, of all your recipes, would you consider your ‘comfort’ food?
Imp: What, of all your recipes, would you make when wanting to impress?
Beth: That’s a tough one because there are so many good ones! Two that jump out in my mind immediately are the Spicy Shrimp and Tomato Pasta or the Herb Roasted Pork Loin. Both are incredibly easy, but appear super fancy and taste great.
Imp: Which recipe would you recommend to someone just learning to cook?
Beth: I think I would suggest starting with recipes where you can just toss everything together and let it cook (either in the oven, on the stove top, or in a slow cooker). They have very few steps, not a lot of chopping, and are hard to mess up. Good examples of this type of recipe are: Easy Oven Fajitas, Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls, Southwest Chicken Skillet, or the Italian Wonderpot. Although you can’t really go wrong with Dragon Noodles, either!
Note from Imp: Easy Oven Fajitas, and Southwest Chicken Skillet were huge hits in our house. I’ve actually planned for Slow Cooker Taco Chicken Bowls next week.
Imp: What, in your opinion, is the biggest mistake that people make when trying to grocery budget?
Beth: Not planning. If you don’t have a plan for the groceries that you buy, they’ll end up going bad in the back of your fridge and you’ll feel like you wasted all of your money. Make a plan before you shop and only buy what’s on your list.
Imp: Have you ever had a kitchen disaster? What happened?
Beth: Oh yes, all the time! Recently I participated in a macaroon challenge for a local sweets shop. We were supposed to use their recipe for a basic macaroon and make our own flavor. I tried their macaroon recipe about four times with disastrous results before I gave up and used Martha Stewart’s recipe! I learned a lot and now I know how to make amazing French macaroons (here are my S’mores macaroons). You learn a lot from mistakes, so they’re not all bad.
Imp: Personal question for you: Wolf, The Hubby, works an extremely physical job. While he loves almost every recipe we’ve tried from Budget Bytes, he complains that rice doesn’t hold him, and he’s hungry in a couple of hours. Any suggestions to keep him satisfied, and out of the kitchen?
Beth: I think I’d try to whip up some travel mix type snacks to hold him over between meals. Nuts, dried fruit, etc. Or, you can try adding extra protein to the rice meals. That can get expensive with meat, but you can try adding things like beans, edamame, cheese, and eggs to kind of bulk them up a bit.
Imp: What’s your guiltiest pleasure, food wise?
Beth: Frozen pizza. The super cheap kind. I love all pizza, from homemade or fancy restaurant wood fired all the way down to the $3 frozen pies. I don’t eat them often because I know it’s SUPER bad for me, but… you know… sometimes that’s what I want!
Imp: What’s in the plans next for you/Budget Bytes?
Beth: I have so many things in the pipeline! I’m just waiting for more time to work on them. I’d love to write another book and I’d like to try to self publish it as an ebook this time around.
Imp: What would you be lost without, in your kitchen? (Appliances, power, and water excluded 😛 )
Beth: When I don’t have eggs or tortillas I feel severely handicapped in the kitchen. I feel like those two things (not necessarily together) allow me to make many different quick “patchwork” type meals (stuff whatever you have into a tortilla or throw a fried egg on top of something and BAM you have a meal).
Imp: When you were first starting out, how long did it take you to break down cost by ingredients? And now?
Beth: I can’t say that it ever really took me too long because as long as you have your receipts it’s just a few quick calculations. In the beginning I didn’t have prices for a lot of my pantry staples and dry goods on record, so it was a little harder. I would have to jot down the price when I was at the store then come home and calculate. Now the blog sort of acts as a record keeper for my prices, so I can just quickly browse through the last few recipes to see how much I paid for something that I recently purchased instead of thumbing through my (HUGE) stack of receipts.
Imp: You grew up as one of five siblings. Do you get together for the holidays? Which recipe would you bring, when going to your mom’s?
Beth: Well, we’re all spread out across the country now and airfare is REALLY expensive, so I rarely go home for the holidays. If I did, I would definitely bring this Turkey & Stuffing Casserole. Stuffing is my all-time favorite holiday food and cooking it this way makes it super moist. Plus, there’s no hassle with carving a turkey!
Much thanks again to Beth, for submitting to interrogation.
Don’t forget to enter the Plan to Eat give away! Entries close tomorrow!