January 28, 2021Apps
As is the case with many things I love, I first heard of Budget Bytes on Pop Culture Happy Hour. Linda Holmes, the host, mentioned one of the recipes for Dragon Noodles as something that was making her happy the week of that show. Not long after I first checked out the site, I learned there was an app available for a one-time charge of $2.99. Since then, Budget Bytes has become the source of some of my most reliably delicious, easy to prepare recipes. For this review I'll focus on the app, many features of which are also available on the site, which is free. If something is "App Only" I'll let you know.
As you might have guessed from the name, a big focus of this app is preparing delicious meals in a cost-efficient way. Each recipe you use will include a cost-per-serving, based on the general calculations Beth (founder of Budget Bytes) has made. Since the intention is to provide a variety of menu options that won't break the bank, you'll find that the max cost per serving of any recipe is $2.50. If you want to get super-deep and calculate precise food cost based on your own grocery expenses, Beth provides how-to information on the site. (HOWEVER, part of what I love about Budget Bytes is how easy it makes my life, and sometimes math is hard so I just use what's in the app as a good-enough estimate.)
Remember how math is hard? Nowhere is that more true for me than when I'm trying to adjust a recipe. With Budget Bytes recipes are pre-loaded for a certain number of servings, but all you need to do is click + or - to change that, and Budget Bytes WILL AUTOMATICALLY ADJUST THE MEASUREMENTS FOR YOU.
These are a little different if you've on the app or the site, but either way there are lots of way to slice and dice (see what I did there?) your options. Looking for a one-pot meal that includes chicken? Try the Monterrey Chicken Skillet, Quickie Faux Pho or Southwest Chicken Skillet. How about something for your slow cooker that uses pork? Your options include 5 Spice Pulled Pork, Chili Rubbed Pulled Pork, and Slow Cooker Carnitas. Whatever ingredients you have in your pantry or fridge, you're likely to find a new way to combine them using Budget Bytes.
In the app, you can click on "Start Cooking" and a video tutorial will begin. It is narrated, and often there are additional embedded videos for specific steps (like how to peel ginger) and a built in timer so if instructions include something like "simmer for ten minutes", you can activate that directly on the app. I've found this is a really easy, almost hands-free way to consult a recipe while cooking, and it helps me to make sure I'm on the right track with all my prep.
Budget Bytes allows you to email yourself any ingredient list, and it will tell you at the beginning of the recipe how many steps there are total. On the site, there is a lot more narrative for each recipe (you've probably seen this in a lot of publications - writers will tell you the life story of their relationship to this recipe, or other anecdotes. This can be charming or frustrating, depending on how hungry you are.) But the site includes a button at the top of the screen that allows you to "Jump to Recipe" and skip over all the other stuff. Whoever is in charge of designing the user interface is really really good at this.
I've really gravitated toward the one-pot, comfort food type recipes, but I haven't tried anything that I've disliked in all my five years using the app. Here are a few of my go-tos:
This is a great vegetarian dish, and I've added a lot of other frozen vegetables to make it even heartier.
I've also made lots of substitutions with this dish, including different kinds of sausage and black-eyed peas instead of black beans.
I've made this with low-sodium broth and it's still very tasty with a lot less salt.
I really appreciate how easy Budget Bytes endeavors to make life in the kitchen. For weeknight meals in particular, it's been an invaluable resource for getting great dishes on the table with a minimum of fuss. Bon Appetit!