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Throw on an apron, we’re turning up the heat! This week we got to chat with Beth Monel (a.k.a. Budget Bytes) all about how she got into cooking, making the most of your ingredients, and why so many food bloggers write personal stories with their recipes.

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Hello, everyone.

It is Chelsea Fagan. And I am back with another episode of The Financial Confessions with a guest that we are all super excited to have here at our office in New York, someone that you guys have highly requested.

But before I say hello to her, I want to say a quick hello to our beloved partners with whom we make every episode of The Financial Confessions. So as you guys probably have heard by now, we make every episode of The Financial Confessions in partnership with Intuit. And if you haven't heard about Intuit yet, you have almost certainly come across some of their awesome products.

Basically, Intuit makes all of the different tools that you need to keep in your back pocket and help make every financial decision you're going to make and every financial obstacle you're going to have to get over so much easier and simpler. They make things like TurboTax, which helps navigate the tax filing process and ensure you get the best possible refund. They make Mint, which helps you manage your budget in an extremely intuitive and visual way.

I've used it for, I think, like seven years now. And it's awesome. They make QuickBooks, which is great for managing your small business expenses.

I use it every single day here at TFD. And even if you're someone who freelances or you pick up side gigs, you are a small business of one, and I could not recommend QuickBooks more to help manage all of your various expenses and all of the various finances of running a small business. Intuit just makes fantastic products.

And they all work together in a beautiful little harmony to help make your financial life so much smarter. So if you cannot wait to get started with some of their awesome products, check out the link in our description or our show notes. So as I mentioned, our guest today is someone that you guys have highly requested.

And you guys have tons of really exciting questions for her. Her name is Beth, but you may know her as Budget Bytes. Hi.

Hello, Budget Bytes. Thanks for having me. It was so funny.

She flew in from Nashville today for this recording. And I was back here. And when you arrived, my colleague, who is a huge fan, came in and she was like, Budget Bytes is here.

And I was like, I don't know that we should call Budget Bytes. No, that's fine. I know all of my blogger friends by their blog name, too.

So tell our audience who may not know about you a little bit about what you do, who you are, et cetera. Sure. So I run a food blog that focuses mainly on cooking, making really delicious, well-balanced meals on a small budget.

And I started this blog 10 years ago, 10-plus years ago, because I was in a really sticky financial situation myself. And I had cut out all discretionary spending out of my budget already. And the only part of my budget I had left that had any sort of wiggle room was my food.

And I had just graduated with a degree in nutritional science. So I knew I had to make something that was going to be good for me and still fit in a budget. So I start experimenting.

I got really excited about it. I started putting it online. And I realized a lot of other people out there also needed that information.

So it's kind of been my mission for the past 10 years to teach people how to cook and how to do it on a budget, and do it well so that they can be a little bit more financially independent and have control over their diet and their budget. Very cool. Would you say that there was like a recipe that really went off and really helped launch your career?

Yeah. Probably, my dragon noodles. Ooh, what's that?

It's not the healthiest one on the website, but I think it resonates with a lot of people, because it's just super fast, easy, and satisfying. So it's just basically noodles with a sweet, spicy, salty sauce that has, I think, maybe like three ingredients. And there's so many ways you can alter the recipe, like you can add shrimp.

You can add chicken. The original recipe has eggs in it. And it's just something that I think a lot of people can do.

And when they realize, oh, I can cook this, and it's really good, that inspires them to do more. So I think that's why it took off. Would you describe yourself as always having been a cook?

Did you grow up learning how to cook? Yeah. Well, I thought I knew how to cook when I started this.

Yeah, I grew up in a big family. There were seven of us. And my mom was pretty much always in the kitchen.

So I learned a lot just by being around her when I was growing up. And I think that instilled a lot of the food principles I have now, which is just cooking from scratch is better for you. It's less expensive.

And it also taught me that cooking can be a fun experience. And it's a combination of my two favorite subjects, which is science and art. It can be fun, but you also learn things because there's so much science stuff happening when you're cooking.

So I think that's why I always loved it. And then through this 10-year experiment of having the blog, I've learned so much more. Yeah.

It's interesting. I feel like when I think back on-- because my mother growing up like-- all of my memories of her are in the kitchen. She was a huge, huge cook.

And I just-- when I look back and I see in my mind at the time, I would every night sit on the counter while she was cooking and help her with things, and stuff like that. And I feel like that is an experience that fewer and fewer people get as the years go on. And it's so funny, because I think one of the things that I most got from that outside of just learning a lot of the basics of cooking was a feeling of if something gets messed up or something is imperfect, it's fine.

Yeah. You know, you can always fix it. There's always something you can do to even it out.

And in the worst case scenario when something really bad happens in the kitchen, it's just food. And you throw it away. And you're like, OK, well, that was a disappointment.

And you order pizza. Yeah. And I feel like that feeling of not panicking when something goes wrong when cooking, and of course, there are still times like I've gotten stressed out if I'm like hosting people and a sauce isn't coming together right or whatever, you still get that panic.

But for the most part, you just have this intrinsic confidence that I feel like people can only get from just doing it over and over again. Exactly. I think everything that I've learned in the past 10 years has been from my failures in the kitchen.

So when a sauce curdles, you're like, what happened? And you have to figure out what happened. And once you troubleshoot it and you understand why it happened, then you don't make that mistake ever again.

And you can just do better in the kitchen, just like throwing stuff together on the whim the next time. Totally. What are some dishes for people who didn't grow up with that and who didn't learn to cook kind of organically and by osmosis-- what are some dishes that you would recommend they start out with just to start building that confidence?

I would say probably a soup, because you're literally just throwing things in a pot, adding some water or broth, and boiling it. It doesn't take a lot of skill. And it's almost always delicious.

And very hard to mess up comparatively. Yeah. You just-- there's not a lot of technique that goes into it.

Totally. It's so easy. And maybe like roasting vegetables.

Yeah. I feel like that's another thing where you just put it in the oven, let it do its thing, and when it comes out, it's so delicious. Totally.

And then you could do so many things with that. One of the number one things that I'll make at least once a week just to force myself to consume a lot of vegetables in a delicious way is just a sheet pan full of broccolini or broccoli rabe, a trillion slices of garlic-- Yeah. And just some olive oil, salt, and pepper.

It's like nature's chips. Yeah. It's so good.

It's so good. So good. And it goes with basically any dish.

That's the thing-- I would say that the way I cook when I'm having people over is the way that I feel like would be easiest for most people to start as I almost always do something that's like braised, or a sauce, or something that doesn't have to be babied, and is really easy to fix if something goes wrong with it. And then a roasted vegetable. Yeah.

Or something that you just throw in the oven that you can do ahead of time. I feel like a lot of people don't realize that so many things-- as many things as can be made ahead of time can be made ahead of time. That was an important discovery for me, especially with entertaining.

Yeah. I think our culture is really obsessed with the word fresh. Right.

And so that prevents people from, A, trying to cook things ahead of time. It prevents them from being interested in their leftovers. But I think what they don't realize is that most restaurants and food service places, they are batch-cooking and making things ahead of time.

Totally. And serving things over a few days, because that's the only efficient way to do it. Oh, yeah.

Otherwise, they'll be losing money. So every time you think you're getting something fresh, you're probably not. So don't be afraid to do that at home as well.

And also make sure that you can figure out the maximum amount of things that can be done ahead of time, because so much, I feel like, especially on a weeknight, when you come home from work, or god forbid if you have to do something after work, and you're just like, are you serious? Like, I have to cook? But the more things that are done for you, especially if it's something like time-sensitive, you're like, oh, I have these potatoes that I pre-peeled and they're in a bowl of cold water, and if I don't do something with them tonight, I'm losing them.

Yeah, get a little incentive. But just like the most you can do to get yourself right to that place where it's easy to cook, I feel like that would incentivize so many more people. I think it's that overwhelming feeling of like, I have to do it all, you know?

Yeah. Or that food has to be really complicated. I really advocate for really simple meals.

Like you were saying, a roasted vegetable, maybe two. Yeah. And a piece of meat, which doesn't have to be complicated to cook.

Throw it in a pan with some herbs and spices, and that's your meal. It's super simple, but it's really good. It's delicious.

Really good. Also I feel like I have at any given time like seven different pasta sauces-- Yeah. In my freezer.

Because here's the secret with pasta sauce. You defrost it. Toss it with some fresh pasta.

It tastes literally identical to the night that you-- And it's fresh. And it's fresh. That's what the restaurants do.

Literally identical to the night that you made it. What is a cuisine that you have really not mastered, but you want to? So probably like authentic Asian dishes.

Right. I'm really good at the Americanized take out fake out. PF Chang's.

Yeah, I'm really good at that. But the authentic stuff is really intimidating to me. I think probably-- Yeah.

There are some ingredients that are a little bit harder to find. I'm not sure how to use them right. Or if I do go to an international market to find the ingredients, I can't always read the labels.

So that's a little bit scary to me. Yeah. I have to shout them out.

I was talking to Beth before we started filming about The Woks Of Life, W-O-K-S. They're awesome. It's actually a family that maintains this food blog together.

But they have just an enormous amount of really authentic Chinese, especially, but other Asian dishes as well, and super easy to follow, super step-by-step, pictures for everything. And that has single-handedly gotten me into feeling really confident, particularly with Sichuan cuisine. Yeah.

I need to check it out. Because I did go to China last year. And the food was so good.

Where in China were you? I was in Shanghai. Nice.

Yeah. It was awesome. Quite a food town.

Yeah, it was amazing. I ate so much. So much dim sum.

Yeah. That's so cool. Do you still find cooking and recipe developing as fun now as you did 11 years ago?

I think yes. I mean with any job, even if it's your passion, there are going to be days where you're like, I don't feel like doing this. But it's such an artistic expression.

I don't think I'm ever going to really get sick of it. There's just so many possibilities to do so many different things. And when you do create something that is so much better than you thought it was going to be or you're like, you find this magical taste combination, it's just a really great feeling.

And I don't think that's ever going to go away. What is something that you feel like most people get wrong when it comes to being in the kitchen? I think the number one thing that people get wrong is they think if they follow a recipe to a T, that it's guaranteed to work out.

Right. But there are just so many variables when you're cooking, whether it's the individual settings on your stovetop, your cookware, brand ingredients. All those things can make a difference in how a recipe turns out.

So you're not going to cook like Julia Child the first recipe out of the gate. It's really some-- a skill you have to learn. And it's going to take failure and just trying over and over again.

So don't be upset if something doesn't turn out the right way the first time. Use that as a learning experience and enjoy the process. Now, this is a really inside baseball question.

But can you confirm or deny that most food bloggers go on extremely long-winded tangents about their husbands before they get to the recipe for primarily SEO purposes? I don't think it's primarily SEO purposes. There are some that do that.

But originally, the reason people told stories in a food blog is because it's a blog. Right. That's their online log of their experience.

Yeah. So that's what it was for. And then the recipe was worked into that.

But now, yeah, people do add some extra text for SEO sometimes. Are you a big storyteller? I am a zero storyteller.

Yes. I have been that way since day one. And people have always thanked me for it.

And the reason I am not a storyteller is because I don't like sharing my life with the world. That's why I don't do a lot of Instagram stories, things like that. I'm just a really private individual.

So I don't like telling my whole life before the recipe. I tell people what they need to know to make the recipe and just leave it at that. I do get tired of people complaining about that, though, because they're acting like someone's forcing them to scroll through all that.

Here's the thing. The internet is full of choices. That's true.

If you don't like what someone writes on their website, go somewhere else. Go to All Recipes. Go to The Food Network.

Get your recipe at the top of the page. Totally. Don't complain to that person about what's on their own website.

That is their space. That's true. That's true.

And I will say shoutout to Woks of Life, because similar to Beth here, very low on the unrelated anecdotes prior to getting to the recipe. That's funny. But I will say you were saying earlier-- I asked you about the drama in the food blogger community.

And you were saying it's a community that can be a bit rife with drama. Yeah, it can. You know.

What do I want to say about that? I don't participate in it. I see it from afar sometimes.

I don't know. What is a way-- because I know a lot of-- you were saying that one of the biggest issues is that often recipes can be sort of lifted in a way that's like you're not really giving credit to the person who inspired this. What is a good way that a person who wants to support a particular blogger can be a huge support to that blogger and make sure that their recipes are getting the love?

Just give them a shoutout whenever you can. Share their content by using the Share button, not by copying and pasting the entire recipe into your Facebook post or your Instagram account. Share the actual links to their content.

And that is the best thing. And tag them on social media. Yeah.

And tag them. When you're doing it. Yeah.

Although, I will say it's really funny, like I have-- I feel like my personal following on Instagram is like borderline hostile to me anytime I post food, which, by the way, guys, this is a call out. Every single time I post something that I've made, like people get actively angry at me in the like comments that I'm not sharing a recipe. Literally to the point that multiple people would be like, if you're not going to post your recipe, you really shouldn't even post a photo of it.

And I'm like, I'm sorry, lady, that I'm literally living my life. But to be fair anytime-- because like a lot of times-- and I'm sure you can relate to this-- half the time there's no recipe. Right.

I'm just like putting things in a pan that I had in my cabinet. And it would be dishonest of me to try and relay that. And also, it would probably come out bad, because I don't measure anything.

Right. So I'm like about this much, that, whatever. But anytime I do do a recipe from a food blogger, I always give them a shoutout.

Thank you. And then half the time the commenters are like, who made this? And I'm like, read, read the post.

Yeah. No one ever reads the original post. They look at the picture, then ask the question, even though it's been answered in the post.

Yes, totally. I don't know. But I will say, though, that the one thing that we talk about a lot on TFD with regards to food is really to that point.

It's like the vast majority of dishes that you're going to cook are not recipes, because if you cooked based on a specific recipe every single time you made dinner it would be so expensive. It's not realistic to go out and get a brand new set of ingredients for everything you're going to cook. I would say at least half the time you're just going to be like, what do I have on hand?

And what can be something delicious? So like to that point, are there any like go-to dishes that you think everyone should have in their arsenal because it can make use of a lot of their different ingredients. Yeah.

I recently wrote an article about six ways to use leftover vegetables. And it's kind of similar to that concept. So these are recipes that can take basically whatever you have leftover in your kitchen, and you can use that to make your dinner.

So things like stir fries, you can throw anything into a stir fry. A pizza, you can put anything on top of a pizza. You know, a pasta salad, you can put-- Especially pineapple.

Yes. Especially pineapple. Or not.

If you don't have it, you don't like it, use something else. Use what you have. Pasta dishes, you can throw anything into pasta.

Things like that. Quiche. Quiche?

Yeah? I feel quiche is my number one. Frittatas?

Things like that? Also, quiche freezes surprisingly well. Yeah.

A lot of people wouldn't think so, but it freezes as well. Also, I feel like not enough people make use of frozen food. Yeah.

Like frozen vegetables, frozen fruits, there are so many like-- especially in the winter when stuff is out of season, like frozen vegetables should always be on hand. Yeah. That's one of my biggest things.

And someone had asked about that on Twitter. They said, how to shop for vegetables and stock up? Frozen vegetables are the best, because you don't have to use them right away.

You can use part of the bag. They're not going to spoil. They're always already chopped and everything, so it's less work for you.

And you can literally throw them into anything. So I always keep frozen spinach. I love putting that in pretty much everything I eat, even smoothies.

Frozen broccoli is another good one. Peas are awesome, because those are pretty high protein. And you can just literally put them in whatever you're eating to up the vegetable content.

And it's so cheap. I feel like that really ties into what you were saying earlier about people having this really bad notion of fresh being so important. Yeah.

Because like, first of all, half of those vegetables are frozen at the point of picking. So it'll actually have a higher nutritional value than-- you know? Something that's been on a truck for a month before it got to the grocery store.

Exactly. And it's like not even remotely in season. Yeah.

But also more importantly, the goal should be to integrate more of these foods into your diet in a sustainable way. Mhm. And it's not going to be realistic financially or even logistically for people to get fresh produce every day, but you can have access to these things in your freezer whenever you need them.

Yeah. Also, I feel like a lot of the frozen-- I feel like frozen vegetable technology has gotten pretty good now. Like a lot of them, even if they're the steamers in the bag, they're pretty good.

Yeah. And they're doing all sorts of other things, like you can get the spiralized vegetables now. And like the risottoed ones.

Yeah. There's so many more options. So there's a lot to-- if you haven't checked out your freezer section, definitely check that out.

But I would stay away from the ones that come already in a sauce and everything. Yeah, no, those are bad. Because you don't know what's in there.

You can make a sauce with those ingredients like really easy yourself. Yeah. You know?

Totally. They probably cost more. And also, you can make a sauce, like some kind of a butter, whatever, Something, yeah.

Or whatever. You make that, and then freeze it in little cubes. Yeah.

And then you have your go-to sauce. Well, you know what? You mentioned that we did have some questions on Twitter.

And let me tell you, the people came out. Yay. They have some questions.

Thanks for the questions. Yes. These are all from you guys.

So I'm just going to go through them. This one might be a dramatic and/or controversial one. Ooh.

But I'm ready for you to go off. I'm ready. Thoughts on box meal plans, like Green Chef, Blue Apron, et cetera.

Go off, Beth. Go off. OK.

OK. Let me at least try to get some pros in here, like some-- there's got to be something good about them, right? OK.

So I think maybe it might be helpful to someone over the hurdle, the intimidation of cooking. A gateway drug to cooking. Yeah.

A gateway drug to cooking. But in general, I just feel like there's so much packaging. Oh, so much packaging.

Totally. That I just can't get behind them. And I feel like you could just buy the five ingredients that you need for so much less money at the store.

Yes. I think what it's doing, what people like about them so much is it's telling people exactly what needs to be done to cook this meal and breaking it down so it's easy. So I think that's the attraction.

But practicality, I just don't think it's there. Yeah. I think it's definitely something that should be used as a gateway point into cooking.

And I can totally see someone who has never cooked who wants to get there using it for several months to get them over that hump. Yeah. But on a long-term basis, totally unsustainable financially.

And also, I feel like one of the most important elements with cooking in a long-term way is being adaptable, responsive, imaginative, being creative with what you have. And this really does not develop that skill. No, it doesn't.

I know people who like have gotten hooked on them. And now they're like if they don't have their Blue Apron, they're like, well, I can't cook. I don't know.

Yeah. How does this work? I also feel like the other thing is like what they'll do often is they'll give you like a tablespoon of fresh ginger.

And it's like it is unsustainable to believe that you could buy that quantity of fresh ginger. You have to get to a place where you're like, OK, I have a huge chunk of ginger now. What else can I do with it?

And it's like, you could do a lot with it, but only if you take that step to learn what to do with the ingredient. Because it's rare that you'll be able to buy to the exact proportion that you need something. Exactly.

Yeah. I was saying earlier that one of the hardest parts about getting-- before we were filming that one of the hardest parts of getting into any new kind of cuisine is you have to buy this one thing. then you're like, oh, crap, now I have like a huge amount of turmeric. What the hell am I supposed to do with turmeric?

And unless you force yourself to really learn what to do with it-- Yeah. Cooking is going to be extremely wasteful. Yeah.

And people don't realize this, but even like spices go bad. Yeah. But one way to combat that is find a place that you can buy your spices in bulk.

That way you can buy just a tablespoon of turmeric or whatever. So that helps. You can't really do that with sauces and things, but for spices that's a good option.

Oils, also hard. Yeah, oil is hard. For those of us who can't always make it to the grocery store, what are the top items to stock our pantries with other than classics, like pastas and rice?

So yeah. Pasta and rice, obviously. Canned beans, I think, are really good, or dry beans if you prefer to cook them from dry, because that can be a little bit less expensive.

But it does take a little bit more work. Love a canned bean. Yeah.

Canned bean. Canned tomatoes are great. I use those in all sorts of things from soups to pastas and everything.

And then just make sure that you have the basic like oils and vinegars and spices, because if you have those, you can make any sauce, any dressing that you need, and then you have plenty of options. Totally. We actually have to shoutout our own channel.

We had a video we did forever ago about like 19 ingredients you always want in the kitchen-- things like mustard, olive oil, basic spices. Yeah. I always think you should have garlic and onion on hand, because half the time you're like, this is great.

What's in it? It's garlic and onion. Garlic and onion.

Every recipe starts that way. Yeah. I have a friend who is like her mom hates the taste of garlic and onions and won't eat anything that contains it.

And I was like she needs to get like a lobotomy, because there's no way. What does she eat? I know!

What's left? No good food. No good food.

A lot of people don't realize like when I met my husband 10 years ago almost, he-- ketchup was spicy to him. What? And now he'll go to a Sichuan place and turn it up to level 10.

Nice. And just be crying and loving it. Like, loving it.

And I'm like, see? Anyone can learn. It hurts so good.

It hurts so good. And people who don't get into spicy food, you should train yourself, because once you actually like spicy food, it's like a-whole-nother category of flavor. Yeah.

And there's all different nuance, different like-- you know, something like a really spicy curry has almost nothing in common with like a really spicy like Sichuan paste. Yeah. It's a whole new world out there.

Are there any underground tips to keep protein and hardiness in our "I haven't eaten a fresh item in weeks" meal? That is a really confusingly phrased question. Yeah.

I think I'm confused about the question. Are they looking for shelf-stable protein sources? I think shelf-stable protein and hardiness, like let's say this is like a clinical depression meal where you're like you can barely-- because that's a thing.

Like people can barely get themselves to like even boil a pack of noodles. What are like really easy, really intuitive-- I guess canned beans would be a good one. Yeah.

Canned beans, nuts. Nuts. So any sort of nut mix.

A handful of nuts. Although, that might be a little bit more expensive. But this is another situation where I would lean heavily on the frozen foods.

Totally. Yeah. So you can keep chicken breast.

You can keep fish fillets. You keep shrimp in your freezer. And they're so quick to cook.

Totally. Ground meat is very good. Yeah.

Ground meat. For a quick cook. All of that.

Yeah. Cheese also. Oh, yeah, cheese.

Cheese. I freeze my cheese all the time. Cheese and eggs, man.

Oh, yeah. Protein, protein. And eggs like last forever.

I don't know. Totally. They have expiration dates.

No. But they're just in my fridge all the time. Totally.

And you can put-- I mean, there are so many things you can put an egg on. Yeah. That's my unofficial slogan is put an egg on it.

It's the best. Because I put an egg on everything. Hell yeah.

My like number one dinner that I make when I'm like tired at the end of the day and don't feel like dealing with it, but want something yummy is these Korean the Samyang, Samyang, whatever, Korean noodles. And you just doctor them up. Yeah.

You put corn, bok choy, bamboo shoots, some eggs. Whatever vegetables you have in the fridge. Whatever you have on it.

And it's so easy and so delicious. Yeah. What is the best way to shop for vegetables?

I guess we discussed this, but to clarify, how to shop and stock up vegetables so they don't spoil. Yeah. Got to utilize frozen.

Yeah, like we mentioned earlier, utilize frozen. The other thing I would like to mention with that is lean heavily on the vegetables that are a little bit more sturdy. So these are going to be things like your carrots, cabbage, celery, onions, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, because those can stay in your kitchen for a while without spoiling.

And then you can just have them on hand. And because they are more stable and don't spoil as easily, those are usually the less expensive vegetables as well. Totally.

Because they're not going to have to be spoiled out by the manufacturer or the store or whatever. Nice. Yeah.

This is kind of a diversion, but do you actually cook all of the food that you put on your blog? Yeah. And you actually eat it?

Yeah. Man. I mean, I only do like two to three recipes a week.

So it's enough for my boyfriend and I. Oh, that's nice. Yeah.

Yeah. So you're not like cooking for a huge group. It's so funny.

Every single time I post a dish, 9 times out of 10 it's a lot of it. And they're like, why do you cook so much food? Doesn't it go bad?

And I'm like, people, how many times do I have to say, I use my freezer. Yeah. Like, what is wro-- like, argh!

It's so funny, but the thing is that I would never-- I couldn't survive if I didn't freeze the vast majority of what I make. There's no way. There's no way.

I consider myself a person who cooks a lot. And that's like three nights a week. Right.

That's a lot, you know? I mean, otherwise, I would have literally no hobbies or other activities, because I would just be coming home every night, and especially in New York, where you have to walk home from the grocery store, that in and of itself. Yeah.

I don't think I could do that. When we did the TFD book, there's one chapter that we have that's entirely about like food and home cooking, because that's obviously a huge part of people's budgets. And even just working on the 10 basic recipes that we included in that, like I was like, I never want to see another pan again.

Has being a recipe creator and a food blogger professionally, has it changed your relationship to food? A little bit. I really-- I think I more fully understand the significance of it in people's lives, because the feedback I get from people who have learned to cook using my website is just so overwhelming.

They talk about how it's not only changed their finances, but it's changed their health. So even just going from eating out all the time to cooking one or two nights at home is really changing people's lives. Their health is better.

They waste less. And just like seeing how all these different areas of their lives are impacted by that, it really drives home how much food is part of our culture. And everybody's culture.

Totally. Yeah. It's not an afterthought.

I think that's another thing that our culture is kind of like moved towards, where like eating is just something on the side. And that's why everyone goes out to eat, because they don't have time to think about it, you know? It's just not part of their daily lives.

But when you start to make it more of a focus in your life, like make that your quality time. That's your you time, something that you're doing for yourself. It really changes a lot.

Totally. My favorite thing in the world is when I'm bopping around my kitchen with an episode of The Real Housewives on my laptop. Yeah.

Which is perched on my counter. And I'm like it's so funny, because I feel like in movies it's always like the married couple like in the kitchen together, like whatever. And I'm like, get out.

This is my space. This is my zone. I get to completely zone out and just be all about like such a tactile-- Yeah.

You know, it's meditative. It is. And it can't be great like quality time with your husband or whatever.

Not for me. Maybe not for everybody. But like, I mean, that's one of my memories growing up is being in the kitchen with my mother.

Yeah. I do love it with my mom. And I didn't realize at the time, but it's a big part of people's lives.

And so instead of thinking about it like a chore, something you have to do, find a way to make it fun. Totally. Grab a bottle of wine.

Turn on some music. You know, make it a good time. Totally.

Now, let me be-- let me give credit where credit is due to my husband. He is always offering to help. He's very much the dishwasher, like he definitely plays his role.

But he's like-- I mean, I always say that like my husband, like you'd be better off sending a golden retriever with a basket on its back to the grocery store, because he will come home with like the most like-- somehow he will find a way to misunderstand a grocery item. Yeah. In a completely fatal way.

Like one time I was like, could you bring me home like a half pound of prosciutto. You would think that that is intuitively understood as sliced prosciutto. Oh, no.

Did he bring home a leg? No. He brought home a quarter pound chunk of prosciutto.

I was like, does it look like I have a deli slicer in my kitchen? What am I going to do with this? Yeah.

And he was like-- so he tried to bring it back to the grocery store. They're like, homey, we can't put that thing that you brought home back onto the deli slicer. So he really means well.

Yeah. But like if you're like, please chop this vegetable, he'll manage to chop it in a way that it's not even cookable anymore. Oh, no.

Like he's-- I love you, Mark, but the kitchen is not your zone. Yeah. Well, at least he does the dishes.

That's something. Always does the dishes. And he's like-- and he loves, like a lot of men do, I think, the sort of like science experiment thing.

So like I always get him like books on like fermentation. Yeah. And he makes his little concoctions, but yeah, I definitely don't put that man in charge of dinner.

You have to leave him with like tons of frozen portioned out food, or otherwise, he literally will just eat like pretzels and beef jerky every single night. He knows how to operate the microwave. You're safe.

He's got the microwave under control. What do people not know about the finances of being a food blogger? That it can be really expensive.

And I'm not talking about the food. Just running the website is very costly. And the bigger it gets, the more it costs.

Do you do your own photography? Yes, I do. And I suppose that's expensive as well.

Cameras can be expensive. But just the cost of keeping the website on the internet. Yeah.

Server space alone is so expensive. Because it's so image heavy. Yeah, it's image heavy.

And then just like every little piece of the website that you see is from another plug-in. And every plug-in costs money or has a subscription cost. Even just sending out my free weekly newsletter costs hundreds of dollars a month.

Wow. So think about that the next time you complain about ads. Totally.

So would you say that like, yeah, it's like thousands of dollars a month just to keep the digital space going. Oh, yeah. Mhm.

Wow. That's really intense. I will say, though, that I feel like one of the nice things that a lot of food blogging has taught people in terms of-- it's really democratized food, I think, in a way that like even 10 years ago I feel like there was Bon Appetit magazine and Julia Child, and then there was everyone else.

Right. And I feel like what's nice is that now there's this feeling of like so many different people from so many walks of life can have a part to play in how we think about food. And I really like that, because I feel like there's-- for example, when I follow you or when I follow The Woks of Life or something, like I feel like I'm getting a perspective on food that's a lot more relatable to my own.

I love-- I subscribe to Bon Appetit, and I love it. But I'll be honest. Sometimes it makes me feel bad about my own kitchen.

I'm like, wow, I really don't have any of this fancy stuff. Yeah. I don't know how to do these fancy things.

And I like that idea. Yeah. And I think that was born out of need.

Yeah. No one knew how to cook. And so they needed to see that it was approachable.

And I think decades ago, people like-- you know, housewives would be trading recipe cards. But that doesn't really happen anymore. So people need to see it's approachable in a different way.

And even the big sites, like Bon Appetit, are kind of getting in on that game. They have a new sideshoot called Basically-- I think that's them-- where it's just like really simple food that's approachable. Yeah.

Totally. But still really tasty. There was this article-- I actually don't think it was in one of the food magazines, but it was like in the food section of The Times or something, that was like this person being like just really hating Aperol, and was like, the Aperol spritz is like disgusting.

It's like-- she's like naming her favorite bitters and her favorite aperitivos that she puts in her spritzes. And she's like, my bar cart is always stocked with like blah, blah, blah. These like crazy Italian aperitivos you've never heard of.

And I'm like, I just feel worse about myself that I like an Aperol spritz now. Right. You know what I'm saying?

I feel like there's a certain kind of food writing and a way of talking about food that is almost like exclusionary on purpose. Yeah. Absolutely.

Which I really feel like I greatly dislike. Yeah. And you know who else I think helped bring food back into a more approachable zone is Anthony Bourdain.

Totally. Because he was like a world class chef, but he also loved like street food, and just really like junk food, basically. Yeah.

Although, I must take umbrage with one of his comments, which I will never forget, where he was like, the single most disgusting thing I've ever eaten-- and I have seen this man eat-- Some disgusting things. Some real disgusting things on camera. He said it was a Chicken McNugget.

And I'm like, you know that you're saying that for effect. There is no way it was a Chicken McNugget. I've seen you eat bugs on TV.

I don't know. I'd rather eat a bug than a Chicken McNugget. Not me.

I'll eat a Chicken McNugget for free. I mean, listen, I'm sure-- OK. When you think about what the Chicken McNugget represents, sure.

I think it's of those things you have to grow up eating to like. You never got fast food as a kid? No, we never did.

Wow. I mean, maybe like once in a great while, but never did. Same.

But that made it such a treasured like experience. Yeah. I just didn't ever develop a taste for it, I guess.

What should I do when I start budgeting for food? So I think the very first thing that anyone should do is take temperature of what they're spending now. So take two weeks, at least.

Better if it's four. Log all of your food expenses between both eating out and groceries, because that makes a big difference. And see what your starting point is, because you're going to need motivation to keep going once you do start budgeting.

And you won't have that motivation if you don't know where you started. Luckily, it's really easy to do that nowadays. There are like so many apps that you can just like connect it to your bank account.

And it will automatically categorize everything for you. Totally. So like Mint, I think, is one.

I'm sure there's a bunch of others. But do that for a little while. Figure out what you're spending now.

That way, once you start saving even a little bit, you're going to be so proud of yourself. And you're going to be like, yeah, I can do even more. I'm going to cut it in half, and people do.

Do you a budgeting app? Yeah. I do use Mint.

Well, guys, you know what's so crazy? Mint. So as Beth mentioned, one of the absolute best products to get all of your budgeting under control is something called Mint.

I have been using Mint personally for like seven years now. And basically, what it does is it links up with your bank accounts and your cards to help synthesize and visualize and understand all of your budget. It will sort all of the different purchases that you're making into nice categories and make a beautiful little pie chart for you.

It will send you updates and little warnings when you're going way over budget in a certain category or your spending habits are different for a certain month. Basically, it just helps you manage and control your own budget in a way that's easy to understand and doesn't require a ton of heavy lifting. I am definitely one of those people who's not really capable of doing like an Excel sheet budget for my actual expenses every single month.

So Intuit does all of that difficult work for me and allows me to just see my budget at a glance and make sure that I'm on target for all of my different spending categories and I'm hitting my different savings goals every month. I personally love Mint and could not recommend it more. So check it out at the link in our description.

And get started mastering your budget today. What foods does she enjoy at restaurants without even trying to recreate at home? I can't say there's anything that I haven't tried to recreate.

Or that you're like, this is not worth recreating at home. OK. So one thing that I prefer to eat at restaurants instead of eating at home is pho.

Oh, a good one. Yeah. Because, I mean, to get the pho broth correct it takes hours.

You have to cook that stuff for like a day and a half. Totally. Like to get it really good.

And I'm not going to do that at home. It's just not cost effective, especially with all the toppings that you have to have on it, when I can go to an authentic Vietnamese place, get a huge bowl the size of my head for $7. I'm not going to try to do that at home.

Totally. Yeah. So probably like Indian cuisine, too.

Yeah. Most of that just because it does require so many different spices. And I don't think I cook it enough to make use of those.

Yeah. I'd rather just get it at a restaurant. My number one thing for me is like I feel like anytime I try to make shellfish that's just like the item, like cooking a lobster at home, or a pot of mussels, not only does it cost almost exactly the same price just because it's really expensive to get fresh fish and fresh shellfish in particular, but I feel like it's so easy to mess up.

And I'm like, I don't want to take that risk with $25 worth of mussels. Yeah. You know what I'm saying?

You need to know what you're doing before. You really need to know what you're doing. Yeah.

And I feel like sometimes it's good. And there are certain dishes, like get a fresh tin of crab meat. Make a nice crab cake, crab-- like there are things you can do.

Yeah. Or like shellfish pasta can be good at home. But like, I don't know, man.

It's a big risk to like do your own lobster at home. Yeah. For sure.

The full thing. And I have messed up a pot of mussels on more occasions than I can count. Yeah.

I haven't attempted that one yet, but I do love mussels. One minute too long in those pots, and they're rubbery and gross. They're done.

Yeah. Yeah. And it's like the same price as getting them out.

And it's so nice. You go to a restaurant. You get like your big pot of mussels and some pies.

I wouldn't try to recreate the stuff that's an experience. Totally. Anything experientially.

Yeah. You don't want to do. I do meal prep.

This is the person, not me. I don't meal prep. I do meal prep, but I'm feeling like I'm just eating the same thing all the time.

How do I change it up without wasting food and still saving money? First, I think you do do meal prep, and you don't realize it. You said you freeze a lot of your batch cooking.

That's true. That's meal prep. That's true.

So everyone who's afraid of doing meal prep, just even like saving your leftovers for a couple days and eating that, that's meal prep. Someone was like meal prep is gentrified leftovers. Yeah.

It basically is. It's the same thing. It's just now we have a fancy term for it.

I don't meal prep more than four days at a time, because like the commenter was saying, they don't want to eat the same thing forever. But one way you can kind of mix it up is make sure that your meal prepping some freezable stuff. Totally.

So what I do is every time I have like a big batch of super stew or something, I make sure at least a few portions of that gets into the freezer so that when I do have my four-day meal prep, and I'm like, I don't feel like eating that again today, I can grab something out of the freezer and switch it up for a day or two. So it's kind of like building your own stock of TV dinners. Nice.

Yeah. I will say also as a hot food take, playing off that, it's always the saddest looking chicken breasts on those meal preps. And I feel like 99% of the time if you're cooking with chicken breast, you should just be cooking with chicken thigh, because it's less expensive, more versatile, and in my opinion, tastes better.

Yeah, totally. And I don't know why, but a lot of meal preppers think they have to boil their meat. I don't know if they're trying to avoid using fat, but I mean, at least bake it or something.

Like grill it, or ugh. I saw somebody boiling ground turkey the other day on some documentary. I'm like, that's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life.

That is so gross, like half of what-- oh, my god! I have a such a pet peeve. Can I share?

With any time I see like those-- people are obsessed with their crackpots and their instant pots or whatever. And fine. I get it, like it does make for convenience.

But anytime I see people loading all the ingredients at the exact same time totally raw into the bottom of that pot, I'm like, where's the meat being seared? Yeah. Like where are you caramelizing-- No Maillard reaction.

No Maillard reaction. You're not caramelized any of your onions or your garlic. Where's your depth of flavor?

Yeah. Gross! That's my biggest gripe with the slow cooker.

Yeah. The slow cooker is great for a few things, but I do not recommend cooking everything in a slow cooker all the time. A, a lot of times it's just going to be faster and easier to do it on stovetop.

The same with an instant pot, in my opinion. But B, you need that dry heat environment to create the caramelization , the Maillard reaction, all those things that you cannot get in the wet environment of a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. It's just like everything is just moist.

Yeah. And if you ever see a food blogger or other some-- other food website that has a picture of a slow cooked meal and things are browned in there, they're lying. Oh, totally.

You cannot get things browned in a slow cooker. Not if it's just going straight in there. No.

You have to sear it first. Yeah. I feel like it's so funny.

Here's a fun fact. When you're cooking something and it's not like-- like mushrooms, for example, and they come out all gross, it's usually because they did not have enough space in the pan. Yeah.

So they basically steamed themselves instead of getting that delicious brown. I feel like so much of what's good about food is just browning it. Browning.

One of my pet peeves is if I'm at a restaurant or something and they ask if I want the bagel or toast toasted, and they bring it to me warm. No. But not toasted.

There's like no browning on it at all. It's like breathe really hard on it. Yes.

Which ingredients are worth getting high quality and which ones should I just stick to the cheap options? I'm thinking staples like rice, beans, pasta, sauce, et cetera. Our food budget for two in Canada is about $70 Canadian a week, and I want to make it stretch as far as possible.

I love that question. And I've been wanting to write an article about this lately-- things that I spend more on. So the things that I like to spend a little bit more on are a good pasta, because even when you get the fancy pasta, it's still inexpensive.

Yes. And it just makes such a difference. The way the pasta's textured on the outside, if it's a good pasta, will hold the sauce better.

And it just somehow tastes so much better. You wouldn't think that a pasta can taste different, but it does. May I inject a small pasta hot take.

Always, always De Cecco over Barilla. Barilla pasta is terrible. Yeah.

And De Cecco is actually pretty good for the price point. Yeah, it is good. That's all.

Yeah. Since I'm so obsessed with eggs, I prefer to get better eggs. Love an egg.

Yeah. I've been using like good eggs for years. And one day I went back to just the regular like cheapest one that's available at the supermarket, and like the shell like just disintegrated, like it just was not even-- there was like no shell.

It was weird. I don't know. So I definitely like a better egg.

And again, they're still inexpensive compared to most of your other ingredients. So I allow myself to do that. Recently, I have been spending a little bit more on butter.

Kerrygold or bust for moi. Yeah. I have fallen so in love with Kerrygold.

And I didn't even know butter could be that different. It tastes different. The texture is different.

It's like a whole different product. So yeah, I'm going to say butter. My husband, he loves-- like once a year, we'll do like a very, very nice Michelin starred restaurant.

I'm not like as into the tasting menu type thing. Yeah. I go with him, but he loves it.

But the part that we both love the most is the bread cart with the fresh, soft, homemade butter. It's-- oh, my god! Yeah.

That's your meal. Like I would be happy with a baguette and some butter for dinner. Oh, my god.

A baguette with some butter. Maybe-- and a little fresh jam maybe for dessert. Yeah.

What ingredients are basically interchangeable? Here where I live, it's pretty hard to find things like kale or quinoa, which are popular now. So it would be good to know what things generally could replace them.

Is he asking about those two ingredients specifically? She is asking-- She? About, I think, those ingredients, specifically, but I think maybe like more generally even categories of things that are pretty interchangeable.

Oh, I think that's tough, because I think it's mostly going to depend on how they're being used in the recipe. Right. Right.

Yeah. So like a lot of times, you can replace tomatoes with another acidic fruit, like pineapple. And that's why people like pineapple on their pizza if you're that type of person.

Which I am. Or you can make a salsa with pineapple, or other fruit that has a little bit of acidity in it. As far as greens go, kale, you can probably replace with something like collard greens or mustard greens, because they are also both really hardy, bitter greens.

But a lot of times, you can even just use spinach in place of kale. You'd have to add it at a different point in the recipe, because it's a lot more delicate. Yeah.

But I tell people spinach all the time in my recipes when they don't like kale. So that's definitely one. I'm not so sure.

What was the other one they asked about? Quinoa? Quinoa, I feel like brown rice, probably.

Yeah. Quinoa, probably brown rice is going to be at your least expensive, most convenient option there. Totally.

I'm a huge-- I put-- basically, in every soup I make, I put a leafy green. Yeah. Just because they're, A, like you cannot mess them up.

And also, they hold the soup really well. Yeah. It's like a delicious bite of greeny-- It gives it body, like something to actually chew on.

Yeah. And I feel like collard greens are good. Chard, Swiss chard.

I love my greens. I'm a bitter flavor person. And I'm glad about it.

Me too, like a broccoli rabe. Yeah. Oh, man.

I don't know how to phrase it exactly, but I wonder about her model of pricing things by meal and ingredient and how she was able to conceive of food that way since most people just think about how much groceries cost versus how much it would cost to eat out for that same meal. That's a great question. For those of you who don't know, my background, my first college degree was in nutritional science, because I was planning on becoming a dietician.

A large portion of dieticians go on to manage large food service operations, like hospital kitchens, school lunch programs, prison lunch programs. I obviously didn't want to do that. But anyway, we ended up having to take a lot of classes in food service management.

And so a big part of that is learning how to cost out the meals in those organizations. So I use the same method at home. So basically, you figure out the cost of the portion of the ingredient that you're using in the recipe, assuming that the rest of the cost of that item that you bought is going to be accounted for in other recipes.

Right. So that's why I use that method. A lot of people find it to be inaccurate, because they're like, oh, but I can't just buy one tablespoon of olive oil for this recipe.

But if you think about it, you're not-- the olive oil when you use it the next time is not free. So it's not like you're-- you know, if you already have it. Right.

You know. So you just account for the portion that you're using in the recipe. And I do have a blog post about how to calculate your recipe costs.

I think it's a really important exercise for people to try at least once, because it can be very eye-opening to see how different ingredients can really change the overall cost of your recipes. Like if you add one extra ounce of cheese, all of a sudden, your recipe cost is double. Yeah.

I recommend people do it at least once just to kind of figure out. And I have a tutorial on how to do that. Totally.

We'll link you guys to that in the description of the show notes. By the way, I'd like to add now that you've brought it up, if you're using it, like to in any way, like uncooked, basically, I always spend more on olive oil. Yeah.

Yeah. Olive oil's another one of those. Olive oil-- You really notice the difference.

Yeah. I mean, a good olive oil, like to me, tastes like flowers. It's so good.

It is so good. Yeah. It's so good.

I love the Cal-- I think it's California Farms. Mhm. It's in that square green bottle.

I feel like for the price it's like it's a pretty decent price, but it's really good. The 365 brand olive oils are really good, too. Well, yeah.

And those are a really good price. Yeah. Yeah.

What is your-- this was not asked, but I know that if certain people had been online when I asked them to ask questions, this would have been a really popular one. Because we get so many comments about Trader Joe's stuff, do you have you go-to Trader Joe's products that you love? I don't.

I never get to go to Trader Joe's, because it's like on the other opposite side of the world for me, and their parking lot gives me anxiety. So like last time I went, I drove there. I'm like, I'm going to Trader Joe's today.

And I took one look at the parking lot, and I kept driving. I'm like, I can't deal with that. I don't know why their parking lots are so bad.

But I'm an Aldi girl. And Aldi is like the brother company to Trader Joe's. Oh, yeah.

And I have one really close to my house. So I'm in Aldi all the time. I feel like-- and I feel like the video that I watched that explains Trader Joe's business practices I think has a section about this, but produce, not their strong suit, fresh produce.

It's all wrapped in plastic. Yes. And it's frustrating.

They rarely have a very good selection. A lot of times it's very low quality. Although, I will say they often-- they usually will have Persian cucumbers, which are effing delicious.

Those are good. Delicious. OK.

Their bulk nuts, always at an excellent price, and they have delicious flavors, like they have their Thai chili cashews. Not only could I use-- like eat them by the handful constantly, but they're also-- you can do interesting things with them. They're great on a salad.

Yeah. Things like that. Love those.

They're frozen food section, second to none. They have the best frozen foods. They have delicious frozen soup dumplings.

They have frozen all kinds of-- and they're very good also for like, for example, Indian cuisine. They have great frozen Indian food. They have great frozen food of all of those categories.

But I feel like their strongest suit has got to be the prepared foods. They're the best place to get things to have an easy go-to dinner. Yeah.

The fun convenience foods. I just remembered I do have a favorite Trader Joe's product. Yes.

Share. Because actually before I was in Nashville I was in New Orleans, and they had just opened one up shortly before we moved. So we did go there.

It was easier. And we really enjoyed their pork potstickers. Mmm, yes.

Frozen. The ones that come in the bag, the gyozas. Yeah!

Yes. So you can keep them in the freezer. We would just like take out 6-12 at a time.

Cook them up. Hell yes. Super fast dinner.

Loved them. That is one of the number one things that I do any time I make like a Chinese takeoutesque dish at home, which I love to do. Yeah.

I always heat up some frozen potstickers to go with it. That is one of those foods that never in this long life of mine am I going to make homemade soup dumplings. And I have made potstickers by hand for the blog before, and I would rather get the Trader Joe's ones.

There's no way they're not coming out worse. And they're so inexpensive to buy already made. It's like you might as well, you know?

Yeah. I have-- ooh, question. What's your take on making homemade pasta?

I don't do it. Me either. It's just-- It's not worth it.

It's fun for like if you want to do a fun date night or something and like have that be the experience, but I'm not going to do that on a regular basis. Can you give us like your top three recipes from your collection that people should check out to get themselves into cooking at home? I think your dragon noodles might be one of them.

Yeah. Dragon noodles. The easy cauliflower and chickpea masala.

Ooh. I said I didn't-- I know. I said I didn't try to do Indian food, but again, it's more of like a takeout fake out version, Americanized version.

So that. And let's see, a third one. I feel like there's a soup.

Oh, West African peanut soup. Love. It's so good.

It's so good. And it's like unexpected flavor combinations I think most Americans aren't used to. Totally.

Like tomato, peanut, and sweet potato, and collard greens. But it's so freaking good. It's so good.

Yeah. One of my biggest curses in life is that my husband really dislikes both coconut and/or peanut in savory dishes. Oh.

And like that's half of my favorite foods. Yeah, mine too. But he'll like-- it depends.

Certain things, he'll make do. Who is the food blogger that you like-- that you go to the most when you're cooking something? So I really don't go to other food bloggers to cook stuff, because I really only cook for my food blog, and then I eat the leftovers.

So I don't cook for myself at home. But I would say another food blogger that I really admire is Lindsay and Bjork from Pinch of Yum. Pinch of Yum!

Yeah. They are great. They have a really similar taste in food to me, so I like all of the recipes.

And I just like them as people. I think they have a lot of integrity, so I like what they're doing. Nice.

Yeah. And now the time has come for our rapid fire questions. I'm scared.

What do you invest in versus what are you cheap about? So the older I get, I definitely shop more for quality than for trends. And that's everything with like clothes, and cars.

I'm just a really practical person, like I drive a super cheap car, but it works. What kind of car do you have? I have a Kia Soul.

And it's 2013, I think. It's not that old, comparatively. Yeah.

But I plan to drive it till it's 10 years old at least, you know? So I'm just not all about flashy stuff. Just give me something that works and is going to last.

Nice. And what are you cheap about? What am I cheap about?

Toilet paper? I don't know. Oh, man.

That's one place where I go quality. Stuff that I'm just going to be throwing away, like I don't want to spend a lot on garbage bags, you know? Stuff like that.

Interesting. I was at my-- that's funny you should say that, because I was at my therapist this morning. I have therapy every Monday, and I was like, he switched to one-ply in his bathroom?

I was like, listen, doctor, we both know how much money I'm paying you every week. I deserve-- Fluffy toilet paper. Two-ply toilet paper of the highest quality.

I mean, I'm not going to go that bad with toilet paper, but I'm going to buy like the Target brand and not Charmin. No. Do you know what I mean?

But this was like that toilet paper that's not-- it's like one-ply, but like rough. Yeah. You deal with all the threads.

It's like the tissue paper that you wrap gifts with. I was like, I'll pay you $5 more an hour, but it has to go to toilet paper. Yeah.

All right. What has been your best investment and why? Probably a good computer.

Nice. Yeah. My Macs have lasted a good like six to eight years each.

Nice. Not mine, but only because I abuse them. What kind of camera do you use, out of curiosity, to shoot all your food?

Let me see if I remember. I never look at the model, so it's hard to remember. I haven't looked at the model since I bought it.

A Canon 6D Mark IV, I think. Nice. That means nothing to me.

I'm sure Ryan knows what that is. Does that sound right? Yeah.

OK. Do you ever shoot with an iPhone? No, it's a disaster.

I mean, if I do like an Instagram story or something, like showing what I'm photographing. And it just looks so bad compared to a real camera. I can't do it.

I'm not skilled. Those iPhone 11's, those cameras are good. What has been your biggest money mistake and why?

College. No. I bet it probably was, though.

No, I mean, it wasn't a total mistake. I have two degrees, and I had to finance, basically, all of it. I mean, I worked full time for the first, I think, two or three years of college.

And then after that, I worked part-time. I soon realized that working part-time was not worth the time I was losing actually learning what I needed to be learning at school. So then I just got lots and lots and lots and lots of student loans.

Oh, no. And it was-- the total was quite the number, but luckily, I've been able to pay that off, which I think-- All of it? Yeah.

And I think-- That's amazing. Congratulations. Thanks.

I think I just got lucky with my career, because I think after I graduated if I had gone into my original careers that I had gone to school for, I would have never paid off those debts ever. Out of curiosity, we love a number on TFD, what was the original student loan debt? I guess I will say it just to give people hope maybe, or to make them not feel so alone.

I think I only looked at the total once, because it was too scary. And it was like in the upper 80's, upper 80,000's. I thought you were going to say like 250,000.

No. I mean, I didn't go to medical school. Thank god.

But it was-- you know? That's a lot. Yeah.

It's a lot. That's a lot. And then when you start thinking about the interest, I'm sure I paid off double that amount, you know?

Yeah. So it's scary. And I hate the fact that people have to go through that.

Totally. It's gross. It's really-- yeah, it's unbelievable, especially when you think about looking at paying-- you know, I have friends who pay $2,000 a month, and are going to be paying $2,000 a month every month until they're in their 50's.

Right. It's just you have to completely recalibrate your entire life. Yeah.

It's just unbelievable. What is your biggest current money insecurity? I think the fact that the industry I work in is brand new, and I don't know if it will be there tomorrow.

So I try to save as much as I can to be financially secure, but I don't know what tomorrow holds, you know? It's not like a normal career. Have you got a good retirement plan going?

Yeah. Good for you. Good for you.

Got your SEP-IRA? Oh, yeah. I got all that stuff.

Nice. Good for you. All the goodies.

What has been the financial habit that has helped you the most? Adopting a mindset that before I buy something, I ask myself, was I surviving without this before? And the answer is always yes.

I mean, because I was living before I bought this product. So that convinces me 90% of the time not to buy something. Last question.

When did you first feel, quote, unquote, "successful"? And what does that word mean to you? Oh, I like that.

Success has been such a journey. I think I first felt successful when I was able to quit my other job and just blog. Nice.

Yeah. And I think just having the freedom to make my choices in life and not have to answer to some other company or a corporation. That's what success means to me.

Nice. Awesome. Yeah.

Well, Beth, thank you for being here. It's been so much fun. It is so much fun.

It's my favorite podcast so far. Ah, thank you. So where can people go to get more of you? And that's B-Y-T-E-S. And where's the best place to follow you on social media?

Instagram is my jam. Budget Bytes with a Y. Budget Bytes, yep.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here. Thanks.

And hopefully, we will see more of you soon on TFD. Yeah. Totally.

Bye. Bye, guys. So as we head into spring, not only are we heading into a huge variety of amazing produce options that are in season and wonderful fun spring dishes, like pesto pastas, and all of those great vegetable forward dishes, we're also heading into tax time.

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