Inflation is high, and budgets are tight. Everything from food costs to gas prices – though those have, thankfully, dropped a bit this last week – are higher than we’ve seen in our lifetimes. This is why we appreciate Ree Drummond, a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman, so much: She’s one of the only TV chefs who keeps money in mind. Her ‘home on the range’ recipes are made with budget-friendly ingredients and the familiar flavors we love.
Now, she’s bringing her all-too-rare brand of cost-conscious cooking to a new show called Big Bad Budget Battle (and when we tell you that it’s fantastic, we mean it). The six-episode cooking competition premiered on Food Network last Tuesday at 10 p.m. — it streams on Discovery+ — and viewers went ga-ga for Drummond’s respectful homage to hardworking home cooks.
“I feel like there’s a never-ending need for inspiration when it comes to everyday cooking,” she told USA Today. “Entertaining is great [and] holiday cooking is great, but it’s really the everyday grind that home cooks struggle with.”
We couldn’t agree more, Ree, especially with food prices as high as they are right now. It’s the perfect time for a cooking show focused on being resourceful and saving money on groceries.
The gist of the series is challenging home cooks to turn affordable ingredients into unexpected meals. Each of its six episodes follows three at-home cooks tasked with creating meals with “a small stash of cash” they are given to spend at Flavortown Market. (Guy Fieri fans will recognize Flavortown Market as the faux grocery story on the set of Guy’s Grocery Games. Fieri is an executive producer of Big Bad Budget Battle.)
A panel of judges, among them Damaris Phillips, Eddie Jackson, and Catherine McCord of Weelicious fame, will award the “best cook and thriftiest shopper” a trophy and a year’s worth of groceries. Not too shabby, eh?
“I think it’s something that people can watch and come away with — not just great shopping tips that are more budget friendly — but also just inspiration about being resourceful in the kitchen and using leftovers,” says Drummond.
As any fan of The Pioneer Woman will tell you, cooking on a budget has always been a key consideration for Drummond. In a 2020 HerMoney interview, she shared her love of buying in bulk. “I love buying family packs of meat, whether it’s chicken thighs or chicken breasts,” she said, adding “you can also find big family packs of prepared meatballs in discount clubs, in huge bags.”
Her trick, she told the podcast’s host, is to “bring them home and divvy them up in freezer bags according to the size of your family.”
Drummond has several other cost-saving tips, chief among them:
- Buy frozen veggies. “Most of the time, no one can tell the difference between vegetables that were fresh and frozen in a cooked dish,” she says.
- Embrace big batch cooking. Instead of making a recipe that serves two or four, double or triple the recipe and store leftovers in the freezer. This way, you’ll use up all the ingredients you bought for the dish (vs. throwing half of them away), and thus save money.
- Buy frozen dough. Frozen veggies aren’t the only money-saving star in the cold aisle. Where bakery bread molds if not eaten quickly, frozen dough has a long shelf life — and according to Drummond, can be made into everything from pizza crusts to calzones.
Surely the home chefs on Big Bad Budget Battle will be putting these cooking hacks to use. The contestants’ creativity has already blown us away – and Drummond, too, as evidenced by her exuberant responses to the dishes made by contestants on the first episode.
“They all have the same amount of money when they go in (to the grocery store), Drummond says, “and they have to really maximize that money.”
We can’t wait to see what they come up with over the next five weeks. No doubt we’ll learn a few tips and pick up some new recipes that will grace our future dinner table. Happy cooking!