The Best Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs

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The holiday season is upon us, and so is the cold weather. We’re all pressed for time but still want hearty, warming food to share with our families. It’s a good thing we have slow cookers – they make it so easy to make soups and stews. (I prefer pressure cooking for a lot of other tasks people do in a slow cooker or Crock Pot, but more on that another time – it’s great for some things, like spaghetti sauce!)

This spaghetti sauce is very basic but super super delicious. You can vary it by adding onions, mushrooms, peppers, sausage, or whatever you’d like, rather than meatballs. As I note in the recipe, you can also add grated carrot. It makes a much sweeter sauce but it definitely gets an extra bit of veggies down the kids in a sneaky way! It even gives it a slightly orange hue and may fool them into thinking they’re eating Chef Boyardee.

Super simple, super fast, super cheap - but one of the most delicious dinners around!

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Thrifty Thursday: Frozen Chicken Breasts from Costco

I don’t know about you, but we like frozen chicken breast here. It’s versatile and the mild flavor is pretty kid-friendly. The biggest problem is that it can be expensive. I shop sales, but the most reliable source I’ve found is actually… frozen chicken breasts from Costco!

Costco offers a great price on frozen chicken breasts every day!

For a long time, I thought Costco was too expensive for chicken breast. The fresh packs are definitely no cheaper than our grocery store’s sale price, and they carry a frozen brand called Coleman that’s also pretty pricey. But then I figured out to look for the ten pound bag of frozen chicken breasts – score! The brand is Wayne Farms.

It’s only $21.99 for 10 pounds of chicken breast. And, bonus, it’s sliced thin. We used to spend so much time slicing the big, thick grocery store chicken breasts in half so they would cook more quickly (plus I just prefer the texture when they’re thin). Sometimes I’d ask the butcher to slice them for me but I often grocery shop at odd hours, when there’s no butcher available – and many stores don’t even offer a butcher at all anymore. So this was a super happy find.

The chicken pieces are individually quick frozen. That means you can take out just one or two at a time. I’ve found them to be pretty clean, too – I don’t have to do a lot of trimming to remove fat or the tendon that runs through chicken breasts. Given that they come out to just $2.19 a pound, that’s pretty amazing.

They are coated with a brine type solution, to prevent freezer burn, according to the bag. I’ve found them to be moist, tender, and have a good flavor. I love Aldi but sometimes their frozen chicken breasts can be kind of… globby with fat and taste a little off. The bags often seem to be full of ice, which means they’re probably a bit freezer burned. And the price actually isn’t much better. It’s $6.49 for 3 pounds at our Aldi, which comes to $2.16/lb – I’d rather pay the extra three cents for better-tasting chicken!

I will add that Zaycon Fresh (my referral link) offers a substantially lower price – just $1.49/lb at the time of this writing for residents of the Northeastern US; it’s $1.69 elsewhere. However, there are a few caveats. You have to buy 40 pounds of chicken breast; you have to get to a sale site during their operating hours (around here they schedule half-hour stops during the day); and the sales can be infrequent. It’s been many months since I last saw one within 50 miles of me. Their delayed return is the reason for the 20c/lb discount. All that said, if these conditions work for you, Zaycon Fresh is the clear winner for price. I’ve heard the quality is excellent, and I plan to use this option myself once we can get a chest freezer.

What do you think? What price do you pay for boneless, skinless chicken breast? How often do you eat it? Join our Facebook group and let me know!


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How to Get Facebook to Show Your Blog’s Preview Images

This is the first article in a series about starting and running a blog. Since I’m spending a lot of time learning the ropes right now, I thought I should share! A blog can (supposedly) be a great source of extra income, so let’s talk business. Let me know what you think!

How to get Facebook to display your preview image correctly 

Have you noticed it can be really tricky to get Facebook to show your blog’s preview images properly? You go to share your link and there’s no image at all or, worse, it seems to pick some random photo. An attention-grabbing image is really important for drawing attention (and clicks) on Facebook, so you definitely want your hard work to actually show up! So what’s the deal?

I can’t tell you exactly why it happens, besides ascribing it to the vagaries of Facebook. C’mon, Zuck! But I can tell you how to fix it, and that’s what we really want, right? Here we go, step by step through how to get Facebook to show your blog’s preview images correctly.

  1. Try the Facebook debugger.
    This is the first step because it seems to work for most people, most of the time, and I don’t believe most bloggers want to do more troubleshooting than they absolutely have to. So, first things first: When you’re typing a post to share on Facebook and the image isn’t pulling in correctly, go to the Facebook debugger.
    Look for the search box, paste your URL, and click “Debug.”How to get Facebook to show your blog's preview images - step by step
    The debugger will show you a link preview, and if you scroll down a bit further you’ll see a section with Open Graph tags. Look for “og:image” and see what’s in there – that’s what Facebook will use for your preview! If it’s incorrect, press the “Scrape Again” button and see if everything is in order. If it is, you’re good to go!
    How to get Facebook to display your preview image correctly
  2. Tell Facebook explicitly which image you want it to use.
    If that didn’t work, you might want to use the Open Graph format to tell Facebook which image you’d like it to use. (Heads up – that link is to the full Open Graph protocol and there’s a ton of good information, but it can be a little overwhelming, depending on your propensity for techie stuff.) You can do this with a line of code called a “meta tag”, which goes in the <head> section of each web page – including your blog posts.The easiest way to set these meta tags is to use a plugin, and I recommend the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s got lots of other features that are helpful for getting visitors to your blog, but I’ll just talk about how we can use it for Facebook image previews here. Once you have the plugin installed, it will display a box at the bottom of your post editing page. Click on the sharing icon on the left (the one that’s kind of an open triangle) and look for “Facebook Image.”
    How to get Facebook to display your preview image correctly
    Now you can either upload the image you want or, if it’s already on your blog, you can just use the URL. (That’s the part that goes in the src=”” attribute of your img tags, if you look in the Text tab of the editor for WordPress. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s OK – I’ll address it at another time!)Notice that you can also change the title and description that display on Facebook here. Handy, right? After you’ve published your changes, go ahead back to the Facebook debugger in step 1 and ask it to scrape again. You should now see the correct image! Nice!
    How to get Facebook to display your preview image correctly
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