The Best Chili Ever – in an Instant Pot

Deliciously complex chili in under 90 minutes - and it's better as leftovers!

It’s a big claim to make, I know. Not just the best chili ever, but in an Instant Pot, too? Yes, friends. It’s true. This is the most amazing chili ever, and you will mark the day you first made it in your calendar and celebrate its anniversary every year.

OK, that might be hyperbole – but only a little. This recipe started as something I saw on Sara Moulton’s old show on Food TV – before it was Food Network, I think. Does anyone else remember her hour-long show, where viewers were encouraged to cook along? And folks would call in with questions? I loved that show. Sara Moulton is the bee’s knees. She was also the executive chef at the dining room of Gourmet magazine (may it rest in peace) for a long time. For all its bourgeois sensibilities, Gourmet really only ever printed quality recipes – you can still trust them.

An old roommate gave away my entire box of Gourmet back issues, not that I’m still bitter.

Anyway, I saw this recipe presented on Sara’s show, and I thought, “that sounds alright; I’ll give it a try.” It’s probably been fifteen years – see, I didn’t mark the date in my calendar, and now I regret it – and I’ve made a few tweaks here and there. But this is still my go-to, #1, best chili ever recipe, and the Instant Pot has made it so fast and easy there’s no reason not to make it.

Deliciously complex chili in under 90 minutes - and it's better as leftovers!

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Cooking From Your Pantry: Use It Up

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Have you heard that saying? I’m sure you have – it’s a good one. And lots of frugal blog articles at this time of year suggest making use of what’s in your pantry to lower your grocery bill. But how does cooking from your pantry work? When you look in your cupboards, do you see a random hodgepodge of food, instead of potential meals? If you haven’t had your grocery budget on lockdown and a set meal plan, chances are good you have a slightly strange assortment going on – but that’s OK.

Reduce grocery spending AND food waste by cooking from your pantry.

I’m going to lay out a few steps you can follow, as well as some specific ideas to use. Find the ones that work for you, and you’ll be cooking from your pantry in no time. Perhaps for dinner tonight?

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Replacing Paper with Cloth, One Step at a Time: Paper Towels

I’ve been thinking lately about the environment, our budget, and household waste. The amount of trash we generate is kind of alarming; not only is it bad for the planet, it’s bad for our bottom line. We’ve tried here and there to replace paper with cloth – paper towels, napkins, tissues, and feminine hygiene, primarily – but it never seems to stick for long. We’re going to try again, though, without changing a million other things at the same time. Just replacing paper with cloth, one step at a time. If you’re thinking about doing the same thing, let’s give it a try together. I’m planning to start by replacing paper towels with cloth.

Replacing paper with cloth, one step at a time - starting with paper towels

The biggest obstacle in the past has been a lack of laundry facilities or a lack of laundry routine. We have a washer and dryer now, so that’s become easier. But I know that without a routine, permanent transition to reusable cloths is never going to take root for us. I’ve found that, with any kind of change, I need to make it habitual. This will come as zero surprise to anyone who has read any kind of self-improvement blog, book, or tweet, I’m sure.

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Budget-Friendly January Meal Plan

Ah, yes, January – that time of the year when we make and stick to resolutions and feel full of potential. I’ve decided to take advantage this year and plan out an entire month of meals, because I think we all know that my enthusiasm on January 20 is going to be 15% of what it is now, at best. It’s always nicer to make changes in community with others, so I’m sharing our budget-friendly January meal plan with you. I hope you’ll let me know if you use it!

Budget-friendly, slightly low-carb, hearty winter recipes for January meal planning.

Our family has a few goals related to food and meals in the new year, and you might share some of them. However, I plan to implement changes gradually. I tend to be a big-bites kind of person, which, after 37 years, I’ve finally realized can lead to burnout. My instinct is to try to do it all at once, and that does work for me for some things in life. But I’ve got three other people to consider when I make changes to something as basic and as vital as what we eat, and I don’t want to overwhelm myself or them. So, this is an easing in to some of the changes and a further refinement of others.

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Just Take a Shower: Self-Care 101

This post contains affiliate links.

As we head into the New Year, everyone starts to think about resolutions. As an overwhelmed, always-busy mom, I frequently promise myself that I’ll do some self-care – and then it’s the first thing to get bumped out of the schedule because there is just too much to do. Think about it: How many times have you made a joke about being able to even just take a shower? Probably at least once a week. And if we can’t even find time to shower, how do we find time to do anything else to take care of ourselves?

So that’s my self-care resolution for 2017: Just take a shower. Just that. It’s so basic it seems trivial, and yet.

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Free Pinterest Content Calendar from Simple Pin Media: Review

This post may contain affiliate links.

If you’re a new blogger, like I am, it feels like there are just way, way too many different things to do in order to build up your audience. I know I’m still in the very beginning stages, but I’ve found a few sites that I find super helpful. Today I’d like to share Simple Pin Media with you, along with their amazing, FREE Pinterest content calendar for 2017!

Get a FREE Pinterest planner from Simple Pin Media.
Image courtesy of Simple Pin Media

Kate Ahl heads Simple Pin Media, and offers a ton of free information for bloggers who use Pinterest. She also has a paid course, which I haven’t taken yet, but plan to, simply because her free content is so amazing. One of my favorite features from her site is the free Pinterest calendar.

The calendar gives really clear direction for each month of the year, with suggestions on rearranging your boards, what content to pin when, and strategies to try. When I get too overwhelmed with wondering what I should be doing, I like to get this calendar out and get back to basics.

The layout is super clean and very easy to follow. There’s also a Simple Pin Media Facebook group, and it’s one of the best blog-related Facebook groups I’ve joined. I definitely recommend checking it out! The podcast is great as well, although I know it can be hard to find time to listen when the kids are awake – I actually listen at bedtime because my toddler is used to audiobooks as she falls asleep!

You can download your copy for free by joining Kate’s mailing list – and the list itself is full of good Pinterest tips, too!

You’ll notice that Simple Pin Media recommends Tailwind, and I do, too. It’s a great resource and they offer a free account – it just limits the number of posts you can schedule in a month. I used the free account for a few months to make sure I liked the service, which is officially sanctioned by Pinterest. I’m now a happy, paying subscriber and I think it’s been totally worth the time to learn how it works.

If you’re looking to make Pinterest part of your blog strategy – and I think you should if you’re in any kind of food, craft, fashion, home decor, or DIY niche – you should absolutely grab this calendar!
I didn’t receive any compensation for writing about this 😉 I just love it that much. I’ll post updates throughout 2017 with my blog’s progress as far as traffic, including how Pinterest performs for me!

Tailwind Visual Marketing Suite

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Gift Guide: The Frugal Cook

14 gifts perfect for the frugal cook in your life!

This post contains affiliate links.

Wondering what to buy for the frugal cook in your life? Maybe your best friend just loves to cook for the freezer once a month. Maybe your sister enjoys couponing and cooking in bulk. Or maybe you have someone who just likes to see how low they can get that grocery budget to go. But even the most wallet-conscious cook can appreciate a few tools to make the job easier. This gift guide for the frugal cook is intended to give you some ideas for that friend (or for yourself!) – items that will actually be worth having around and that will help reduce food costs more by increasing efficiency.

I’ve included options with a wide range of price points, and a variety of interests within frugal cooking, so you can find the perfect gift! Enjoy shopping!

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The Best Slow Cooker Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs

This post may contain affiliate links.

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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