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Baking Day: Lasagna, Ziti, and a picture of the fruits of my labors

After the girls went to bed last night, I quickly whipped up three pans of lasagna and three pans of Ziti.

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The lasagna recipe was a new one (go here to see it) that FishMama highly recommended. I'm curious to see how it tastes. It was easy to make and less expensive than usual lasagna since I can often get cream cheese for $0.50 per package (with a sale and a coupon)–which beats the price of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese that I'd usually use in lasagna.

I don't have a recipe for the Ziti because I just made it up on the fly using ground turkey, pasta sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, noodles, and spices. I've learned that a great way to be frugal in the kitchen is to learn to be creative and flexible with ingredients!

After finishing up the pans of Ziti and Lasagna, I called it a day. I didn't get to quite everything on my list, but I did get a lot done yesterday–and that's a very good feeling! In fact, I was surprised at how much I'd gotten done when I laid everything out on the table to take a final picture:

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5 batches of Whole-Wheat Waffles
3 bags of browned ground turkey (we'll use this for homemade pizza or possibly pair it with pinto beans to make chili)
1 bag of cooked chopped chicken
1 batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
5 bags of cooked Pinto Beans
3 pans of Lasagna
3 pans of Ziti
3 meals of Chicken Tetrazinni
1 bag of Southwest Roll-ups

It was about seven hours' worth of work total to make all of that and I'm figuring it will make at least 20 dinners and 8-10 breakfasts. That is totally worth it to me for seven hours of work. Plus, it means I don't have to worry about "What's for Dinner?" many nights for the next month nor do I have to mess up my kitchen as much!

——————————-

Did you have a chance to do any baking or cooking this week? If so, post about it
on your blog and leave your link below to your direct blog post. I'd
love it especially if you could share pictures and recipes so I can get
more ideas for my next Baking Day projects! And I'm guessing many
others would be inspired as well.

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85 Comments

  • Tiffany S. says:

    You amaze me! Your husband is a lucky man! lol You are like superwoman. Thank you for posting this for us. 🙂

  • Kim says:

    Wow, great job! I’m a newbie to the whole “Make it ahead and freeze it” thing, but I have found it makes a huge difference in whether or not I stick to my menu for the week. Thanks for the example!

  • Victoria says:

    Wow, you did an amazing job, I am in awe! I would love to make my own homemade waffles…I’m so guilty of eating and serving way too many packaged foods! 🙁

    Your family is very lucky to have you! 🙂

  • You have inspired me! And I will be copying some of your recipes. I am going to have a baking day in the near future!! Thank you!

  • Great work lady! I tired out so fast (wonder why!?! ;)…I think we might try a cheese-less version of your Southwest RollUps soon!

    Erin

  • Mary jane Bombetto says:

    You are an amazing woman–doing all that cooking with 3 little ones. I admire you and everything you do. Thanks for your inspiration to all of us. MJ

  • Ginger Peterson says:

    Nice Job! I always enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor!

  • Jennifer says:

    I just want to tell you what a wonderful job you did! Amazing that you got all of that done with three little children, sickies at that!

    Because of your previous baking days, I now have my own each week on the schedule. I can usually only go until nap time, I just get so worn out – and don’t get nearly this much finished.

    What a wonderful blessing to your family and your budget. And, thanks for the enouragment!

  • Jes says:

    I am really curious about your homemade hot pockets, do you cook them and freeze them, then when you want to eat them do you thaw first, or put in the oven frozen like the hot pockets you buy in the store? My husband loves them and i never thought you make them myself! Thanks for your inspiration and even meal ideas!

  • We LOVE to cook and bake, but having children can make that difficult. I love the idea of preparing ahead and freezing, although I must admit that we don’t have the freezer space to make complete meals. I’m not sure that even if we did, I would do it, though, since I love the act of cooking and prefer the taste of a product freshly baked. To cut down on time, though, we prepare our ingredients ahead of time and freeze them – for example, we make spaghetti sauce and freeze it, I roast veggies like butternut squash and pumpkin and freeze them in cubes or puree and freeze to use in dishes later, we also roast tomatoes (now is the perfect time of year for this) and freeze, etc. So, even if freezing complete meals is not your thing, you can still plan and prep ahead by just making and freezing ingredients – besides, it is SO much cheaper to do this than to buy these items canned or at the store (like pumpkin puree)!

    Great work yesterday – looks good!

  • Heather says:

    I can’t wait to try some of your yummy recipes, Crystal! Thanks so much! 🙂

  • Vicky says:

    I have been wanting to find a good lasagna recipe. I was wondering if you would share what kind of pasta sauce you used or how you did the pasta sauce? Thanks

  • Denise says:

    oh my! so motivating!! I am jealous your kids will eat such amazing variety! I am still trying to get my kids to eat more variety and make it a bit easier on me. Perhaps I will just take the plunge and do it. Gotta make those pumpkin chocolate chip muffins! YUM!

  • Sarah says:

    Will you freeze the ziti and the lasagna pans? I didn’t think you could just cover with foil and freeze? Please let me know as I often run out of storage containers and this would be an easy fix!
    Thanks for the inspiration! You did a wonderful job!

  • Valerie says:

    How exactly did you do your chopped cooked chicken? I saw you mentioned elsewhere about boiling it but do you have a bit more specific directions? I can get lots of boneless skinless thighs for cheap and would like to do some of this.

  • Melody says:

    You are superwoman! I’m really excited about that lasagna recipe! I always have cream cheese on hand that I can usually find for cheap, but I don’t keep ricotta on hand much so this is great. I was looking for something easy to make for my husband when I am gone next week. I don’t think he could find anything to complain about here. 🙂

  • Sarah says:

    That’s awesome! Good job!

  • Can I come over for dinner, Mom?

  • Heather says:

    I love the phrase “quickly whipped up three pans of lasagna and three pans of Ziti.”
    You are quite the role model!!!! You amaze me with your energy!!!

  • Jess J says:

    what sort of storage do you use for the freezer. I have found that my food gets freezer burn when I put it in ziploc bags. Any suggestions?

  • michelle says:

    QUESTION: did you use the no boil noodles in the lasagna and if so how do they freeze? Did you bake it before you froze?

  • shawnna says:

    Great Job!! I WISH we had room for a big freezer so I could do bake and freeze!

  • Jill R says:

    I’ve never made lasagna or ziti and froze it and think I will try it…before you freeze it do you do everything except the final baking of it? Or do you bake it as well and then freeze it? I too am interested in how you store it…just in a pan with foil? I’m always afraid of freezer burn and then ruining all my efforts.

  • Julie says:

    I’m inspired! I do make waffles and muffins in huge batches for breakfast, but I need to start doing the same with dinners. This would help with homeschooling, because then I would not be “hurring” my children through our afternoon studies to get onto coking dinner 🙂 Thanks for the pics….I’m afraid a picture of what I accomplished today would be pretty bland 🙂

  • alicia says:

    My question is this, after you finish putting the last layer of lasagna down and the cheese on it is that when it goes in the freezer. I’m not quite sure at what point i should put it in the freezer, and once it comes out of the freezer how long would it need to cook before it will be ready. Thank you for you feed back on this. You are a great cook, I wish I was. lol

  • Revathy says:

    Hey Crystal,
    Thats a wonderful lineup on the table.you are my inspiration for the couponing and now for cooking ahead.I always thank you in my heart when I get a good deal(otherwise i would have bought the same for full retail) .May God bless you and your family with all the health and wealth.
    Thanks,
    Revathy.

  • That’s amazing that you can get cream cheese OFTEN for .50! The cheapest here is $1.00, and it’s usually once a year. I need to look at Sam’s Club price again, because I believe it was less than that, if not the same, all year long.

    *********************
    Money Saving Mom here: That’s with a sale and a coupon. It rarely ever goes below $1, but with the $1/2 cream cheese coupons which are pretty prevalent, I can stock up at $0.50 each when they are on sale for $1.

  • Amy says:

    So, about that lasagna…..Do you thaw it out before you cook it? Or do you cook it frozen? I cannot wait to try that!!!

  • Sarah says:

    I wonder what the nutritional difference is between cream cheese and cottage cheese or ricotta. Does anyone know?

  • Kristina says:

    I am so totally inspired by you!!! I have saved some of your recipes and I’m collecting a bunch so that I can have a cooking day like you did. This is gonna save so much time!

  • Please let us know if you have to thaw your dinners or if you cook them frozen. I am getting ready to adopt and want to make up a huge bunch of meals and need to know this critical piece of information! LOL!

  • Trixie says:

    I do a lot of precooking of meat and not so much the meals. I put up a link to a meat preprep day I did earlier this year; hope that’s okay.

    Preprepping and pre-cooking some of the meat works out really well for me, since it’s so easy to whip up a side dish or two.

    Thanks,

    Trixie

  • Melissa P says:

    So inspired by your day of baking. Not sure how you find the time with 3 kids. More energy than me. I am going to try this on a weekend!

  • Wow, you got a lot done! You have inspired me to think about once-a-month cooking again. I used to do it back when I was single and living with my parents, but I haven’t tried it since I’ve been married (5 years). It didn’t seem worth it when it was just my husband and me, but now that we have two kids with hearty appetites, I just might give it a try again.

  • Mo says:

    All I can is WOW!! you did a lot in one day, makes think that I need to start doing menus and prepping!!

  • Virginia says:

    First of all- Awesome job! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂 Secondly, I had a question about containers that you freeze your meals in. Do you use glass/metal pans or do you use disposable foil pans? If you use glass/metal pans, where and how did you come up with enough of them to put some in the freezer and have some left out for everyday use as well? If you use the disposable, how do you find good deals on them? My church has a program where we get together and make freezer meals which has helped out my budget, but I am not happy about the cost of the containers so any help would be much appreciated!

  • Olathe mom says:

    “Quickly whipped up three pans of lasagna and ziti…”

    (Laughing hysterically!)

    Your energy is amazing!

    Yay, girl!

  • Gina says:

    You are truly an inspiration to all moms to cook healthy meals. How do you do it with 3 little ones? Hats off to you!!

  • Sydney says:

    Impressive! I can not believe how much energy you have to get so much done all in one day! I have three kids not home schooled because I work full time outside the home but definately can not get as much as you done!

  • Jennifer says:

    I would say that was a day well spent. I am also laughing at the quickly whipping up lasagna and ziti. Especially after putting the kids to bed! After I get my kids in bed, I don’t have much energy for anything but a bath.

  • ispf says:

    wow! thats all I can say! I get so drained just cooking enough to cover 4-5 dinner and maybe a couple of lunches. you really are amazing, and very inspiring!

  • I watched everyone’s progress on twitter and through blog posts yesterday, but until seeing the picture with everything laid out on the table I didn’t realize just how much you did! Wow! I’m impressed and inspired!

    Hopefully I will be able to join in next time!

  • Rae says:

    Wow that is crazy. You amaze me everytime you do these baking days but this time really trumped the others. Great job!

  • Robyn says:

    Dang, girl! Must feel great to get that all stashed in the freezer. I always feel warm and fuzzy knowing that there are so many things waiting in there for me to throw them in the oven…

    Just a note; I’m a pastry chef, and we got notice months ago about the lousy pumpkin crop this year so we could pre-order for the season. You might let your readers know that they shouldn’t wait around to pick up canned pumpkin for seasonal baking, because there will be a dearth of it as the fall progresses. And if it goes on sale, stock the heck UP!

    Thanks, as always, for your inspiration and encouragement. You’re a marvel, you are!

  • Heather says:

    Wow! You are amazing! You put my cooking day to shame! ; ) I’m still very new at this make ahead meal planning, but I’m hoping to get it down to a more exact science as the months go on!

  • Toni :O) says:

    Whoa…you are a ROCKSTAR…I’m mainly jealous that you have enough freezer space for all of this! Unless we upgrade our electrical in order to have a big freezer hooked up…I’ll never have enough room to have a day of accomplishment like you had!

  • Antonella says:

    As an Italian I’d like to point out that we do not use cheese in lasagne. We make besciamella, that I think in english is a white sauce (a mix of flour, butter and milk) and use it alternating it with cooked vegetables in Lasagne alle verdure or with a meat sauce (ragù) in the classical version.
    I guess omitting the cheese, apart from a tiny amount at the top, would mean quite a saving of money!

    btw you rock!
    Antonella
    Milan (Italy)

  • Linda Dirks says:

    I have a great recipe for making refried beans with your pinto beans. They are very tasty and not too hard.

    Mexican Refried beans (Adapted from the “More -with-Less” cookbook, which I highly recommend)
    Soak overnight or by quick method:
    1lb dried pinto, pink or kidney beans
    Add:
    6 c water
    2 onions chopped (optional)
    Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until tender; about 3 hours. Mash beans with a potato masher.
    Add:
    1/2 c butter or margarine
    Mix well and continue cooking, stirring frequently until beans are thickened and fat is absorbed.

    You can add flavorings like chili powder, cumin, lime etc.

    Enjoy

  • Christy says:

    I really wanted to make the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, but as someone else mentioned, there is definitely a pumpkin shortage and I couldn’t find any at Meijer. I have lots of pumpkin recipes I make this time of year, so that’s a real bummer! Has anyone used “real” pumpkin? How can I make that work in recipes? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I do have three real pumpkins laying around … surely the kids won’t miss one. 🙂

  • Sunnie says:

    WOWWWWWW…..can you please take a picture of your cape….the one that says Superwoman on it!!! I am so impressed that you could get all of this done–I’m not sure that i could get that much done with NOTHING else going on!!
    KUDOS!!!
    Sunnie

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