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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.

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

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

  • Mandy says:

    I am so impressed with what you accomplished in such a short amount of time. Blogging and caring for sick little ones as you go…I am in awe! Thanks for sharing your recipes and the inspiration to provide healthy and delicious food for my family.

  • denise says:

    This would only last a week with our grown kids. You’ll look back and say, ” Wow this use to last us close to a month when you were little!”

  • Charity says:

    Good for you great Job! I bet your hubby and kiddos are proud of there mommy!:)

  • Shelly says:

    Awesome! I love your blog because you don’t just focus on deals (honestly, I do not need any more candles, lol!), but you offer a wide variety of money saving ideas. Cooking at home, stockpiling, and filling your freezer should be a top priority in everyone’s frugal plan. You did great!

  • Lindy says:

    AWESOME, AWESOME JOB! I’m a SAHM who cooked every meal from “scratch” Oct 07 – Oct 08. Unfortunately, I got “burned out” and went the total opposite. Coincidently, it was the same time (Oct ’08) that I started couponing! I spent alot of money over that year cooking that way. But, I know I’ve spent “more” money eating out this last year. Although, couponing and prepared foods has helped me save a TON of money, I wish more coupons were geared towards produce and healthy foods. This comiing year, I HOPE to be able to balance the two!

  • shelly says:

    You are my hero. All that food in one day is something I might be able to do but then to homeschool you children in the middle of it…that is AMAZING!!

  • Cindy says:

    Holy cow, lady! I am impressed. I enjoy cooking and baking so much that I don’t usually want to get it out of the way so much ahead of time, but if I ever decide to do it, you’ll be the inspiration!

  • Kim Mustola says:

    Holy Cow I’m so inspired. I have to buy a big freezer to save time and money now!!

  • Watching the tweets yesterday was just making me tired! But, I was inspired to join in next time. If you think of it in advance, could you announce the #bakingday a week or so early? That way I have time to get all of the supplies/ingredients over a weekend or something. Since I don’t have a batch cooking partner, I think it would be just as fun doing this with all of you on twitter!!

  • Cortney says:

    WOW! Thank you for being such an inspiration! Thanks to you we have saved so much money instituting a baking day, menu planning around sales and with coupons, and diligently budgeting. If it were not for your site and all your helpful information i’m unsure how we would have made it through my husbands layoff. You have been a Godsend. Not only is the fruit of your labor blessing your family but so many others you have never met through your insightful advice and encouraging example. God Bless!!!

  • Tabitha says:

    Whoa, I’m doing well when I can get one recipe doubled. Always on the lookout for great tasting, easy to freeze recipes. Let us know how the lasagna turns out.

    Tomorrow is spaghetti sauce for me.

  • Jack says:

    Wow, you did a lot of cooking. I hadn’t ever used cream cheese in lasagna. I’ll have to try that.

  • Abby H says:

    For those of you worried about the canned pumpkin shorage,I make homemade pumpkin puree from thepioneerwoman.com. I have used it like the canned and works great!

  • Well Done!
    Talking of ground turkey, have you ever tried turkey spaghetti? It’s yum, but a lighter meal than spaghetti bolognaise.

    To make, I add lots of cinnimon, 1 onion, parsley, basil, and a tin of chopped tomatoes OR a lot of fresh tomatoes INSTEAD of a thick sauce, serve over spaghetti pasta.

    Claire

  • Becky says:

    Just wanted to let you know this is the lasagna recipe I’ve been using the past few months and it’s awesome. It’s so good I haven’t used another lasagna recipe since I saw this one in the magazine. Never tried to freeze it though. Did you just assemble it and then freeze it?

  • Julia says:

    I don’t ever buy canned pumpkin, I just cook and puree it. I’m sure there are lots of ways to do it: I cut up the pumpkin, steam it (I’m sure you could also halve the pumpkin and bake it face down on a cookie sheet) and puree it in the food processor. It’s runnier than canned, so I have lined a colander with paper towels (I need to get some cheesecloth, I think) and pressed out some of the excess moisture. I use it for pumpkin spice cake, pumpkin bars and pumpkin pie and it has worked fine – I will definitely be trying the muffins!

    Also, I don’t even restrict myself to buying pie pumpkins – we scrape as much flesh out of our jack-o-lanterns as possible when we carve them, and I cook that.

    Julia

  • Carissa says:

    Wow, that is AMAZING!!! I wish I had 1/8th of your ambition!
    Oh, and some freezer space. 🙂

  • Debbie says:

    Compare to you, I’m very lazy. You’ve inspired me to cook a little more!

  • Hubby and I are saving up for a deep freeze. It would make life so much easier and then I could really put away some meals.I made an extra stuffed shells meal, and it filled my reg, freezer. I think a deep freeze would be a worthy investment for us. Terrific job,Crystal!

  • Cherie says:

    Very impressive! I am going to try the pumpkin chocolate chip muffins this weekend. They look yummy.

  • Great Job! I am envious of your freezer size! I would love to do this stuff but can’t until I get a separate freezer!

  • Susan says:

    You are such an inspiration! The pictures you include and steps in the process make us realize that we to can do this! Recently I spent a few weekends cooking up various different meals and casseroles for my grandmother who was bedridden due to a bad fall (and refused to leave her house to recouperate) so I know it is possible, I just need to find time to do this for myself. Everytime I read an article like this one I get re-motivated and energized! Thank you and…. I’m off to BJ’s tomorrow so wish me luck finding some good buys!

  • Patty says:

    How do you organize your freezer once all the baking and cooking is finished? Do you keep a list taped to the freezer door showing what is in the freezer?

  • Karen H says:

    Very cool! How often do you do this?

  • Daina says:

    To Christy who asked about real pumpkins… it works GREAT for cooking! We use one for decorating and eating both — just leave it out for decoration until we’re ready to carve it, carve it the day of (or evening before and refrigerate), put it out for one evening to show off our handiwork, and bring it in before the slugs get to it!

    To use the pumpkin, just halve it, take out the seeds, and bake it until it’s soft… I forget how long that took, a couple hours? Then use a spoon to scrape the flesh into storage containers — I freeze mine in two cup portions. Don’t worry if it’s stringy… once you cook bake with it, the texture won’t be a problem. Last year’s pumpkin gave us enough for a big bowl of soup and enough leftovers to make FOURTEEN loaves of pumpkin bread!!

    Discard the rind… but you can bake the seeds separately for a snack, or at least dry them to put out for the birds if you don’t like pumpkin seeds.

  • Wow – that is really impressive!!

  • Linda Dirks says:

    I use real pumpkin all of the time. Just cook it like squash, then scoop out and mash. Use in the same amounts as you would for canned. If you like it really smooth, you can use a hand blender or mixer to smooth it out. It is a little more watery, but that should just make the muffins more moist. I make pumpkin bread a lot and use real pumkin and it is awesome.

  • Carrie says:

    Crystal,

    I had the same questions as many others. Do you freeze the lasagna uncooked and then put frozen into the oven, or do you let it thaw? I’ve never frozen uncooked lasagna or ziti before but it sounds like a great idea.

  • Katie says:

    Hi Crystal,

    Way to go!! Please could you post on what you can and can’t freeze(I know you’re constantly asked for stuff). I get so confused with freezing stuff.

    Thanks, Thanks – your achievements continually encouragement to achieve more.

  • Becky says:

    Inspiring!

    You’ve inspired me to finally get off my butt and restock my own freezer – as well as given me a few new recipes! Between your inspiration and Jewel’s Fav4 sale on Chicken breasts at a stock-up price this week, I made a ton! I ended up with:

    -about 2 dozen Chocolate-chip pumpkin muffins (after I ate a few and gave a few to my sister) (thanks for the excellent & easy recipe!)
    -16 Sweet-Potato biscuits
    -2 bags of your chicken tetrazzini (thanks for the recipe – similar to 1 I’ve made before)
    -2 bags of sweet & sour chicken (a big fave!)
    -1 bag of crock-pot dump chicken
    -6 balls of pizza dough
    -1 HUGE pot of Cream of Mushroom soup

    Thanks for the much-needed motivation!

  • Christine says:

    For the post that asked about Ziploc bags, I find that if you make sure that your bags are freezer quality and not the regular variety, you will have much better results. For my baking, such as bread and muffins, I like to use bread bags (purchased from King Arthur Flour or a local co-op) to wrap my baked goods and then put them in a freezer bag. I can fit 3-8×4 loaves in a 2-gallon bag. I usually bake six at a time, leaving me several to freeze, one to eat right away, and at least one to give away. Hope that is helpful!

  • Sarah Hollis says:

    are you willing to share your ziti recipe?

  • jean says:

    baking is one of my favorite activities. I love to make brownies and freeze for later use. When I make them, I use a box mix and instead of the water and oil that is on the recipe, I put in pureed spinach….if the total water and oil is 1 cup, I substitute 1 cup of pureed spinach….i steam the spinach and then add water to it so it blends up nicely…….i put 2 cups of pureed spinach in a plastic bag and freeze it for later use..(i always make a double batch of brownies). One cannot taste the spinach and i feel like i’m giving the kids a healthful treat.

  • Lorie says:

    THAT’S IT! I’M DOING IT! My own baking day. I figure if I get nothing more done than pre-cooking a bunch of ground beef, chicken, beans, & rice then it’ll help tremendously with preparing dinner. I normally like to cook but lately I’ve been in a rut & nothing has been inspiring me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m pregnant with #3 or what but I’ve got to do something to lift this burden a bit. Thanks for all the inspiration.

  • Marion says:

    What did you family think of the new lasagna recipe? I am always afraid to try new lasagna recipes as its my hubby favorite meal. But it can be so expensive to make I only make it every 6 weeks or so.

    ********************
    Money Saving Mom here: We ended up really liking it. In fact, my husband commented a few times about how good it was!

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