Friday, September 20, 2013

Eating out of the freezer and getting inspired

For supper tonight, I pulled out the last of the 5? 6? frozen lasagnas I had prepped just before moving into this rental. They all came with me, and this last one was begging to be eaten. Knowing that I was to have the twins this weekend, this made for a perfect, little fuss to get on the table supper for me. This particular lasagna was a florentine spinach one.

While waiting for supper to bake off, I read through the blogs that I follow, including Udy with a J's blog about cooking to fill up the freezer. She is spot on that this can save significant time and money. We have been living with a smaller refrigerator (still have the under the counter bar fridge off) for over a month, and it's been an adjustment. One thing that has been a pain, are the multiple tubs of cottage cheese and a large tub of ricotta that were being stored in the bar fridge. I slowly have been taking advantage of Summer time sales on cottage cheese, usually combining the sale with a coupon for an even better deal. Once amassed, I had planned on making lasagnas. Now moved to the smaller, kitchen fridge, they have been taking up some valuable real estate. The kitchen freezer is also emptying out, now that I am back at work and while preparing sandwiches for the twins to tote to school, I have been taking my homemade convenience foods (small tubs of leftover or soup that I label and freeze for work). Significant space has opened up. OK, so it's time to get cooking and make up another multiple batch of lasagnas for the freezer.

I used the 4 boxes of marked down, Italian no boil lasagna noodles that I picked up at Aldi's just after Christmas @ 99 cents/box. Love using these vs boiling noodles. This saves me energy costs as well.  I also pulled a fzn tub of about 1/4 cup homemade bolognese sauce out of the freezer, the rest of a block of mozzarella from the freezer, a bag of Aldi's Italian blend shredded cheeses. 8 eggs, about 1/2 of a wedge of domestic Parmesan, some Italian spice blend, black pepper, minced onion, garlic powder, 2 29 oz cans of tomato puree (Shoprite can can sale @ 67 cents/can). I mixed up the eggs, ricotta and cottage cheeses with some grated Parmesan, black pepper, Italian spices. This was the cheese filling. I first discovered the use of cottage cheese in lasagna back when we were getting Angel Food deliveries. Occasionally, our order would include a frozen lasagna, which my kids really liked (even if not Mom's). Reading the ingredients, I learned that the company only used cottage cheese in the cheese filling. My family didn't notice. Cottage cheese is usually significantly cheaper than ricotta for me.  I also mixed up a quick marinara out of the tomato puree, the leftover bolognese, garlic powder, Italian seasonings, black pepper. I used "disposible" aluminum trays that I wash and reuse. I placed some sauce in the bottom of each pan, topped with 5 lasagna sheets, then a layer of the cheese mixture, sprinkled some shredded cheese on top. I topped this layer with just 4 lasagna sheets, repeated the cheese layer and shredded cheeses, topped that with another 5 lasagna sheets then spread a generous amount of marinara on top, finally shredding a good amount of Parmesan over the final layer.

I wrapped the top over with Reynolds no stick aluminum foil and sealed the trays, stacking them 2 deep for now, in the kitchen freezer. Once solidly frozen, I'll move these to one, 4 deep stack.

Looks like lasagna for a year here. I estimated my costs at $4.89/lasagna. It will easily serve 4-5 people, so one meal @ $1/person. Cheap enough.

4 comments:

Brenda Ramone said...

Do you have problems with freezer burn on your meals? How long will you keep a ready meal or leftover frozen?

Judy S said...

I never heard of using cottage cheese but that is def cheaper than ricotta even on sale!!!

It's amazing how much you can save just by stocking up on food you cook all at once

CTMOM said...

Brenda

No problem with freezer burn. The lasagna's that I brought with me when we moved here, are 14 months old. The last one served last night, no issues, well wrapped.

The lunch "convenience tubs" are in plastic, very well sealed. Those usually only hang around the freezer for a month at best.

CTMOM said...

Judy,

I am sure that some Italian cooks would shake their heads at the thought of using cottage cheese as a substitute for ricotta. We're not Italian. : )

Bottom line: this works for me, my family and our budget. I do "compromise" and do a blend of the ricotta with the cottage cheese, usually a 50-50 mix. I had a 2 lb tub of ricotta, 5 1/2 lbs of cottage cheese this time. It worked.