Thursday, July 30, 2009
A few nights ago neither of us felt much like cooking dinner - not a shock considering it's been kind of hot outside! Instead of going out to eat, we pulled something from the freezer: a Bertolli Oven Baked Lasagna dish (don't you just love toaster ovens?!).
We've had this dish once before and both enjoyed it very much. However, this time when I started thinking about it, I thought about what an enormous profit Bertolli is making from these meals and it just galled me!
If you've never had one of these meals, let me explain. The entire dish consists of two lasagna noodles filled with a ricotta cheese mixture, several cubes of marinara sauce, and a small plastic pouch containing about 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. You put the lasagna and the marinara sauce in a baking dish, cover it, and let it bake for about 30 minutes or so. Then, you remove it from the oven, sprinkle the mozzarella on top and put it back in the oven until the cheese melts. Viola! Dinner is done. I mentioned to Kevin how easy it is to make lasagna roll-ups - which is basically what this dish is - and how inexpensive they would be to make at home. I said that I thought it would be a fun project to make these together, package them in meal-sized servings and put them in the freezer for later use, and he agreed.
Today I purchased all of the ingredients while I was out grocery shopping. This afternoon we spent about an hour or so getting the noodles and sauce cooked, creating the cheese mixture and making the roll-ups. In the Bertolli dinners, the marinara sauce has been frozen into small cubes - similar in size to a cube from an ice cube tray - which gave me an idea. After making the sauce, Kevin sprayed three ice cube trays with cooking spray and portioned it out into each cube. We put the ice cube trays and the individual lasagna roll-ups in the freezer. When they're both frozen, we'll portion the roll-ups and sauce into freezer bags, and add a snack-sized baggie of shredded parmesan. The next time we're too tired or it's too hot to cook and we're in the mood for Italian food, we can pull out our own homemade version of Oven Baked Meals and enjoy a very tasty, inexpensive homemade meal.
If you're thinking that there can't be enough of a money difference to go to the trouble of making your own, let me break it down for you. The Oven Baked Meals by Bertolli generally sell for about $7.99; if you're lucky, you can catch them on sale for $5.99, and sometimes you can even find a $1.00 off coupon. Therefore, you're looking at either $7.99 (not on sale, no coupon), or $6.99 (not on sale, but with a coupon), or $5.99 (on sale but no coupon), or $4.99 (on sale, AND a coupon). The meal is for two people making each individual serving $3.995, $3.495, $2.995, or $2.495 respectively. Our homemade version? We ended up with 17 individual servings, with a grand total of all ingredients of $10.63 or $0.625 per serving. That's a savings of $1.87 off the lowest possible price of the Bertolli version. WOW, that's an enormous difference!! Still think it's not worth a little effort? I didn't think so =)