It’s finally time for me to do the nesting activity I’ve been incredibly excited about for my entire pregnancy: preparing freezer meals!

I don’t know what it is about this that makes me so excited. I love cooking, and I love being really prepared, and I love doing stuff in assembly-line fashion. Maybe it’s the combination of all those things that gets me going.

For months, I’ve been poring over Pinterest and various food blogs, looking up freezer-meal recipes and preparation tips, biding my time and making a plan. Unfortunately, a lot of freezer meal prep recipes are either very creamy, very cheesy or involve buying prepared bagged food, such as pre-made meatballs, and dumping it into another bag with other pre-made food, such as maple syrup and canned pineapple. (Yeah. That was a real recipe.) I wanted to keep my freezer meals roughly on par with what I’d cook fresh, so I ended up doing a lot of research before I landed on my final, master list.

This will be a two-part column, since there are so many awesome options for this kind of meal prep. I started this weekend with the simplest, easiest category: marinated meats. My plan is to thaw these out and cook them up on the grill or on a sheet pan (25 minutes at 425 degrees), and pair them with a salad, instant pot rice, or other accoutrements. (Let’s be honest, though, my husband will probably be the one doing the actual cooking/grilling for the first couple of months.)

I have made all of these marinades before, either regularly or for a test run before making a large batch to freeze. I think they’d pretty much all be great with pork except for the “Tandoori” one (so not authentic tandoori). Prep for this was pretty simple; I bought four six-packs of chicken breasts, then cut them into cutlets that won’t fall through our grill grates, mixed up my marinades and distributed them equally into a dozen freezer bags. I also did a couple of bags with one irresistible processed food cheat: One entire jar of salsa verde plus two cut up chicken breasts.

My favorite of these is the Greek lemon one — I make this a lot to marinate for a few hours during the day before cooking it for dinner, and lately I’ve been baking it on a sheet pan and surrounding it with other stuff. The photo included with this column was a huge dinner hit — a can of stuffed grape leaves from Trader Joe’s, some chopped fresh tomatoes, sautéed broccoli rabe and roasted fingerling potatoes. Lots of protein and nutrients, and not a lot of hassle.

Next month, I’ll share the casserole-ish meals I made and froze, including enchiladas, pasta casseroles that don’t depend on cans of mushroom soup (no shame, just not my thing), the best kinds of cookie dough to freeze and how to freeze it, and maybe one more thing, depending on what my word count can accommodate.

Chicken marinades for a whole summer

Each of these marinades is enough for 2 to 4 chicken breasts, depending on their size. Mix each marinade, prep your chicken how you like (I either chop into 2-inch chunks or cutlets), and drop chicken into a Ziploc bag with marinade, seal (don’t leave any excess air in the bag), label with the date and ingredients, and freeze. All of these will last up to three months in your freezer and are suitable for grilling, Instant pot/crockpot cooking, baking or pan-frying. I recommend thawing them out before any method besides the Instant Pot/crockpot.

Greek lemon marinade

Juice and zest of one whole lemon

2 cloves grated garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Barbecue marinade

1 cup barbecue sauce

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2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

'Tandoori' marinade

1 cup full-fat yogurt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cumin

Pesto marinade

1 bunch fresh basil *

2 cloves grated garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

*This is the only one you can’t just dump into the bag; chop basil into a fine paste or use a food processor.