My dad grilled up the most delicious, juicy burgers on his charcoal grill for July 4th, and he inspired me to plan to grill all our dinners next week. Cooking outside keeps the kitchen cooler. There’s almost no cleanup. And, of course, we get flavors you just can’t imitate by cooking inside.

And yes, I happen to be the grill master in my family — not my husband. So I know what I’m talking about here!

If you’re also thinking about taking dinner prep outside this week, here are five delicious meal plan ideas for the grill that are perfect for family dinners.

My other tip: If you plan on eating outdoors a lot, skip the single-use paper plates and invest in some unbreakable outdoor dishes. They really are nearly as easy, definitely more sturdy, and you’ll feel better about using them. Plus, you’ll never run out!

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Related: Up your burger game with these 5 must-have grilling tools

First…a grill tip or two

We're big fans of the Smoke Hollow portable grill  -- room for six burgers, but so compact and portable!


You really don’t need a massive hardscaped outdoor kitchen to grill delicious food all year long. I love this portable Masterbuilt gas grill — which also happens to be on sale at Target right now!

Meal plan ideas: A portable gas grill can be a smart choice in small spaces.

It’s compact, making it great for small patios or rooftops, yet it has enough space on the grill to make six burgers at a time. Since we’re a big camping family, I also love that we can take it with us anywhere — if you’re able to barbecue at a park, a pool, even the inlaw’s place, it’s a great choice to let you grab and go.


Grilling meal plan ideas: Start with the basics, a classic charcoal grill to bring out the best flavor.

While gas grilling is much easier and faster, when grilling burgers, I really do prefer the flavor you get from a charcoal grill. This Original Weber charcoal grill is affordable and classic grill that does the job perfectly.

This version has a handy ash catcher below for easier cleanup when the grilling is done. And from personal experience, trust me: you’re going to want a pair of high-temp grilling gloves as you lift the grate and spread out your coals.

It’s much, much harder to grill without those gloves. And we’re going for easy meals here, right?


And now…5 easy grilled dinner recipes that my kids love



Meal plan ideas: Shrimp Panzanella Skewers at Skinny Taste

1. Grilled Shrimp Skewers

Dinner on a stick is always a hit with my kids, so I’m planning to make things fun this week with this recipe for Grilled Shrimp Panzanella Skewers at Skinny Taste. Kids can help add ingredients to the skewers, then all you need is a few minutes on the grill before dinner is ready. Super easy! And of course, consider grilling some veggies to serve on the side. Kids can’t live on shrimp alone! (Though some may say they can.)


Meal plan ideas: Grilled chicken salad at Windy City Dinner Fairy

2. Grilled Chicken Taco Salad

Grill a whole bunch of chicken in advance, early in the week, then you then you have plenty prepped for sandwiches or quesadillas later. But first, serve the freshly grilled chicken straight off heat in this Grilled Chicken Taco Salad recipe from Windy City Dinner Fairy.

You can add any of your favorite (or subtract your least favorite) Mexican ingredients here — corn, guacamole, even mangos to sweeten things up or jalapeño to spice it up.

My tip: Whenever I make a delicious salad for dinner, I divide the individual components to serve to my younger, pickier kids so they can separate them on their plates and eat what they like.


Grilling meal plan ideas: Bruschetta Burgers at Dance Around the Kitchen

3. A unexpected twist on a cheeseburger

Burgers are the obvious choice to include into your family-friendly grilling repertoire, but that doesn’t mean they have to be boring or expected! Think about some tasty, unexpected toppings and even change up the buns to experiment with pita, brioche buns, or English muffins. As for me, I love the summer flavors of these Bruschetta Burgers from Dance Around the Kitchen.

Of course you’ll want to start with the perfect cut of meat for burgers (we always remind you that all meals are only as good as the ingredients you use), or you swap in a turkey burger, or your favorite veggie burger. And definitely check out these tips for grilling the perfect burger — it makes such a difference!

If you can’t tell, we’re big fans of burgers around here, so you’ll find tons more inspiration if you search the burgers tag on our site.


Meal plan ideas: Strawberry and Goat Cheese Paninis at Cait's Plate

4. Seasonal Paninis on the Grill

Lisa got me excited about using more strawberries in my dinner recipes, and this Strawberry & Goat Cheese panini recipe at Cait’s Plate looks too seasonally delicious, light and refreshing to pass up this week.

If you own a panini, have at it. But if I highly recommend skipping the pricey, single-use appliance and instead, authentically toasting these sandwiches right over your grill. All you need is a heavy Lodge grill press, the grill, and low to medium heat.

To add a little protein to this grilling recipe, considering adding leftover chicken that you already have from your big chicken grilling night earlier in the week.


Meal plan ideas: Grilled quesadillas at This Is How I Cook

5. Grilled Quesadillas

Step away from the microwave, parents! Instead, take your quesadillas to the grill with a Grilled Quesadillas recipe like this one from Abbe at This Is How I Cook. She has plenty of good tips, including lots of kinds of cheeses you can use and how to achieve that delicious char.

Of course you can fill yours with any of your favorite quesadilla ingredients, from steak to chorizo to veggie-filled peppers, onions, and mushrooms. It’s is a great DIY dinner for kids, because they can help you prep before you take over at the grill. And when everyone helps, I’m happy too.