The south is hitting the end of school year. which means summer is officially here — even if most of the country saves that honor for Memorial Day weekend.  I’m already getting excited about all the time we’ll get to spend outdoors, so my meal planning for this coming week is going to factor in plenty of meals on the back porch, along with impromptu dinners outside at parks or our swimming pool.

If you’re ready for the summer vibes too — even if you still have a month or more of school left, like the rest of the CME team — here are five meal plan ideas to get you excited about cooking this coming week, and throughout the summer season.

Oh, and if you want to update your patio table, we found some gorgeous outdoor dishes on sale at Wayfair right now. Enjoy!

At top: Thai Beef Salad at Beyond Kimchee; vegetarian taco bowls recipe at Peas and Crayons

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Related: 10 easy spring appetizers that make a fun dinner at home


A Light Grilling Recipe. (It’s not all about burgers!)

Meal plan ideas | Grilled Swordfish at Jess Pryles

Garlic and Lemon Marinated Swordfish Steaks | Jess Pryles

Don’t have a working grill yet? Get on that! Then, try for a lighter grilled recipe like swordfish! I’ll never forget my 3-year-old requesting swordfish for his birthday dinner, thanks to its meaty, kid-friendly flavor. If this is a new one for your kids, start with Jess Pryles’s garlic and lemon marinated swordfish steaks recipe, then add a grain salad and some grilled veggies on the side. It’s a perfect dinner for eating in the patio while the kids play in the backyard.

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

A Versatile, Flavorful Grilled Chicken

Weekly meal plan ideas: Grilled mustard chicken at Borrowed Bites

Honey Mustard Chicken Breasts | Borrowed Bites

We’ll grill up some of these honey mustard chicken breasts using this excellent recipe from Borrowed Bites, and use the chicken for sandwiches.  Add some potato chips (store-bought totally fine!) and some mixed fruit, for an easy dinner to take to the park or your own backyard. You could also grill the chicken early in the day, then serve room temperature on buns, to make it even easier at dinner time. And if you have any vegetarians or vegans, you could use this marinade on tofu or tempeh.

Related: 5 summery grilled chicken recipes that will make chicken for dinner exciting again.

Game Night Food…For Dinner!

Weekly meal plan ideas: Ham & Cheese sliders at Averie Cooks

Ham and Cheese Sliders with Buttery Dijon Sauce | Averie Cooks

Since we do turn on the oven from time to time, here’s one that’s perfect to break up all the grilling recipes: Easy Ham and Cheese Sliders from Averie Cooks. My kids love them and I usually make them for special events. That buttery Dijon sauce is easy and so tasty! That makes it a nice surprise for a fun midweek dinner; I find it easy to do all the prep work ahead of time, then pop the sliders in the oven to warm up when you’re ready to devour. She also has smart tips about freezing them, should you have leftovers.

Related: Comfort food upgrade: 7 ways to turn plain grilled cheese into a legit family dinner.

A Quick Steak Salad That Makes Great Leftovers

Weekly meal plan ideas: Thai Beef Salad at Beyond Kimchee

Thai Beef Salad | Beyond Kimchee 

This Thai Beef Salad at Beyond Kimchee is packed with flavor, and a terrific recipe to bookmark for a quick spring or summer dinner. While you can serve it straight from the grill, you can also refrigerate it after it’s cooked to let the flavors blend. Then throw the whole dish in a to-go container to bring outdoors; since it’s a whole dinner in one dish, it’s portable and easy to serve if you’re eating al fresco. Plus it keeps nicely if you want some leftovers for a busy weekend.

And by the way, if you could use a solid set of reusable travel containers for all that al fresco dining this summer, this set is highly recommended by our team, and lasts forever.  Good excuse to ditch any single-use baggies or disposable containers you might normally use.

An Easy Taco Bowl, Vegetarian Style (or Not)

Weekly meal plan ideas: Vegetarian taco bowls at Peas and Crayons

Vegetarian Taco Bowls | Peas and Crayons.

If we’re having friends over for dinner outside, one of my go-to dinners is this recipe for Vegetarian Taco Bowls from Peas and Crayons. Hey, it’s not just kids who like DIY food bar dinners! I generally cut up some grilled chicken or steak to serve on the side along with the vegetarian protein, then everyone can assemble their own bowl with the toppings they like. Serve with some homemade guacamole, a good jarred salsa or coarsely chopped homemade pico if you have the inclination.

Add some freshly squeezed margaritas and you’re ready for the big holiday weekend to kick off summer!