Meal Prep Plan: How I Prep a Week of Easy Family Meals for the Grill

(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn)
(Image Credit: The Kitchn)

My two favorite things about cooking on the grill? I don’t have to wash a bunch of pots and pans, and the kids can play in the yard while I cook instead of in our tiny kitchen. This week’s meal prep plan eases the hectic transition from spring to summer by providing you with ready-to-grill meals on busy weeknights for easy cooking with little to no clean-up.

(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman)

Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: A fiber-packed, quick-to-reheat breakfast I can eat at my desk.
  • Lunch: Veggie-packed salads I can eat cold and that include a few things I love that my kids refuse to eat — like summery eggplant!
  • Dinner: Thirty-minute meals packed with protein and veggies that require minimal cleanup.
  • Nutritional Goals: Our family eats a varied diet that includes everything from oats to ice cream, but we’re currently trying to get our kids to eat more vegetables through pure exposure, which means vegetables at every meal these days.
(Image Credit: The Kitchn)

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: Two adults for breakfast and lunch plus dinner for 2 adults and two kids
  • Prep Time: Two hours
  • Meals Covered: 90% — breakfasts and lunches for the work week and 4 weeknight dinners
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Yes, 20 to 30 minutes at the grill for 4 nights of dinner.

Meal Plan

Breakfast

Lunches

Dinners

(Image Credit: The Kitchn)
(Image Credit: Meghan Splawn)

Shopping List

I’m relying on our gas grill for quick cooking with minimal cleanup this week. In addition to our regular grocery run, we’re also including a trip to the hardware store for propane for our grill, some grill cleaning supplies, and skewers for one of this week’s dinners.

  • Produce: 6 pounds sweet potatoes, 1 pound broccoli crowns, 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, 1 medium red onion, 1 head garlic, 6 large lemons, 1 small hand ginger, 3 pounds zucchini or summer squash, 1 medium tomato, 1 English cucumber, 20 snap peas, 10 small radishes, 1 small carrot, 2 medium scallions, 1 bunch parsley, 1 bunch mint, 1 small head radicchio, 1 clamshell baby kale, fresh berries
  • Meat & Seafood: 8 pieces bone-in chicken (preferably 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks, about 2 pounds total), 2 whole pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds), 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Refrigerated: 1 carton buttermilk, 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, ranch dressing, BBQ sauce, whole-grain Dijon mustard, 1 (8-ounce) block cheddar cheese or 1 (8-ounce) bag pre-shredded cheddar, 1 (8-ounce block) Monterey Jack cheese or 1 (8-ounce) bag pre-shredded Monterey Jack, pico de gallo, plain yogurt
  • Pantry: Semi-pearled farro, dark brown sugar, olive oil, low-sodium soy sauce, pineapple juice, mirin or sake, sesame oil, white wine vinegar, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, roasted nuts (such as pine nuts or slivered almonds), roasted sunflower seeds, 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, 1 (16-ounce) bag tortilla chips
  • Other: Skewers, propane for the grill
(Image Credit: The Kitchn)
(Image Credit: Meghan Splawn)

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

I’ve recently started structuring my meal plan in phases: grain and vegetable prep, salad and marinade prep, then protein prep. This helps minimize any back and forth of cutting boards for individual recipes. It also means I’m saving a bit of the grilling for the end of my meal prep session, so I can give it my full attention.

  1. Cook the farro for the Farro Salad. The eggplant and onions are going onto the grill (instead of being roasted) so cook the farro while you chop the veggies so the salad can be assembled at the end of this power hour.
  2. Chop vegetables for Make-Ahead Chopped Salad. Getting the chopping done early means this salad comes together quickly. Pile the chopped veggies and chickpeas into a large storage container (you’ll add the dressing later).
  3. Weeknight vegetable prep: Chop the onions and eggplant for the farro salad, and the broccoli, zucchini and squash, and sweet potatoes for the side dishes.
  4. Marinate the Buttermilk Chicken. Mix the marinade directly in a storage container, then add the chicken. Place two chicken breasts on top — they’ll marinate for about 30 minutes before you put them on the grill with the sweet potatoes.
  5. Marinate the Pork Tenderloin. Mix the marinade in a storage container and add the tenderloin after trimming the silver skin.
  6. Chop chicken and skewer the BBQ Ranch Chicken. Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers.
  7. Grill the sweet potatoes and chicken breast. Grill the whole sweet potatoes until tender for breakfast, plus the two chicken breasts you added to the buttermilk marinade, which you’ll add to the chopped salad for lunches during the week.
  8. Grill the eggplant and onions. These charred vegetables make this salad a lunchtime delight! If you need to convert an eggplant-hater, grilled eggplant is the secret.
  9. Make salad dressings. Both the farro salad and the chopped salad have simple dressings that are easy to mix up at the very end of meal prep.
  10. Assemble salads. Finish the farro salad with crumbled feta and chopped herbs.
(Image Credit: The Kitchn)
(Image Credit: The Kitchn)
(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn)

A Week of Easy, Grilled Family Meals

Every time I accomplish a Power Hour, I spend the week telling my friends and family that whatever we prepped is the best week of eating — but this one seriously is! It’s filled with lots of vegetables and easy grilled dinners that my family devoured, which made me feel like a meal prep champ.

Breakfast: My husband and I both ate reheated whole sweet potatoes with berries and yogurt. One morning, I added toasted coconut and he added nut butter. We offered this to both kids a few mornings, but they were happy with cereal or snack breakfast (toast, fruit, and cheese) instead.

Lunch: I should write a love letter to the farro salad, which everyone in the house ate as part of lunch or dinner this week. My husband even served it up to a couple of coworkers who stopped by to do some work in the middle of the week.

Dinners: I found myself doing a lot fewer dishes this week! I was happy to be able to cook dinner while blowing bubbles with my kids since the weather was so great.

Monday: Buttermilk grilled chicken is a family favorite and I was happy to have a quick dinner to throw on the grill on a busy Monday night. Grilled broccoli was surprisingly not a big hit with my broccoli-loving kids, but they were able to choose Make-Ahead salad instead.

Tuesday: This dinner reminded me why I love pork tenderloin. Dinner took just 20 minutes of hands-on cooking and everyone gobbled it right up. Next time I might add a microwave-from-frozen bag of brown rice to turn this dinner into a comforting bowl.

Wednesday: Because I had forgotten skewers on Sunday, this dinner took a little longer to assemble than other meals this week — 30 minutes compared to 20 minutes the previous two nights — even with the kids helping to thread the chicken. They both opted for the chopped salad again instead of the grilled zucchini, which my husband and I both loved and ate as leftovers for lunch the next day.

Thursday: I’ll never get over the beauty of nachos for family dinner — with a grilled platter version, everyone gets to choose their own toppings, which included leftover grilled vegetables (mostly zucchini and sweet potatoes) and Monday night’s buttermilk chicken.

The ability to offer my kids choices while making sure that vegetables are front and center at almost every meal is the biggest draw for meal prepping over the weekend. I found so much pleasure in cooking and eating outside, but more than anything I appreciated having some time with my family back during a particularly busy family season.

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