Plan ahead to ensure succulent grilled meals for your family, all week long.
food on charcoal grill
Credit: Getty Images

If you're constantly hauling to the grocery store to restock your family's summer grill pantry, this guide is for you. Simplify and streamline your summer grilling season with our handy tips. From a weekly master plan to themed menus, these easy fixes let you spend more time in the backyard sipping a margarita and less time in line at the store.

Jot Down a Quick Plan for the Week

It doesn't take long to figure out whether you're the type of person who loves variety and needs at least five different proteins in a week, or can eat ground beef in seven different preparations. Jot down a quick plan: Juicy Lucy burgers and corn on the cob on Monday, beef fajitas with sizzling veggies on Tuesday, grilled pizza with sausage and leftover veggies on Wednesday, veggie burgers with avocado on Thursday, Italian sausage hoagies on Friday, ribeye steaks with herb butter and baked potatoes on Saturday, and mixed kebabs from leftover proteins on Sunday. Your plan will let you know the ingredients you'll need throughout the week, and you'll be able to use one protein multiple times.

Chef John's Grilled Flap Steak
Chef John's Grilled Flap Steak | Photo by Chef John

Lean on the Local Farmers' Market

The farmers' market is a goldmine when it comes to your weekly grilling plan. Schedule a visit for Saturday or Sunday and you'll bring home beautiful produce for the whole week, along with locally-raised meats and cheese. Don't be shy about asking your farmer what's great for grilling, as some farmer market gems might surprise you. Even veggies like snap peas and cucumbers, greens like escarole and radicchio, fruit like cherries and apricots, and cheeses like halloumi and queso panela can be grilled. Don't forget to hit the Middle Eastern stand for fresh bags of pitas to grill and delicious dips like tzatziki and baba ghanoush to smear on.

Grilled Radicchio with Blue Cheese
Grilled Radicchio with Blue Cheese | Photo by France C

Shop with Time Lapse in Mind

Some foods age better than others. If you're buying tender, delicate items to grill like fresh herbs, already ripe peaches and whole fish (that you'd rather not freeze), grill those first, leaving tougher items like sweet potatoes, corn and pineapple for later in the week. Head to the grocery store or butcher for broken-down cuts of meat to freeze, or ask the butcher to vacuum seal them. Purchase vegetarian proteins like seitan, tofu and tempeh, which are less likely to go bad later in the week. You'll also be surprised at how grillable certain canned and frozen grocery store items can be. Purchase canned whole plum tomatoes that you can char, artichoke hearts to grill for the best-tasting spinach artichoke dip, frozen naan to butter and toast, and canned chickpeas, which make excellent crispy grilled chickpeas.

Grilled Trout
Grilled Trout | Photo by Meredith

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk can be intimidating (you might find yourself pausing before putting your purchase in the cart, wondering when you'll polish off a 24-pack of hot dogs, a huge plank of salmon, or a jumbo pack of bacon) but "Divide and Conquer" should be your motto here. If you portion out your bulk purchases into individual or family serving portions, you'll have salmon, bacon, and hot dogs for a month without having to make multiple trips to the store. The same goes for spices and rubs, buns and sauces. Take the time to individually wrap and freeze items that stick to one another, like bacon, buns, and hot dogs -- wax paper is your best friend here because it won't stick.

hot dogs
Grilled Hot Dogs | Photo by Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

Look for Versatile Ingredients

Some grilling ingredients are one trick ponies, while others have multiple uses. Fill your grocery cart with versatile ingredients, and you'll be able to make several meals out of them. Tortillas are versatile, providing for griddle-marked quesadillas, toasty breakfast tacos, or the perfect side to fajitas. Ground beef, pork, and turkey can be used to make meatballs, patties, or tacos. Thick-sliced Texas toast grills well for brisket sandwiches, as the vehicle for almost any dip or sauce, including Spanish bruschetta, creamy hummus, spinach-artichoke dip, or beer cheese.

Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Strawberry Goat Cheese Bruschetta | Photo by jrbaker

Do the Prep on Sunday

The best thing about shopping for grilling ingredients to last the entire week? You can always throw together a quick, casual backyard soiree that feels like a fun family grill-out -- even on a weekday. Make it easy to grill all week long by doing a little prep on Sunday. Sure, you can still be spontaneous on Tuesday night, but you'll have a variety of meats, veggies, sauces, rubs, and marinades ready to go.

A few prep tips: Research recipes in advance so you're not spending your weekdays wondering what side dishes you should make. Pair hamburger patties with seasonings you love, label them and chuck them in your freezer or fridge. Shuck corn and chop veggies for kabobs. Make your dry rub and pesto. If you already know what marinade you like with your chicken, section out enough portions for your family into a labeled bag with the marinade ("Chicken Thighs in Carolina Gold BBQ") and after it's well-marinated, throw it in the freezer or fridge. You can even surprise your spouse by gifting him or her a barbecue meal kit: place skewers, corn holders, printed recipes, and all the necessary food ingredients into a basket or box and pop it in your fridge, where it'll patiently await his or her barbecue cravings. Don't forget the love note!

Turkish Chicken Kabobs with cucumber and tomatoes
Turkish Chicken Kabobs | Photo by Chef John
| Credit: Chef John

Grill Smart

When it comes to easy grilling, you'll want to group foods that cook at the same rate. For instance, if your Italian-style porchetta or Cuban-style pork shoulder takes five times as long as your sides and veggies to grill, you'll want to save those major projects for the weekend. Plop the burgers and dogs on the barbecue with quick-grilling veggies like peppers rather than long-cooking potatoes.

Think Outside the Box

If you haven't grilled a pizza yet, now is the time. Always wanted to make al pastor tacos or gyros? You can do it on your grill. Serving brunch outdoors? Yes, you can grill a frittata in a cast-iron skillet. Pick a theme if it's helpful, like a Brazilian-style churrasco barbecue, Hawaiian SPAM fest (SPAM musubi is a favorite), Cajun barbecue, or Texas barbecue -- then, coordinate all your seasonings around that theme. Dessert on your grill includes grilled peaches, watermelon, or bananas. You can even concoct a banana split with those fire-ripened 'nanas.

Three pizzas on the grill
Three pizzas on the grill | Photo by Meredith

Plan Easy Leftover Meals

If your leftovers are easily microwavable, so much the better. But don't hesitate to combine grilled leftovers with fresh kitchen fixings. Make your own burrito bowl with leftover grilled meats, adding toppings of salsa and sour cream; plate grilled meatballs and veggies on a bed of rice, cous cous or farro for hearty grain bowls; or slice grilled corn onto a salad kit. You can fire up the George Foreman and turn leftover steak into pressed paninis, sandwiching in a slice of gruyere and some caramelized onions. Breakfast is a perfect leftovers fix too -- from sausage breakfast sandwiches to steak and eggs, you can't go wrong

882280_Grilled Chicken Taco Salad_223029_Photo by Stirring Up Trouble
Grilled Chicken Taco Salad | Photo by Stirring Up Trouble

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