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Here's An Easy, 7-Night Dinner Plan That's Perfect For Busy Families

Everything you need to make this back-to-school season the easiest and most delicious one yet — from grocery lists, to dinner guides, to simple recipes your whole family will love.

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Ready or not, it's that time of the year again: Back-to-school season.

And whether that means you're rushing off to night classes, scurrying to get out the door, or simply trying to keep track of your family's complex schedule — everyone could use a little help. Especially during dinnertime.

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So we put together a cheat sheet of seven easy and ultra-practical dinners that you can dress up or down to make everyone in your family happy.

You can mix and match them, cook 'em all, or make the same one again and again — it's totally up to you!

The recipes were designed to be easy to put together, convenient, and crowd-pleasing — because we totally understand how hectic back-to-school season can be.

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To make things easier, we created grocery lists for each recipe. And if you plan to make all seven dinners in one week (which you totally can!) we made a master list that'll set you up for the entire week.

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We assumed you had a few things already hanging out in your pantry. (If not, just add these things to your grocery list.)

We also made a list of all the kitchen equipment we used — such as pots, pans, and knives— to make sure you were set.

So go ahead: Make one recipe, make them all, or simply use this guide as inspiration. We want you to own this back-to-school season — and making yourself a delicious dinner is a great place to start. ✓

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Ready to dive into the recipes? You can get a printable PDF file, or you can get the full recipes at the bottom of this post. Let's do it!

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Everybody loves a good tater tot casserole — it’s practically impossible to dislike them — but they’re not always the healthiest. This version sneaks in a ton of veggies (like corn, carrots, and tomatoes) without sacrificing any of the indulgence. In fact, we think your kids (or you) won’t even notice!

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Here's what you'll need:

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The recipe is super flexible. You can pretty much swap in whatever veggies you want. We even made it with chopped cauliflower and it worked great. To serve, just garnish with cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, or anything else you want to jazz it up!

Here's how to make it:

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Just sauté whatever veggies you like (we used carrots, black beans, and corn) and add some milk and flour to make a sauce. Throw in some cheese, top with tater tots (!), and bake until bubbling.

Dress it up: Garnish with diced tomatoes, red onion, jalapeño, and cilantro. Or garnish just half to accommodate everyone's taste

More: Printable Recipe | Printable Grocery List | Watch How It's Made

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Slow cooker chili is the MVP of weeknight dinners. Just throw everything in before work and come home to a hot dinner ready to be enjoyed.

This version takes it even further and cooks cornbread dumplings with the chili. As soon as you get home, just scoop some cornbread batter on top of the cooked chili, give it another hour or so, and they’ll be good to go.

Here's what you'll need:

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For the dumplings, you'll need butter, brown sugar, eggs, milk, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and cheddar cheese — but you can totally leave them out if you want.

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Here's how to make it:

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Just load everything into a slow cooker, let it cook all day, then dollop with a simple cornbread batter. After an hour or so, the dumplings will be tender and cooked through, and dinner is ready.

Dress it up: Garnish with cilantro, green onions, and jalapeño — or leave it plain for a comforting classic.

More: Printable Recipe | Printable Grocery List | Watch How It's Made

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Everybody loves crispy chicken strips. This recipe gives you that crispy, pan-fried chicken texture, but it bakes them instead. And it packs in two different kinds of vegetables so you can have a complete meal that’s ready in no time. Oh, and it's the perfect occasion to go wild with the dipping sauces.

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Here's what you'll need:

Taylor Miller/BuzzFeed

And serve with whatever dipping sauces your family loves. (We love homemade honey mustard with these — and we included a recipe so you can make it yourself.)

Here's how to make it:

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Bread some chicken strips in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, and load onto a sheet pan. Then toss some sweet potato slices and broccoli with oil and seasonings, and place on another sheet tray. Bake 'em both at the same time, then serve with dipping sauces.

More: Printable Recipe | Printable Grocery List | Watch How It's Made

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Instant ramen is the ultimate weeknight dinner. It’s quick, easy, and ridiculously cheap — but it’s not always that tasty or filling. This recipe completely transforms the staple into a satisfying, no-boil stir-fry your whole family will love. It’s like your favorite take-out meal, only homemade and on the table in less than 20 minutes.

Here's what you'll need:

Taylor Miller/BuzzFeed

Yep, just the plain ol' blocks of instant ramen. They work perfect in this recipe!

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Here's how to make it:

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Pour some boiling water over the instant ramen, let it sit for a few minutes, then drain it. Cook up some veggies and steak in a pan, throw the noodles in, and stir-fry until golden — the whole process should take less than 20 minutes. ✓

Dress it up: Garnish with some green onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds.

More: Printable Recipe | Printable Grocery List | Watch How It's Made

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This classic mac 'n' cheese skillet is the perfect recipe for picky eaters of all ages — and once you add the roasted tomatoes and fresh basil on top, it turns into something that’s fresh, flavorful, and exciting.

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Here's what you'll need:

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The tomatoes and basil are for garnishing — but feel free to leave them out .

Here's how to make it:

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Make a quick sauce with flour, butter, milk, and cheese — then throw in cooked pasta. Fold in some spinach, top with some more cheese, and bake until bubbling.

Dress it up: Before baking, top with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella — and as soon as it comes out of the oven, garnish with torn basil. Feel free to top just half if someone in your family isn't a tomato fan. Without them, you're left with a classic and comforting mac 'n' cheese — and who doesn't love that? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

More: Printable Recipe | Printable Grocery List | Watch How It's Made

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What’s better than pizza night? A build-your-own-pizza night! These clever French bread pizzas are quick and easy to throw together so you can make everyone their own personal favorite without putting in a ton of work.

Here's what you'll need:

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Just grab some bread, sauce, and whatever pizza toppings your heart desires. (We highly recommend making a margarita variation and a BBQ chicken version — steps for both are included at the bottom of this post.)

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Here's how to make it:

Taylor Miller/BuzzFeed

Just cut some baguettes in half, spread on some sauce (tomato, BBQ, Ranch — whatever you want!), pile on the toppings, and pop 'em in the oven. Someone doesn't like tomatoes? Leave 'em off. Someone loves pepperoni? Load it up! The BYO aspect allows everyone to build a pizza they like.

More: Printable Recipe | Printable Grocery List | Watch How It's Made

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Think of this taco recipe as a complete meal kit in one. Just quickly roast some veggies and steak together on a sheet tray (along with some tortillas to warm ‘em up) then serve it with a bunch of toppings. Put it out and let everyone serve themselves — building their dream tacos with as many (or as little) toppings as they want.

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Here's what you'll need:

Taylor Miller/BuzzFeed

And whatever toppings your family loves — we recommend all kinds of things from guacamole, to shredded cheese, to homemade lime crema (which we included a recipe for).

Here's how to make it:

Taylor Miller/BuzzFeed

Toss sliced onions and bell peppers with oil and a homemade taco seasoning, and place onto a sheet tray. Using that same spice blend, season up some flank steak, roast with the veggies (either on the same pan or an additional one), and serve with tortillas. We warmed our tortillas in a foil packet right alongside the veggies to make it easier.

Dress it up: This is where you can get crazy. As the steak and veggies are cooking, set up a BYO taco bar with all your favorite toppings — from guacamole to shredded cheese.

More: Printable Recipe | Printable Grocery List | Watch How It's Made

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Ready to get cooking? Get printable recipes, a grocery list, or just keep scrolling.

And if you want to follow along with this plan by getting each recipe emailed to you for the next seven days, enter your email address below:

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We would love to see your creations! If you end up making these recipes, tag your photos with #TastyBTSMealPlan and we'll feature our favorites!

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ medium yellow onion, diced

1 cup frozen corn

1 ½ cups shredded carrots

1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups whole milk

1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juices

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 28-ounce bag of frozen tater tots

Optional Garnishes:

1 small tomato, diced

½ medium red onion, diced

1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. Cut the head of cauliflower in half, remove the stem, and chop into small pieces. Set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the corn, carrots, black beans, and 2 cups of cauliflower and cook, stirring often, for another 3 minutes, until the corn starts to brown around the edges.

5. Add the flour, chili powder, and salt and stir until the vegetables are evenly coated.

6. Add the milk and diced tomatoes and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 3 minutes.

7. Add the mozzarella cheese and stir until melted.

8. Turn off the heat and arrange the tater tots on top of the vegetable mixture.

9. Transfer to the oven and bake until browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes.

10. Garnish the casserole with tomato, red onion, jalapeño, and cilantro, if using.

11. Enjoy!

Note: Feel free to add the garnishes to only half of the casserole so everyone can enjoy. Also, if your family is a fan of spicy foods, feel free to add half a minced jalapeño along with the garlic and onion for a pop of heat.

*Vegan Substitution: Omit the shredded mozzarella and milk and replace with your favorite vegan cheese and milk alternatives.

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Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:
Chili:

1 pound ground turkey

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 bell peppers, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, with juices

1 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-ounce can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

2 teaspoons chili powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Dumplings:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 large eggs

½ cup whole milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup fine yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Optional Garnishes:

1 jalapeño, sliced

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons sliced green onions

Preparation:

1. Make the chili: Combine the ground turkey, onion, bell peppers, garlic, crushed tomatoes, black and kidney beans, corn, chili powder, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.

3. Once the chili has cooked for 6-8 hours, make the dumplings: Combine the melted butter, brown sugar, eggs, and milk in a large bowl. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt and stir until smooth. Fold in the cheese. Using a small ice cream scoop, dollop the batter on top of the chili and cook for 1 more hour on high, until the dumplings are puffed and tender.

4. If using, garnish the chili with jalapeño slices, cilantro, and green onions.

5. Enjoy!

Note: To make this on a weekday, get the chili cooking before work and scoop the cornbread batter on as soon as you get home. Within an hour, the dumplings will be cooked through and ready. If you’re using an oven, cook the chili in a heavy dutch oven at 320°F degrees for 2 hours, checking often. During the last 20 minutes of cooking, add the dumplings.

*Vegan/Vegetarian Substitution: Omit the shredded turkey and replace with additional beans. Omit the cornbread.

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Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Crispy Chicken Strips:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1½ cups panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons paprika

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups broccoli florets

½ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced, divided

2 sweet potatoes, peeled

Dipping Sauce:

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons honey

BBQ sauce, for serving (optional)

Ketchup, for serving (optional)

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190˚C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Slice the chicken breasts into strips.

3. In a medium bowl, add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Whisk to combine.

4. In a large bowl, combine the panko bread crumbs, paprika, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

5. Place the flour in another medium bowl.

6. Coat the chicken strips in the flour, then in the eggs, then in the bread crumbs and place on a baking sheet.

7. Cut the broccoli into florets.

8. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli florets with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and half of the minced garlic. Arrange on half of the remaining baking sheet.

9. Cut the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons.

10. Toss the sweet potatoes in a large bowl with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and minced garlic, and place on the baking sheet next to the broccoli.

11. Bake both baking sheets simultaneously, until the veggies are browned and the chicken is crisp, about 20 minutes.

12. Make the dipping sauce: Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, and honey in a small bowl.

13. Serve the chicken and veggies with the dipping sauce, BBQ sauce, and ketchup, if using.

14. Enjoy!

Note: Paprika gives the chicken tenders a golden color and subtle flavor, but feel free to omit it.

*Vegan/Vegetarian Substitution: Replace the breaded chicken strips with your favorite vegan protein or load up on veggies and roast a third vegetable in place of chicken.

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Servings: 4

Ingredients:

3 3-ounce packages instant ramen

8 cups boiling water

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons sesame oil

Juice of 1 lime

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 cups broccoli florets

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

¾ pound flank steak, thinly sliced

½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

Garnishes (optional):

2 tablespoons sliced green onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1½ teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Preparation:

1. Place the ramen noodles in a large bowl (discard the seasoning packets or save for another use) and pour the boiling water over them. Let sit for 6 minutes, stirring every now and then to break up the noodle blocks. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, cornstarch, sesame oil, lime juice, and soy sauce. Stir well, then set aside.

3. Place the broccoli in a large, microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1½ minutes, until soft. Set aside.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large, nonstick pan over high heat. Add the steak to the pan and toss with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce. Cook until browned, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

5. Heat another teaspoon of olive oil in the pan, then add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until browned, about 4 minutes.

6. Add the broccoli and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

7. Add the remaining teaspoon of olive oil to the pan, then add the noodles and the remaining sauce. Cook, stirring constantly, until the noodles soak up the sauce. Return the cooked vegetables and steak to the pan and stir to distribute.

8. Transfer the noodles to a serving dish and garnish with green onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds, if using.

9. Enjoy!

Note: Make sure to use a large nonstick pan when frying the noodles to avoid sticking. If using a low-sodium soy sauce, feel free to season noodles with kosher salt.

*Vegan/Vegetarian Substitution: Omit the steak and replace with tofu, edamame, or scrambled eggs for additional protein.

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Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked elbow macaroni

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3½ cups whole milk

¼ teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 cups baby spinach

2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided

½ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced (optional)

3 small tomatoes, sliced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over low heat until foamy. Add the flour and stir until completely smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

4. While stirring, gradually add the milk and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with the paprika, pepper, and salt.

5. Fold in the spinach and stir until wilted. Add 1½ cups of shredded mozzarella and stir until completely melted.

6. Add the cooked pasta and stir to coat in the sauce.

7. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of shredded mozzarella evenly over the pasta, then top with the fresh mozzarella if using. Arrange the tomato slices on top.

6. Bake until browned and bubbling, about 25 minutes.

7. Top with basil before serving.

8. Enjoy!

Note: Feel free to place tomatoes and basil over only half of the mac ‘n’ cheese if someone in your family is not a fan.

*Vegan/Vegetarian Substitution: Substitute whole milk for almond milk and use your favorite vegan cheese in place of mozzarella.

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Makes 4 individual pizzas

Ingredients:

1 baguette, sliced in half crosswise and lengthwise (4 pieces total)

Margherita Pizza Toppings:

1 cup tomato sauce

¾ cup shredded mozzarella

Halved cherry tomatoes

Mozzarella balls

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (optional)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

BBQ Chicken Pizza Toppings:

1 cup BBQ sauce

1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken

¾ cup shredded mozzarella

½ medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons sliced green onions (optional)

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Arrange the baguette pieces on the baking sheets, cut-side up.

3. To make the margherita pizzas, spread 2 baguette pieces with the tomato sauce and top with the shredded mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and basil.

4. To make the BBQ chicken pizzas, spread 2 baguette pieces with the BBQ sauce and top with the shredded chicken, shredded mozzarella, and red onion.

5. Bake until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 10 minutes.

6. If using, garnish the margherita pizzas with chopped basil and red pepper flakes and the BBQ chicken pizzas with green onions.

7. Enjoy!

Note: A written, this recipes makes 2 margherita pizzas and 2 BBQ chicken pizzas, but feel free to mix, match, and set out ingredients your family loves to customize them to everyone’s tastes.

*Vegan/Vegetarian Substitution: Omit the chicken and replace the shredded mozzarella with your favorite vegan cheese alternative.

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Servings: 4

Ingredients:

DIY Taco Seasoning:

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

Tacos:

2 pounds flank steak

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 green bell pepper, seeded, sliced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 red bell pepper, seeded, sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1 head broccoli, cut into florets

12 small corn tortillas

Lime Crema:

½ cup Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon lime juice

¼ teaspoon lime zest

Kosher salt, to taste

Suggested Toppings:

Black beans

Chopped fresh cilantro

Pico de gallo

Corn and black bean salsa

Shredded cheddar cheese

Guacamole

Lime wedges

Hot sauce

Preparation:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Make the DIY taco seasoning: Mix the salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder together in a small bowl.

3. Add the flank steak to a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and rub to coat, then sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the taco seasoning and rub to coat evenly.

4. To the other baking sheet, add the green bell pepper, mushrooms, red bell pepper, red onion, and broccoli. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of taco seasoning. Toss to coat.

5. Wrap the tortillas in foil, add to the baking sheet with veggies, and bake until the vegetables are browned and the steak is cooked to your liking, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then thinly slice the steak against the grain.

6. Make the lime crema: combine the Greek yogurt, lime juice, and zest in a small bowl. Season with salt.

7. Serve the roasted steak and vegetables with the lime crema and your family's favorite toppings to create a DIY taco bar.

8. Enjoy!

Note: Feel free to serve with your family’s favorite toppings to create a taco bar that’ll make everyone happy.

*Vegan/Vegetarian Substitution: Omit the steak and serve with 1 cup black beans for added protein.

Get A Printable Recipe | Get A Printable Grocery List | See How It's Made

Recipes by Jesse Szewczyk; photos by Taylor Miller; videos produced by Pierce Abernathy; edited by Melissa Harrison and Marie Telling.

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