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Clever 20-Minute Meal Ideas

When you need dinner to come together in a pinch, follow Betty’s easy ideas for making it all happen in 20 minutes or less.

How do you tackle the daily dinner dilemma in your house? Us? We like to keep make-ahead dinner starters in our freezer, pantry and refrigerator to help us get dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less. 

Here are some staples we always have on hand:

  • Chicken breasts
  • Marinades and dressings
  • Beans
  • Pasta
  • Frozen veggies and fruits
  • Ground beef
  • Prewashed and precut fresh produce and salad greens
  • Marinara 
  • Shredded cheese
Another way we get a head start on weeknight dinners is using the weekend to prep ingredients and make and freeze complete dinners for the week or month ahead. 

Here are a few freezer shortcuts we swear by:
  • Shape ground beef, turkey or chicken into patties or meatballs; freeze up to 4 months.
  • Brown and drain ground beef or sausage; freeze up to 3 months.
  • For stir-fries, cut raw meat and poultry into strips or cubes; arrange in single layer on foil-lined cookie sheet and freeze until firm before placing in resealable plastic freezer bag; freeze up to 9 months. 
  • Make a batch of Betty’s Italian Tomato Sauce or Classic Marinara Sauce; freeze up to 1 year. Or prepare our Bolognese Sauce or Creamy Tomato-Vodka Sauce; freeze up to 6 months.
  • Chop, dice or slice fresh veggies such as onions, bell peppers, carrots and celery. Arrange in single layer on foil-lined cookie sheet and freeze until firm before placing in resealable freezer plastic bag; freeze up to 1 month.
Here are some of our favorite quick-dinner tips:
  • For busy nights, plan on a freezer-friendly dinner starter that just needs to be thawed and reheated like Betty’s Make-Ahead Shredded Chicken Breast or Make-Ahead Ground Beef
  • Pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Round out the meal with a loaf of bread from the bakery and precut veggies from the produce section.
  • Cut prep time with helpful kitchen gadgets like food processors, flexible cutting mats and kitchen scissors.
  • Flatten boneless skinless chicken breasts to ¼ inch thickness for quicker cooking.
  • Cut fresh veggies into small pieces to shorten cooking time.
  • During the last few minutes of cooking pasta, add fresh or frozen veggies to the water instead of preparing them separately.
  • For easy cleanup, line cookie sheets and baking pans with foil or parchment paper. 
Looking for some great, super-fast dinner ideas? Here are seven of our favorites that only take 20 minutes to make, from start to finish: