28 Make-Ahead Dinners That Come Together in Record Time

Updated: Feb. 08, 2024

These easy meals are perfect for busy nights. Simply make 'em ahead of time, then freeze or refrigerate until you're ready to eat. And the best part? They only take 15 minutes to prep!

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Turkey Gnocchi Soup

While trying to find a creative use for leftover turkey, we decided to add gnocchi instead of noodles. My 8-year-old daughter always asks for more. If you don't have leftover turkey, a rotisserie chicken works just as well. —Amy Babines, Virginia Beach, Virginia
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Bacon and Cheese Quiche

With a quiche like this, you don't need a lot of heavy side dishes. It's got everything—eggs, bacon, cheese and a touch of apple juice for a salty-sweet fix. —Colleen Belbey, Warwick, Rhode Island
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Cajun Beef Casserole

Your little ones who refuse to eat veggies won’t complain one bit when you bring this cheesy casserole with a cornbread crust to the table. For picky eaters, try using less Cajun seasoning. —Kelly Ciepluch, Kenosha, Wisconsin
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Chicken Aloha

This chicken is a welcome way to cook a quick, delicious meal. —Beth Corbin, Sarasota, Florida
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Sirloin Strips over Rice

I found this recipe in a movie magazine some 20 years ago. It was the favorite of some male star, but I don’t remember which one. Its great flavor and the fact that leftovers just get better have made it a family favorite! —Karen Dunn, Kansas City, Missouri
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Stroganoff Sandwiches

This recipe is perfect for a game day, either at a tailgate party or at home. I often make the meat mixture ahead of time and add the sour cream just before serving. — Susan Graham, Cherokee, IA
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Sweet-and-Sour Meat Loaf

My husband and I like basic, hearty meat-and-potatoes meals. The sweet-and-sour flavor adds a deliciously different twist to this longtime standby. —Debbie Haneke, Stafford, Kansas
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Sausage Manicotti

This classic Italian entree comes together in a snap but tastes as if it took hours. It's so tasty and easy to fix. My family always enjoys it. —Carolyn Henderson, Maple Plain, Minnesota
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Chicken Broccoli Shells

This cheesy entree is a make-ahead dream. Just assemble it ahead of time and put it in the oven when company arrives. I round out the meal with a tossed salad and warm bread. —Karen Jagger, Columbia City, Indiana
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Taco Twists

Why serve tacos only in ordinary flour or corn tortillas? For a mouthwatering change of pace, bake the taco beef in flaky, golden crescent rolls. My family enjoys these for a warm lunch or light dinner.—Carla Kreider, Quarryville, Pennsylvania
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Lasagna Casserole

While growing up, I always wanted this meal on my birthday. Mother made the sauce from scratch, but now I use store-bought spaghetti sauce to save time. Replace the ground beef with Italian sausage if you want more spice. —Deb Morrison, Skiatook, Oklahoma
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Zippy Chicken Enchiladas

Leftover chicken gets an awesome makeover in this rich and creamy casserole. This colorful dish is loaded with flavor. It's a nice change of pace from beef enchiladas. —Julie Moutray, Wichita, Kansas
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Chicken Noodle Casserole

Everyone who tries this comforting cheesy chicken casserole asks for the recipe. It's so simple to make that sometimes I feel as if I'm cheating! —Kay Pederson, Yellville, Arkansas
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Fiesta Chicken

Chili powder and picante sauce add just the right dash to this hearty main dish. It's a snap to assemble since it uses convenience foods. —Teresa Peterson, Kasson, Minnesota
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Louisiana Jambalaya

My husband helped add a little spice to my life. He grew up on Cajun cooking, such as Louisiana jambalaya, while I ate mostly meat-and-potato meals. —Sandi Pichon, Memphis, Tennessee
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Bavarian Pot Roast

Since all my grandparents were German, it's no wonder that so many Bavarian recipes have been handed down to me. Because the Midwest has such a large German population, I feel this recipe represents the area well. —Susan Robertson, Hamilton, Ohio
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Baked Nectarine Chicken Salad

Folks love the crunchy chow mein noodles on top. I love that I can make it a day in advance and refrigerate until it's time to serve. Serve with hot bread or rolls. —Faye Robinson, Pensacola, Florida
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Contest-Winning Broccoli Chicken Casserole

This delicious chicken and broccoli casserole recipe is a twist on chicken divan that came from an old boss. It’s quick, satisfying comfort food. —Jennifer Schlachter, Big Rock, Illinois
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Creamy Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas

I love spicy food, but I think the creaminess of these enchiladas' topping makes them more friendly to a variety of tastes. —Crystal Schlueter, Northglenn, Colorado
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Hungarian Short Ribs

This is a special meal in our house—as soon as I get ribs, I know which dish my family will ask me to make. My husband and I have three children, so I've learned to be a versatile cook! —Joanne ShewChuk, St. Benedict, Saskatchewan
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Artichoke Chicken

Rosemary, mushrooms and artichokes combine to give chicken a wonderful savory flavor. I've served this dish for a large group by doubling the recipe. It's always a big hit with everyone—especially my family! —Ruth Stenson, Santa Ana, California
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Southwestern Spaghetti Casserole

A close friend made this Mexican-Italian bake for me almost 20 years ago, and I've prepared it regularly ever since. It comes together in a snap because it relies largely on convenient ingredients I keep on hand. We like it with a loaf of crusty bread. —Rose Turner Minnick, Christiansburg, Virginia
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Greek Tomato Soup with Orzo

My recipe for manestra, which means orzo in Greek, is effortless and very easy to make. You need only a few steps to transform simple ingredients into a creamy one-pot wonder. —Kiki Vagianos, Melrose, Massachusetts
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De-Lightful Tuna Casserole

This mild, homemade tuna casserole will truly satisfy your family's craving for comfort food without all the fat! —Colleen Willey, Hamburg, New York
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Chicken Neapolitan

I often prepare a weeks worth of recipes on the weekend and freeze them so I can quickly have dinner ready for our hungry teenage boys after one of their many sports activities. Served over noodles, this moist chicken with a flavorful sauce is a favorite.—Joan Williams, Baltimore, Maryland
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Penne and Smoked Sausage

This pasta is a must-try smoked sausage recipe. It just tastes so good when it’s hot and bubbly from the oven. The cheddar french-fried onions lend a cheesy, crunchy touch. —Margaret Wilson, Sun City, California