Our (Easy) Vegan Meal Plan For Weeknight Dinners

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A couple of years ago, I made a goal to eat vegan 90% of the time. There’s increasing evidence that eating less meat is one way the average citizen can reduce their impact on the environment, and there’s no doubt that eating more vegetables has some serious health benefits (not to mention that — anecdotally — my hair and skin have never looked better).

The ‘90%’ part is because I have zero interest in giving up meat (or cheese) forever. A couple of times a summer, I want a burger on the grill. I love a good Italian hoagie (or cheesesteak, if I’m being honest), and my Mom’s Christmas dinner (Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding) is NOT to be missed. Mike and I love going out to eat, and, at the end of the day…I just don’t wanna be vegan all the time.

I do, however, want to be vegan most of the time, saving meat (or cheese) for extra-special splurges.

Easy Vegan Weeknight Dinner Ideas For The Fam

Do we hit our 90% vegan goal? Yes! Pretty often! But not always. Some weeks we’re closer to 60% vegan, but the overall idea: reducing our impact on the earth, eating healthier-is more consistently achieved with some wiggle room.

One of the easiest ways to hit our 90% goal is to really focus hard on eating vegan during the week. That leaves weekends for BBQs with friends, dinners out, and chili at the ski hill.

Over the last few years, I’ve perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan that I can stick with. It’s not particularly fancy or inventive, but it features recipes my kids love, and an overall “schedule” that allows me some creativity and versatility…without having to think too hard.

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

I’ve divided each night of the week up into a category that makes eating vegan a cinch. Our categories are:

Monday: Soup/Stew Night

Tuesday: Taco Night

Wednesday: Something Over Rice (or Grains)

Thursday: Pasta (or Risotto) Night

Friday: Pizza Night


Our Top Vegan Dinner Ideas (For Each Night Of The Week)

Below I’ve listed our go-to vegan recipes from my favorite food bloggers. The vast majority of the recipes listed are ones that we make to over and over…ones my kids will actually eat. Best of all, these are the recipes that I can still handle during a busy week. Either they’re quick to make at night, or they have some element of prep that can be done easily the night before or morning of. We use our slow cooker a TON. The advantage is that the slow cooker recipes here are pretty foolproof. Unlike meat, these recipes really can cook all day, or sit on the ‘warm’ setting without getting soggy.

Monday: Soup/Stew Night

These dinners are almost always thrown together in the crock pot that morning, and I make enough to have leftovers for lunches the next day. Sending the kids to school with Thermos lunches almost always guarantees that they get enough food AND eat their vegetables for lunch.

Our Top 3 Favorite Vegan Soups/Stew Recipes

1. Super Green Vegetable Soup via Crowded Kitchen

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: We always double the recipe, and NEVER miss the herbed oil. We’ve actually started tripling that one, and the kids dump it in their soup with as must gusto as we do. It’s delicious.

Serve with: Crusty bread (I throw a baguette or loaf of sourdough in the oven for 10 min to crisp up), and Earth Balance buttery spread. The kids like the “butter”, but Mike and I will dip our bread into the herbed oil. Because this is a lighter dinner, and we have a teenage boy, I’ll sometimes follow it up with dessert, specifically these Coconut Cream Parfaits (but we just buy Coconut Whipped Cream because it’s SO much easier).

2. Miso Red Bean Stew via The Pig & Quill

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: This recipe is technically for an Instant Pot, but I’ve always made it in the slow cooker (directions are also included in the recipe). This stew is a brilliant mix of warming spices (making it great on a cold winter day)…but has such fresh, bright toppings that it doesn’t feel out of place for a warm weather meal, either. Also, don’t skimp on the toppings; the fresh avocado, tomatoes and herbs are delicious, but the real star is the kimchee. (We usually have to salt this one a bit more than the recipe calls for…and I swap out the cheese for vegan parmesan.)

Serve with: This one is pretty filling all on its own.

3. Vegan Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup via Emilie Eats

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: I almost always just use water (instead of broth), and then up the salt to 3 tsp. We always use salsa instead of diced tomatoes. This is one of those recipes I’ve long since stopped measuring…just dump everything in the slow cooker and go.

Serve with: Tortilla chips, avocado, lime and cilantro. I like this soup alone, but Mike and the kids prefer it over rice. I usually make some sort of coleslaw for a side (usually just shredded cabbage and a vinaigrette).


Tuesday: Taco Night

This is a family favorite: we put out a pot of black beans (either homemade or canned and heat with salt, salsa, cumin and onion), chopped avocado, cilantro, shredded cabbage (dressed with lime, oil & salt), pickled onions, different kinds of salsa or pico de gallo, and tortillas. Everybody makes their own tacos.

My Top 3 Favorite Taco Night Taco Recipes

1. 10 Min Vegan Black Bean Tacos via Delish Knowledge

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: I don’t actually use a recipe for this, but this one from Delish Knowledge looks very similar to what we do.

Serve with: Tortilla chips (I like to make mine look more like a salad, and then scoop it up with chips). Otherwise, this dish is satisfying enough to be a meal, no side dishes necessary.

2. Vegan Jerk Jackfruit Tacos via Love & Lemons

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: Instead of the recipe’s seasonings, I’ll sometimes just sauté the jackfruit with olive oil, chopped onion, a packet of taco seasoning and a few tablespoons of salsa. It’s not nearly as good as the full jerk treatment here, but it’s super fast.

Serve with: This is a newer taco that I’m introducing to the kids, so they don’t pound these nearly as hard as their usual black-bean tacos. Because of this, I’ll sometimes add in some sides: rice, refried beans and chips, etc. Love & Lemons actually has a pretty good list of possible sides for taco night.

3. Quinoa Taco Meat via Minimalist Baker

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: For an old-school, Taco Bell spin on vegan tacos, I keep meaning to try this recipe from Minimalist Baker. I’d serve these in those yellow taco shells, with chopped tomato, shredded lettuce and vegan cheese shreds from Daiya.

Serve with: Some sort of corn and bean salad


Wednesday: Something With Rice (or Grains)

Stir frys, buddha bowls, fried rice, something stuffed with rice, or even a huge pot of rice & beans (especially if we didn’t do our usual black bean tacos that week)…on Wednesdays, serving something with rice is our typical move. And yeah, if I forget to pop some rice in the rice cooker that morning, I have no problem microwaving those ready-to-eat rice packets, or substituting quinoa, which cooks faster and has more protein.

My Top 3 Favorite Rice (or Bowl) Recipes

1. Sesame Balsamic Tofu Bowls With Chile Mango via The Pig & Quill

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: I don’t know what magic Em has spun for this recipe, but my kids BEG for this one. To make it easier/faster, we completely skip the sunflower pesto (it’s not needed), and I always use frozen mango (just pull it out of the freezer in the morning). I also prep the tofu in the morning, and let it marinate all day. For the greens, we just use bags of pre-shredded brussel sprouts, and fry ’em up with coconut oil and plenty of salt. I keep the heat a bit high since my kids prefer when the brussels are a bit browned.

Serve with: Any sort of rice. These bowls are complete meals in themselves.

2. Slow Cooker Pumpkin, Chick Pea, and Red Lentil Curry via Kitchen Treaty

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: I usually increase the other ingredients slightly to use up the entire can of pumpkin. It’s a pretty fool-proof recipe.

Serve with: Tons of lime wedges and chopped cilantro to really brighten the dish. We serve this over rice (and save time with those microwavable rice packets). This one is so filling that we don’t need to add any other dishes.

3. Quinoa Stuffed Peppers via Well Plated by Erin

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: I swap out the cheese for vegan cheese, and often omit completely the Greek yogurt and artichoke hearts. The dish is delicious with them, but for a weeknight dinner…I don’t always have artichoke hearts on hand. The quinoa adds a nice bit of protein, too.

Serve with: A green (lettuce) salad and some crusty bread. Because Raines is getting older (and hungrier), I’ll often do a beans-on-toast thing (or avocado toast) instead of just bread. Our version of beans on toast involves sautéing garlic in olive oil with two cans of beans (drained) and a can of tomatoes (not drained). Sauté them until warm, add salt, and finish with lemon (and chopped herbs if you want). Serve on top of toasted bread.


Thursday: Pasta Night

This one reminds me of my childhood. Think: steaming plate of red sauce pasta, salad with Italian dressing, French bread. Yes? Yeah. Still my kids’ favorite meal of the week. We often upgrade the spaghetti to Banza pasta (chickpea noodles) for extra protein…or we’ll do one box of each (regular spaghetti + chickpea spaghetti). The key to successful chickpea noodles are two fold:

  1. Serve immediately. Cooking these noodles should be the LAST thing you do before serving since they don’t rest or wait well.
  2. Only cook chickpea noodles for 4 min, max. 2 minutes if it’s Angel Hair pasta. I don’t care what the box says (or even what brand of chickpea noodles you buy), 4 min is the right time to cook them. Anything longer and they’ll be mush.

My Top 3 Favorite Pasta Night Recipes

1. Simple (and Fresh) Homemade Red Sauce & Spaghetti via Martha Stewart

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: We’ve been making Martha Stewart’s simple red sauce for years. It’s literally the first thing Mike and I learned to make after college. And frankly…it’s just as fast as heating up jarred sauce, but infinitely better. We haven’t bought jarred sauce in…20+ years? And somewhere along the way we stopped adding in the fresh oregano, but nobody cares — the sauce is delicious with or without it. (Sidenote: Mike always cooks the sauce down properly…I usually just boil the crap out of it for a couple of minutes if we’re in a rush. Both methods work.)

Serve with: As I mentioned, we go old school with this one. We toss lettuce with Brianna’s French Vinaigrette (think: 1980s Italian dressing taste without the sugar or weird oils) and crusty bread.

2. Linguine With Lemon via Love & Lemons

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: Full disclosure: I only use the cherry tomatoes in the summer, the vast majority of the time I just sauté some spinach and call it a day. But this is the recipe I credit for making my kids love toasted pine nuts. Cheese is optional, or vegan.

Serve with: Since I almost always use spinach (and therefore we’ve already got greens), I’ll often serve this one with some sort of veggie side: sliced tomatoes or cucumbers with salt, grated carrots with a vinaigrette, etc. And crusty bread.

3. Garlicky White Beans & Couscous via The Mom Edit

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: While ‘couscous’ doesn’t sound like pasta, this recipe calls for Israeli couscous (or Pearl Couscous) which is actually just tiny little balls of pasta. Once you’ve eaten these slippery little things cloaked in the delicious garlic and lemon oil…whoa. This is another recipe my kids beg for. They, of course, skip most of the herbs but are getting better about adding some in. It’s fun to serve this dish plain (just couscous and beans), with little bowls of chopped herbs on the table so they can do a taste test.

Serve with: Bowls of chopped herbs, extra lemon wedges, and a little salad of arugula, lemon and olive oil. Mike and I dump our salads right on top. Because this one is all stove-top, adding some sort of roasted veggie side is our usual move.

Friday: Pizza Night

If we’re not going out, we’ll make this a thing: pizzas, fun drinks, and a bunch of appetizers (olives, veggies & hummus, crackers & vegan cheese, etc.) It’s a little end-of-week tradition we all LOVE.

Truth be told, we almost always just use leftover tomato sauce from pasta night and add vegan cheese on top (we do one pizza for Raines with real cheese). Or I’ll do a couple with sautéed spinach, vegan feta and sliced olives. Done.

My 3 Favorite Pizza Night Recipes

1. Pizza Crust via King Arthur Flour

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: If we’re making our own crust, this super simple recipe from King Arthur Flour is the best. It’s the only one I’ve found that doesn’t include unnecessary steps or any sugar. It’s our fav.

Serve with: bowls of olives, and other fun appetizers

2. Socca Pizza With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pesto via Minimalist Baker

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: I first heard about ‘socca’ from one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbooks…but it IS a fun change-up from regular pizza. The flour is primarily chickpea flour, which lends itself to a really soft, chewy sort of crust (think: chickpea flatbread). It’s totally different from real pizza, but an option if you still want something homemade, but don’t want to wait for dough to rise. (NOTE: This particular recipe has you ‘rest’ the dough for 30 min…I never do that.)

Serve with: Olives, salads, other mezze, etc.

3. Vegan Cauliflower Pizza Crust via Crowded Kitchen

I've perfected a weeknight vegan meal plan I can stick with. It's not  fancy or inventive, but it features dinners my kids love + a "schedule" that allows me some creativity & versatility...without having to think too hard.

Recipe notes: I’ve been researching the heck out of vegan cauliflower pizza crusts…and if I ever get around to making one, it’s gonna be this one. That said, there’s plenty of store bought cauliflower pizza crusts that are not bad (even if some of them have eggs) so that’s where I typically end up: with a store bought crust. I’m calling it good enough.

Serve with: Wine and plenty of screen time. 😉


That’s it! As I mentioned, this isn’t the ONLY set of recipes we use, nor do I stick to this schedule religiously. It’s just nice to have something laid out for those weeks that are busy, the ones where we’re barely hanging on, the weeks where I don’t have time to think or make decisions.

As always, I’d love to hear from you: are there any other vegan (or vegetarian) weeknight recipes you rely on? I’m always looking for new ideas.

xo,

S

24 COMMENTS

  1. I love Smitten Kitchen’s Quick Pasta with Chickpeas. It calls for only a few pantry staples, there’s minimal prep and it comes together quickly. My family of 4 inhales it and I quadruple the recipe to make sure there enough left overs for lunch the next day! I also love to make BBQ pulled jackfruit and put it over a slow baked sweet potato (jk I almost always microwave them) and crunchy slaw and Smitten Kitchens broccoli/sweet potato tahini bowls is one of my FAVES. Thank you so much for putting this post together! I will definitely try some of these 🙂

  2. Thanks for the recipes. You may have noticed this book just released… “Weekday Vegetarians” by Jenny Rosenstrach. I haven’t ordered it yet but it’s in my cart. Already climbing the New York Times list.

  3. Mushroom stew from holycowvegan.net. Definitely use a mixture of fresh and dry mushroom and use the dry mushroom stock in recipe. Roasted sweet potatoes and poblano peppers with taco seasoning for tacos.

  4. Hopefully this comment makes it past the spam filter, with all these links!

    I’m trying to eat flexitarian, just like you. Here are some of my go-to recipes — I lean heavily on Asian flavors, as you’ll see:

    – Smitten Kitchen’s peanut sesame noodles https://smittenkitchen.com/2008/04/peanut-sesame-noodles/ with your favorite Asian tofu prep (e.g. https://www.noracooks.com/marinated-tofu/ ) and quick-pickled cucumbers (I use a family recipe but this one https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/228067/spicy-asian-cucumbers/ is similar-ish). I tried SK’s more recent “lighter” peanut noodle sauce and didn’t like it nearly as much, FYI; the original is not too heavy if you dress a full pound of noodles with it.

    – I’ve been obsessed with trying to recreate our local restaurant’s South Indian style chana masala (chickpea curry). So far the closest I’ve come is this recipe https://holycowvegan.net/chana-bhatura-trip-down-memory-lane/ with the substitution of Indian curry base (made in a big batch and frozen – https://glebekitchen.com/indian-restaurant-curry-base/ ) for the water — but it still works great with water, just spend more time letting it cook on the stove. Would probably adapt well to a slow cooker, too.

    – Smitten Kitchen again, this time for a lentil soup that works great with sausage, vegan sausage, or reportedly no sausage (okay, I haven’t tried it without sausage but lentils are not my favorite vegetable in the world). I always omit the cheese and never miss it; the sizzling garlic oil is a must, though. https://smittenkitchen.com/2013/01/lentil-soup-with-sausage-chard-and-garlic/

  5. I am loving this cookbook! I have literally been waiting for years for Jenny to make a vegetarian cookbook. 🙂 Her recipes are so down to earth and foolproof. And this book is gorgeous.

  6. love this post! Great tips and recipes. Getting my kids to eat more vegan is a huge goal of mine. They do love (vegan) refried beans, so there is hope 🙂

  7. THANK YOU FOR THIS! My daughter doesn’t eat meat or cheese, so has essentially decided she’s vegan. I needed some more ideas beyond our usual “black beans and rice” bowl. Another family fave are sweet potato quesadillas, they can be customized for each person with cheese or no cheese, spinach, salsa, etc.

  8. These all look great. Bookmarked a bunch and can’t wait to try. I also try to do vegan “whenever I can.” Like you, there are certain things I don’t want to miss out on, but I try to be very intentional with my meat and dairy consumption.

    This is one one my favorite vegan recipes, and that peanut sauce is fantastic on other things, too. It’s a little time intensive with the chopping of the veggies, but so worth it for the delicious mix of flavors.

    https://www.womensrunning.com/health/runners-love-soba-noodle-salad-peanut-sauce/

  9. Thank you thank you–we have a vegetarian trending vegan kid who has kept it up for 4 years now. So we eat more vegetarian than not, and I’m always looking for new recipes!!

  10. This is one of the most helpful (and eco-friendly) posts you’ve ever done! Thank you! We’re veg, moving toward vegan. Will bookmark this and work our way through the recipes.

    Joy of Cooking’s vegetarian (actually vegan) chili is one of our favorites.
    This links looks pretty accurate http://recipeofhealth.com/recipe/vegetarian-chili-joy-of-cooking-41957rb

    Also, white bean and kale soup: saute some carrots, onion, garlic (celery) in olive oil, add a couple cans of drained white beans, a carton of veggie broth (maybe extra water), and a couple bay leaves, salt & pepper, cook for awhile, remove bay leaves, and add shredded kale for a couple minutes just before serving.

  11. Thank you for this post!

    Just wanted to share that, hands down, one of the best things my family has ever done was joining a local CSA and getting their weekly boxes of organic produce. It’s such a win/win/win. Local farmers get support (they are HURTING right now), we eat seasonally, try veggies we might never have picked up at the store and meal planning/doing groceries is so much easier since we already have the produce! It’s backwards recipe planning – we already have the fresh, seasonal ingredients… now what can I make with them?? If community supported agriculture is available where you live, I highly recommend it!

    With all that said, another soup recipe to add to this list might be Cookie + Kate’s Minestrone, which is easily made vegan by holding the parmesan and using vegan pasta. My family devours this! https://cookieandkate.com/classic-minestrone-soup-recipe/

    We also do a handroll night: we put out sheets of nori, rice, slices of avocados, baked tofu, carrots, cucumber, cilantro, sriracha, whatever you like, and everyone makes their own. Fun and so healthful. Maybe some edamame and a small bowl of miso on the side 🙂

  12. I’ve been whole food plant based for over 10 years and it’s the only diet my kids have ever known. That said, I’m only about 95%. If I really want roast chicken, I eat it. My kids eat the birthday cake at parties, etc. We do what we can, and still live life.
    I’ve got one picky kid, and one who eats everything but will then decide he doesn’t like BREAD. It’s baffling and frustrating and at times I throw my hands up and make them make all their own food (they’re 10 and 7). I keep a binder on the counter with recipes of all the food they can make themselves. It’s called the “Mom is Tired” book.
    That said, the easiest “meal” my kid’s love is microwaved whole potatoes with all the condiments from the fridge. Not very balanced but it’s fine every once in while.
    I’m an avid meal planner and most weeks we batch cook most of our food on Sunday with the kids help. And because we’re cooking almost all our food from scratch, which is A LOT of work, we have cereal night once a week too.
    My kids always love some kind of white beans, garlic, and spinach combo. Rancho Gordo beans are the best. You have to try their giant Royal Corona beans, they are so fun (yes, I just said a bean was fun). Noodles or rice with teriyaki peanut sauce (just peanut butter and teriyaki sauce) with broccoli (added to the end of pasta cook time) and tofu (straight from the box). Muffin-like quick bread in the bread maker (don’t even dirty a bowl). Quick cashew mozzarella is a game changer. Any kind of cashew based cream sauce. Roasted vegetables of any kind.

  13. I just could not love this site more. My animal-loving, vegetarian-since-8, newly vegan daughter and I (newly vegetarian) are so excited to try these recipes.

  14. Help! For the vegetarian/sometimes vegan mom who is raising meat LOVING children. I would love any tips and tricks to get my children to eat meat-less meals. I have been a vegetarian my entire life, but my 3 kids want just meat.

  15. I love this! We are mostly vegetarian, sometimes vegan. I don’t cook meat anymore except for very special occasions, but we will have it at restaurants etc (mostly weekends). What keeps me from going vegan is mainly that I love cheese, my kids are little (in age and body size) and need the extra calories/fat/protein from dairy (which they love), and the “vegan cheese” substitutes just strike me as fake food. I can’t get into it. If I’m going to have dairy, I have the real thing. Otherwise I skip it altogether. I just try not to have every meal rely on cheese.

    My go-tos right now are Minimalist Baker and Cookie and Kate. Was very excited to see some more options and ideas here! I love the idea of assigning each night a category to make planning a bit easier. I also love the Cool Beans cookbook by Joe Yonan. There are a few weeknight appropriate recipes in there, as well as more special occasion stuff and tons of dips/spreads etc.

  16. I am mostly vegetarian, but do eat meat sometimes. I cook vegetarian at home, but my kids go nuts for any pepperoni/sausage/chicken nugget they come across. What I do is I don’t make meat forbidden. I don’t make it at home and I explain that its something that is fine to eat sometimes but too much of it is not good for your body and not good for the environment, so we don’t eat it every day. If we are at a restaurant or party or get carryout or whatever, they can get meat with no judgment from me whatsoever (and sometimes I do too). My kids are little though, not teenagers. I control what we have/make in the house. I play around with recipes to find things they like (tacos and pasta are usually easy hits). You can only control so much, though especially as they get older. My husband was raised purely vegetarian and eagerly embraced fast food meat and steak and everything in high school/college up until a year or two ago when we both decided to cut back and stick to mostly vegetarian.

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