Abigail Monti | Daily Nexus

Making a sheet-pan meal is like reading one of those choose-your-own-adventure books from the ’80s, except the adventure is made of whatever neglected ingredients are in the back of your fridge and the ending is dinner. With this single formula, you can combine a random variety of ingredients that may have otherwise gone bad and turn it into an easy meal that will last you through the week.

Here’s what it takes: 1 pound of chopped (raw or precooked) protein, 3 cups of chopped non-starchy vegetables and 3 cups of chopped starchy vegetables. Throw together a quick dressing of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Toss in your sheet pan and bake at 425 F for 20-30 minutes. Done. 

I tend to get four meals out of each sheet pan when using these measurements. Optionally, you can cook rice or pasta on the side to make each serving more filling. I recommend packaging up servings in individual Tupperware and storing them in the fridge for easy, on-the-go meals between classes.

While the possibilities for sheet pan meals are endless, here are some of my favorite combinations:

  • Chicken thighs + halved cherry tomatoes + cubed fingerling potatoes. Top with pesto or fresh basil if you’re feeling fancy.
  • Salmon filets + broccoli florets + green peas. Sprinkle with feta or lemon juice for an extra zesty kick.
  • Chicken breast + halved brussels sprouts + cubed sweet potato. Rosemary is a must on this one.

While these dinner combinations have carried me through many busy school weeks, I’ve recently joined the foray into breakfast sheet pans. Without them, there’s no way I’d make it to my 8 a.m. class on time. In addition to the formula above, most breakfast sheet pans tend to incorporate eggs as well. The eggs can be baked alongside the other ingredients in the oven or scrambled straight on the hot sheet pan once pulled out of the oven. Try these breakfast variations for a grab-and-go meal that isn’t a sad granola bar:

  • Chopped bacon + yellow onion + Yukon gold potatoes + fried eggs. Slice up an avocado for a fresh addition.
  • Sliced breakfast sausage + bell pepper + red onion + scrambled eggs. Shredded cheddar cheese goes great on top.

With only three main ingredients, sheet pan meals fit easily into any student’s budget. Remember, these combinations are just recommendations: Feel free to prioritize cheaper ingredients or make substitutions. Personally, I like to buy whichever protein Albertsons has on sale, then coordinate the other ingredients around it. I’ve even found success using frozen vegetables! 

If that’s not enough to convince you, consider the fact that sheet pan meals only require a pan, a cutting board and a knife to make. If you buy precut ingredients, you can knock out two dishes and only have one pan to wash: A busy student’s dream.

Give your future self a break and try making a sheet pan meal next Monday. Trust me, Friday, you will be grateful. 

A version of this article appeared on p. 10 of the February 9, 2023 edition of the Daily Nexus.