10 pantry staples to start any meal

As long as you have these 10 items on hand, you'll never go hungry at home.

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    Pantry staples, like the potatoes seen here, should have a long shelf live and serve multiple meal purposes.
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Not knowing what to cook for dinner is one issue, but not having anything to cook is a bigger problem, especially after a long day at the office. In this situation, many of us resort to takeout food, which isn’t good for our wallets or waistlines – especially if it becomes a habit.

This is why staple foods, which work well with many meals, are so important. These items often have a long shelf life, making them good ingredients to stock up on for last-minute meals.

 1. Eggs

Eggs are a great source of protein and vitamins, including vitamin A (healthy skin) and vitamin D (bone strength). Although they don’t reside in the pantry, they are an essential kitchen ingredient, budget-friendly, and easy to make. They can be prepared in many different ways, from hard boiled eggs to grilled eggs.

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2. Potatoes

Stock up on potatoes, and you can easily whip up French fries, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, potato chips, and more. They’re tasty, inexpensive, easy to prepare, and can easily be grown in a garden. They’re also filling and acceptable to eat at any meal time.

3. Pasta

Pasta has long been a staple food item filled with fiber and carbohydrates, which give us energy. It’s also cheap and pairs well with just about any meat or vegetable.

4. Tomato sauce

Pasta can easily sustain us, but it’s awfully boring without sauce. Stock up on a few jars next time you’re at the supermarket. Aside from pasta, tomato sauce can be used for meatballs, soup, pizza, and more.

5. Tuna

Canned tuna is inexpensive, and it’s packed with protein. It is used in various recipes, such as sandwiches, salads, tuna melts, tuna croquettes, and casseroles.

6. Rice

Rice, like pasta, is inexpensive, and is a popular side dish with meals. It also provides a great source of energy.

7. Cereal

By cereal, we mean everything from Captain Crunch to Quaker Oats. Cereal is a ready-to-eat meal, making it a popular choice for those who are often on-the-go. It’s also an acceptable meal for any time of day, and can even be used in a meatloaf mix or as a crunchy coating on a casserole.

8. Milk

Of course, Americans use milk in cereal and cooking recipes. We also drink it, put it in our coffee or tea, use it in milkshakes, and more. According to Ad Age’s Leading National Advertisers report, the average American consumed 20.4 gallons of milk in 2010. Milk is also an ingredient in many popular and cheap dishes, including French toast, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese.

9. Bread

Americans love bread, not only because of its taste, but also because of its versatility. Bread is appropriate to eat at any meal, and is obviously an important ingredient in a sandwich. Even after bread expires, it’s useful for making croutons, breadcrumbs, and stuffing.

10. Beans

Beans are full of fiber and water content, which make you feel fuller faster, says WebMD. That said, beans can be a meal in and of themselves. They’re also great in soups, stews, dips, burritos, and tacos.

Amanda Geronikos is a writer for Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.

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