10 Pantry Staples to Start Any Meal

Can’t figure out what to make for dinner? Keep these foods on hand and you’ll always be ready to make a great meal.

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 that 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.

Here are 10 essential items to keep in your pantry.

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.

They can be prepared in many different ways, from hard boiled eggs to grilled eggs.

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 and easy to prepare.

In addition, they can easily be grown in a garden, and they are 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 a popular side dish with meals. It also provides a great source of energy.

7. Cereal

By cereal, we mean everything from Cap’n Crunch to old-fashioned oatmeal. Cereal is a quick or ready-to-eat meal, making it a popular choice for people who are often on the run.

Cereal can provide a pick-me-up any time of day, and some types can even be used in a meatloaf mix or as a crunchy coating on a casserole.

8. Milk

Americans use milk with cereal and in cooking. We also drink it, put it in our coffee or tea, use it in milkshakes, and more. 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 works at any meal as a key ingredient in a sandwich, or on the side with a plate of eggs, a bowl of soup or a steak. Even after bread expires, it’s useful for making croutons, breadcrumbs and stuffing.

10. Beans

Beans are full of fiber and water content, which makes you feel fuller faster, according to WebMD. If push comes to shove, beans can be a meal in and of themselves. They’re also great in soups, stews, dips, burritos and tacos.

What other great staples do you depend on? Share them in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

Read Next: 7 Foods Your Pet Should Never Eat

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,503 more deals!