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 such a situation, many of us frequently resort to takeout food, which isn’t good for our wallets or our waistlines.
This is why staple foods that work well as part of many meals are so important to have on hand. 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.
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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, since they must be refrigerated, they are an essential, budget-friendly kitchen ingredient in many dishes from entrees to desserts.
Eggs also can be prepared as a dish in themselves in many ways, from hard-boiled to grilled.
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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, potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and also provide fiber, vitamin B6, iron and potassium.
Potatoes also can easily be grown in a garden, and they are filling and appropriate for any meal.
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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
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Pasta can easily sustain us, but it’s awfully boring without sauce. Stock up on a few jars the next time you’re at the supermarket. Aside from pasta, tomato sauce can be used for meatballs, soup, pizza and more. And the main ingredient, tomatoes, are a good source of the antioxidant lycopene, as well as vitamin C and potassium.
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Canned tuna is inexpensive, and it’s packed with protein. The versatile seafood can be used in various recipes, such as sandwiches, salads, tuna melts, tuna croquettes and casseroles.
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Rice, like pasta, is inexpensive. It’s also a popular side dish for meals and provides a great source of energy.
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By cereal, we mean everything from Cap’n Crunch to old-fashioned oatmeal. Cereal provides 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 at any time of day, and some types can even be used in a meatloaf mix, or as a crunchy coating on a casserole.
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Americans use milk on their cereal and in cooking. We also drink it, put it in our coffee or tea, use it in milkshakes and more. Though new variations such as soy milk are on the market these days, traditional cow’s milk is an ingredient in many popular and cheap dishes, including French toast, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. It’s also high in calcium, protein and is fortified with vitamins A and D.
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Americans love bread — not only because of the taste of this king of carbs, but also because of its versatility. Bread works at any meal as a key ingredient in a sandwich. Or, enjoy it on the side with a plate of eggs, a bowl of soup or a steak. Even after bread gets a bit old, it’s useful for making croutons, breadcrumbs and stuffing.
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Beans are full of fiber and water, which makes you feel full faster and longer, according to WebMD. They’re a protein-rich superfood, WebMD notes, and are full of antioxidants. 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 by commenting below or on our Facebook page.