This post comes from Amanda Geronikos at partner site Money Talks News.

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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 work. In this situation, many of us resort to takeout food, which isn't good for our wallets or waistlines -- especially when it becomes habit.

That's why staple foods -- those that can form the basis of many meals -- are so important. Keep this stuff on hand and you may not be cooking in style, but you'll never go hungry.  

Here's a list of essential items to keep in your pantry:

Image: Home kitchen (© Don Farrall-Photodisc-Getty Images)
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.

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 mealtime.

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

We mean everything from Cap'n 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, depending on the type, can even be used in a meatloaf mix or as a crunchy coating on a casserole.

8. Milk

Of course, Americans use milk on cereal and in recipes. We also drink it, put it in our coffee or tea, use it in milkshakes and more. According to AdAge'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 loses its freshness, 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.

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