A well-stocked kitchen will save you plenty of time and money. If you keep the right supplies on hand, you will always have the ability to create a meal for yourself or your family.

Beyond the Basics
In addition to the very basics like flour, sugar, cornstarch and cornmeal, I'd recommend that any cook have the following items at hand at all times in his or her pantry. This list doesn't include refrigerator, freezer or spice cabinet items -- those lists are for another post :)

Canned Tomatoes
Canned tomatoes can be used in sauces, soups, stews, salsas. Unlike most fruits and vegetable, they retain most of their nutritional value when canned. In fact, canned tomatoes contain MORE of the anti-oxidant lycopene than fresh tomatoes (which I would recommend having on hand when THEY are in season, because you can't beat the taste of a fresh tomato!). I keep crushed, diced and whole canned tomatoes on hand for a variety of uses.

I keep chicken and beef broth on hand at all times. Vegetable broth is another option for you. Broth can be used for soups and stews, and in pot roasts. I sometimes use broth as a flavoring when I saute or stir-fry: I spray non-stick cooking spray in the pan and toss in about a half-cup of broth as the the veggies are cooking. I also cook my rice in chicken broth instead of water (I trick my mom taught me). Finally, the kids love broth and noodles (any kind of bite-sized pasta) or tortellini in broth, sprinkled with parmesan, as a quick meal.

Keep pasta of many shapes and sizes on hand so you can whip up a quick pasta dish on a moment's notice. I'll be updating the pasta category on this site regularly to provide you with ideas.

I keep good old Uncle Ben's rice on hand, as well as wild and/or brown rice for those times when I need a heartier rice.

My family loves salsa and chips as a snack (so keep chips on hand, too!) We have taco night pretty regularly at our house, so it's good to have salsa on hand for that. I also like to use salsa as an ingredient in my chilis.

I keep a selection of canned and dried beans in my pantry. I like pretty much any kind of bean, and their uses are endless. I confess that I use canned beans much more frequently than dried, but that's because I have so little time for cooking. When I DO have time I prefer to use the dried beans to make dishes like ham and beans or minestrone.

Tuna Fish
I love tuna fish, and can eat it straight out of the can. And now you can buy all kinds of tuna snack options in the grocery store: one of my favorites is Starkist Zesty Lemon Pepper Tuna. Aside from that, though, tuna salad is a great go-to for any family. Tuna can also be used in bean salads, green salads and a variety of pasta recipes.

Breadcrumbs show up as an ingredient in a wide variety of recipes. For example, there are a number of delicious pasta recipes that include breadcrumbs. I always have them on hand for bake-fried chicken or porkchops, which is a family favorite. I also use them in my meatballs and meatloaf, and for stuffed tomatoes, mushrooms and onions.

Olive Oil and Canola Oil
These two cooking oils should be in every pantry. Both are high in monounsaturated fat. Each will be needed at different times, depending on what you're preparing. I also keep non-fat cooking spray in the pantry, as a non-fat option.

Need I say more? Potatoes are so easy to prepare in so many ways.

Peanut Butter and Jelly
And not just for the classic PBJ. I like toast with peanut butter, peanut butter on celery sticks, and the kids will just grab a spoonful of peanut butter to eat on the fly.

We use buttermilk bread for sandwiches, which are so easy to make from so many ingredients. I also like to keep a hearty multi-grain bread on hand -- I'll spread peanut butter or butter on it for a quick and filling snack before a workout.

Macaroni and Cheese
I have kids, and kid are hard-wired to love Mac-N-Cheese. Unless their parents have deprogrammed them through an intense regimen of organic cookery. And, truth be told, I actually love any mac-n-cheese, too, whether homemade or boxed. So we usually have a few boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese on hand for when we need a quick side dish.

Ramen Noodles
Another kid staple. Ramen noodles are easy to prepare, and have the added benefit of getting the kids ready for college life.

Keep several varieties on hand for quick and delicious snacks. I also use almonds and pine nuts frequently in recipes.

So there you have it. I'm sure others have ideas about must-have pantry items and I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to post any suggestions and we might just start a new list!