Real Food Whole Life

How to Create a Capsule Pantry for Simplified Cooking

Real Food Meal PlanningRobyn DownsComment

I’m out to make the capsule pantry a thing.

But before I can make it a thing, I should first explain where the inspiration comes from.

The capsule pantry takes inspiration from the capsule wardrobe.

If you’re not familiar, a capsule wardrobe is essentially a mini wardrobe, comprised of a limited number of versatile pieces that you love to wear.

One of my favorite examples of the capsule wardrobe in real life can be found in the Capsule Experiment, on the Unfancy blog.

How to Create a Capsule Pantry for Simplified Cooking realfoodwholelife.com

Here’s how Caroline, the founder of Unfancy, describes the Capsule Experiment.

“I wanted a change. I wanted to stop spending money on emotional purchases. I wanted to stop filling my closet with cheap clothes. I wanted to stop believing more stuff would bring me happiness.

So … I googled around. I searched all sorts of things like “how to find your style” and “how to curb a shopping problem” until I stumbled upon the term “capsule wardrobe.”

Coined in the 70’s by London boutique owner, Susie Faux, it’s all about dressing with a small collection of seasonally appropriate, mix-and-match clothes.

It was the change I’d been looking for.

With the help of two blogs, Be More With Less and Into Mind, I settled on a structure that worked for my lifestyle: dress with only 37 pieces of clothing for 3 months. And no shopping during those 3 months. Yikes!

But as I started living with a small, intentional wardrobe, I noticed that I felt joyful again. I saw, with fresh eyes, that happiness, contentment, and joy come from within — not from stuff or external circumstances.

I lived with a capsule for a year and blogged about it every day, sharing my struggles, my breakthrough moments, and everything in between. By 2016, my heart and habits were healthy again.”

Many who have tried capsule wardrobes have discovered the same sense of ease and liberation as Caroline.

By limiting the number of items purchased, and by having a clear sense of what to do with those pieces, the capsule wardrobe makes the process of getting dressed in the morning effortless and even joyful.

The capsule wardrobe has been such a wardrobe game changer that I think it’s time to apply the concept to cooking. 

Let’s do it, shall we?

Similar to a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry is made of up a limited number of versatile ingredients that you love to eat, and that can be combined into a variety of easy, delicious meals.

Want to give it a try? Let’s walk through how to create a capsule pantry of your own.


1 | Clean it Out

The first step is clearing out and cleaning up your fridge, freezer and pantry. Here’s how.

Start with you freezer:

  • Take everything out and toss anything that’s old, unlabeled or freezer-burned.
  • Get rid of anything that’s taking up space, including the processed stuff.
  • If it has more than 5 ingredients, it’s best to toss it.

Next, move on to your fridge and pantry: 

  • Same rules apply. If it’s old or unusable, toss it.
  • If it’s processed (e.g., more than 5 ingredients, contains unrecognizable ingredients, or added sugar) let it go.
  • Half used bottles, mystery containers, ingredients that are way past their expiration date, these should go, too.

2 | Plan with Purpose

Now it’s time to restock, but this time with purpose.

The key to streamlined planning is thinking in terms of the Essential Six.

The Essential Six are the fundamental building blocks of any recipe: sauces, protein, cooked veggies, raw veggies, grains + bases, and toppings + extras. 

Thinking in terms of building blocks allows you to combine them into an infinite number different meals. Think bowls, tacos, pasta, salads, and stir-frys, just to name a few.

Using the Essential Six method allows you to efficiently shop, plan and prep, without wasted time or money. 

As an added bonus, you can create a fridge and pantry filled with ingredients that actually go together, no matter what you’re cooking. 

Plus, thinking of meals in terms of the Essential Six allows you to efficiently prep just part of a meal, without cooking the entire meals ahead. 

Ready to give it a try? Before you head to the grocery store, create a list organized by the Essential Six. You can use the planning sheets in Real Food Fix to streamline this process.

3 | Shop Intentionally 

Instead of wandering around the grocery store without a plan, use your Essential Six grocery list as a guide.

Before you put something in your cart, think about how you might use it during the week. 

Is this a protein you enjoy and know how to prepare?

Do you have items representing each Essential Six? Or have you stocked up on one category but forgotten the others?

Ask yourself these questions before checking out. Eventually thinking in terms of the Essential Six will become second nature, and creating a list will happen in a matter of minutes.

4 | Use what you have

Once you’ve unloaded your groceries, take stock of what you have and create a general plan.

Instead of creating a complicated meal plan, think instead about creating a loose map to follow, with just enough structure to guide you. 

And, instead of planning for individual recipes, think about meal types such as tacos, pasta, bowls, stir-frys, and salads. 

The planning sheets in Real Food Fix make this kind of meal mapping easy.

If it helps, place like-items together in you fridge and pantry (e.g., proteins, grains + bases) so you can create meals on the fly.

Items left at the end of the week can be frozen or used to create an “anything goes” meal using the Essential Six for structure.

Creating a capsule pantry is about streamlining meal planning + prep, knowing what you need, and using what you have.

It’s also about creating effortless meals that you actually enjoy eating.


How to Create a Capsule Pantry for Simplified Cooking realfoodwholelife.com

If you want to take this process next-level, and receive guidance, recipes, and planning sheets, to make it easy, Real Food Fix is for you.

Real Food Fix is your system to help you plan less, eat well, and feel good, every day. Here’s what it’s all about:

  • A streamlined, flexible process to make meal planning & prep fail-proof and fun
  • Over 50 easy-to-make, mix-and-match recipes that can be combined in a variety of ways
  • Over 30 examples of how to use the mix-and-match recipes to create real-life meals for really busy people
  • Tips for success, including how to set up your kitchen, reduce food waste, and more
  • Bonus customized plans for families, couples, and singles plus printable PDFs to stay organized