Real Food Whole Life

How to Create a Capsule Pantry for Simplified Cooking

simplified meal planningRobyn DownsComment

Like a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry helps you simplify, streamline, and create time & space for what you love. Here's how to do it.

Like a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry helps you simplify, streamline, and create time & space for what you love. Here's how to do it. #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #cleaneating  #mealplan #mealplansunday #healthyeating #cleaneating

If you're new to the concept, a capsule wardrobe is essentially a mini wardrobe, comprised of a limited number of versatile pieces you love to wear.

Many who try capsule wardrobes fall in love with the sense of ease and liberation it provides.

Fewer decisions, less decision fatigue, and more time & space for what you love.

Who wouldn't want that?

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.

So, if the capsule wardrobe works so well when it comes to getting dressed in the morning, why not apply the same concepts to food?


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.

So how do you do it?

Read on for a step-by-step to creating your own capsule pantry.

but first, grab your free cheatsheet & start simplifying!

Grab the Cheatsheet!

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    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.


    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. 

    more resources: no fail meal planning tips for people who hate meal planning


    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.

    more resources: ditch the complicated meal plan (and try this instead)


    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. 

    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.

    Do you have a capsule pantry? Share why you love it below, and tag @realfoodwholelife on Instagram so I can see what you're up to!

    pin these simplified tips for later!

    Like a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry helps you simplify, streamline, and create time & space for what you love. Here's how to do it. #realfoodwholelife #realfoodwholelifesimplify #mealplanning #cleaneating  #mealplan #mealplansunday #healthyeating #cleaneating