During my early days of real food, I was eager to make “all the recipes” and regularly found myself buying specialty ingredients. This way of cooking, and eating, was expensive. I spent a lot of money at the grocery store on food that didn’t carry us through multiple meals, ended up rotting in the back of the fridge, or was only used once and then thrown out years later. 

Simplify Real Food with a Capsule Pantry

Over the years, I’ve learned how to shop and cook smarter by meal planning and rotating favorite meals. And I’ve also learned how to stock a capsule pantry in order to simplify meals, save money, and stretch ingredients across multiple meals.

I’ve also paired these strategies with learning how to store fresh food properly so it lasts for longer than just a few days.

All of these things have allowed me to lower my grocery bill, while feeding my family the most nutrient-dense meals. Today, I want to share with you how to create a capsule pantry so you can do the same.

Tour My Pantry

Tour My Fridge

How to Build a Simple Capsule Pantry

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What is a capsule pantry? 

I learned about the concept of a capsule pantry a few months ago from a friend. After she shared about this new concept, I realized that I’ve had a capsule pantry for quite some time. I just didn’t know there was a special name for this intentional method.

 A capsule pantry is much like a capsule wardrobe; a term that you are probably familiar with. The capsule concept was created by Susie Faux, a London Boutique owner in the ’70s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items that work together and don’t go out of style (timeless). 

A capsule pantry is an intentional way to simplify. A capsule pantry is made up of essential foods (ingredients). Foods that you love and use. Foods that can be used to create multiple meals. While most of us think of a pantry as just dry goods, this concept applies across the board to the fridge, freezer, and actual pantry (dry goods).

In a day when food products are constantly marketed to us (by online influencers, commercials, etc.), a capsule pantry keeps one focused on the essential, the important, the foods/ingredients that actually have a purpose. 

A capsule pantry simplifies not only your pantry space (goodbye ingredients that sit for years, just taking up space and not serving a purpose), but also simplifies planning and preparing meals. When you have a pantry that’s stocked with ingredients and foods you love and use, creating simple, nourishing meals is easy. A capsule pantry, to me, is essential for creating a simplified, ready-at-any-moment real food lifestyle.

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How do you create a capsule pantry?

Think about the meals you regularly make. (Remember the collection of meal ideas and recipes you’ve been keeping and using to create regular meal plans? Well, this list is going to prove valuable as you build a capsule pantry.) Oatmeal? Granola? Spaghetti? Soups? Tacos? Grain-style bowls? Bean burritos? Pancakes? What ingredients do you use to regularly make these meals? What foods does your family regularly enjoy as snacks? Berries? Yogurt? Granola?  Start a list and keep it going.

GET STARTED: Go through your current pantry (remember, this includes fridge, freezer, and actual pantry). Take everything out. Donate non-perishable food you don’t use. I know, there was good intention behind purchasing these items, but it’s time to let it go and simplify. Toss food that’s expired. Toss condiments that you don’t ever use, or use them ASAP if they’re still good. Ask yourself, “Do I use this regularly? Can this ingredient be used in multiple ways to build meals and feed my family? Do we love this?”

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Now is also a great time to organize your pantry. I find that organizing my food spaces by category is particularly helpful.

In the actual pantry, sort food into categories that make sense to you, such as: canned ingredients (tomatoes, beans, coconut milk, etc.), baking ingredients (cacao/cocoa, sugars, etc.), dried fruits, snack foods, seasonings. I keep my nuts and seeds, along with grains, in my garage fridge to keep them fresh and bug-free. Watch how I organize my pantry here.

Repeat this practice with the freezer and fridge. I shared my fridge organization in this post

When you notice something is getting low, make a note on your grocery list and restock it. That way you can always make simple, nourishing meals. We have an Amazon Alexa. When an ingredient is about to run out, I announce, “Hey Alexa, add rice to my Whole Foods list.” I could also use a pen and paper, but using this convenience is a such a small win for this busy mom. 

GROCERY SAVINGS TIP: When you rely on a rotating list of meals, you know the ingredients used most often in your kitchen. When these ingredients/foods go on sale, stock up! I rarely purchase staple ingredients, particularly more expensive pantry ingredients like flour and oil, when they’re not on sale. Buying items when they go on sale, knowing you use them often to build favorite meals, will save you hundreds in the long-term. Another way to save money is to purchase your most-used items in bulk from Sam’s Club, BJ’s, or Costco.

What I Stock in my Kitchen

Produce

Dry Foods

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Spices and Seasonings

These are the most common spices used to make a variety of homemade meals…

  • Turmeric
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaves
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt (I purchase a 10lb tub of salt in bulk; buying the same brand at the store in smaller bags is expensive and buying in bulk saves me $60!)
  • Black pepper
Live Simply About Kristin Marr

Fridge and Freezer

Free Capsule Pantry Download

The ingredients and foods stocked in your capsule pantry should be carefully curated by you, based on your family’s lifestyle. I recommend keeping a list of these ingredients/foods. Use a piece of paper or a note in your Notes App.

I’ve created a printable of my capsule pantry as an example of what I stock in my fridge, freezer, and pantry.

Download The Capsule Pantry List

Download my capsule pantry list and start stocking your kitchen with money-saving ingredients that build real-food meals.

How do you use a capsule pantry?

A capsule pantry simplifies life and empowers you to prepare real food meals on a daily basis without spending a fortune on unique ingredients that don’t make sense for you and your family.

You should open your pantry door, and open your fridge and freezer, and think, “Oh yes, there are so many meal possibilities in here. I can make pasta, black bean bowls, chicken salad, a big green salad with homemade dressing, and lentil soup.”

Cooking at home will save you a ton of money. And using simple ingredients that have multiple uses only adds to that savings.

A capsule pantry is your source for creating simple, real food meals on a regular basis. Your capsule is the place to turn, along with your favorite meals list, to easily create meal plans.

Once you know what you have in stock, what needs to replenished, and any special ingredients you may need, build a grocery list (you may already have a few items on that list from noticing what is about to run out).

Meal Planning Tip: Before going to the grocery store each week, shop your kitchen first. Take a look at what you have in the fridge, pantry, and freezer. Ask yourself, “What can I make using the ingredients stocked in my kitchen right now?” Write down what you plan to make with the ingredients in your kitchen. Always start here before going to the grocery store and buying new food for the week.

For example, you may have frozen broccoli in the freezer, chicken thighs, and rice in the pantry. For one dinner, you can make roasted frozen broccoli, crispy chicken thighs, and Instant Pot rice–easy and nourishing. With oats, you can make baked oatmeal for at least 2 breakfast meals. And with the leftover eggs, make scrambled eggs and eggs in a basket.

Take the Guess Work OUt of meal planning

Free 64 Rotational Meals Ideas Cheat Sheet

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack recipes to rotate week after week. Put healthy meals on auto-pilot.

Do you still make recipes that call for special ingredients not found in your capsule pantry?

Yes, definitely! The idea isn’t to limit meals or restrict you; rather, a capsule is meant to simplify meals and approach real food from a budget-friendly standpoint. The idea is to keep a stock of multi-use ingredients/foods that are regularly used to build nourishing meals. That’s it!

It’s okay to make recipes that call for something you may not regularly stock. These recipes aren’t going to make up the bulk of your meals, but it’s always fun and inspiring to experiment with a new recipe and special ingredients. 

If you’re feeling a tad bit overwhelmed by the idea of a capsule pantry, let me encourage you. A capsule pantry isn’t built overnight.

It’s a process, an intentional way to simplify a real food lifestyle. Building a capsule, along with building a list of favorite meals, takes time. If you’re new to real food, be patient. Experiment with simple, nourishing recipes. (Most of the recipes shared on Live Simply are based on my capsule pantry.) Keep a list of recipes you love making and your family enjoys eating, and the common ingredients used to make these meals. This list will help you build your capsule pantry, one ingredient at a time.  

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Family Survival Weekly Meal Plan


The Family Survival Meal Plan is the fast-track way to put real-food meals on autopilot and break out of mealtime survival with the easy-to-follow meal plan, time-saving food prep and cooking methods, and the real-food recipe book that make nourishing your family one less thing to stress about.

14 Comments

  1. I found the pantry and fridge videos very informative, but almost jad to gove up due to the frantic pace of the background music. O felt like I was gonna have an anxiety attack 🤣

    1. Hey Shannon, I’m so sorry that happened. There definitely shouldn’t be music playing in this post. I’ll email our ad network and let them know, as I assume it was an ad that was playing, which is against the terms of the ad display. Thank you for letting me know and I apologize for the poor experience.

  2. Hi, Kristin,
    Good to discover your blog, in the spare time I now have since my severely disabled husband had to enter a nursing home (in our home city in the UK). As I couldn’t stay in our old home either, I am now living in a small bungalow in the grounds of the nursing home, so am able to compare the care my husband receives now from the various staff members with what I delivered on my own for 30 years.
    It was a great relief to me, once looking after myself again after hospitalisation (for knee surgery), to be able to eat the sort of food I preferred, instead of ‘institutional’ catering, which my husband still receives.
    As our children were unable immediately to completely equip my new, galley-style tiny kitchen, I found myself operating Alaskan bush style: “ if you haven’t got what you need, you look at what you’ve got and make that work”. To start with, having no sharp knife, I bought bags of prepared stir-fry vegetables and a bag of pasta spirals. Chicken drumsticks could be cooked in a frying pan (sorry, skillet?), and the bones later simmered several times to make BROTH! The basis of soups, of course. My preferred bread, sourdough with rye, could be sliced at the instore bakery – still giving a much better result than by hand, now that my ‘batterie de cuisine’ has acquired some suitable knives. Various stone and soft fruits, and vegetables (such as red cabbage, which can have a leaf or two removed at a time without the rest spoiling too quickly) have improved my diet. Also, I am now supplementing my husband’s ‘in-house’ meals, (more suitable for the mostly much. older residents with little interest in a varied diet, nor indeed ability to chew very well) with the variety of high-fibre prepared salads which I used to serve at home (it seems impractical to expect the kitchen, though willing enough, to supply these, as their food storage regulations dictate that about half the food has to be thrown away even before reaching its ‘use by’ date).
    I hope to broaden my own diet as time goes on (already delighted to be using pastured butter – from Ireland – again, and coconut oil as before), and your capsule pantry plan will prompt me to organise more, as we settle Into our new living arrangements.
    I hope this comment hasn’t been too boring, and it may not be appropriate to post publicly, but I wanted you to know that you have encouraged someone else coping with food caring at the other end of life’s adventure.

  3. My family loves pasta. I’m currently working on current pantry items for healthier/cleaner versions or homemade. I’m not in a place to make my own pasta just yet. Do you have suggestions? I live in rural Nebraska, so stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe, etc are hours away. I do use Amazon.
    Thanks

    1. Hey Brandi, I also love Vitacost–an alternative to Amazon and many times cheaper. I love Jovial brand brown rice pasta or einkorn pasta. That’s my go-to brand. I don’t make homemade pasta either ;).

  4. Mrs. Kristin,

    Where did you get your Jars and container from? I am looking to organize now that I am dealing with healthier and more authentic foods, when I am cooking I see now that I hate dealing with boxes and packages – I looooooove your pantry look.

  5. I sort of do this, but it’s a really good idea! I love all your different food storage! Where did you find the ones with your different flours? With the handles?

    1. Hey Christy, Thank you! The glass ones with the silver lids (with handles) are from IKEA. I bought them a few years ago, but I think they’re a regular item there not a special collection. The other jars are from Target (Anchor brand and then another brand near the mason jars).

    2. Hi. Just so you know. Storing veggies in water causes some of the nutrients to seep out into the water. When you change the water, store it and use it in sauces, soups, etc. it will add nutrients to a new dish.

  6. A capsule pantry is what got me through the last three years of my Mom’s life. With her special dietary needs I could easily throw together meals after her weekly treatments. And shopping while she was in treatment went smooth and quick. While I know your post is mostly geared toward busy families, this type of organization is very beneficial to care givers as well. It makes life easier and less stressful. Now that I’m on my own I still keep up with the capsule pantry even though I have different food choices. Thank you and happy Wednesday, Kristin.

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