If you want to simplify your meal planning, cooking and grocery shopping, it’s time to get acquainted with the capsule pantry. Similar to a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry is made up of essential foods you love to use that can be made to make numerous meals. The goal with a capsule pantry is to be able to open your pantry door and get excited by how many meal possibilities are in there. Think everything from burrito bowls to chicken curry to spaghetti bolognese, all of which you can make using the same base ingredients. We’re letting you in on how to create a capsule pantry with our best tips and hacks.
What is a ‘Capsule Pantry’?
If you’re familiar with a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry follows the same principles. A capsule wardrobe is a carefully curated selection of clothing pieces that you can easily mix and match to create different outfits. A capsule pantry is a collection of non-perishable and longer-lasting perishable foods that allow you to streamline your cooking and easily create healthy go-to meals. This helps reduce stress while meal planning and cooking, which is especially helpful for busy weeknights. A capsule pantry is meant to provide you with full means rather than a random assortment of ingredients that make you scratch your head when your kids ask “what’s for dinner?”.
A capsule pantry saves time, money and reduces waste as it urges you to stay mindful about the foods you throw in your cart while grocery shopping. Keep in mind, having a capsule pantry doesn’t mean you’re only limited to what’s in your pantry. It’s a simple method to create a base layer of essentials you can build upon to make cooking easier. Instead of going to the store with a list of random ingredients, a capsule pantry gives you a base for healthy meals to make on the regular so you only have to pick up a few ingredients here and there. But you can (and should) feel free to experiment with new recipes!
How to Create a Capsule Pantry
Go through your current pantry and take everything out. Toss any expired items and donate ones that you don’t use. Also consider tossing any highly processed foods you have stored away to ensure you’re eating as healthy as possible. Be honest with yourself about what you use and what you don’t- if something has been sitting unused for months, you probably don’t need to include it in your capsule pantry.
Once your pantry is decluttered, organize it by categories like spices, grains, nuts & seeds, baking items, condiments, etc. Make a habit of checking through your pantry weekly and when you notice something is getting low, make a note to restock it. You don’t need to keep a fancy, super-organized list of the items in your pantry. Doing a quick visual check is easy when your pantry is well organized.
3. Invest in Storage Containers
To help keep your pantry organized, invest in air-tight containers to make it easy to navigate on the daily. Here’s a glass option if you prefer. Toss items like dried pasta, nuts, seeds, dried cereal, oats and baking ingredients into containers and label them with a label maker. To track expiration dates, keep stickers on the bottom.
Keep all ingredients in view and in reach by keeping shorter bags and jars toward the front and taller ones toward the back. Food storage containers will also help keep your ingredients fresh! You can also use woven baskets to keep packaged foods tucked away.
4. Personalize Your Pantry
The key to creating your capsule pantry is filling it with items you’ll actually use and eat. Your go-to meals may be different than someone else’s, so it’s important to find the items that work for you and your family. The idea is to stock your pantry with items that can be used in a variety of different recipes you personally love to make.
Review your favourite dishes and what type of foods/meals you gravitate to week after week. For example, if you constantly find yourself making Asian-inspired meals, you’ll want to have ingredients like rice, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar on hand.
5. Create Your Shopping List
Once you’ve taken note of what you already have in your pantry, make a shopping list of the capsule pantry items you need to add. If you’re stuck on what should be in your capsule pantry, we’ve created a list for you below!
Remember, building a capsule pantry doesn’t happen overnight. You can add to your capsule pantry bit by bit until you’re satisfied with it. To save on your pantry items, stock up when the ingredients go on sale, particularly more expensive ingredients like nut butters and gluten-free flours.
The Ultimate Pantry Capsule List for Beginners
Old fashioned rolled oats
Long grain white or brown rice
Beans (black, kidney, pinto)
Nuts and Seeds
Nut butter (peanut, almond)
Dried rice noodles
Canned vegetables (corn, peas)
Corn or flour tortillas
Canned coconut milk
Non-dairy milk (oat, almond)
All purpose flour or oat/almond flour (for gluten-free recipes)
Sauces and Condiments
Soy sauce or tamari
Oils and Vinegars
Extra virgin olive oil
Virgin coconut oil
Red wine vinegar
Rice wine vinegar
Seasonings and Spices
Red pepper flakes
Seasonal fruits and vegetables
Block of cheddar cheese
Chicken or vegetable broth
It can take time to create your capsule pantry, so don’t rush it. Be patient and build a capsule pantry filled with your favourite go-to essentials.
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