How to Create a Capsule Pantry (+ Free Checklist)

A capsule pantry is one of the secrets to easy meals. Not only does it simplify the cooking process, but it also saves you time and money. Plus, it helps you become a more resourceful and creative cook in the process.

Glass jars of food on pantry shelves.

When you have a well-stocked pantry, you’re able to get dinner on the table pretty quickly on weeknights no matter how tired you feel.

What the Heck is a Capsule Pantry Anyway?

A capsule pantry is a similar concept to a capsule wardrobe. The idea is that you collect a few essential items that pair well together.

Your essential items in this case are pantry staples. Although the pantry is usually thought of as dry goods, this capsule concept also includes items in the fridge and freezer as well as the dry goods themselves. These include both perishable and longer-lasting perishable foods.

A Pantry With Benefits

There are many benefits to having a capsule pantry. In fact, I can’t think of one good reason to not have one. Not only will it simplify the cooking process, but it also has a few other perks.

Less Overwhelm

The easiest way to get overwhelmed in the kitchen is by having too many options, which almost always leads to overwhelm. When you create a capsule pantry, you’re more intentional about what you’re including. This leads to more clarity and calm, less chaos (something we can all benefit from).

Saves Time

We’re all trying to figure out how to squeeze more time into our day, whether it’s in the form of getting dinner on the table or something else.

Having a capsule pantry will save you a lot of time that you’d typically spend strolling up and down the grocery store aisles looking for all the ingredients on your list. When you’re stocked up on the basics, your list becomes much shorter and that means less time at the store.

Saves Money

In the same way that you can have a closet full of clothes yet have nothing to wear, you can also have a pantry full of random foods and spices yet have nothing to make.

Because you’ll be building your pantry off of items that you already like and use often, you’ll be less inclined to buy random spices and unique ingredients that you’ll likely only use once (and then never see the light of day again).

Which also means you’ll be throwing less away.

Reduces Food Waste

Building an intentional capsule pantry helps to reduce unnecessary food waste. No more buying a second jar of chili powder because you didn’t realize you had one tucked in the back of your cabinet behind other spice bottles.

Another part of reducing food waste is learning to cook without recipes, which is made much easier with a capsule pantry. This is another reason I’m so passionate about cooking this way.

For example, when you’re following a recipe, you’re sometimes left with half of an onion, a couple of carrots, or half a head of cabbage that you have no plans to use. These vegetables will then sit in your crisper until they’re wilted and sometimes moldy. Not only does this waste your food, but you’ve now wasted money, too.

Stocking up on foods that you use regularly, and can be used for multiple meals, instead of a one-time meal is key.

How to Create a Capsule Pantry

Here are a few steps to take that will help streamline the process of getting your capsule pantry set up.

1) Take Note of Your Favorite Meals

What types of meals do you usually make? Whether you use Pinterest, the notes app on your phone, or a recipe book, take a few minutes to make notes of what your family enjoys.

Is it granola? Tacos? Pizza? Grain bowls? Salad? Pasta? Soup? etc.? Write it down.

2) Clean Out Your Pantry

Now it’s time to assess what’s in your current pantry. Pull everything out and go through each item. Toss anything that’s expired and give food you never use to someone in need.

If you’re contemplating keeping a food item because you have plans to eventually use it, it needs to go.

As you go through and clean it out, it’s a great reminder to be more intentional with your food purchases moving forward so you can reap the benefits of having a capsule pantry.

3) Organize

Now that you’ve written down what you like to eat and decluttered the items you have, it’s time to organize.

A really easy way to do this is to put like with like (regardless of the size of your space). For dried goods like flours, lentils, grains, etc., I love using glass jars and labeling them so I know exactly what they are.

For glass jars, I use any leftover jars from store-bought sauces. To do this, simply remove the label, put it through the wash, fill it with your pantry staple, and add your new label. (I love this label maker.) If you don’t have any recycled glass jars, these jars also work really well.

4) Shop

Now that you’ve taken into account what meals your family likes, and your kitchen is decluttered and organized, it’s time to shop!

First, look at your local store to see what’s on sale. After you shop at a few places, you’ll get a better idea of the cost of things you regularly buy.

A few places I like to shop from are:

  • local natural/health food stores
  • whole foods
  • Amazon for things like matcha, collagen, buying nuts and seeds in bulk, oats, nutritional yeast, kosher salt, etc.
  • zero waste bulk food stores (really great for reducing plastic waste, but can sometimes be pricey)
  • thrive market (an online membership market with organic and other healthy food options)

Tips for Success

  • Start Small. Just as you wouldn’t buy your entire wardrobe in one shopping trip, you won’t build your complete capsule pantry overnight.
  • Stock up on sale items. If there’s a longer-lasting pantry staple that’s on sale and is something I use frequently, I’ll typically buy an extra one as well.
  • Get rid of the all-or-nothing mindset. 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 that you can build upon to make cooking easier. You still can (and absolutely should) try new things.
  • Be adaptable. All the recipes on this site are created to be customized and provide instructions to do so. This helps you be more intuitive in the kitchen and less reliant on recipes, using them simply as guides. This also helps keep you from overspending on ‘specialty’ items because a recipe you’re using calls for it. Think about what else you can use.

Capsule Pantry Meal Ideas

Now that you’ve set everything up, coming up with ideas can seem a little overwhelming at first. But, I promise that once you get in the swing of it, it gets easier.

Here are some ideas to get you going:




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