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A Capsule Pantry Is the Secret Weapon You’re Not Using but Should

If your pantry is starting to make you feel like a hoarder (seriously, nobody needs 20 cans of tomato paste), it may be time to revamp your storage style. We know — it can be easy for things to get out of control if you don’t have a clear-cut plan for the pantry staples you are actually going to use and a way to keep track of your current inventory.

Enter the capsule pantry. Similar to a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry helps you organize your grains, canned goods, condiments, and spices in such a way that you can keep things clean and simple, but still have everything you need to take a so-so meal to the next level. We spoke with two of the bloggers who basically invented this trend to get their tips for creating the pantry of your dreams.

What is a capsule pantry?

“Like a capsule wardrobe, a capsule pantry contains a limited number of items that are carefully selected to be combined in a number of different ways,” Robyn Downs, the mom and health guru behind Real Food Whole Life and the Feel Good Effect podcast, told SheKnows. “By having fewer items, there are fewer decisions to make and healthy meal prep becomes simple and streamlined.”

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New pantry love. I’ve spent a good full day and a half putting everything back in my kitchen after our reno. . It’s made me realize yet again that I can do with less stuff. That there’s stuff in there that I don’t use and probably never will that’s just crowding the space and making it harder to get at the things I actually use. . There were a few ingredients and ‘foods’ (‘foods’ cause processed rubbish isn’t really food in the nourishing your body sense) that had crept their way in. . I admit I got a bit over finding places for everything and definitely wasn’t in the mood for decluttering as I went so I’ll be doing the next round of Kitchen Chaos to Calm right along side you. . If you want to get your kitchen sorted, get rid of the stuff that’s just taking up room, get set up so cooking is actually easy (and maybe even enjoyable!), we’d love to have you. . Head to the link in my bio to join. We kick off Monday (24th). . . . #declutter #kitchen #heartofthehome #destress #overwhelm #mumstress #calmmum #yougotthis #capsulepantry #organisedkitchen

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Recipe creator and blogger Kristin Marr went the way of the capsule pantry when she noticed that her pantry was getting cluttered by useless ingredients she had purchased for one-off recipes. “I was falling back on the same basic recipes on a regular basis. I decided to keep only the ingredients to make those meals and that became the foundation of my pantry,” She Told SheKnows.  “I then realized I could use them in a variety of other meals, as well, by mixing and matching what I had on hand.” Basically, you can pick up whichever proteins and veggies that are on sale or in-season, and you already have everything at home to turn them into a healthy, flavorful meal.

How can you start a capsule pantry?

First things first, you’re going to have to do a pantry clean-out. Robyn recommends that you take everything (yes, everything) out of your pantry – you can toss anything that is expired and try to donate anything you just won’t use. Next, think about the staples you use week after week. This is going to vary based on the type of meals you like to cook, but Kristin started hers by stocking up on the baking ingredients, condiments, grains, legumes, snacks, and other dry goods she was using all the time. 

“There are a ton of ways to use a can of black beans, honey, or a jar of tomatoes,” Kristin said. Try to stock your pantry with items that can be used in a variety of recipes and stay away from the specialty ingredients you only use once in a blue moon. For example, if you love Asian-inspired meals, you may want to keep soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil on-hand at all times. If you prefer Mexican dishes, you’ll want to pick up rice, canned tomatoes, and chili powder. 

How do you keep a capsule pantry organized?

There is a little bit of work involved in getting your capsule pantry started, but it’s actually really easy to maintain (because, isn’t that the whole point?). Kristin does a quick weekly inventory as she is making her grocery list. But, if she notices during the week that she is running low on a staple item, she tells Alexa to add it to her shopping list. “This way, the item is already on my list when it’s time to make a grocery run,” she told SheKnows. She also warned not to stress yourself out trying to keep a fancy, super-detailed list, “There comes a point when organization goes too far and almost complicates your life. I’ve found that a quick visual check is all I need to maintain a good stock.”

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When we moved south we’ve downsized (slightly) but we are living in a house with a smaller kitchen and a MUCH smaller pantry. This has meant that I have far less space to store things so I’ve really been focusing on streamlining my meal planning and cooking methods to accomodate for this. I’m starting to get into a fairly smooth rhythm with it all and although I’m not quite where I want to be with it all just yet, I thought that perhaps it might be something that some you would be interested in me sharing with you. ⠀⠀ I’ve been culling down all the ingredients in my pantry to a specific selection of staples that allows me to cook a bunch of different meals and snacks without having to buy a bunch of different things that I rarely use. ⠀⠀ Even though I’ve also been on a mission to use up all those random ingredients in my pantry since moving here, my pantry and kitchen are becoming a lot less cluttered and I’m spending less time in the kitchen and less time planning my meals. ⠀⠀ The old me would have panicked about the lack of storage and rushed out and bought extra cupboards/storage etc but I set myself a challenge to really simplify my kitchen and meals and it’s really starting to take shape. My husband has even commented on how little waste and rubbish we’ve been generating since moving here. ⠀⠀ So let me know in the comments if you’d like me to start sharing more about what I’m doing and how I’ve been doing it. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #nutritionist #familynutrition #nutritionadvice #feedingadvice #pickyeaters #fussyeaters #familymeals #mealplanning #simplekitchen #capsulepantry #simplefood #minimalistkitchen

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Robyn uses her own equally simple method. “I use a piece of paper or the notes function on my phone and write out a ‘magic list’ of the items I use most often and want to have on-hand at all times. Then, when I am making my weekly grocery list, I take a quick look at my magic list to see what I am running low on and might need to grab.”

If you are ready to take on the capsule pantry method, both ladies have some seriously helpful resources to get you started. If you are more of a visual learner, you can take a tour of Kristin’s capsule pantry, or you can get Robyn’s fully-detailed guide to starting your own capsule pantry.

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