Crafting a happy home, family and life through simple living.

How to Build a Capsule Pantry [Beginner’s Guide]

The single best change I’ve made in simplifying my home is creating a Capsule Pantry. The inspiration came from my closet- my “capsule wardrobe”. You’ve most likely heard the phrase “capsule wardrobe” before. The concept, in a nutshell, is only owning wardrobe staples that you love wearing and that are versatile.

Thus, standing in front of my pantry pulling out jars of odd ingredients I bought but never used, a pantry full of food but nothing cohesive enough to make a meal- the capsule pantry idea was born.

Turns out after a quick google search, a Capsule Pantry is already a “thing”. Other people had already found the usefulness of applying a capsule concept to their pantry.

I decided to give it a try. Family meals are important to me. I want my daughters growing up with a nightly meal at the dinner table- June Cleaver style (or the 21st century equivalent).

I was tired of wasting money on wasted food. Meal planning to only be so exhausted at the end of the day that a pizza was ordered instead. I wanted to sit down and eat dinner with my family every night. I wanted healthy, wholesome meals for my family. I wanted to stop ordering takeout.

I gave the capsule pantry idea a shot and have never looked back.

This has been a GAME CHANGER in “meal planning” for my family. No complicated recipes, no exotic ingredients. Just simple, nourishing food.

Characteristics of a Capsule Pantry

  • Items you love/your go-to’s
  • Versatile ingredients- A great example is potatoes- baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, french fries, breakfast tacos, soups,
  • Quality over Quantity

A capsule pantry is curated to your needs. Whether you eat gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, you can curate a capsule pantry to fit your lifestyle perfectly.

A capsule pantry will streamline your meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal prep.

3 Reasons to Build a Capsule Pantry

  1. More Space
  2. More Time
  3. More Money

More Space- I only use two shelves in my pantry. The other shelves are used for easy access to small appliances, such as my food processor. It is so much easier for me get appliances from a shelf than from the bottom of the cabinets.

More Time- Meal planning is simple using my master ingredient list. I’m not spending time searching for new recipes, or making long grocery lists of ingredients that I don’t have on hand (or rarely use). I save time in the kitchen by purposefully planning meals that are simple and easy to make.

More Money- I don’t clip coupons anymore. When the weekly grocery ad is released, I check for deals for items on my master ingredient list (such as chicken breast) and buy extra to stock up. In addition, by not buying exotic ingredients that I rarely use, I save money.

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How to Build a Capsule Pantry

Ready to begin? Below is a step by step guide to creating your capsule pantry.


1| Clear Out and Clean Up

The first step is to clean out your pantry, fridge, and freezer.

Start with your pantry because it tends to be the most cluttered of the three:

  2. Toss anything that is expired/stale/unusable
  3. Sort into categories (example: baking ingredients, canned food, pasta/grains, oils, snack foods, seasonings, bread).
  4. Toss/donate anything you haven’t used in the past 2-3 months.
  5. Take a second look and toss anything left that is expired/stale/unusable. Toss any low quality/overly processed foods.
  6. Category by category, add items back to your pantry. Ask yourself, do I use this? Do I love this? Is this versatile? Is this a quality food item of processed junk? As you add items to your pantry shelves, jot down an inventory list on a notepad. Add items back to your pantry shelves with purpose.

Repeat for these steps for your refrigerator and freezer.

2| Build a Master Ingredient List

Consider what meals your family loves to eat. Instead of focusing on the recipe, focus on the type of meal. Tacos, rice bowls, pasta night, chicken and veggies, crockpot dinner, etc. Use the inventory list you’ve already created to build a Master Ingredient List. This will be your guide to meal planning, and grocery shopping.

These ingredients can be mix-matched to create quick meals using items on hand. Below is my personal Master Ingredient List. As you can see, I don’t cook everything from scratch.

My Master Ingredient List- Capsule Pantry

  • Produce
    • Russet potatoes
    • Mixed Greens (salad)
    • Tomatoes
    • Seasonal Fruit
    • Seasonal Vegetable
    • Bananas
    • Apples
    • Onion (I chop and freeze)
    • Garlic (I buy garlic in the jar for convenience)
  • Dry Foods
    • Black Beans (I use the Instant Pot to cook dry black beans in about an hour)
    • Spaghetti
    • White Rice
    • Coffee
    • Oatmeal
  • Bread
    • Sandwich bread
    • Corn tortillas
  • Meat/Seafood (I immediately portion and freeze meat using a Food Saver)
    • Chicken breasts- Pre-portioned vacuum sealed bags from CostCo
    • Chicken thighs- Pre-portioned vacuum sealed bags from CostCo
    • Tilapia- Pre-portioned vacuum sealed bags from freezer section
    • Ground beef- Portion into 1lb vacuum sealed bags using Food Saver
    • Deli meat for sandwiches
  • Dairy
    • Milk
    • Creamer
    • Eggs
    • Kiefer
    • Sliced Cheese
    • Shredded Cheese
    • Butter
  • Canned/Jar Foods
    • Spaghetti sauce
    • Black beans (to have on hand when I have no time to cook dry black beans)
    • Canned Refried Beans
  • Frozen
    • Frozen Brocolli
    • Frozen Green Peas
    • Frozen Fruit
  • Baking
    • Flour
    • White Sugar
    • Brown Sugar
    • Baking Soda
    • Baking Powder
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Garlic Powder
    • Cumin
    • Red Pepper
    • Cinnamon
    • Chili Powder
    • Italian Seasoning
    • Olive Oil
    • White Vinegar
    • Red Vinegar

3| Shop with Purpose

Never go to the grocery store without a written list. Bring a list of items from your Master Ingredient List that need restocked and stick to it.

Simple Capsule Pantry Recipes

Stuck on ideas of meals? Here are some of my favorite capsule pantry recipes- just a few ingredients, quick prep, healthy, and most importantly- DELICIOUS.

  1. Baked Tilapia Fish Tacos– Jenna from the Urben Life Blog shares dairy-free and egg-free recipes. These fish tacos are quick and are certain to be a hit.
  2. “Casado” Plate– One of my go-to quick meals.
  3. Steak Fajita Noodle Bowl– Robyn from Real Food Whole Life shares recipes that can be made in 30 minutes, one pan, and with 10 ingredients or less. This meal is easy to customize so each person can “build their own” bowl.


Question: What is your “go-to” no-fail family meal? What makes it your “go-to”?





11 thoughts on “How to Build a Capsule Pantry [Beginner’s Guide]”

  • I recently found your blog and have loved reading your posts! They are both inspiring and relatable.

    My husband and I’s go-to meal is Chicken Noodle Salad.

    Spinach leaves
    Cooked penne noodles
    Shredded chicken breast (2) (I typically cook them in the crockpot before hand)
    Chopped apples
    Blue cheese crumbles
    Dressing of choice (we like blue cheese or balsamic vinaigrette)
    Bacon bits
    Toss it all together and serve with Sister Schubert pretzel rolls.

    • Thank you so much! That means a lot to me! Glad you are enjoying my blog. Your recipe sounds delicious! I read it out loud to my husband in the car and he asked if we could add it to the menu this week! 🙂

  • This is such a good idea! I just cleaned out my pantry the other day and have so many things for recipes I meant to make but just didn’t get around to it- I love the idea of sticking with the basics! That would help save so much money!!

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