In this post: A Capsule Kitchen will simplify your meal planning, cooking, and grocery shopping. Plus it will save you time and money by using only the foods you actually cook with!


I think that we are all striving to simplify our lives. And one place that we can do that with a huge impact is in our kitchens. This is why I’ve adopted the Capsule Kitchen method of meal planning, grocery shopping, and stocking my pantry, fridge, and freezers. 

What is a Capsule Kitchen?

I guess the first thing we need to tackle here is, what is a Capsule Kitchen anyway? 

You’ve surely heard of a capsule wardrobe, where you edit your clothes down to the ones you love the most that mix and match and pair well together. It’s designed to make your morning routine easier and faster. 

Well, a Capsule Kitchen is the same concept, adapted for your kitchen. 

You don’t need infinite cookbooks, gadgets, small appliances, and foods for your everyday cooking. You need a Capsule Kitchen – a limited number of mix-and-match kitchen essentials, and foods that can be combined in a number of different ways to create breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. 

What are the benefits of a capsule kitchen?

I’ve been using the capsule kitchen method of cooking for years. I love it because:

  • I’m saving time in the grocery store. When I know what I use each week, grocery shopping becomes more streamlined and faster. 
  • I always know what to buy because I use the same basic things each week, with few seasonal or creative tweaks. 
  • My meals are more creative. Because I’m not overwhelmed with choices, I can mix and match and actually feel much more creative than before the Capsule Pantry method. 
  • I always have something for dinner. It’s so much easier to plan when using the Capsule Pantry method so I’m almost never at a loss for what to make for dinner. 
  • I am wasting less food because I know exactly what we use and what we don’t. 
  • I am saving money. By shopping for things I know I’ll use, I can shop sales, and stock up. I can also streamline the number of items I buy. 

Okay, so you can see why I love it. But how do you adapt this method in your kitchen?

capsule kitchen checklist

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Start Here

To begin with the Capsule Kitchen method of organizing your kitchen and cooking, you need to first ask yourself a few questions:

How do you like to cook? 

Whether you love to cook or not, you likely already have favorite methods or go-to recipes that you make all the time.

Do you like to use your slow cooker? Or are you more of an Instant Pot® person when it comes to cooking? Do you like sheet pan meals or do you prefer more involved dishes?

Start by knowing your skills and capabilities in the kitchen. 

What do you use every week?

Now take stock of what you already use each week.

Our family loves Greek, Mexican and Italian foods (with tweaks for our food sensitivities). So, we tend to go through a lot of lettuce, rice, and chili powder for example. 

What are you already using every single week? Those will surely fit into your Capsule Kitchen.  

What pantry staples do you already rely on?

Think about how you cook now and what pantry items you use for multiple meals each week.

What starch do you most use? Penne noodles? Brown Rice? What spices or herbs do you use a lot of? 

Those are your pantry staples. 

Organized pantry storage with no pantry

How to Create a Capsule Kitchen in 4 Simple Steps

You can easily switch to using a Capsule Kitchen system in four steps. 

01| Clean out & Declutter

The first step is to clean out the kitchen and declutter. (Funny that’s that same step for improving everything in your home!)

Tackle the fridge, freezer, and pantry because you know that’s where all the chaos is in your kitchen. 

Here’s the step-by-step for cleaning out and organizing your fridge, pantry, and cupboards. 

02| Items to Include in Your Capsule Kitchen

Now that you’ve cleaned up, write a grocery list of the items that you know you already use each week. 

Scroll down for the already done-for-you Capsule Kitchen Checklist that includes common grocery items plus a spot for you to make your own list. 

03| Grocery Shop with Intention

Bring your Capsule Kitchen Checklist with you to the store and make sure you’re checking it as you shop. 

If it’s too overwhelming or too hard on your budget, you can grab a few things at a time. 

TIP: Be sure to stock up on the things you use most – especially shelf-stable items – when things are on sale to save money!

04| Create Meals with Your Capsule Ingredients

Now that you have your staple ingredients, it’s time to start cooking! 

Check out how to meal plan with the Capsule Kitchen below. 

open cook book on kitchen counter

Simplify Dinner with a Capsule Kitchen Meal Plan

Creating a Capsule Kitchen will help to simplify your meal planning efforts. 

How to Do a Capsule Kitchen Meal Plan

  1. Make a list of the meals you want to make, with any seasonal considerations. More salads in summer, more soups in winter, for example.
  2. Consider eating meals every day that have the same ingredients. Lettuce for example, or eggs. By including the same thing every day, meal planning and shopping are almost on auto-pilot. 
  3. Plan out your meals for every day, and write down all the ingredients you’ll need. Don’t forget to account for leftovers, and any meals out. Try your hand at batch cooking if possible. My sister likes to make a whole chicken and then keep the cut-up meat in the fridge for use in wraps, on salads, etc. throughout the week. 
  4. Now using the meal plan from the first week, make a second week’s menu. Maybe grill a bunch of chicken instead of roasting a whole chicken. Or try greek salad instead of caesar. 
  5. Try out the meal plan for a couple of weeks and tweak it as needed

Capsule Kitchen Essentials

Essentially your capsule kitchen boils down to stocking the ingredients you regularly use, depending on how you cook and what your family likes to eat. Use this checklist as a general guideline for your home.

But what if you need a few ideas? 

Don’t worry! I’ve got you covered. Check out the ideas below. 

Here are the basic Capsule Kitchen ingredients:

  • 2-3 versatile protein types
  • 3-4 in-season vegetable types
  • 3-4 in-season fruit types
  • 2-3 healthy whole grains or starch types

Plus, it’s good to have these on hand as well:

  • milk and butter (or non-dairy substitutes)
  • cheese (or non-dairy substitute)
  • 1-3 condiments & oils 
  • 2-3 spices 
  • 1-2 breakfast foods
  • 2-3 snacks

Here’s an example of what a Capsule Kitchen could look like:

Versatile proteins: 

  • chicken breasts
  • whole chicken
  • ground beef
  • eggs
  • bacon

Grains/Starches: 

  • rice
  • bread
  • pasta

Spices: 

  • salt
  • pepper
  • Italian seasoning
  • chili powder

Veggies:

  • broccoli
  • green beans
  • lettuce
  • carrots
  • bell pepper
  • cucumber
  • tomatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • potatoes

Fruit:

  • apples
  • avocados
  • bananas

Condiments & oils:

  • ketchup
  • BBQ sauce
  • mayo
  • mustard
  • olive oil

1-2 Breakfast foods:

  • bread
  • bagels
  • cereal

2-3 Snacks:

  • granola bars
  • crackers 
  • chips

Some other common items that you could include in your Capsule Kitchen are:

  • coconut oil
  • salsa
  • beans
  • lentils/legumes
  • flour (if you like to do baking or cook from scratch)
  • vinegar
  • coconut milk
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • cocoa powder (again, if you like to bake)
  • peanut butter
  • oregano
  • cumin
  • tuna

The list of ideas could go on. But you get the picture.

Just remember to choose only the oils, spices, fresh herbs, and foods that you actually use and cook with regularly. 

The Capsule Kitchen Checklist

I’ve created a Capsule Kitchen checklist that you can download. Just click the button below and leave your email. Your checklist will be in your inbox shortly! 

capsule kitchen checklist

Do you use the Capsule Kitchen method in your house? Or is this concept something new for you?

capsule kitchen checklist

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shannon photo and sig oct 2022

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