In the fashion world, bloggers create small wardrobes called capsule wardrobes, made of only their favorite items, which they then mix and match throughout the season. Capsule wardrobes are meant to reduce clutter, save money, inspire creativity and ultimately simplify people's lives.
If capsule wardrobes are the holy grail of fashion minimalism, why not try the same in the kitchen? A few months ago, I set out to create a capsule kitchen made of only my favorite pantry staples and a few fresh ingredients at a time.
I had four main goals when creating my capsule kitchen.
I wanted to:
- Simplify shopping and cooking
- Focus on seasonal items
- Waste less food
- Always have the right ingredients on hand for a quick meal
I also was unwilling to compromise on two main things.
- I wanted to always be able to make delicious food easily.
- I wanted to use all real ingredients (fruits, vegetables, grains, high-quality proteins and dairy, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and natural sweeteners).
With my goals, values, and lifestyle in mind, I made a list of my favorite ingredients and committed to testing out a capsule kitchen for at least 30 days. I started by thinking about my lifestyle and answering the following questions:
- How do I like to cook? I like fresh foods that can be made quickly and prefer to improv-cook or loosely follow a recipe without a lot of up-front planning. Knowing this, my capsule kitchen is heavy on versatile fresh items that are easy to prepare.
- Who’s eating at home and what do we use every week? I have a husband and two children, and we pack lunches regularly and eat most of our meals at home. This means we use many of the same items for breakfast, lunch, and snacks each week.
- What are the items I rely on in my pantry? Grains, beans, cooking oils, and two or three of my favorite herbs and spices are my go-to items. I don’t bake regularly, so flour and sugar, for example, aren’t things I need to have on hand all the time.
Using these guidelines, I was able to really pay attention to what I was buying, rather than just grabbing what looks good at the grocery store or making lists based on specific recipes. I've now been doing my capsule kitchen for far more than 30 days; it's become part of my life. Here's what's happened:
1. I’m saving time in the grocery store.
Having a set list means I can zip through the store in a lot less time. No more worrying that I forgot something or wandering aimlessly through the aisles.
2. I always know what to buy.
Hallelujah! No more scanning Pinterest for recipes and making detailed lists, instead I pull up my reusable capsule kitchen list on my phone, check off the items I’m missing and head to the store.
3. My meals are more creative.
Creativity loves constraints, and that’s definitely the case here. Instead of starting with a recipe, I start with the ingredients I have and create a meal from there. It sounds intimidating, but if I need more guidance, I Google recipes based on an inspiration ingredient. For example, if I have extra broccoli I might Google, “recipes using broccoli and rice,” to come up with an idea.
4. I always have something for dinner.
Because I have a realistic idea of the staples I need in the house, I’m a lot more likely to have something for dinner. This means more feel-good meals and less money spent on takeout.
5. I’m wasting less food.
By having fewer items to keep track of on any given week and by creating meals based on the ingredients I already have at home, I’m less likely to throw away food.
6. I’m saving money.
On average I’m saving 25% per week by creating a Capsule Kitchen—that’s a lot of money! I attribute the savings to a few things. First, I’m wasting less food and picking up takeout less often, because I have the right ingredients at home. Second, I’m spending less time in the grocery store and therefore less likely to make impulse purchases. Third, I’m buying seasonal items that are less expensive since I’m starting with ingredients first instead of shopping for a recipe. Fourth, I have a realistic idea of our lifestyle and cooking preferences, so I’m only buying things we like to eat and have time to prepare.
If you want to try a capsule kitchen, I highly recommend it!