How does having dinner on autopilot sound? Like a scene from the Jetsons where they press a button and Rosie walks in with their freshly prepared meal, right? I’m guessing you don’t have a robot chef — or a personal chef — if you’re reading this though, so you’re looking for a meal plan that’s simple, doesn’t take up too much time, and is easy to execute. Yes? That’s what the Capsule Pantry is all about – a master meal planning calendar using set ingredients, so you don’t have to come up with a bazillion dinner ideas every week!
Last week, we went over what a Capsule Pantry is (like a capsule wardrobe for your kitchen!) and how to plan and create your first one.
There was an overwhelming positive response from that post, and honestly you surprised me.
My fears were getting the best of me – I’ve been thinking and tweaking and planning this capsule pantry thing for months. And I just didn’t know you would respond.
I didn’t know if you would “get it”, if you thought it was too complicated, too restrictive, too anything…
But you guys loved it. Yay! 🙂 So what did YOU think of it? (You can always comment below or email me personally, I’d love to know!)
This is the fourth post in the series How to Solve the “What’s for Dinner?” problem. Over the past few weeks we’ve talked about different ways to make sure you always have dinner on hand: Rescue Meals, Freezer Cooking, and the Capsule Pantry™. When you add them all together, you will have a seriously solid meal plan!
You can find the rest of the series here:
- Creating a Dinner Backup Plan with Rescue Meals
- How to Solve the “What’s for Dinner” problem with Freezer Cooking
- How to Meal Plan Only 4 Times Per Year (part 1)
- The Capsule Pantry™: A Faster, Easier Way to Meal Plan (part 2) – this post!
So we went through the planning process already:
- Gather recipes
- Build your foundations
- Add accessories
- Create your Master Meal PlanLet’s take action and actually get this thing up and running, shall we? I know you also have questions so we’re going to go over some of those, too.
Implementing Your Capsule Pantry Meal Plan
1 PURGE AND ORGANIZE YOUR KITCHEN
Why? Fresh start! Just like when you purge your kids room or the living room, it feels so good to know that you’ve gone through every inch, right?
Where to start? I know some people say “eat that frog!” or tackle the biggest project first. I agree in lots of areas, just not this one. If you’re a fan of Dave Ramsey’s teachings, he teaches the same concept with his debt snowball – don’t tackle the debt with the highest interest rate or the largest balance first. Pay off your debts from small to large so that you experience those wins right away, which will help you to gain momentum and not give up.
So. We apply the same to purging our kitchen! Which one will be the least amount of work or which one do you hate the least??? – start with that one.
Similar to a capsule wardrobe, we’re going to separate things into 3 piles:
1 // KEEP (going into the Capsule Pantry)
2 // DON’T KEEP – EAT (not in the Capsule Pantry but want to eat)
3 // DON’T KEEP – DONATE
Where to donate? Find a local shelter or food bank. A friend that could use it. Post it online for your local friends – and when they ask why, you can tell them you’re doing a Capsule Pantry but they just might want to do it too! – fair warning!
PRO TIP: As you are going through each area and putting the KEEP stuff back in their spot, write it down on your Inventory sheet (included in the Capsule Pantry Success Kit below).
2 CREATE YOUR GROCERY LIST
So you have your capsule pantry all planned out and you have a nicely organized kitchen – now what? Well, we have to fill in the gaps of ingredients you need for your new meal plan.
How often do you normally grocery shop? With this method, you should be able to shop monthly for all your non-perishable items, and weekly or even bi-weekly for your meat, produce, and perishables.
I would suggest making separate lists: Your monthly list for all the non-perishables and then your weekly/bi-weekly lists based on your plan. If you get it done now, with everything laid out ahead of time, it will be so simple when you need to go shopping – just grab your list, add a few breakfast, lunch, and snack ideas to it – and go! Kinda like when you plan out your kids outfits for the day ahead of time, and the morning so THAT much smoother.
3 GROCERY SHOP
There are so many different options for grocery shopping now, aren’t there? There was a time when I couponed to save money (although I really don’t believe it saves you money) and drove all over creation to get the best sale.
That is NOT what this plan is about. This plan is about… simplicity!
Taking things OUT of our life so we can spend more time doing the things we love. It’s not about turning grocery shopping into an all-day-road-trip – just to save a few bucks on sale items!
This was never more apparent than when my youngest was diagnosed with multiple food allergies at 2 weeks old and I was still nursing. All of a sudden, I had to cut out so many foods from my diet that it wasn’t even worth going to the grocery store. I couldn’t buy almost anything that had a label – and I don’t just mean the yucky processed food – things like chicken broth, yogurt, tortillas. I had to read every single label, not because it was unhealthy crap, but someone else made it and put it together.
If you’re a food allergy mama – I salute you!
Because it’s seriously tough and I didn’t know how tough until I was thrown into the lion’s den (aka ShopRite) with a list that had more things I COULDN’T get, than ones I could. That is when I developed my routine, sticking to stores where I knew the ingredients and what to expect.
I’ll share my personal grocery shopping strategy with you, and one other I’ve dabbled in but think is genius.
My #1 grocery shopping strategy (with examples):
Wholesale Club (BJ’s or Costco): 1x/month
- Chicken breasts, Chicken thighs, Ground turkey
- Produce we go through a lot of (spinach, bananas, Love beets, mushrooms, onions, avocado)
- Chicken and beef broth concentrate, canned tomatoes, oil, vinegar, veggie sticks, gluten free bread, almond milk
Trader Joe’s: 1st and 3rd weeks (produce and favorites)
- All other produce (if I couldn’t get it at TJ’s, then it usually wasn’t on my list)
- Chips, salsa, dried fruit
- Almond butter, ghee, coconut aminos, cheeses, coconut milk yogurt
- Chicken sausage, ground beef
Target: 2nd and 4th weeks (general grocery)
- Cereal, pasta, rice
- Frozen fruit
- Organic apple sauce, organic apple juice, coffee, bagged beans. (I love their Simply Balanced line of affordable organic food!)
Honestly, I definitely do not shop every week but maybe every 10 days or so. I do alternate Trader Joe’s and Target though.
Did you notice? There is not a regular grocery store on here! For 18 months, I literally did not step foot in a grocery store at all and that has contributed to something I’ve learned about myself: I need less choices, not more.
I was the girl that needed to check out ALL my options before making a decision, in fear that I was missing out on something (FOMO).
The first car I bought as an adult? I test drove 35 (thirty-five!). Ended up being a lemon anyway. :/
FOMO ruled my life for a very long time – I was always striving for what MORE I could add to my life – and it paralyzed me. My best friend’s husband always says “paralysis by analysis” and it’s sooooo true.
How much time have I wasted deciding what to buy, what to wear, and what to eat??? I finally drew that proverbial line in the sand, said no more (!), and created this meal planning strategy.
Anyhoo. I digress.
My #2 grocery shopping strategy: Online!
Online grocery shopping has really become popular lately. And with good reason:
✔︎ Moms don’t have to bring their kids in the grocery store
✔︎ Save money from not “aisle-window-shopping”
✔︎ Availability of uncommon ingredients, especially for special diets (paleo, whole30, gluten free, etc.)
Like everything else, there are a gazillion choices so find one that is easy and has most of what you’re looking for and stick with it. Some offer only pantry items, some are full-service grocery stores, and some even have automatic shipment.
How cool would that be? To create your Capsule Pantry shopping list and then have it automatically delivered at the beginning of the month???
You can get pantry items and non-perishables at Amazon Prime Pantry or Thrive Market. Amazon Fresh is a full-service grocery store but isn’t available everywhere yet. Places like Walmart Grocery and your local Peapod, ShopRite, or Kroger offer online ordering with delivery or pick-up (some of them even bring it to your car!).
So you have your plan. You have your groceries. Now what?
Set a reminder on your phone or calendar every evening to check what is for dinner TOMORROW. Do you have to take anything out of the freezer? Do you have everything? Prep anything? Is it a crockpot meal?
If it’s a crockpot meal, put your slow cooker on the counter the night before. Set a timer (yes, again!) for the time you have to put everything in.
Laminate (or put in a page protector) the Master Meal Plan and write the dates of the month over it so you can reuse it.
Take a picture (and make it a favorite) so you have a record of your new plan.
Then take a picture (and favorite) of your grocery lists and if there are any ingredients you still need to get.
Don’t forget breakfast, lunch, and snacks. They may not be part of your dinner meal plan but if you repeatedly eat the same things, they can go on the master grocery list and make your life easier. Wanna “capsulize” them too? Go for it!
Capsule Pantry Frequently Asked Questions
What do I do with all this extra food I have that doesn’t fit into my new CP?
There are one or two meals that don’t fit, but we really love them – how can we incorporate them?
I have young kids and I don’t want them to be picky eaters – won’t this plan hinder their variety of foods?
Does this plan help you meal plan less? Yep. Get dinner on the table effortlessly? Yep. Eat healthier, save money, and waste less food? Yep.
But here is why I love this plan so much: less really is more and I don’t have to think about what to make – it’s already been decided! I’ve been in the middle of this minimizing process in other areas of my life and my new mantra when it comes to all the choices that surround me is “what I don’t know won’t hurt me”.
I’ve learned this past year especially, that less really is more. We can not only live with less – less clothes, less television (don’t miss ya cable tv!), less toys, and yes, less food – but we can thrive from the freedom it brings.
Join me on the journey to living with less in the kitchen too.