It’s never been cooler to declutter. What was once regarded as an unpleasant chore you only did before moving house is now being embraced as a lifestyle choice. Some even choose to take their downsizing to the next level, parting with the majority of their belongings and keeping only a few beloved essentials. The best-known example is the capsule wardrobe—where minimalists cull their collection down to only a handful of staple pieces that can all be worn together. Now, we’re seeing this ‘less is more’ approach manifest in another spot in the home. Enter, the capsule kitchen.
Like the capsule wardrobe, the capsule kitchen is about limiting your inventory to a just a few staples. But instead of tailored blazers, we’re talking about versatile ingredients in your pantry. So many of us have pantries filled with non-essential items we bought for one meal, that are now six months past their use-by date. This makes it super overwhelming and difficult to keep track of what’s in your pantry, so we end with six packets of pine nuts (or is that just me!?)
The capsule kitchen works on a 75/25% principle. 75% of your kitchen is long-lasting pantry staples, including grains and carbohydrates like rice, oats, pasta and quinoa; tinned vegetables, beans and legumes and fats and flavouring agents like cooking oils, coconut milk, sauces and chicken broth. The other 25% of your kitchen is made up of seasonal veggies and fruit, plus lean protein and dairy products.
Having a capsule kitchen reduces the amount of time and money you spend in the kitchen. Plus, it streamlines your food prep process and reduces food waste, as you’re more likely to actually use up what you have. Plus, working within these confines actually forces you to get more creative in the kitchen! If you’re ever seen Masterchef, one of the most interesting challenges are is where they’re asked to cook with only pantry staples, plus only a few chosen ingredients. Apparently, chefs have been operating in this way for years. “The capsule kitchen is a great concept,” says Katzie Guy-Hamilton, Equinox’s New York City-based director of food and beverage and author of Clean Enough. “It’s how chefs create restaurant menus and it’s the basis for any healthy plate.”
To start your capsule kitchen, it’s a good idea to first clean out of your pantry. If possible, donate any tinned items you’re not going to use to your local food drive or donation supermarket. Then, you can start with a clean slate to build your capsule kitchen. Discount food supermarkets like Aldi and Costco are excellent for buying cheap pantry essentials in bulk. Then, for your fresh ingredients, consider hitting your local farmer’s market or local grocer, to further reduce your carbon footprint. It’s also a good idea to have a range of fresh herbs on hand in your capsule kitchen, as these are a versatile way to add interest to any meal and you can freeze them as they begin to wilt.