Less, Please! Capsule Kitchen: Step 1

Less, Please! Capsule Kitchen: Step 1

Step 1: Capsule Kitchen Goals – Make Your Kitchen Work for You

This is the first in a series that will walk you step-by-step through the process of building a Capsule Kitchen to streamline your grocery list and simplify the weekly process of meal-planning, shopping, and cooking—while helping you to meet your kitchen-related goals.

In order to make the most out of any decluttering and minimizing process, you need to have a focused, confident vision in place, guiding your decisions and creating a filter of sorts. This takes away the agony about what to keep and what not to keep and even makes those choices self-evident.  In Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the guiding decluttering question is, Does it bring me joy?  And capsule wardrobe experts know the importance of developing a sense of personal style by looking at color themes and silhouettes that make them feel great and by drawing inspiration from outfits that they admire.

For your capsule kitchen, your capsule goals will serve as a filter for the rest of the choices you will be making throughout the process. Think about both your big-picture food philosophy and your practical needs. Taking some time at the outset to think through how you want your kitchen to serve you will save you a lot of time in the long run as you meet daily decisions with the confidence that comes from knowing your purpose.

Brainstorm and Reflect

When I first set out to apply the capsule idea to my kitchen, I began by thinking about all the different factors that go into feeding myself and my family on any given week. I started with the details of our habits and preferences and then reflected on my big-picture ideals.

To get started, download this free worksheet* to help you think through your capsule kitchen needs and current habits. What’s important to you? (budget-friendly, creativity, health-conscious, kid-friendly, time saving, simplicity) How many meals do you prepare at home every week? Do you have regular out-of-the-home meals built into your schedule? What are your food-related joys and frustrations? After you finish the worksheet, take some time to reflect on the big picture and articulate your over-arching goals.

These are some big-picture questions I asked myself:

What is most important to me when it comes to feeding my family?

When I thought about what was important to me when it comes to the way I feed myself and my family, these are the adjectives that came to mind: healthy, fresh, in-tune with seasonality, flavorful, interesting, nourishing . . . The problem was that for some time, other descriptors that I don’t actually value in a big-picture way had begun to dictate a lot of what we were eating: easy, fast, no-mess, my-two-year-old-will-eat-it—you know how it goes. I knew I wanted to get back to a place where I really felt good about the food that I was putting on our table.

What is not working about your current food habits?

This question was the easiest for me to answer. I was spending Way. Too. Much. Money. I literally felt like I was throwing food and money in the garbage week after week as I had a general idea of a grocery-budget goal in my head and exceeded it (by an embarrassing amount) every time I went to the grocery store. Where the heck was our money going? My (accountant) husband was so gracious every month when he sat down to work on our family’s budget and gently pointed out to me that we were spending far more than our desired allotment for groceries (which I clearly already knew). And even though he didn’t heap guilt on me, he empowered me by challenging me to look at myself as the CEO of our household. I make most of our spending decisions and he was trusting me to be a thoughtful and wise steward of our finances. And essentially, although he would never put it this way, I knew I was floundering in the grocery spending area. And on a related note, I knew that my poor stewardship was also showing it’s ugly implications in the gross amount of food that we were throwing away every time we got around to cleaning out the fridge. Something needed to change.

What brings you joy in the kitchen?

Even though I was after simplicity and some degree of efficiency, I didn't want to turn my kitchen routine into a cold, heartless machine. Cooking, and even meal-planning and shopping, has never been just a chore to me. I love cooking, reading recipes, food magazines, food tv, food podcasts. All of it. I learned how to cook sitting in the crook of the corner of the kitchen counter while my mom and grandmother cooked by instinct, rarely using a recipe. Now, I love to use recipes as a starting point to try something new or exotic, but I am not afraid to veer off course or make it my own. I knew that even though I wanted to simplify and streamline the variety of different ingredients I was buying, I didn't want to lose that sense of adventure as I was cooking. The limitation would be a challenge that I was excited to rise to and experiment with.

Choose Your Capsule Goals

After you are done brainstorming and reflecting, focus all that brain-power into articulating your capsule kitchen goals. For this particular project, I think three is a nice number of goals, but do what seems to emerge naturally for you. If you want some more goal-setting inspiration, check out Allison’s series on sustainable goal-setting

As I reflected, three, focused goals emerged:

1. Curb my grocery spending to less than $600 per month (for our family of 4)**.
2. Reclaim a healthy and wholesome family diet by eliminating processed and pre-packaged foods whenever I felt like I could reasonably make it at home.
3. Reduce food-waste by simplifying our weekly menu and intentionally using fresh food before it expires.

As I moved forward in the process of designing my capsule kitchen, these were the ideas that guided my decisions. Just like sorting something with a filter, if a choice didn’t fit these goals, it didn’t fit.  And I was confident because of the amount of thought and reflection I put into it.

I hope this helps you get focused and excited as you start your own capsule kitchen! I can’t wait to hear how it’s going for you!

*This worksheet was designed by our wonderful and talented friend (and my sister-in-law), Nikki Kintner! She is currently pursuing love, adventure, and good things with her husband, Jeffrey in Colorado Springs, CO and you can find her amazing hand-crafted, floral-inspired art and jewelry at her Stitch and Petal Etsy shop!

**It feels pretty vulnerable to put this actual number out there! But for the sake of transparency I decided to include it. This number reflects about 2/3 of what I was spending on groceries before I made our capsule kitchen goals, and I have been able to consistently spend under $600 since implementing my capsule kitchen. Regardless of where you and your family fall on the grocery budget spectrum, I hope the capsule kitchen helps you to meet your goals!

A couple more notes I thought to add later! . . .

It is also probably helpful to explain that the $600 is just food! We have a separate category in our budget for household goods like paper towels, and we even have a separate category called "community" for when we host or make food for special occasions.

Also, even if you've shared your email with us before, you'll still have to enter it in the form to get the worksheet. We will keep your information to ourselves, and only use it to send you updates about the blog. You can unsubscribe at any time!

Click on the image for a free downloadable pdf worksheet to help you start designing your own capsule kitchen.

Super-Smooth Hummus

Super-Smooth Hummus

Pace & Pattern Step 2: Brainstorming Possibilities

Pace & Pattern Step 2: Brainstorming Possibilities