The Capsule Menu

I’m sure you’ve heard of a capsule wardrobe…but have you heard of a capsule menu?  The idea is the same…having a limited number of things (meals) that makes choosing what to make for dinner and creating your shopping list super easy!

I like to think of following a capsule menu as a step beyond meal planning…maybe simplified meal planning…or advanced meal planning (or maybe the easy way out!)

In the past I’ve had a love/hate relationship with meal planning.  I loved knowing what was for dinner every night.  I loved always having the right ingredients on hand.  I loved how it simplified my days while keeping my desire for real food and nutrition a priority.  I hated having to do it every week and then having to think through a grocery list for the week.  I hated how I felt like a failure every time I tried to meal plan because this week’s meals looked very similar to last week’s meals.

I had been interested in some of the meal planning services — how nice, a meal list and grocery list appears in my inbox each week!  But I know they wouldn’t work for us…needing to be nightshade-free and having a husband that won’t eat cooked vegetables (he gladly eats raw veggies, so I’m happy to deal with that!)

I decided to stop getting frustrated and feeling like failure each week and to embrace the reality of our food limitations.  So I created a capsule menu.  A menu I could create once and just repeat knowing that we would like the meals and get the nutrition we need.  It has provided so much freedom!  So much less time and mental energy is involved!  We’ve followed our capsule menu for several months now and we still like it; we’re not getting bored of the meals.  And the best part is, I can pretty much grocery shop without a list!


Do you want to build your own capsule menu?  It’s easy; let’s get started!

Everyone’s capsule menu will look different (ours is a three-week rotation).  That is OK and why a capsule menu is so great; it works for everyone!  There are at least two ways of doing capsule menus. But both start the same way.

First, make a list.

Make a list of all the meals that your family likes to eat AND you like to cook AND are quick and easy to make (whatever quick and easy means for you).  At this point don’t worry about what “meal category” (breakfast/lunch/supper) each meal fits into.

Next, divide the meals into categories

Categories that make sense to you and for your family.  These categories might be: eggs, fish, chicken, beef, pork, beans, meatless, etc.  Don’t worry about what time of day (breakfast/lunch/supper) that you would eat each meal (every heard of breakfast for dinner, or my favorite: breakfast all-day)…just divide into categories.

Repeat meals.

Is your family happy to eat the same meal each week?  Put a “star” next to those.

If you like a bit more freedom…if your personality rebels a bit against “schedules” …or you want to cook what you “feel like today”, then end here.  Place this list in an easy to access place and refer to it when you need to decide what to make!  Just remember to do it early enough in the day to defrost any meat or other needed ingredients.

I prefer this method in the summer because our days are less scheduled and I can decide what to make based on what our plans are for the day, or the weather forecast, or…? This summer I decided to do a summer of salads and it worked great!

During the school year I prefer to have a more structured meal plan.  Our days are busier (homeschooling) and our outside the home activities are more regularly scheduled.  I want one less thing to think about and one less decision to make each day!


So, I make a capsule menu with a more definite schedule:

Decide which meals you are going to plan.

Are you going to plan for suppers only or for all the meals and which meals you are going to have a plan for.  I plan meals for supper on all days and for lunch and supper on the weekends.  I just have a general plan for breakfasts and weekday lunches.

Plan (or make a plan) for breakfast. 

We eat the same thing for breakfast every day…I eat chocolate overnight oatmeal, Tony has a cheese omelet with rice and the kids eat baked oatmeal or toast and raw goat’s milk or overnight oatmeal.  This might seem boring to you, but it works well for us!  So, no real planning involved.  Breakfast plan, done!

Plan or make a plan for lunches.

This is what our plan looks like:

  • Saturday and Sunday: Scrambled eggs or egg bake with toast/muffins/biscuits, raw veggies and fruit.
  • Weekdays: Leftovers, eggs, PB&J, cheesy bread, finger foods, quesadillas, tuna salad.

This menu plan is for the my and the kids’ lunches.  I pack Tony the same lunch for work everyday and I eat eggs or leftovers for lunch.

Plan (or make a plan) for suppers.

I counted up the meals on my list and say that I have enough meals for a three-week rotation.  Don’t forget to include the meals you family happily eats each week.  I tried to spread out my “similar” meals, like pasta meals and soup meals and meat-heavy meals and bean meals to once each week.  Then I filled in the rest.

Now you have a meal plan that you can use each week!  It is easy to make changes on-the-fly like trying a new recipe or switching days.  But I always have a plan and always have the needed ingredients on hand!

As you look forward to the fall craziness of kids starting school and all the other new activities that come with fall, be thankful that planning meals is already done!

For all this and more about Capsule Menus, I wrote an ebook!









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