October 5, 2012
This topic has generated quite a bit of interest from readers and I'm happy to share what works for me in this regard.
Like in my first post on digital organizing, I will be sharing what I use and what works for me. This is not an exhaustive list of what's out there in terms of digital recipe storage.
Meet my recipe binders. (Before they're gone.)
I've worked years at sourcing, tweaking and oh yes, cooking the recipes contained therein. But something I've noticed over the past couple years is that I have been using these recipes less and less and cooking more from memory and skill. Yay! After years of work, I've actually mastered our style of plant-based cooking.
A similar thing happened with my hardcopy cookbook collection, which is now whittled down to two or three cookbooks. I stopped using them.
I use a menu master, that I adjust for the seasons, to plan our weekly food. As I simplified our menu planning around rotating themes, and gained mastery at vegan cooking, I found myself reaching for cookbooks less and less. The only time I was reaching for them was for fresh inspiration or to find a more gourmet type recipe for a special occasion. Now with the google search, Pinterest, online cooking courses, and e-cookbooks (even if I don't use them much they don't take up any significant space) I decided to get rid of most of my cookbooks.
But I still held on to those binders. They represent a type of security for me (which I'll discuss more in my next digital organizing post). The security of ideas and "evidence". Some people find security in stuff and money. (I like money security). And some us find security in paper.
I spent a lot of time building these binders and I am reluctant to let them go. But because of the changes I described above, I rarely use them anymore.
This is my strategy to get rid of my binders:
I've given myself till next summer, one year from the time we moved into this chalet, to go through these binders. I'm not actually planning to physically go through these binders recipe by recipe. Instead, each time I need a recipe from these binders (I have a pretty good idea what's in them from years of use) I grab it, use it and input it into MacGourmet. At the end of the year whatever is left wasn't important enough for me to use and is getting burned. We don't recycle our paper, we burn it.
I figure one year is a long enough time to know what I really need from these binders. We'll have gone through the full calendar year with each growing season and holidays and birthdays. Whatever I didn't use by the end of the year I really don't need to keep.
MacGourmet is what I'm using to digitize my recipe storage.
We're a Mac shop. This option may not work for everyone. Damien originally found this software for our family years ago and we've stuck with it every since. I haven't shopped around much. It works well for us and I can't compare it to others.
I probably don't use even half the features of this software. My strategy so far is to just get my recipes in there. Like I said, I only do this for recipes we actually make.
You have the option to make your recipes look all pretty with photos. Right now, I don't care about pretty. I just care about function. And one of the best functions is search. In fact, this is what I love about digitizing stuff - you can search so easily.
I like that I can generate nice litte pdf's to share on the blog and e-mail to friends who ask for recipes. I'm hoping one day to put together a digital recipe collection for our children, if and when they need it.
I also like the chef view on the newest version of MacGourmet. That's what you see in most of these photos. This is common site in our kitchen these days.
(To get the recipe you see above, click here ⇒ Peanut Sauce Noodles.)
MacGourmet has a nice feature that allows you to import recipes from websites. Unfortunately, since we're a whole food, plant-based kitchen that seriously limits that amount of sites we use. And the ones I reference most often, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen and The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen, aren't configured to take advantage of this feature. Bummer.
What I want to emphasize here is that my goal in all of this is not perfection. Our systems for home management change as we go through different life seasons and I don't want to spend too much time tweaking to perfection. I want it to work well enough and be done with it.
So, I don't always write in the directions on recipes because if I see the list of ingredients for a certain recipe I pretty much guess the necessary steps. This works for cooking, not so much baking. But I hardly ever bake. Someday I write in the steps, great. Otherwise, I wing it.
Menu planning and generating a grocery shopping list are two compenents to my kitchen planning that I am not currently "digitizing" and have no immediate plans to do so.
There are digital products that allow you merge digital recipe storage with menu planning and grocery shopping. For example, Plan To Eat, is a popular subscription based recipe, menu planning, and grocery shopping software.
I have never tried it, for a variety of reasons. I don't like the web subscription aspect of it (If I stop using it, then what? Do I no longer have access to any of my recipes?) Also, after years of doing this gig as full time home cook and manager (with a natural organizing bent) I've successfully generated my own tools for these purposes. I have been tweaking this part of my job now for years and have it down to a science. At one point I spent a lot of time menu planning and making a grocery list. I don't anymore. Perhaps this would have helped me then.
I don't menu plan in the traditional sense. I don't make a grocery list based on our menu.
I use a spreadsheet to write our master grocery list. Each week I print it out and then circle the things I need to buy from the grocery store and health food store to re-stock in our kitchen. This takes me less than fifteen minutes. I also add the items from the to-buy list we keep going during the week. I buy the same staples over and over and increasingly rely on large buying club orders to stock the pantry. These orders happen once a month or once every two months. Only our fresh produce changes with the seasons, and even then not completely.
I pencil-in (literally) a rough weekly menu (using something similar to this) and unless I'm making something really new and different, our stocked pantry and weekly grocery run take care of the ingredients.
This is different from the classic, "plan a menu and build a grocery list around that" - a system I used for years. I've switched to a "stocked pantry" system as I've gained proficiency in the kitchen and as our budget has allowed.
I find this system less time consuming and a better fit for our shopping and eating habits.
If you are looking for menu planning assistance from a more traditional perspective (both in terms of diet style, i.e.: animal eating, and method) you might want to check out Plan It, Don't Panic by Stephanie Langford. I haven't used it as a resource but many others have and like it.
E-cookbooks and pdf recipe files are a relatively new and welcome addition to my kitchen routine. Some of these I've purchased, others have been given to me for review, and one I even wrote myself!
I have a folder in my computer documents entitled Food & Recipes. I store all my kitchen and food related stuff in here. I organize all my food files further into different folders. I regularly tweak these as I add new resources.
Currently, in addition to my grocery shopping related folders I have a Cookbook folder and Heather's Courses. Who's Heather? The lovely Heather Bruggeman of course! I keep all her courses organized in their own folder. Likewise, all my digital cookbooks are in their own folder.
This is where I love the search function of a computer. If I want to look for a recipe with a certain ingredient I can just search for it.
And that's it - my digital recipe organization. Two down, one more to go - digital file organization.
Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.
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