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Recipe Organization -- computer

For a story for the Houston Chronicle, I'm interested in how people organize recipes, specifically on the computer. What software do you like? Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of organizing favorite recipes on computer? Do you keep stuff online in recipes boxes at various websites or...? What are the important considerations for cooks who want to transfer paper recipe collections to their computers? If you organize your recipes the old-fashioned way (binders? 3 by 5 cards, etc.), what makes you stick with those systems?

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  1. I copy and paste every recipe that I like into a WORD document and just save them in various recipes categories on my computer. I'll even go as far as taking a picture of the completed recipe and putting that in the WORD document also.

    1 Reply
    1. re: javaandjazz

      I drop and drag recipes into a Text file, and save in a Desktop Folder by Category or chef.

      It uses little space, and when I am realy to prepare a dish, I just print it out and bring it into the kitchen. Keeps your cookbooks pristine and unstained.

    2. I sort of do what javaandjazz does. I have a master folder on my (Windows) desktop labeled "FOOD." Inside it I have a whole bunch of food related folders that range from "Meats" to "Restaurant Menus" and more. Much more. One of the folders is labeled "Recipes." And when it began getting too tiresome to go through the growing list, then I set up subfolders for different kinds of recipes. Desserts. Beef. Seafood. Asian. Turkish. Well, you get the idea. Some recipes are saved in Word format (only if they have pictures), some are Word Pad (.doc), and some are just links to recipes on the web.

      My comuter does a fantastic job of alphabetizing. The folders work just fine. Who needs a software program to store recipes? And I sure don't want to be caught without my recipes because I stored them on someone ese's website and their site is down. Once or twice a year I do copy the whole shebang to a CD and file it just in case.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Caroline1

        This is my method too except as I add a new recipe I also print it out to put in a hard copy binder. All my recipes are converted to the same Word format so the binder has a consistent cookbook look (must be the graphic designer training I've had or maybe I'm O/C). Never thought of doing the CD backup. Will do that today. Typesetting all those recipes again would be a huge pain should the unthinkable happen!

      2. Once I have a tried and true recipe, whatever its source, I put it into a database (filemaker) so that I have a search-able record (by ingredient, category, or title) of things that I know I like and with my changes/additions. This is handy, because when friends ask for a recipe I can print it for them. I also keep a binder with all the recipes, sorted, printed out, in. That is what I cook from. I make changes/improvements as I cook, and about once a year I go through and make sure the computer records match actual practice. After 30 odd years of cooking, this db is up to about 240 recipes.

        New recipes are kind of a hodgepodge of storage methods. If I am pretty sure I will make the recipe, I tend to print it out (from websites like Cook's Illustrated or epicurious) or clip it out from the newspaper (rare) or flag the magazine or cookbook in some way. If my interest is more casual, I might bookmark the site or copy it into a word doc to try later. Then I try them as I have time or the ingredients on hand. If I don't try them within a year I tend to toss them. So many recipes, so little time....

        1. I've recently started using gmail to organize my recipes.

          I set up a gmail account specifically for managing my recipes and I copy and paste each recipe (along with the link if it's a good resource) into its own "email" with the subject line containing the category: appetizer, salad, chicken, meat, etc and the name of the dish. Gmail has a great search function too so once in a while, I'll just search for a specific item (i.e., artichokes, chicken thighs, etc) and pow. All recipes with that ingredient pop right up.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MeowMixx

            I use word docs too, but have recently thought about how it would be nice if I had ingredient tags so i could find recipes based on what I have on hand... (i guess you could use google desktop for tihs though)

          2. I simply use the Memo function on my Palm phone. I input recipes on my computer, then synch the Palm phone, then -- I always have all my recipes with me, wherever I go, including the market, so I can whip it out and check ingredient needs if I decide to make something while in the market.

            When in the Memo function, I just start the recipe with a Category name that I choose, like meat, poultry, fish, sides, desserts, then list the recipe title. So everything lists alphabetically, by category.

            If I need to, just print one out.

            1 Reply
            1. re: woodburner

              I do the same thing with my recipes. Makes shopping much easier. I also sync restaurant recs with my pocket pc. That way as I travel around I always have info on new places.

            2. I recently started to use a software called YummySoup!

              I used the trial download (it's $20 to purchase, not too bad) and liked the interface a lot I love that you can browse recipes with photos in manner similar to coverflow in iTunes. It's also very simple to download recipes off the most popular cooking websites with a one-click operation, then all you have to do is categorize to your liking. I had kept PDF's of all interesting recipes downloaded off various websites (mostly LA Times and NY Times) but I am slowly moving these to YummySoup as well.

              1. I use a program called typensave. it is from the people that publish those little cookbooks that you buy at church bazaars where all the church ladies have donated recipes. it has all my little sub catagories already set up for me. But then i am writing a little cookbook too so that is why i use it.

                1. There was a discussion about this a while back. I don't remember the thread, but I'm sure it will pop up if you do a search. You might want to check it out.

                  I do recipe organization the old-fashioned way-- which is to print them out or clip them out of a paper, try it, and if I like it, then it goes in a scrap book. As for how my scrap books are organized, I started out with two scrap books, b/c at the time, I didn't think I'd need to branch out into multiple scrap books! So those two just have a hodgepodge of recipes (well, one of them is a dessert scrap book), but once the first (non-dessert) scrap book filled, I got larger scrap books and now separate roughly into Japanese recipes, breakfast foods, desserts, mains, and sides/salads/soups. I'm contemplating allocating one to "holiday-themed" cooking.

                  Why do I do the old-fashioned way? It's easier to lug scrapbooks back and forth from the prep area to the cooking area, bring them along if I'm cooking at a friend's house, bring them with me if I'm in a rush and need to get ingredients--in other words, it's much more portable this way. Also, if I try a recipe and need modifications, the book is right there, so I can write in modifications as I prep the recipe or right afterwards, whereas on a computer, I'd have to fire up the computer, log in/ open software, type in comments, etc.-- it's just so much quicker to do all of this manually. Another reason is that I like pictures, so I often print out the recipe along with a picture. (I'm very visual like that) Heck, if a recipe doesn't come with a picture, I've even drawn my own ones in.

                  However, someone suggested a good idea for using gmail as the recipe organizer. I might give that a try to see if that works for me (maybe a summer project?).

                  Though I wonder if people who keep recipes online, do they just have the computer at their workstation (cooking), or do they print out recipes every time they prep it? I can't do either, b/c I'm too much of a clutz to have such machinery near any food (I won't even eat near my computer for fear of spilling food all over it), and I don't have a printer at home, so printing them out is not an option.

                  So I'm back to just keeping a file of printed out recipes just being faster, easier, and more convenient.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: anzu

                    anzu: By using the Palm organizer, I just use my phone to read the recipes when I cook... very convenient.

                    1. re: woodburner

                      I'm very low tech. I also do calendar organizers the old-fashioned way, so I don't have a palm or fancy phone, either. :-P

                      1. re: anzu

                        I'm even more low tech - I pretty much rely on my cookbooks. I do email myself recipes that I find on epicurious.com, and will read them on my blackberry in the kitchen, but never do print them out. I do have a spiral note book into which at one point I pasted a bunch of recipes from magazines etc., but I don't add to it at this point.

                  2. I use MasterCook. It's Deluxe 9. I think it does a pretty good job but unlike Excel, Word or other good Microsoft products it is slightly antiquated in some areas like creating a new recipe and copying and pasting or dragging and dropping. It does have an "import assistant" function, but no shortcut for initiating it. Like I said, if you are used to using high-end software, it seems a little clunky. It does have good search features and a virtual pantry to track inventory, with the ability to create shopping lists from it and move them to a PDA, or phone. You can scale recipes up and down.

                    I have tried to find a better, more sophisticated product, but I don't think it exists. I think more people use MC than any other electronic cookbook product. There may be a new, improved version?
                    I don't find that I print recipes that often. I review them and then do it mostly from memory (and improvisation). I also have a laptop in the kitchen so I can pull up a recipe off our intranet if I need to or get a new recipe off the internet. We're wired!
                    I still have a large folder of recipes (mostly from the NYT) which I want to scan into the PC with the OCR function that my Epson scanner comes with. It works quite well. When I've printed out a recipe I keep it in a folder with general categories like chicken, fish, desserts, bread, etc. For example, within those general categories it doesn't take that long to find the fav bread recipe that I use a lot.
                    Now, if I could just keep from getting flour all over my keyboard!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Scargod

                      "Now, if I could just keep from getting flour all over my keyboard!" Scargod

                      LOL! Spilling is human. Spilling flour on a keyboard takes planning! I print ONLY the recipe I'm going to use, then trash it when I'm through spilling on it.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I don't do that (with the flour) so much but I do think I have an emergency meal down in there....

                    2. My husband, the computer programmer, made me a website where I can input and store all my recipes and access them from anywhere, handy when we were long distance dating and traveling back and forth. As time as gone on it has become more of a place to store ingredient lists.

                      1. A CH friend just told me about Big Oven... I have downloaded the free trial but haven't actually used it yet...

                        1. I use a software called EzyEating. I like it because it saves and organizes my recipes, but it also uses the recipes to give me a weekly meal plan and print a grocery list of ingredients. I can also search by ingredient. They have a demo you can download at http://www.ezyeating.com