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How do you store/archive your recipes?

For years I kept my recipes as "hard" copies. The good old fashioned method of keeping recipes on paper within plastic sleeves in binders. That seemed to work well for years but with the advent of the PC I transferred all of them and saved new ones as Word docs on my PC.

That worked well until my PC crashed and I lost many recipes. Now I send them to my e-mail account so I can save them without worrying my computer will crash and I can also do a rudimentary search for what I am looking for.

It is probably not the best system. How do you store/archive your recipes?

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  1. I still do it the old fashioned way. I have a slew of Composition Books that I use, all color coded.

    1. I used to bookmark them and cook using my laptop. I hated the fact that I had to touch the computer while cooking. If you are making chicken, or your hands are covered in cake batter the last thing I want to do is touch a laptop. In the end I copied them all from my laptop and printed out a binder with all my best recipes.

      1. I cut and paste them into a file on my pc. I print them out when I'm using them and keep a stash of most-used recipes in my kitchen pantry shelf 'til they're too gross with food splatter to use. They're so much easier to find as a computer document!

        2 Replies
        1. re: rcallner

          I do exactly the same. I put some of the most used recipes in plastic sleeves, to keep them clean when I am cooking. I also back up my pc weekly. So I won't lose much except for the past week's work.

          1. re: rcallner

            I also keep them as Word files, and print them out when I want to make them. Inside a general recipe folder, I have separate folders for main dishes (and sub-folders for beef, chicken, pork, etc.), cakes, cookies, etc. I also keep a separate folder for recipes I haven't tried yet, arranged in the same sub-folder system.

            I usually stick pretty close to the original recipe when I make it the first time--but I almost always tweak and change and make notes on tricks that helped or changes I want to try next time. Having the recipes on my computer makes that so much easier than trying to scribble notes in the margins of a hard copy. It's also easy to print a copy or send as an email attachment or cut and paste a recipe to a web post when someone asks for a copy.

            And I also back up obsessively (continuous backups with Time Machine, plus a monthly backup to a drive I keep off-site), so I don't really worry about losing them!

          2. I do what you do. I don't have a gazillion recipes though. I have put mine under subject headings in my saved conversation file in my gmail account. If I ever switch email providers, I'll have to move them elsewhere, obviously.

            I also subscribe to this service now: http://www.eatyourbooks.com/home

            This website provides indexing for cookbooks. In future they will provide a way to store personal copies of recipes. But in the meantime, I can search an index of recipes from my own cookbooks and/or food blogs. If many of your recipes originated in cookbooks you own, this would be ideal for you.

            Otherwise, you can figure out how to use google.docs to save your recipes. Doing this seemed too hard for my situation, because I don't have a lot of loose recipes. There are some templates for saving recipes that can be used with google.docs.

            Good luck! I hope you find just the right solution.

            1. I have started using Pinterest for most of my recipes. especially since i can collect from stumbleupon, foodgawker, tastespotting, chowhound, etc. plus once theyre there, theyre just a search away

              1. I have about 3000 recipes in Word format on my hard drive. I have them broken down into several categories. Some are even duplicated because I want them in two different directories. I back them up on flash drives and dvd's and a back up drive.

                I print them out when I am going to cook the dish then throw it away afterwards.

                There are services on the web but I prefer my Word files. Eventually, I will type in all the recipes from all my cookbooks. Then I will get rid of most of my cookbooks.

                I do my best to find them on the web so I can cut and paste.

                I'd love to find someone else with a lot of recipes in Word format so we could send each other flash drives full of recipes.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  "I have about 3000 recipes in Word format on my hard drive. I have them broken down into several categories. Some are even duplicated because I want them in two different directories. I back them up on flash drives and dvd's and a back up drive."

                  I do mine exactly that way. I used to use MasterCook, but found I no longer liked it, so started keeping them in Word documents in folders, with sub-folders.

                  I had a computer crash and lost all of my recipes, so now I keep them on an external hard drive. Of course, I understand that that hard drive could go also, but honestly, I just can't think of another way of maintaining them. Will look into Pinterest - hadn't thought about that method of maintaining them.

                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                    hey HH,

                    no need to type in recipes...
                    you can buy a cheap scanner and copy the text.
                    or find someone with a multi-function printer that can also scan documents.

                    1. re: escargot3

                      I am trying to talk myself into buying a hand scanner but it is $167 and doesn't have that good of reviews. http://www.amazon.com/Ectaco-C-Pen-Bl...

                      With the book scanners, you have to deal with the text being obscured and deformed by the page curving.

                      1. re: escargot3

                        The only thing about scanning a recipe (and I have done that) is that you can't type type over or eliminate anything when making the recipe your own. That has been my experience with scanned recipes anyway.

                        1. re: Wtg2Retire

                          I scan and then convert to text... if you don't have a program to do the image-to-text conversion, you can use free tools online... e.g. http://www.onlineocr.net

                          As far as avoiding loss is concerned... all disk drives will eventually fail. So I have my Living Cookbook files on my PC's hard disk, but I have it configured to backup to a separate external drive every few days.

                    2. I use MacGourmet / back up drive.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: THewat

                        Me too. Works GREAT! And if you're using the app for either an iPad to cook from or an iPod/IPhone to shop with, you already *have* your backup.

                        1. re: THewat

                          I recently got MacGourmet Deluxe... I mostly love it, especially the ease of import, when I occasionally do this. However, the Nutrition function is less than desirable. It asks for approximations of ingredients if it doesn't recognize. I can enter 50 g brown sugar, then it asks for me to pick the closest thing.. 1 cup packed, 1 cup loosely packed, 1 ounce, etc. Most often, none are close. Maybe I'm not using it right...

                          1. re: Emme

                            I've never used the nutrition function. That seems like an important complaint - one worth contact the company about, if you have the energy. Maybe they can improve it for the next round.

                            1. re: THewat

                              you know, i went through the help manual... and basically, they know it's a flaw, and seem to say, "oh well, best we can do..." pfft. i may write them as well, just to further complain and get heard. like i said, i can hope i miss something.

                        2. Until a year ago, I used MS Word.

                          But now I am using Living Cookbook (http://www.livingcookbook.com ).

                          Even if using a recipe from a magazine or book that I own, I put it into Living Cookbook -- I scan and OCR the page(s), and Living Cookbook then has a streamlined way of highlighting sections of the text and marking them as title, author, ingredients, procedure, etc. When I cook, I print out the recipe and can then be as messy as I want and take notes etc. And I can then update the recipe with any observations later.

                          1. Those are all excellent ideas. Thank you for sharing!

                            1. Well, the fatal flaw here is not doing a backup on a flash drive or some external media.

                              You can enter your recipes on Chow.

                              No matter how recipes are organized, I don't like cooking off a pc in a kitchen, so I usually print them off when I want them and then put it in the recycling bin. Otherwise, then I'd have to come up with a system for storing the recipes I printed out.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: rworange

                                "You can enter your recipes on Chow.

                                I have not used Chow because I thought there was a copywrite issue. For example, if I wanted to post a Hazan recipe word for word I thought that would be removed. And as you said in another reply, any online site could shut down w/o notice.

                              2. I email recipe to myself in gmail and use "tags" to keep them organized -- everything gets tagged "food and recipes", and some are also marked "vegetarian", "healthy", "gluten free", etc. In retrospect, I wish I'd made better labels to organize recipes by course or type (e.g.starters, baking, splurges, dinner-party ideas, etc.). I like using gmail for recipe organization because it's available remotely---I can easily search for a recipe on my phone while I'm shopping. And if my computer crashes, all is not lost.

                                I've also started collecting recipes on Pinterest, which is a type of virtual photo pinboard/gallery that someone else mentioned. I find it helpful when nothing sounds good---I can just log on and see what I've saved (or others have posted) that looks appealing. The only drawback is that there aren't many chowhounds on Pinterest (yet), so many of the recipes others share are heavily geared toward casseroles, cream cheese, and quick-n-dirty recipes. I'd love to see more foodies join.

                                Here's my "pinboard" so you can see what I'm talking about: http://pinterest.com/wrydcgal/

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                  The only warning I would give anyone planning to use online sites ... even Chow ... is that sometimes these places shut down permanently ... and then you have lost everything.

                                  There was once this fabulous huge recipe database, the name is escaping me now because they changed it once. Anyway ... one day ... poof. They were gone. It was really sad because this was one of the most extensive and interesting recipe sites on the web. The smaller the site, the more likely they go under.

                                  Sorry, to sound cautionary, but having been an IT manager, I learned sadly over the years that the spifiest software from a small comapny is often the least likely to stay in business long term.

                                  Which is worse than a computer crash. If you don't back up, you can usually go to a computer store and recover the data.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    A scary, scary thought!

                                    As I said above, I use a recipe database on my own desktop with an app for transferring it to my iPad and iPod. I was never even tempted by online storage even tho I never thought of the possibility of them going down. I just didn't want my DB to be limited to the contents of a single site. However, the same online sites (food blogs, Epicurious, magazines, newspaper food sections, etc) are terrific for providing formatted recipes that can be copied into my own DB.

                                    I find I rarely have to type in a recipe. But even if I do have to, once I do it's always there from that point on.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      I agree with you. This also happened to me, and I lost some of the very, very best recipes.

                                  2. I keep all mine in Word format. And backed up on a flash drives, because the recipes and notes are the most prized thing on my computer! I know, most people treasure family photos and all, but it's recipes for me.
                                    I don't like to cook with the computer, so I print one off when needed. The most used ones, I keep stashed in a 3 ring binder that's kept with my cookbooks.

                                    1. For recipes I find online, I save a virtual PDF scrapbook of recipes. In the Mac OS X print panel, you can add items to the PDF menu. I have a directory called Recipe File, that I setup to save recipe PDFs with one click from the PDF menu in the Print Panel. It's as easy as printing! These saved PDFs are then easily searched using Spotlight.

                                      When cooking, I revert to old school, and usually try to work from a hardcopy (printed PDF if its from online, or xerox copy if from a cookbook/magazine). In fact anytime I hit "Print" on a recipe, I've trained myself to also remember to "PDF->Recipe File" it at the same time, if I haven't already.

                                      1. I couldn't keep up with all of the paper copies of recipes I collected over the years, so after a while I scanned everything to PDF. Now if I see something I like anywhere on the internet, I print to PDF and file it. I also have word docs, xcel files, e-mails etc. The format doesn't matter to me as much as my naming system. I developed this to help me find stuff easily. It's something like this:
                                        (Protein) - (Ethnicity) - (cooking duration) - (resource) - (name of dish)

                                        An example might be: VEGG - Italian - 0015 - CHOW - Macaroni and cheese

                                        This tells me it's a vegatian dish, italian, takes 0 - 15 minutes to cook, I found it on Chowhound, and it's mac and cheese.
                                        Over the years, I've added some other search functions to it, such as FAM for family recipes, DIET to categories recipes when I'm trying to lose weight, or seasons such as summer so I can find recipes that are more seasonal. My wife rolled her eyes for years until she understoon my methodolgy. I can always find the recipe I'm looking for in about 5 seconds.

                                        I also use a free software called Find and Run Robot which you can download. With a few key strokes, it finds my recipes based on my naming convention.

                                        In the mood for Chinese tonight with not a lot of time? VEGG - Chinese - 1530 will pull up every recipe I have for vegetarian chinese dishes that take less than 30 minutes.

                                        If you file electronic, make up your own system and you'll be glad you have a fast way to search for recipes.

                                        1. I have a large folder filled with hand-written recipes, newspaper cut outs and magazine pull outs. It's not alphabetical or colored coded or organized in any way.

                                          I also have a small notebook with written recipes.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: rockability

                                            How do you ever find what you are looking for?

                                            1. re: Mother of four

                                              Honestly, I have no idea. But I always seem to be able to open up the folder to just the right spot. It's an organized mess. :)

                                          2. umm.... 3 x 5 cards in an old wooden card box. No, I'm not 100 years old. I do this because my cooking mentor did (still does) this.

                                            I have some bookmarks on the computer, but if it's something I like, I make a card for it. Most cards are "ideas", with ingredients but no measurements (except for the breads/baking section)

                                            AND- if it's something I decide I don't really like after all..... I (gasp!) throw the card away.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                              What was the name of that site we used for a COTM a few years ago? I think it started with an L and was a compilation of recipes from all kinds of different pro chefs. I tried to search COTM but gave up because I'm too lazy.

                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                oakjoan, that's http://leitesculinaria.com I'm surprised you haven't bookmarked the COTM archive page, so you can access it all: http://www.chow.com/cookbook_of_the_m...

                                              2. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                Looking at this thread I am astonished that so few people use a card file. Mine has been active for nearly sixty years and hasn't crashed yet. Works every time during a power failure, too.

                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                  There is a sad thing to computerized recipes.

                                                  After people are gone, there will be no little box or notebook found by relatives or at a yard sale of someone's treasured recipes. Who is going to know someone's password or even take to the time if they do to look at what they left of the pc.

                                                  On the plus side, if people publish them on line and make them public, a larger audiance can share those restaurants. I did that with one treasured recipe from my mom passed to her from her mom ... etc. People did steal it and claim it as their own. However, that is ok with me. The recipe lives whether or not its DNA is known.

                                                  One of my favorite Chowhound posts was this woman who shared a family recipe

                                                  Mom Mom's Red Velvet Cake/Butter Cream Icing

                                                  1. re: Querencia

                                                    You should still back them up. Card files can be lost in disasters. They might last longer on cards, but cards can burn.

                                                    I don't use cards -- because me and paper do not get along. I find computerizing them great since I can include pictures, send a copy to relatives with easy (including a copy of the entire set of recipes) - which is another form of offsite backup.

                                                2. I have everything stored on my Mac in folders. The one's that I use the most I email over to my iPad as that is what I use in the kitchen. I store my recipes on my iPad in Pages in folders. Works great for me.

                                                  1. I use Evernote (a free program) to "clip" recipes from the internet as well as keep track of ones from other sources. I like that I can tag them with whatever tags I'm likely to search with, and even keep folders for recipes I've tried (and added a rating tag) and one for recipes to try. It backs things up online and is free up to a certain amount of monthly additions. I really like it.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: sarahjay

                                                      I'm another Evernote user. It's nice because it's multi-purpose so I can have my recipes and my shopping list and anything else I choose in one place. It's basically my brain stored somewhere else. The nice features are full search capabilities, apps for all my devices so I have it anywhere, sharing content with others, multiple media types (video, audio, pictures, pdfs), I can export contents and back up to my own disk, I can print the notes out when I want to cook a recipe.

                                                      It has way more features than I use but these are the basics. I'm not interested in capturing nutrition information on a recipe (usually) so this works fine. If the recipe is on a website I can just grab the entire page or copy & paste content out and link to the original.

                                                      It's ideal for me.

                                                    2. I've been using MasterCook ever since it came out for 3.1. I now have 11 and I still love it. It's easy to import recipes from the Internet plus I have no problem scanning recipes into the program. It has a great search function, and a great filing system. As I try a new recipe I can make notations and then if we like it, move it into a cookbook of "tried & true" recipes.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: HBGigi

                                                        TopTenReviews has comparative reviews of recipe software at http://cookbook-recipe-software-revie...

                                                        A year or two ago (when I was selecting software to use), TopTenReviews' top 3 were MasterCook, BigOven Deluxe, Living Cookbook. I tried all 3 and chose Living Cookbook.

                                                        This year, the order is Living Cookbook, MasterCook, Cook'n with Betty Crocker Deluxe... with BigOven not listed at all. Maybe they've decided BigOven is in a different category (it's perhaps more focused on the iPhone app and website).

                                                        TopTenReviews also has reviews of Mac software at http://cookbook-recipe-software-revie...

                                                      2. macgourmet

                                                        and I back up my computer so I don't have any worries about losing my files.

                                                        1. And you didn't back up your files, why?

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: rasputina

                                                            "And you didn't back up your files, why?"

                                                            I simply was not as smart as you were at the time. Fortunately that has changed.

                                                          2. Card file. Quick, easily at hand, can move card to kitchen counter while I work, easy to add to, no problem if someone else is on computer when I want to cook.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                              Hard copies should be backed up as well. If you have a kitchen fire, or some other disaster, you won't want to lose your recipes.... for a lot of people it is like losing a part of yourself

                                                            2. I forgot to add that most of my favorite recipes are in a Tastebook ( www.tastebook.com/ ) I made one for my mother and one for my sister when she got married and we really like them. All the recipes we use most in one place. You can also access the recipe's you've entered online, so I gave my littlest sister my login when she moved out so she can get family recipes all the time

                                                              1. I use Pinterest. I'm a very visual person, so I need the photos. And, I get most of my recipes from websites/blogs etc anyway. I don't have a ton of cookbooks but I'm working through mine by googling for the recipes I have marked in my books, then pinning them to the appropriate pin board. Same for magazine recipes I find. I have different boards for different types of food, and once I've made a recipe, I move it to one of two boards... tried and liked, or tried and didn't like, along with my notes.

                                                                In addition to the photos, I like that I can access it from anywhere. I do most of my meal planning while I'm at work, so I have all my recipes wherever I have internet.

                                                                1. I use MacGourmet software which I find to be pretty darn good. Only thing I would really like changed is that I would prefer to have the option of multi-lingual names on the same recipe (English name, and Thai name). I have a copy of that macgourmet file in several drives, locations and devices.
                                                                  - two different hard drives in my main computer
                                                                  - a copy on my iPad (MacGourmet for iPad)
                                                                  - a copy on my iPhone (MacGourmet for iPhone)
                                                                  - and a copy uploaded offsite (currently dropbox). I just copy the file into another directory and dropbox syncs it offsite.

                                                                  Computerizing the recipes gives me the option for backups (assuming one takes the time to worry about that) - paper might last longer but it can burn as easily as a hard drive can crash. Hard drives have a "mean time between failure" (i.e. it will eventually fail). A hard drive will usually last 5+ years, but it could crash sooner.... or you might accidentally delete things.

                                                                  It is great having a copy on my iPhone.... if I am out shopping and feel like cooking something I can double check the recipe on my phone to make sure I have all the ingredients.