Organizing Those Recipes…Electronically

Recipe BoxI have to admit, sometimes I’m an old-fashioned girl. I love to read books and magazines on paper, I love cookbooks, and I love the simple process of writing down a recipe on paper with a sturdy pen or pencil. But in the day and age of the internet and “cut and paste” there simply have to be some options for electronic recipe storage. I can share a few options which I hold true to, but I hope that on this subject that maybe there are one or two people out there with bigger and better solutions.

The dilemma comes in as you’re cruising the net, looking at food blogs, or food sites, or you’re looking for a specific recipe. You find what you’re looking for, or something else catches your eye, and before you know it, in 15 minutes of surfing you have amassed ten new recipes you want to try. What on earth do you do with them! It simply doesn’t work to just bookmark them all, you could print them, but paper eventually gets lost. Instead, you can copy and paste. It’s where you paste them that is entirely up to you and your preferences.

One of the options I use is recipe organization software. In my case, I use Mastercook, a program that lets me easily import recipes from online. For Mac users I have heard great things about MacGourmet. With Mastercook the sky is the limit with how many recipes I can put in, and I can edit them any way I choose as well. I also love that it calculates nutrition information, and you can even set up pantry lists, shopping lists, and menu planning lists on it. The only caveat I have to this type of recipe storage system is the dreaded computer crash. I’ve lost my Mastercook recipes twice to computer crashes. Of course, now I back them up regularly, but you never really know when your computer is going to up and die on you.

Along the same vein, I know some people have used Microsoft Word to create their own recipe storage system. Microsoft Works even has a recipe database template available to help you out. Personally, I don’t like either one, they’re not as easy to use, and there is the problem there of the computer crashing as well.

So what is the best option? While I like my Mastercook program, to me the ultimate in electronic recipe organization is online storage. This way your recipes are not on your computer- doomed to be lost in a crash. They are also accessible from anywhere. Visiting family in Tahoma and someone asks about your favorite cake? In two seconds you caShopping Listn hand them the recipe from your online storage system. Obviously, I have made use of the idea of blogging as my virtual storage system. Each recipe in my Recipe Trove is an individual blog entry to facilitate easy searching. Individual recipes sites often have storage places where you can also store their recipes for future use. Recipezaar and My Recipes are two that immediately come to mind. Recently, I stumbled on a whole new project which sounds very fun to me. The Cookbook Tree allows you to create your own cookbook online, and then share it with whomever you would like. You can also coordinate with other people- I could see this being a great asset in putting together a family cookbook. It would be so much easier than mailing recipes back and forth, that’s for certain.

Something I’m clearly missing as far as electronic recipe organization is the idea of using a PDA for such a purpose. Obviously, it can be done, I see people doing so all the time. Myself, I don’t have a PDA, nor do I have a need for one, so I’m thinking I won’t be exploring this one anytime soon.

But what do I do with all these electronically stored recipes? Well, I’ll give you an example with my Mastercook. Something I’ve been doing for gifts for people for a while now is putting together a cookbook for them. A personal cookbook which has been tailored to their needs and tastes. When I am happy with the recipes in a cookbook, I’ll print the entire cookbook and slide the recipes into page protectors, and then into a nice binder. I do this for myself as well. My computer is in my living room, so when I’m going to cook, I need to print out a recipe anyways. I print it, use it, and then decide if it’s a keeper. Keeper recipes go into a binder. Non-keepers either get notations for tweaking, or they get tossed. Then I need to remember to remove the recipe from my computer…and quite often I don’t remember to do that one. There’s nothing more disappointing than cooking up a bummer of a dinner, and only then remembering that you’d already tried it once before.

That would be the one thing I need to work on most about my recipe storage. I am terrible at remembering to eliminate recipes, or simply going back and using some of the recipes that had caught my eye. I have four Mastercook cookbooks full of untried recipes from online, and how often do I go through them? Not nearly often enough. I will say though that online recipe storage has been WONDERFUL when connecting with other people. It’s so easy to have someone ask me about a recipe, and then I direct them to my blog or the website I got them from in the first place. And while I do enjoy an old fashioned cookbook or handwritten recipe from time to time, I would never want to be without my electronic recipe storage.

4 Responses to Organizing Those Recipes…Electronically

  1. JEP says:

    Erika…you are amazing! I always wondered how bloggers could organize & direct readers to specific recipes & info. Since family & friends aren’t beating my door down for my recipes or sources, I probably will stick with the old-fashion way–ha. Thanks for sharing your expertise today!

  2. Tamara says:

    Hi. I’ve been a reader (of tummy treasure) for a while and I had noticed that you mention mastercook periodically. I am considering buying it and was curious about something. I want to be sure I can keep my “recipes to try” separate from my “keepers” Is there a way to tag recipes? So that I could choose to just search among ones I have tried, or the new ones if I am looking for something new. Thanks!

  3. Erika says:

    Tamara with Mastercook, you can set up as many different “cookbooks” as you’d like. I use my different cookbooks as a way to mark the “to try” recipes. Mine are labelled “To Try”, “Baking To Try” and “Soup’s On” as far as the to-try cookbooks. Then once I’ve tried something I try to remember to move it to one of my tried-and-true cookbooks and out of the to-try ones.

  4. Diane says:

    I have a tip to help you remember to remove a recipe. Since you print and then try the recipe, instead of just tossing the paper copy and hoping to remember… write “REMOVE” on the paper, and then stick it near the computer, and don’t throw the bad recipe paper copy away until you delete it from your computer.

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