Recipe Apps? A Digital Library…

In this day and age you would think that recipe apps would have been figured out by now but in my opinion they are still severely lacking. This got me to thinking about what is needed to make a good recipe app? What would I want in a recipe app?

Well for me the first thing I think about it being able to put in my own recipes easily. Well, OK, I want ONLY my recipes. To me it’s frustrating when I get an app and it’s loaded with recipes. Some apps let you delete them but that’s just as annoying. Since I spend hours finding recipes, making recipes, and refining recipes I want only the recipes I am working on in my database.

I think the idea of a digital recipe box is appealing for the reason it’s searchable. I mean I have a large cookbook library and it’s up to me to remember what cookbook has what recipe. If you’re library is small that can be ok but it’s still not helpful or at least as helpful as we would like it to be. Not only do I want to find a name of a recipe but more often I want to find an ingredient. Any good home cook knows that the most affordable way to feed the family is to minimize waste. So if I happen to have a couple extra celeriac roots in my refrigerator rather than letting them go bad I can just search for celeriac.

Another advantage of a digital library of recipes is you get to sort them to how it’s manful for you. Sort by season. Sort by ingredient. Maybe even just a master list that’s alphabetized. This brings me to my next thought. If I were trying to make a digital kitchen assistant yes recipes are the focus but there are tons of other things that could help. One thing I would love is every recipe title from every cookbook I have to be in one master list. Cooking isn’t just about my recipes but it’s about trying new recipes. I read a ton of blogs and follow lots of people on twitter and often there are new and interesting recipes I want to remember “for later” but do I? No, I usually forget.

My last issue when it comes to recipe apps is trying to meal plan and cook from the app. If I pick a salad, a main, and a dessert I have to navigate through my whole giant list of recipes to work on each recipe and most of the time I could cut down on the time I spend in the kitchen if I could multitask recipes.

I have tried cheap apps and I have tried expensive apps and I think I am coming to a realization as to what works best for me. I should say this takes a bit of work but the reward is so far paying off big. The best part? It’s already a fundamental part of any computer and or mobile platform. So what is it I have discovered is the best app? Simple. It’s whatever your word processor is. If you’re using a Mac it’s Pages. If you’re using a PC it’s Word. However, it’s HOW you use it that makes all the difference.

First off DON’T put all the recipes into one document. At first pass I did this. It only bogged down response time because of the size of the document. Instead after a few attempts at organization I have found the most meaningful use is to do each recipe as it’s own document and put them all in the same folder. Or better yet do a tiered folder system. Maybe the top tier is “Recipes” then have sub folders for courses or seasons, or whatever is meaningful to you.

All of todays word processing apps allow you to easily add pictures or even videos if you like that sort of thing. Then with cloud services this means that you have your recipes on all of your devices or at least easily accessible from anywhere any time.

I also created another document which is nothing more than a list of recipes I want to try. I put the name of the recipe, the source, and at least something that clues me into what drew me to this dish like a key ingredient or type of dish. Then when I am looking for something new I just go to that list which I also keep in the “recipes” folder and pic something new to try.

As for menu planning this gets a little more elaborate. I start with my menu calendar. I plug in what we are having for each meal for the week coming up. I pick a breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and a dessert. I have seasonal themes I am working with which gives me a bit more focus on what to put on the meal planning.


Then I create a “Recipe Menu”. I make a single document that I copy and paste just those recipes on to so when I go to do the food prep I have all the recipes together and ONLY the ones I am doing for that week.  This allows me to quickly work through all of my recipes and multitask as needed. Another benefit is that I can also look back and see what I did. This will make future menu planning easier as well as seeing over time the food choices we’re making.

This may seem like a lot of work but there is a lot of added benefit to doing this. By typing out the recipe I am sure to better understand what I am going to be doing and eliminate surprises. I also can tweak the recipe to either the tools or methods I have as well as converting all the measurements into weights. The last main benefit to this is that as I am cooking I can easily type any alterations I make directly into the recipe and not have to write it down and add it later or try to remember after the fact.

It’s not the easiest and it doesn’t do things like grocery lists and budgeting but putting recipes into a digital format as individual documents in a folder in the cloud is so far the easiest method I have found to managing my recipes. Best part is that I can search from anywhere and I don’t have to be in the app. This makes it even quicker and easier to navigate.

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