Lucy’s without internet, and lately I’ve been without time, so we both feel terribly guilty about how very lame we are. However, while I’ve been too busy to cook much, and definitely too busy to cook well-thought-out recipes & take pictures, all this business has had a long-term benefit on my cooking: I’m getting organized. It started when I realized I had around 300 recipe bookmarks, with only the vaguest pretense of organization. There were a few folders, but most of the bookmarks just were dropped into the “recipes” folder. There were duplicates, triplicates & more. There were recipes intended for some specific purpose, a party or present or special dinner, that I’d long since forgotten their purpose. And this is just the online ones, and doesn’t count the recipe cards or dozens of cookbooks, most of which I hardly use because I can’t remember what’s in them. So here are a couple online tools that might help you out.
This one goes out to all the bookmarks out there. I read more food blogs than I should, so, as I’ve already mentioned, I have more recipes bookmarked than I know what to do with. Springpad is a general organizational tool: you can add notes, bookmarks, shopping lists, tasks, restaurants you want to go to, and, most useful to me, recipes. They have a web app, iPhone/iPad/Android apps, and browser-based options for adding and accessing information. You can add items one of three main ways: 1) Through a clipping tool or bookmark, which will tak the page you’re looking at and turn it into a bookmark, recipe, etc. 2) Search within their database, it contains both items shared publicly by other users and things that Springpad has added themselves. 3) Enter it in manually. You can add pictures, urls, and for recipes additional information like what kind of cuisine it is, what the main ingredient is, how long the prep/cook time is. And, when you decide you want to make a recipe you’ve input, it’s easy to copy the ingredients into a shopping list. For other kinds of notes, you can add things like restaurants, or wines, and with a simple click categorize by whether you’ve already tried it or it’s something you want to try.
Its usefulness extends beyond the kitchen: I’m also using it to plan an upcoming trip to Vegas, because it’s just so easy to add restaurants I want to try, sites I want to see, a packing/shopping list, tasks for before I leave, and all my flight and hotel info. You organize all your information into notebooks, and within each notebook, you can view it in a board set up, where you can add maps and all your links in post-it note style, like you would on a corkboard, and see your chosen information laid out visually. Of course, there is room for improvement: the clipping tool for Chrome doesn’t work perfectly, and thinks some recipes are just bookmarks, and there’s no way to change the type after you’ve made it. But they have great, responsive support, and seem to be excited to improve the tool: there seem to be new features and improvements all the time.
This tool is one that I’m currently keeping my eye on. It’s a simple, great idea: you search for the cookbooks you own in their online database, add them to a virtual bookshelf, and it provides an index of all the recipes in these cookbooks. So the next time you’re sitting around thinking “I really want to make chocolate cake,” but you don’t want to sit in a pile of all your cookbooks trying to figure out which have recipes for cake in them, and ultimately abandon the effort and look online. This tool lets you just go to the site, search your virtual bookshelf for “chocolate cake” and it will let you know which books have recipes like that in there, what page it’s on, and what the ingredients are. Or, if you’re looking in the fridge and don’t know what to make for dinner, you can search with your ingredients to get a little inspiration.
There are a few downsides. First, it is a pay site. It’s only $2.50 a month or $25 a year, so it’s pretty affordable (especially if you spend enough money on cookbooks you need a website to tell you what’s in them). Then there’s obviously the effort of having to input all the books in the first place, and they’re a relatively new site so they don’t have every single book in existence yet, but they’re working on it. It’s growing, so I imagine it will only get better, it could really use a mobile app. And if there’s more than one edition of a cookbook, they only index one. But other than that, it’s a cool idea, and can be really useful.
Anyone else have any tips or tools for getting their recipes, kitchen, bookshelves, or just your life organized? Leave us a comment!