How do you organize your recipes?
September 12, 2021 5:50 AM   Subscribe

I was going through my recipes and I realize that I have a lot. How can I organize them better? I'm not looking for software or app recommendations, but I am looking at ways to make recipe storage, organization, and meal planning easier and more efficient.

I use the Paprika app for organizing my recipes and I am content with it. My problem is that it makes it too easy to save a recipe. Now I've accumulated about 1000, most of which sound plausibly good or useful, but many of which I've never made and may never make.

I want to organize these recipes somehow but I'm not sure how to even begin climbing this mountain.

I'm especially interested in organization methods that make meal planning easier and more efficient, with consideration for tried and true favourites but with space for working in new recipes from time to time.

Any advice or experiences--from collection and culling through to sorting, organization, and planning itself--is welcome!
posted by synecdoche to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I hear you. (I wrote about this in my last newsletter.)

One thing that has helped me: If a recipe is less than 5 stars, I ditch it. Life is too short and — what? — someday I'm going to feel like eating a 4-star recipe when there are 5-star meals available? (There's an argument for saving them so that I'm not tempted to make them again but this hasn't been a problem for me.)

I use Paprika, too. The things I've found most useful in organizing are tagging by meal type (breakfast, dessert, etc.), by recipe source (NYT, Smitten Kitchen, etc) and by season. That said, I most often sort by recently added and am most likely to make something near the top of that list.

If a recipe has been in the app for months and months — or longer — I usually cull it. Experience has proven that there's no shortage of new recipes flowing into the app.

Using the meal calendar in the app hasn't worked for me; I can't get more than four or five days into it before I want to make something without a recipe or something that appeals to me THAT day that I wasn't thinking about five days ago, or something based on whatever arrived in the produce box.

I think some of this depends on how into meal planning you are and how inclined you are to work from a recipe vs. winging it.
posted by veggieboy at 6:17 AM on September 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Each time I made a meal I really liked over the past few years, I wrote down what I did on an index card at the end.

I store them in a small box with alphabetical tabs made for index cards, sorted either by name of primary ingredient (eg tofu), or name of dish (eg Pozole).

This process can be used both to build up or pare down a recipe list, as well as record the modifications that we often make. I especially like it because I don't need or want detailed recipes, and I like my own notes and sketches best, ymmv.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:25 AM on September 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

I copy the recipe on a larger lined post-it and store them in the appropriate chapter of my copy of The Joy of Cooking. Then when I'm actually cooking/baking, I stick the post-it to the cabinet above the stove so I can refer to it as I go.

I've tried several apps, since I get most of my recipes online anyway, but I hate scrolling on my phone or ipad with messy hands, and post-it is more forgiving. If the recipe ever does get unreadably smudged, I can always copy it out again (plus easy to add modifications/adjustments).
posted by basalganglia at 7:27 AM on September 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't know that this will translate to your saved digital collection, but I have a 3-ring binder with plastic envelope pages where I keep printouts or cutouts or recipe cards of recipes that I liked. Organized loosely by sections of mains, sides, breads, sweets,
posted by Dashy at 8:21 AM on September 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

My favorite organization tool is

It's a service, $3/month, that indexes both printed cookbooks and popular blogs; and combines the index with a good search engine. So say if you have a ton of cookbooks; AND ebooks; AND blogs you like. And you know you saw a recipe for, whatever, say chicken with apricots, but who knows where it would be? In your eatyourbooks account you've told it what books you have (this is easy and fast) and what blogs you read so it has a list. The eatyourbooks engine will show you the recipes for chicken + apricots either in your actual books that are on your shelf; or in the blogs you regularly read.

(It can also do a wider search to show you results from stuff you don't already own or read, if you want that for some reason.)

It doesn't return the whole recipe, as those are copyrighted, but it will show you the ingredients and the page # where you can find it on your shelf. Or if it's pointing at a blog it will link it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:12 AM on September 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

This isn't going to work for everyone but I was in a similar pickle but with my recipe pinterest folder. In the end switching to recipe cards helped me filter the list. Going through and hand writing out any I wanted to try onto an index card, it's amazing how when you have to hand write it out how many things you suddenly go no wait I don't actually really want to try that. It also helped me find out just how many doubles or similar enough to each other recipes I had. I whittled down a few hundred recipes to maybe 50 using this process (done in the evening while watch movies over a few nights).

Then I cooked my way through them over a few months, threw out the duds and wrote anything I wanted to keep up on a proper recipe card and stuck it in my recipe box, which I have organised by meal type, then main ingredient. Meal planning is flipping through the box and pulling out the cards that sound good or use something I'm trying to use up and then making up a shopping list based on the cards.

Took me about 3 months to do from beginning to end. All new recipes have to now go through the can I be assed to even write this down filter before they even get a try now a days.
posted by wwax at 10:13 AM on September 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have 2,466 recipes saved in Paprika, so I feel your pain. Strategies for making sense of it all include: favoriting my favorites (obvs); giving a star rating as often as I remember to (post-meal, spouse and I will often discuss how many stars a recipe merited); using the notes field to capture observations, improvisations, etc; adding recipes to the calendar when I cook them; and categories, categories, categories.

I have about 90 categories and subcategories, and use them liberally. A recipe might be categorized by cultural origin (e.g. Asian: Thai), meal (breakfast), course (side: hot veg), dietary concern (vegetarian: vegan), season (winter), occasion (Thanksgiving), main ingredient (fish), cooking method (pressure), involvement (project), among other axes. I have a "garden" category to highlight recipes built around the seasonal glut of tomatoes/cukes/zukes/etc. that my community garden plot generates, and a "family dinner" category to capture recipes that scale nicely and work for my extended family's quirks (e.g. not too spicy for grandpa, not too weird for the nephews, no bell peppers for the sister-in-law). Basically I try to throw as many categories at a recipe as I can, so that whatever constraint I'm under—be it time, ingredient, audience, or just what I'm feeling like—there's some way to filter for it.

Paprika is pretty magical at scraping recipe ingredients and steps, but it sucks at capturing the description. I make a point of manually copy-pasting the recipe description in, both to ensure I know why something sounded good enough to save, but also because it's searchable, so having a description can help surface aspects that just searching by name/ingredient/category won't.

I take a different approach to veggieboy in terms of rating and retention—for one, I don't award five stars to many recipes. Grade inflation is real, and we must fight it lest rating be meaningless. Three star recipes can be just fine, particularly if they serve as structured jumping off points for improvisation. And it's important to me to keep those one- and two-star recipes around because if I thought it sounded good enough to save, but then cooked it and learned differently, I don't want to make the same mistake twice.

I don't tend to use Paprika's calendar as a meal planner, but I do try to add recipes to it on the day that I'm making them, so that I have a retrospective view. It's really nice to pull up a recipe and see the "last cooked on" date, or to flip back to September 2020 on the calendar and see what I was cooking in Pandemic Autumn Year One. The Menus feature, on the other hand, just gets in my way—I wish I could remove its icon from the interface.

If you're only using the phone or tablet version of Paprika, I would encourage you to get the desktop version as well. It's entirely worth it for the ease of working with recipes.
posted by mumkin at 12:27 PM on September 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Using Paprika in particular, here's my organizational structure (not optimal, but as good as I've gotten it so far). Of particular note, you can do subfolders, and you can also use them like tags.

# Cooking Type
-- Baking
---- Bread
-- Braising
-- Crockpot
# Meal of Day
-- Appetizers
-- Breakfast
-- Drinks
-- Party
# Meal Prep
-- Marinades
-- Sauces
-- Spice Mixes
# Primary Ingredient
-- # Meat
---- Beef
---- Pork
---- Poultry
---- Seafood
-- Beans
-- Cheese
-- Egg
-- Potatoes
# Regional Cuisines
-- African
---- Moroccan
---- Nigerian
-- American
---- Fast Food-alike
---- PNW
-- Asian
---- Chinese
---- Filipino
---- Indian
-- Barbecue
-- # Clusters
---- Family recipes
---- Sourdough discard

(all subcategories truncated for space)
posted by CrystalDave at 12:56 PM on September 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

For dinner recipes, I'd tag everything dinner-try and then make a new one each week or so. Then if it is a keeper, change that to just dinner. Same for other categories, bread-try, cookie-try, etc. I agree with either deleting the ones you don't like or rating them lower and noting the problem. If you ever run out of new options, you can go through them or look for new ones.

One of my issues is saving more than one recipe that is basically the same. So, when you go through the options for something to try, look for similar recipes and either combine them or deduplicate.
posted by soelo at 2:57 PM on September 12, 2021

I also use Paprika. But, I only put a recipe into Paprika when I'm about to make it, so Paprika stays a repository of recipes I have made and revisit. Otherwise, I store all my saved recipes elsewhere (used to be Evernote, but I'm moving to Obsidian). In both apps, I organize by recipe type (entree, appetizer, snack, dessert, component (something that would be an ingredient for another recipe but isn't eaten on it's own), condiments, etc). I also use tags to give me further hints to find things later.
posted by miscbuff at 4:56 PM on September 12, 2021

I am not familiar with the app. We have our recipes on paper for the most part - but I want to share one organizational thing we do which might be useful to you. We have a category for recipes we haven't tried yet. In our case, the "category" is a folder a different color than the others, which are all the same color. We don't move a recipe from there until we have tried it once or sometimes twice.

This helps keep us from filing recipes we will never use again.
posted by TimHare at 9:02 PM on September 12, 2021

« Older But is it *actually* an MBA.?   |   What covering dims LEDs well? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.