I need recipe software that doesn't suck!
November 26, 2006 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find recipe and shopping list software that doesn't suck?

I know there have been questions about this before, but the two leading contenders from last question, LivingCookbook and Now You're Cooking, both fail in several of these categories. LC is closest, but sucks in many ridiculous ways.
I need three main things:
  • An easy method of manually entering recipes and linking ingredients to USDA nutritional info.
  • The ability to made a shopping list from a collection of recipes.
  • The ability to write a meal plan using those recipes.I rarely use recipes from a book or website, and if I do, I usually modify them beyond all recognition. In order to easily enter my own recipes, the program must be aware of every english and metric measurement that exists and be able to convert among them. It must intelligently parse entries such as "1 bell pepper", by offering options which map onto USDA ingredients, rather than making me type in peppers, sweet, red, raw, whole.Then when I go to generate a shopping list, it should combine ingredients across recipes and convert ingredients originally entered using different units into the same unit, and round those up to the nearest whole unit of purchase, such as a jar or bottle .Finally, it should know that if I go shopping on Sunday, and have roast beef and flounder on monday and tuesday, to add the items shopped for to my inventory and to subtract them as as the week passes.

    I don't care about downloading or screen-scraping recipes, importing stuff, or the ability to store pretty pictures. I just want something that doesn't make data entry laborious and shopping list generation cumbersome.
  • posted by Mr. Gunn to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
    I suspect that you are pie-in-the-sky dreaming, here. I've been checking out recipe software for years now, and I will be very surprised if someone comes up with something that fulfills all of your needs, especially the way you want it to tweak your shopping list.

    That said, I feel the best recipe software out there is MasterCook.

    It does offer nutritional info, though does not offer links to USDA info as you desire. It does allow you to make shopping lists, but I highly doubt it rounds up over multiple recipes. I can check this kind of thing when I'm on my other computer, where MasterCook is installed, but I throw it out there as a possibility knowing full well it's not going to meet every one of your requests.

    It's $20, but looks like you can download it for 30 free minutes and check it out, should you wish.

    And if you do find the ideal software you sketched out here, wow! I would buy it.
    posted by GaelFC at 7:57 PM on November 26, 2006

    Best answer: I'm afraid I haven't tried them myself, but last month's issue of Real Simple magazine suggested Big Oven and Cook'n. It looks like Big Oven has some of those features, at least.
    posted by cabingirl at 8:02 PM on November 26, 2006

    My mother loves MasterCook. I have yet to find a freeware recipe program that I like.
    posted by IndigoRain at 11:24 PM on November 26, 2006

    Response by poster: Well, the only suggestion that offers a free trial, BigOven, looks OK, but still can't generate a shopping list without listing "1 C. cream" and "8 oz. cream" as separate ingredients. Hell, it thinks "cup" and "cups" are different units. Maybe they should stop offering the free trial so no one gets to find out it sucks until they've already spent their money.

    Is it really asking that much for a program to know that 28 grams is an ounce and 8 ounces is a cup?

    LivingCookbook, with all it's failures and Windows 3.1 aesthetic still remains the winner, unfortunately.
    posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:04 PM on November 28, 2006

    Response by poster: Oh, and BigOven reveals itself to be nagware...
    posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:05 PM on November 28, 2006

    BigOven is free for 30 days, but then it's a $29.95 purchase. See www.bigoven.com for the download.

    BigOven is in version 1.x, and has the following features:
    * Import in a single click from over 160,000 recipes in the archive
    * use click-and-highlight Screen Import to import any recipes from text
    * Tag any recipe, search by tag, ingredient, cuisine, etc.
    * USDA nutritional database included -- link up ingredientlines and BigOven will calculate nutrition facts for any recipe
    * Email recipes to others
    * Build a "Try Soon" list of recipes online and always have it available
    * Create shopping lists by dragging and dropping recipe cards, or create them from your meal plan
    * Create a meal plan for days, weeks, months, by dragging and dropping
    * Search recipes by what's in your fridge (e.g., our Leftover Wizard, online version here)

    ... more

    BigOven isn't free. Like virtually all other shareware, it does indeed ask you to purchase during the free 30-day trial. Cheers!

    - Steve (CEO & Founder, BigOven)
    posted by stevemur at 8:28 AM on November 30, 2006

    PS: Responding to the post above...

    Yes, it's absolutely true that BigOven doesn't collapse various ingredient sizes in the shopping list. It does however group those items on your shopping list automatically by aisle...

    With all programs, we had to make a decision on how to allocate our time. Believe it or not, the #1 feature requests have been related to recipe discovery and recipe sharing in the first version, so that's where we've focused.

    It does mean that you will get shopping lists that look like:

    1 c cream cheese Dairy
    8 oz cream cheese Dairy
    3 tablespoons Cheddar Cheese Dairy
    Milk Dairy


    This simplification allowed us to pack a lot more features into version 1.x, such as the ones listed above, plus mobile companion support (Palm/Pocket PC), and more.

    This anomoly also relates to the fact that we let people browse and one-click import from over 160,000 recipes from around the world, and everyone writes up the ingredient list differently.

    Is it possible to program in what "oz.", "c","cu","cup","cups", etc. all mean? Sure! But we elected in the first version to drop this summation in favor of getting a lot of other features packed into the product.

    It was our judgment then (and still today), that, all things considered, you'll have enough to know what to get at the store.
    posted by stevemur at 8:35 AM on November 30, 2006

    Response by poster: The nagware comment simply referred to the fact that the X in the upper right corner doesn't close the program, but rather shows a registration prompt that you have to respond to. Not a huge nag, all things considered.

    I totally get that this program is designed towards sharing and searching recipes, which for a 1.x version it does pretty well.

    I was being somewhat iconoclastic, because my desires are probably far removed from what the majority of people probably really do want. I could care less about searching for or sharing recipes. The only recipes I use are ones I've made up myself, or some that were inspired by a recipe I saw somewhere, then altered beyond all recognition. I just need something to manage my own collection, and something that will keep me from having to cross half the ingredients of a recipe added to a shopping list off the list because I've still got them in stock.

    Overall, BigOven looks pretty good, and in my correspondence with you over email, you seem to be super nice, as well, so I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next release.
    posted by Mr. Gunn at 1:42 PM on November 30, 2006

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