Picture this: Binders of all shapes and sizes stuffed with recipes. Handwritten recipes on paper, cards or even scraps of napkin, recipes printed off blogs (with due credit of course!), recipes yanked from glossy magazines (Alive Magazine now… and maybe Cooking Light back in the day), and of course the occasional typed recipe…
Some of the binders were literally bursting at the seams because there were so many recipes that inspired me and that I couldn’t wait to try.
That used to be my life… and you can imagine what my kitchen looked like.
I had lots of recipes, meal ideas, meal inspiration. What I didn’t have was one easy, convenient and most of all, searchable recipe catalogue.
And I so desperately needed one!
Now I have one, so let me tell you about one of my favourite tech secrets for saving, searching, tagging and actually using the recipes I collect. Basically my system makes building a recipe library quick, simple and fully searchable.
Several years ago I started using Evernote and it’s the kind of tech solution that can change your life. Like the My New Root’s Life-Changing Loaf of Bread recipe, you could go so far as to say that Evernote, for me, was life-changing.
I now use it for so many things; the list is truly endless: cooking products or nutrition services, food research, quick access to tech tutorials or how tos that I reference often and still can’t remember (e.g. how to take a screenshot on my Mac… it’s true), business advice, inspirational news articles to read or videos to watch (copy the link from YouTube or wherever), digitize business cards, add cookbooks for saving/reading later… on and on.
I have documents attached to my To Do List folder (everything else goes in Asana, my other life- and sanity-saving software program, we’ll talk about that another day though.) There are even Presentation (slide shows) and Discussion (chatting/collaborating) options within Evernote. Basically you can store everything and almost anything that counts as content.
Anyway, it wasn’t until I was on the verge of starting the Culinary Nutrition Expert Program that I realized I had to get my recipe box, online and offline, organized into some semblance of a system… if not, there is every reason to believe I could have been buried alive amidst all my recipes.
It wouldn’t have been pretty.
Evernote was robust and seemed up for the challenge. Over time I have gradually improved my recipe organizer. Now that I have everything sorted and searchable, there’s no turning back!
Here’s my super simple guide to saving, storing, tagging, and searching recipes with Evernote:
1. Sign up and download Evernote (it’s free). You can get it here.
2. Create folders, called Notebooks.
3. Create Notes and add stuff. Copy and paste each recipe you’re keen to make into a separate note.
This might take awhile in the beginning, but if you make yourself an extra big pot of my sweet and creamy Iced Turmeric and Honey Chai Lattes, you’ll enjoy adding and sorting recipes until the wee hours of the night.
Baby steps though — it’s taken me years to get everything catalogued and sorted and I still find new recipes I want to add to my digital recipe collection every day! Another bonus for meal planning because it’s so helpful to have an arsenal of recipes to rely on when you’re starving and it’s 10 after 7 at night.
4. Next, you can tag your recipes with relevant keywords.
I don’t always do this, but I have tags for everything from “recipe-glutenfree” to “recipe-vegan” to “recipe-Appetizer” or “recipe-companyscoming” (for fancy recipes I wouldn’t make unless for special friends over to visit!) I even have a “recipe-CNEprogram” tag so I can easily find my recipe favourites from the CNE Program. You can tag your recipes however you like. I only use the prefix ‘recipe’ so I can separate these notes (and there are thousands) from my personal stuff and alphabetize if needed.
5. Perform a search. Find a recipe you’d love to cook. (It shouldn’t be too hard now.)
6. Make a recipe. Eat it! (If you like, add your comments within the recipe note about any changes you might make next time… it’s the digital equivalent of writing inside the margins of cookbooks. For some of us, that’s sacrilegious but to each his or her own.)
7. Stress less and enjoy a systematized recipe library that will continue to grow as your culinary skills do.
Things I love about my easy recipe-collecting system:
- My recipe box is always available wherever I am.
Have you ever been at the store buying groceries for a recipe and realize you forgot the recipe and your shopping list? Evernote on your phone, iPad or tablet to the rescue! (This happens to me all the time, more than I care to admit.) As long as you download the program or App to your desktop and/or laptop computers, iPad, cell phone, etc. your content is always available at your fingertips.
- You know where a recipe originally came from.
When you clip something off the web using the PC version of Evernote, it automatically adds a link to the Note details about where it was sourced from. On the Mac version, unfortunately you have to add the link manually.
- Target your search.
You can specify your search: search all your folders or just one. I have folders called “Recipes” (for other people’s recipes) and “My Recipes”. In here I keep not only my finished recipes but also any flavour combos, recipe seedlings or other recipe inspirations I’m testing out.
- Search the text that appears in pictures, PDFs, images and Office docs.
Although this is only available with the Premium version, it’s one of my favourite features and I believe it sets this system apart from others. Add an image or picture of a recipe (one from a magazine or your grandma’s heirloom cookbook) and the text is (usually) fully searchable.
So, when I type “asparagus” in Evernote, I’ll get a list of all my typed recipes but also any incidences of the word asparagus in any uploaded images or attachments. Very cool!
At a cost of less than $5/month (or cheaper if you buy annually), I highly recommend the Premium version. You get more storage, the ability to add larger files (I even add digital cookbooks) but most importantly for us recipe hoarders, you also get this amazing ability to be able to search your pictures or images for specific words. You also don’t need a data connection, which is perfect if you don’t have data on your phone or if you’re at the end of your limit for the month and at the grocery store wandering around like a lost puppy because you forgot your shopping list… happens to the best of us!
- Clip recipes quickly and easily.
As an added bonus, one of my favourite tools for clipping recipes or articles I want to read later in my “To Read” folder is Evernote’s browser plugin called Clearly. It essentially removes ads and other irrelevant content so you can focus on the text you’re reading.
So I click the Clearly browser plugin icon (it looks like a retro table lamp in your browser menu), the recipe shows up neat and clean, and then I hit the Evernote icon to save it to a folder.
Here’s a visual explanation that might help. At this point I’m assuming you installed the browser plugin and you’re already logged in to Evernote. If not, make sure to do those things first.
Here’s a look at a possible recipe from a blog post that you might want to store for later. (I recommend you do, my Creamy Kale, Hemp & Walnut Salad is delicious…)
Click the Clearly browser icon. (P.S. Click the screenshot to enlarge it.)
This is the same recipe without all the extra content (sidebar, tables, ads, or other funny formatting that could result in a messy copy/paste, etc.)
Then, just click the Evernote icon to save it to a folder. (P.S. Click the screenshot to enlarge it.)
There are other ways to clip online content but I like this because it’s fast, simple and SMART. It’s also integrated into my browser so I don’t need to open any extra programs.
My Clearly/Evernote recipe box system has become very smart as a result of some pretty rigorous training (I have nearly 1900 recipes plus half a dozen or more digital cookbooks – remember everything is searchable, even attachments and pictures with the Premium version).
Clearly usually knows to add the recipe to the Recipe folder and sometimes even automatically tags it with “recipe-breads”, “recipe-desserts”, “recipe-cookies”, etc. It’s not smart enough to recognize dietary or allergy preferences like vegan or gluten-free or dairy-free yet, but maybe one day if we’re lucky! It’s not perfect and you may have to make adjustments manually but it saves me a lot of time, especially when I’m browsing for possible recipes just based on what I have in my CSA box this week.
There are many cooking and food apps for saving recipes, some even include the ability to create meal plans and automatic shopping lists based on ingredient lists (although I haven’t found them especially accurate in the past.)
This is my favourite and this is not a sponsored post in any way. You know when you’re just so passionate about something and you want to save hundreds (two?) of people from the hassles and heartache you’ve gone through. That’s how much I love my simple, yet highly effective system for saving, storing, tagging, and searching my favourite recipes using Evernote. I thought you might like it too!
Have a question? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to help you.
Life is a plate… Eat up!