Digital recipe organizing solutions to love

Elaine recently asked Unclutterer:

I have a specific need related to paper management — recipes. I’d like to take all the scraps of paper with notes about recipes I have in books, torn out newspaper clippings, torn out magazine clippings, recipes from the inside of product packaging (like recipes on the inside of the cream cheese box) and get them organized digitally. It needs to be searchable, which is why I haven’t just done some sort of scanning thing … what thoughts/recommendations do people have?

Elaine, I know this problem well. When I was a kid, my mother used what I called the “fly paper method” of organizing her recipe clippings. If you had opened any cabinet door in our kitchen, you would have found soup can labels, magazine pages, newspaper clippings, hand-written index cards, and more, all taped to the inside of the doors. While convenient in that they were all in the kitchen, searchability was a nightmare. There must be a better way. And, in fact, there are several. The following are some digital options to consider.

Paprika. I’m tempted to start and end my list right here, because the Paprika app is such a nice solution. First of all, it’s available on many platforms: Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire, and Nook Color. (Prices vary based on the platform, but it’s just a one-time cost of $4.99 for iPhone to give you an idea of what to expect.) Also, the features are fantastic. It syncs via the cloud, so all of your devices can hold the same information. Entering a recipe manually is easy, and you can download recipes you find online with a single tap. It will generate a shopping list for you, and even sort it by aisle in your grocery store. Finally, the interactive recipe feature allows you to swipe an ingredient to cross it off when you’re done with it, and tap to highlight the current step you’re working on in the recipe. I’m sure you’ll love it (I do). But, for the sake of options, let’s explore a few more.

Plan to Eat. Plan to Eat is an app that focuses on what you’ll cook when, but also stores your recipes and shares them across devices. To get started, you enter your recipes manually. Then, you plan you week’s meals by dragging and dropping the dishes you’d like to make onto a calendar. Plan to Eat then makes a shopping list for you that appears on your phone. Plan to Eat is free for 30 days, then $4.95 per month or $39 per year.

Basil for iPad. I’m not sure what device(s) you’re using, which is why I shared two platform-agnostic solutions so far. However, I’ll go out on a limb and say, if you have an iPad, consider Basil. Not only does it store your recipes beautifully and offer a very capable search function, Basil understands that you might not use it forever. Therefore, it lets you export all of your recipes as plain text. They’re your recipes, after all. It also features timers and easy unit conversion.

Evernote. Not meant specifically for recipes, Evernote is a good candidate because it excels at two things: storage and search. Scan a recipe, add the appropriate tags, and, presto, you’ve got an excellent digital recipe book.

17 Comments for “Digital recipe organizing solutions to love”

  1. posted by Penguinlady on

    I have to recommend Pinterest, too. I used to keep magazine recipes, etc, but almost all of those are online now! If I find a cool recipe, I look it up on their site and Pin it. Easily searchable, your boards are categorizable… I love Pinterest.

    It does lend itself to digital clutter… But that’s another post!

  2. posted by Erica on

    I second Paprika. A very large number of the recipes I wanted to keep were available on the web and easily pulled into Paprika. For others, I actually scanned them and then cut and pasted them into Paprika. So, now, everything is in one place, and I can take it with me everywhere. I use it to generate grocery lists and then order my groceries online. That means I can plan the week’s meals (or just figure out what I need to make something I want) and then order the groceries while sitting in a waiting room or whatever. Love it.

  3. posted by Pat on

    If your recipes are mostly on individual bits of paper and you have more than you want to type up, I think Evernote is the way to go. You can scan or photograph all the paper and then organize it as you wish. True it won’t generate those nifty shopping lists, but neither will any solution where you don’t end up doing a lot of typing.

    l had a mass of magazine clippings. If I had had to enter them all, I would have never dealt with them.

  4. posted by Scott C on

    I used to collect recipes digitally. (well, I still do, but…) However, I found the best way to have usable recipes is to put them in my own cookbook document, print that out, and put it in a 3 ring binder in the kitchen. I also email that to my friends when they want some good vegetarian recipes to try.

    I definitely find this is one place that analog usage trumps digital.

  5. posted by todd on

    I would go the scanning route and use OCR to make the scans searchable. I can’t imagine manually converting all of those scraps of paper to some recipe app.

    You have options for getting your scans (PDF, I assume) searchable with OCR. Check to see if your scanner software has OCR capabilities built in. If not, it might be worth buying a license for Acrobat to handle the OCR for you. Google Drive will also handle OCR but I believe it’ll want to convert your files to Google Docs format, so you would lose any nice images you might want to keep.

    My scanner software has OCR built in so I just rip pages out of magazines, scan the page using OCR, and end up with a searchable PDF. Since I have Spotlight index my recipes folder, it’s easy enough to find recipes with a few key words.

  6. posted by Pat on

    I second the Evernote recommendation. Whether the recipe is on paper, online, or someone is telling it to me, I can easily file it and find it later. I have way too many recipes to be typing them all, especially recipes I haven’t tried yet.

    I scan, photograph, link, or type the recipe into Evernote . Then if I prepare the dish, I will photograph the result and include that.

    I print favorite recipes, put them in sheet protectors, and keep them in a binder for easy access in the kitchen.

    Oh, and I do have a few taped inside a cabinet door. The proportions for steaming and seasoning sushi rice, for instance. It’s convienient for frequently used, very simple recipes.

  7. posted by Kate on

    Pepperplate is awesome, totally recommend it. Easily searchable, easy to import things, syncs flawlessly

  8. posted by April on

    Plan to Eat lets you enter recipes in multiple ways, and manually entering them is just one option. My favorite option is the button you can install in your browser (by just drag and dropping), so that if you see a recipe you like online you just click the button and it saves it all for you automatically. Just as easy as an Amazon “add to wishlist” button or a Pinterest “pin it” button.

    I also appreciate that you can sign up for the trial without entering any financial information, so there’s no risk. And if your 30 days are up and you’re still on the fence, it’ll still keep your account with your recipes, so when you decide to sign up you don’t lose any recipes/have to re-enter them again.

  9. posted by Christy King on

    I keep my recipes in Word documents (different documents for different categories) and then keep that folder in Dropbox so I can access them anywhere.

    I rarely make recipes in their original format, and for me, this is the best tool for easy modification. When I cook with them, I pull them up on my tablet, which has its own kitchen-counter tablet holder.

  10. posted by Carla on

    I’ve started using OneNote for mine.

  11. posted by Crystal on

    Our site is similar to PTE, but it’s always free and we automatically calculate the nutritional information for you (a little reward for typing in your recipes, I suppose!) I wish we had a solution where you could just scan them in and we’d digitize them, but that’s unfortunately not the case (yet – we’re ambitious;))

    To piggyback on Penguinlady’s idea: you could use our recipe search engine to find the recipe you have on paper (if it’s from a magazine, we’ll probably find it) or to find a very similar recipe by typing in some specifics such as “salad with strawberries maple syrup and pecans” for example. If you can’t find it with our search but you find it online somewhere else, we also have extensions to save recipe from any site.

    Hope this helps someone!

  12. posted by Rebecca on

    Add me to the Evernote devotees – it doesn’t matter the source (online, paper, whatever) I can store the recipes, tag them in searchable ways, share them with friends and get them on any device. Perhaps not as pretty as a consistent format and certainly not going to create a shopping list for me, but I’m OK with that – I find it’s better for me to generate my own shopping list because it forces me to re-read the recipe beforehand and figure out the timing.

  13. posted by koalabelle on

    I scan recipes with my OCR software and save them into Notepad documents (takes up less room than Word documents). I have a folder with subfolders on my computer, and sort the documents by naming them: for example, “Vegetables–Brussels Sprouts–Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts.” I have hundreds of recipes stored this way. None of which I have actually tried. The ones I try that turn out to be keepers I copy into nicely formatted Word documents in another folder, adding appropriate illustrations, and also print them out and keep them in a file folder box. I prefer cooking from a printed copy. I’ve attached a lucite holder for 8.5 x 11-inch papers to a cabinet door over my counter, and can put a recipe there at eye level while working. Each to his/her own, I guess!

  14. posted by Caroline on

    I use Evernote in conjunction with the Evernote Food app for iPad. It caches the contents of your Recipes folder for offline use (handy if you’re away from home with no wifi), it’s searchable too

  15. posted by Jeanne Thelwell on

    I’ve used MacGourmet Deluxe for about 5 years. It includes meal planning capability. I wish their mobile app was available for Android.

  16. posted by Stephanie on

    I use Paprika. It is seamless across a MacBook, Android tablet and iPhone. When I initially started using Paprika, I had a scanner without OCR. I found someone on oDesk to type them up for me so that I could paste them into Paprika. It was an inexpensive hourly rate and definitely worth it. Although I should encourage you to really cull through your recipes and only enter ones you love! Otherwise it just becomes digital clutter.

  17. posted by Maddashin on

    I have been using Paprika forever! It just keeps getting better snd better! There is no way you need anything else!

    Evernote always! Then their Scanbable app is AMAZING! Yes, you can scan in the apl itself but not as fast. I just scan into my default and go back and file. Then their food app is also amazing!

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