Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How to organize recipes: part three

Now that our cookbooks and paper recipes are neatly organized, we turn to...

Electronic Recipes

Recipes can be saved on the computer in a variety of ways. They can exist as a document file or pdf, in the form of recipe database software, or as a bookmark that takes you to a favorite recipe posted on a website like or Though these types of recipes are not exactly cluttering your space, a given recipe can be even more difficult to find on the computer than among paper recipes shoved in a drawer. 

Retrievability is the most important thing for electronic information. Here are the main things to keep in mind:

  • Database-style recipe programs will have their own search feature built in, and you shouldn’t have a problem finding a recipe that way. 
  • File-based recipes saved as documents should be labeled appropriately and stored in a recipe folder. How you label and nest your files and folders is up to you, but try to have them mirror your hard copy categories (discussed in the Loose Recipes post) as much as possible.
  • The document file itself should be titled the way you would look for the recipe, with as many pertinent keywords as you can fit. You should be able to visually scan your recipe folder and find the file you are looking for. For instance, a particular potato salad recipe might be called Potato Salad Mom's Low-Fat Recipe to tell you exactly which potato salad recipe it is.
  • If you save one long document with all of your recipes one right after another, you can use the search feature of your word processing program (command- or control-f) to find the recipe you are looking for. (I find this method gets unwieldy and don't use it).
  • You can also use the computer’s file search capabilities to find the file you are looking for if you search using the same keywords that are in the document or file name.
  • Online bookmarks can be done a variety of ways as well. I like the free social bookmarking application delicious for my recipe bookmarks, because it is easily searchable by keyword and it can be accessed from anywhere. I use delicious to save my recipes and tag them with basic keywords so I can see them all in one place if I want: “recipes, food, cooking.” Then I add others as necessary to help me find a specific recipe again, such as “lemon, madeleines, baking, cookies, tea cookies” for a madeleine recipe. 
  • I don’t bother with the “favorites” feature that many cooking websites have, where you can sign up for an account and keep track of favorites recipes through it. Retrieving a recipe would then require you go to that website, sign in, and access your favorites, rather than simple typing in a keyword to your delicious account and clicking on the link when it comes up. The only time an account would be really useful is if you are on a particular site a lot, and want to interact socially with the other users by leaving comments, etc.
  • Once you have found the recipe you are looking for on your computer or in your bookmarks, you can print it and take it to the kitchen, bring your laptop with you if you are brave enough to have ingredients near your keyboard, or you can call the recipe up on a handheld electronic device. I have an iPod Touch, so I can email myself the link to a recipe and call it up on the device once I'm in the kitchen. There are also recipe-related iPhone/iPod Touch applications that can be downloaded for free, such as's mobile app.
Now we've covered the basics of recipe organization, give your recipe collection some attention and let me know what works, and what doesn't, for you!

Screenshots from and 

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organization needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email 

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