I love poring through cookbooks, especially when they have color photos and richly descriptive text.
But when it comes down to it, about 75 percent of the recipes I use on a regular basis come from the Internet. Betty Crockers of the post-modern world have a plethora of recipes at their disposal, but it’s easily overwhelming.
The Internet is a huge place, so how do you organize all the recipes you want to keep? There are almost as many systems to organizing URLs as there are URLs themselves, so there’s no one right way. But I like using systems I’m using anyway, instead of subscribing to a unique program solely for recipes or menu planning.
Whatever you use, the point is to keep it simple, easy to use, and helpful when you need that exact recipe in that precise moment. It’s such a pain to know you have a recipe somewhere, but aren’t sure where you saved it.
In my opinion, here are some of the most helpful ways to store recipes from the Internet.
I love Delicious. It’s one of the oldest bookmarking sites around, and its simple interface would almost have you believe it’s too archaic to use. But its simplicity is what makes it so great. There are no bells and whistles — just simple Internet bookmarking, with tags, the ability to share with others, and tools to help bundle what you find.
Let me explain how I use Delicious as my online cookbook. When I find a recipe I want to save, I click on the Delicious icon I have on my Firefox toolbar (Delicious bookmarks is an add-on). A window pops up, where I retype the recipe name in a way that makes sense to me.
Then I add tags. At the very least, I use the tag recipes, but then I also include any other tags that might help me find the recipe — chicken, pasta, and maindish, for example.
If I want to send the recipe to anyone else on Delicious, I toggle the “send” tab and select from my network of people. Sometimes I send this to my husband’s Delicious account, since he shares the cooking duties in our household.
I save, and that’s it. The recipe is now in my online cookbook.
Now, when I want to find a recipe in my cookbook, I keep things as simple as possible in my Delicious account by using its bundling feature. In the right sidebar of Delicious, go to the “Options” drop-down menu and select “Manage tag bundles.” Here, you can create a bundle — and in this case, mine is called “recipebox.”
You can select all the tags you want included in this bundle. Once you’re done, save it, and that’s it. You now have a bundle of recipes saved in one place, easily searchable by tags.
I personally haven’t done this, but I appreciate this idea because it keeps the inboxes of your life down to the bare minimum. If you use Gmail for your email correspondence anyway, you can use Gmail’s brilliant labeling and archiving system to keep track of your recipes.
Create a new Gmail address, and allow your main Gmail account to retrieve this new address. Then use the settings feature in your main Gmail to have this new address skip the inbox all together and go straight to archives. This way, you don’t even see your recipes in your inbox — you simply click on the label “recipes” on the left, and all your recipes will appear, in the form of emails sent by you, to you.
So when you find a recipe you want to save, email it to yourself. Email it to “tshsrecipes [at] gmail [dot] com,” for example (not a real email address, so don’t even try it…), and use a consistent format most helpful to you. Type the name of the recipe in the subject line, and include the link in the email body, perhaps.
Then when you click on this email’s label in the left-hand side of your Gmail inbox, you’ll see all your recipes, archives and waiting for you. You can then take it a step further and add labels to customize your recipe search.
3. Good ol’ paper and printer
Photo by Jessica Spengler
Yep, in this age, when I’m in front of the stove stirring a roux while steaming asparagus, I still ultimately prefer an analog cookbook. When it’s time to try a new recipe I’ve stored in Delicious, I print it.
After the meal, if my family decides it’s save-worthy, I place it in a clear sleeve and toss it in my recipe binder. In this binder, I’ve got tabbed files with your usual categories — breakfast, side dishes, desserts, and the like. It’s as simple as it gets.
I honestly use this binder more than any other full-color, glossy cookbook sitting on my shelf. I only save the recipes we love, so I know each one is a winner. And the clear sleeve means I can tack it to my magnetic strip next to the stove, and all the splatters just need a quick wipe when I’m done.
So for me, a combination of a digital recipe box and an analog cookbook of surefire recipes works best for me. There are plenty of options out on the Internet, but as usual, simple is usually best.
How about you — how do you store your online recipes?