Actually Make All Those Recipes You Save
I’ve wanted to start blogging for a while now, but it just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the list. However, for some reason lately I’ve felt drawn to share this information in particular, even though it doesn’t directly have anything to do with running a design business or using design in your business.
So Many Recipes, So Little Time
At the beginning of this year, I started using a Cultivate What Matters goal planner. One of my goals this year was to cook at home more to save money, and actually eat during the day (sad I know, but I often didn’t get up from my desk for lunch, either out of laziness or busyness).
One of my other goals was to take care of myself better physically and mentally so that I can perform at my highest for my business and life—and getting better nutrition is a big factor in that.
The problem was, choosing recipes to make is overwhelming, time-consuming, and stressful. While I’m a veritable magazine hoarder, and I’ve been saving recipes compulsively on Pinterest for nearly a decade, we rarely actually tried new recipes or cooked at home at all. I’m not the kind of person who can eat spaghetti 5 days in a row either.
At one point I just saved every recipe I could find straight to my recipe management software. That didn’t solve anything. I basically just had a giant cookbook that I never looked at.
However, a couple months ago I arrived at a system that has been working very well for me, and it may work for you as well. Feel free to try out the whole thing or cherry pick the parts that are relevant to you and your lifestyle.
The Solution to My Recipe Woes: Google Sheets + Paprika Recipe Manager
There are two main components to my Actually Trying New Recipes & Cooking System. The first being Google Sheets. Why do I like it? It’s versatile, easy to use, and best of all, free. Most people have a gmail account at this point, and if you don’t have one, they’re easy enough to get.
You can either create your own Google Sheet, or use mine (available here).
I divided each meal category into a separate tab: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Beverages, Snacks & Appetizers, and Desserts. Each tab has four main categories: Recipe Name, Source, Date, and Link. Recipe name is obvious. For Source, I enter where I found the recipe, whether that be a blog, magazine, or somewhere else. The Date category mainly applies to magazines. I keep my magazines (at least for quite a while), so I use the date to be able to refer back to the printed version of the recipe when I decide to make it. The other option, if the magazine is active online, is to find the web version of the recipe, and then enter its link into the Link category. Obviously if the recipe is already online, I enter N/A for the date (unless one was provided, but for our purposes it’s not really contributing anything here) and paste the link in.
How I Use Paprika Recipe Manager
The next component in this system is using a recipe manager. Personally, I think the absolute best one (as of May 2019) is Paprika Recipe Manager 3. They’ve been tweaking it for several years now and it is nearly perfect. It’s available for iPhones and Androids, and there is also a desktop app with versions for Macs and PCs. The desktop version costs $29.99, and unfortunately you do have to buy the mobile version separately for $4.99. It appears to be free with in-app purchases on Android but I’m not super familiar with Android so I could be wrong about that. I have both desktop and mobile, and you’ll see why further down.
So, it’s the weekend, and you’re ready to plan what you’re going to eat for the next week. You pull up your Google Sheet, and pick out some recipes that sound good. Copy their links into Paprika’s browser, then press the “download” button in the lower right corner. This should do most if not all the work for you in creating your recipe card, but feel free to change anything here that you’d like.
You might be wondering, why not just skip Google Sheets and enter the recipes straight into Paprika as you find them? My answer to that is, in my opinion, your recipe manager should be managing recipes that you already like. The Google Sheet helps keep recipes out that aren’t yet tried and true. Otherwise Paprika becomes a huge confusing mess of both tested and untested recipes, which is typically not going to speed up answering “What’s for dinner?” on any given night.
You also may wonder, why not just print out your chosen recipes and make a shopping list by hand? Well, keep reading and you’ll see!
Once you have all your recipes entered in Paprika, it’s time to make your meal plan! I do this by using their “Menus” functionality. This way, if I want to replicate the same meal plan in the future, I can just copy and reuse it. Paprika lets you name your menu, and choose how many days it will include.
Your most recently added recipes will appear on the right side, and you can drag them into the days. If your recipe makes 4 servings and you have a two person household, you can drag a recipe to multiple days to represent the leftovers you’ll have. This also works great if you’re meal prepping recipes to last several days.
The Grocery Store Is No Longer The Enemy
The next step is to create your shopping list. Now, you can get really anal with this and actually inventory the pantry items you already have in the Pantry section. I’ll admit that I have done this, but I will admit it’s a bit hard to keep track of. I do recommend adding at least the spices and condiments you go through very slowly and don’t want to buy multiples of.
Click on an individual recipe to open it. Then select the icon that looks like a shopping basket with a plus next to it. This will add its ingredients to your shopping list. If you see something you know you already have, feel free to uncheck it. If you’re not sure, leave it on and check for it before you go to the store.
Click the “add” button and repeat for all the recipes you’re making. Make sure it makes the amount of servings you want before adding the ingredients to the grocery list. For example, if a recipe only has one serving, but I want to meal prep it for the entire week, I will select “Scale & Convert” and scale by 5. This way it will enter in the amount of ingredients I need to make that many servings.
Once you have your grocery list you can arrange it by aisle or recipe—whichever makes the most sense to you. At this point you can either print the grocery list or use it on your phone in the store. I like to use my phone, because it’s way easier than trying to juggle a piece of paper and pen and check things off.
Now We’re Cooking! (That pun is totally intended FYI)
Prep your breakfasts, lunches and snacks if you want them, even dinner if you’re into doing that. Personally I only prep breakfasts and lunches, and we make dinner a couple times during the week.
If the recipe was a winner, then I rate them five stars in Paprika and add them to their relevant categories. If they weren’t so hot, I delete them! There are too many recipes in the world to make a gross one twice!
In conclusion, this all sounds intense, but it actually saves my sanity and so much time during the week. I promise it’s not hard once you get the hang of it. We’ve made well over 30 new recipes in the first half of 2019 because of this method. And you don’t have to try new recipes each week, you can choose ones you’ve already saved in Paprika. Or if you already have go-tos, feel free to enter those in as well. Over time you’ll have more and more winners to choose from, and it will only take you a couple minutes to conjure up a meal plan for the week.
If this blog post helps even one more person start cooking and eating more nutritionally and at home, it will have been worth my time writing it!
Note: I was not paid to say any of this by Google, Paprika or Tone It Up. I just genuinely feel they are the best tools to use for this purpose and wanted to share my method with the world! Also, huge thanks to Simply Quinoa for letting me use their recipes in my screenshots. Some recipes in the screenshots are from other sources, but the majority of them are from Simply Quinoa because we make so many of their recipes.