I read somewhere a couple of years ago, that on average, only two recipes out of any cookbook purchased are ever used. I glanced across at our bulging bookshelf kept exclusively for cookbooks and thought, “Guilty.”
What a waste! Then my father had to go into a nursing home (he was living with us) and like parents who have kids that go to kinder, I started getting sick from the daily visits. I wasn’t bad but I didn’t move far from the couch for a month. And I employed my favourite tool, MS Excel, to solve the problem.
I started buying flags and tagging the books, with a flag placed in the top right hand corner signifying a mid week meal (after work). The flag position became more sophisticated over time.
Then I created a simple excel spreadsheet, with categories across the top, and drop down lists for the categories.
Across the top my categories are:
|Meal Name||Name of meal from cookbook|
|Key ingredients||This is the hardest thing to get, say a seasonal item|
|Course||Probable first course that you would use it for|
|Secondary Course||Another option for the recipe|
|Purpose||Home, entertaining or BBQ – this alludes to the complexity of the dish|
|Vegetarian||For the veggie option!|
|Time Required||Weekday or Weekend, whether you can do it after work or weekend|
|Marinate||If you need to marinate it overnight – you need to be prepared|
|Cook book||Name of Cookbook|
|Author||Author of the Cookbook|
|Page||Page of the Cookbook|
|Comments||For once it’s cooked and you’ve formed an opinion|
So once I flagged my books, I would just input one book a night into the spreadsheet. I now have about 800 recipes (and a few more books to go) in my database. And the benefit is……
I’m looking for an entree on the weekend for entertaining friends, and I have figs in the fridge. You just filter the spreadsheet by the Key Ingredient column, with figs as the filter, and the available recipes come up! Have a quick look through and off you go!
If you haven’t used filter function in excel before, just google it – it’s really straight forward.
I also use data validation/lists for some of the columns. My list for each column is below…..
Then came stage two, which came about from a number of things……
- Both Lucas and I have cancer in our families and we decided we needed to eat less red meat and more vegetarian.
- I hate grocery shopping mid week – I’d prefer to be at the gym – it’s a waste of time and wasteful and leftover food.
- I wanted to use more of our cookbooks.
So I photocopied a stack of the recipes that had a tag on the corner and laid them out on the bench like this……
I then collected two veggie, one or two seafood, a chicken and maybe a red meat. Monday and Tuesday are veggie, and I try to pick something nice for Friday night. They all go into a folder with ten dividers. Each folder has ten weeks of recipes.
But you don’t need to do it all at once. I did one volume, then a second then a third. I am half way through a fifth. But the trick is this…. When you have photocopied a whole lot of recipes from one book (especially if it is a specialist book, such as Indonesian), then they will come through heavily in each volume. So when I did volume four, I also pulled out volume 1 and mixed them all up. And now we have great variety. I also try to plan for meals that might have an expensive item like creme creche. I used to buy it and use half and waste it. Now I make sure I have two recipes in the same week then I don’t have any waste!
I’ve got another folder full of recipes for work lunches (I like to bake something on Sunday night for the week) and all of a sudden, we are spending less, eating with more variety than ever, and saving time.
The WIP (Work in Progress) file has all of the recipes yet to be placed. The best thing is if you have had a dud meal (We are up to Volume 3 and only have one) then you just pull it out of the sleeve, throw it, and put in something from you WIP file!
We have never eaten better. The time investment is completely worth it. And we are getting value out of our cookbooks! This makes catering on the boat so much easier.