048 – Upgrade Your Recipe Management System

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Episode Summary

A look at little (or even big) ways we can improve how we keep our recipes organized. I’ll walk you through some things to think about when considering a recipe management tool and will also share about my favorite recipe app.


Items Mentioned


There is one task in life that every single human on the planet has in common, no matter who we are, what we do, or where we live, it’s figuring out what to eat daily. It’s a recurring question that will never go away.

When this episode drops, it’s smack dab in the middle of the holiday season – a time when we are not only asking our usual question of what’s for dinner, but we’re also planning all those extra holiday meals whether it’s a gathering for nibbles and drinks, making special food gifts for our students or friends, or planning full-out holiday meals – sometimes for a large number of people.

Since this podcast is about living life as an independent music teacher, from organizing our studios to getting dinner on the table, today’s episode – # 48 – leans toward the latter. We haven’t talked about this topic since episode 4 – dinner hour meets teaching hour – where I shared tips on meal prep and planning.

Today we’re going to chat about how to improve the way we keep our recipes organized. I’ll walk you through some things to think about when considering a recipe management tool and will also share about my favorite recipe app.

Welcome to the Piano Pantry Podcast where together we live life as independent music teachers. I’m your host, Amy Chaplin. In this space we talk about all things teacher-life related from organizing our studios to getting dinner on the table and all that comes between. You’ll get loads of easily-actionable tips on organizing and managing your studio while balancing life and home.

I want you to start by thinking about what recipe formats you use. Online recipes – cookbook recipes – or handwritten recipes – or a combination? Once you name your go-to recipe style, you can determine the best way to get yourself organized.

Let’s start on the old-school end. Sorry to those of you out there that still use hand-written ones. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I’m still going to use the term old school because with the online world now, well, you get it….

If you like the hand-written version, if you don’t already, consider condensing everything you have into one format – recipe cards or a written book. You might have to upgrade your storage unit, whether that’s getting a fresh set of recipe cards with dividers and a new fun storage container or a new book that will hold all of your hand-written recipes. Transfer all those single printouts or random hand-written recipes into one singular location.

If cookbooks are your jam, I wouldn’t be so concerned about organizing the books themselves (unless you have tons and tons, of course); it’s more about sitting down and coming up with a simple way of navigating through and saving your favorite selections without having to leaf through the book.

Purchase a really good set of heavy-duty sticky page tab markers (not puny post-its). Choose a set that has at least three or more colors. Write out a little key for yourself, such as pink tabs are mains, orange tabs are appetizers, green tabs are vegetables, and blue tabs are casseroles. Don’t feel you have to go crazy here with a gazillion categories. Consider what types of things you cook the most, and then maybe have one miscellaneous category tab. Keep it simple. Keep a stock of those same tabs you can use to regularly mark the pages in your cookbooks so you can easily navigate to them in the future. If you want to get crazy organized here, maybe even use a fine-point permanent marker to write the name of the recipe on the tab. Oohhhh!

If online recipes are what you do most these days, consider first of all if you are a one-or-two-site kind of person, like, say, do you tend to get most of your recipes from, say Food Network or All Recipes, or you have a membership to America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country. In this case, it might be easiest for you to use their app or website to save your favorites.

I would caution you, though, to only do this if you really do only get your recipes from one or two places. I’ve subscribed to America’s Test Kitchen for years. I used to save my favorites on their website but found myself never navigating to the site to retrieve past recipes I liked, bringing us to this final and my best recommendation of the day.

If you use primarily online recipes from lots of sites or even a combination of online recipes and your own recipes, your best bet is to find a program where you can save recipes from any website into one location AND type in YOUR recipes. So, the idea is you would transfer your handwritten recipes into a digital recipe so you can keep all of grandma’s recipes and all your newest recipes from your favorite websites in one location.

Besides the benefit of having everything in one place, it also makes all of your recipes searchable in one place. For example, one way I love to meal plan is to start with what needs to be used up. (Jump back and listen to episode number 32 What Your Refrigerator and stacks of music have in common). For example, if I have a half can of pumpkin puree in the refrigerator, in my recipe app, I type in the word pumpkin, and every recipe I have that uses pumpkin will pop up. If grandma’s pumpkin bread is in your hand-written recipe box, you may not remember it’s there.

This, I think, is the place where most of us get stuck these days. You might have a stack of recipe cards from family and friends over the years, a few favorite cookbooks, a hand-written recipe book that your bridesmaids put together for your wedding shower, and then all the online recipes you like which maybe you’ve simply been printing out and putting in a 3-ring binder over the years because you didn’t know how best to save them.

I KNOW some of you are chuckling and nodding your head because you have this exact scenario in your kitchen. Doesn’t it make you feel a little crazy? I went through this for several years until I finally made the leap into a recipe app.

At first, I started with an app called Pepperplate. What I loved about it at first is that I could download recipes from any website into the app and edit the recipe on my own as I liked and it automatically saved the link to the original recipe for future reference if needed. After a few years, I noticed the developer were not keeping it up to date, and it was starting to feel outdated. A quick search online confirmed that others were experiencing the same thing, and it didn’t seem there were plans for future upgrades.

A friend of mine had told me a year or two prior about an app called Paprika. I looked into it and liked what I saw, so I made the big switch and haven’t looked back. From what I can see, it is one of the app store’s most downloaded recipe management apps.

Today’s episode is not about reviewing apps or telling you that the app I use is the one you should use – even though it’s pretty great. What I do want to leave you with today is a solid list of features that to consider when looking for an app you like – essentially, these items are reasons that I fell in love with Paprika.

First, you want to ensure that you can easily import recipes into the app from any website via the share function on your smartphone or tablet from multiple devices. Another important thing to me was that I could easily save not just from my device but also from an internet browser on my desktop. For example, Paprika has a web browser clipper. It functions like an extension, but it’s called a “Bookmarklet,” I have it saved on my bookmarks bar. When you click it, it will automatcially save the recipe to your Paprika account. I posted a link to this in the show notes if you want to check it out.

If you browse recipes just as much from your computer as your smartphone, this makes it much more functional. Paprika also happens to have a built-in browser in the app, so you could actually browse recipes on the internet while in the app and then download them directly.

So, make sure it’s easy to save.

Second, you’ll want to be able to edit the recipe to your liking. At a minimum, be sure there is a place you can make notes for yourself. Paprika allows you to edit any part of the recipe you like once you import it – ingredients, images, instructions, categories, or notes. You can rate recipes on a 5-star scale and create as many categories as you like. The categories behave like tags so that you can put one recipe under more than one category. That recipe could show up under casseroles, pasta, Mexican food, or something like that.

Third, as I mentioned earlier, you want to ensure that the program will allow you to manually add recipes so you can include your hand-written recipes in this storage space.

The last big feature you will want to have available is some way of saving or pinning recipes for quick reference in the app, whether it’s a favorites category or pinning them to the sidebar or something like that. In my Paprika app you can mark your favorite recipes by touching a heart in the recipe. I only use this feature for recipes I’m making for the week – I consider this my meal planner. I then remove the heart after I’ve made the recipe. Since it has the ability to rate recipes I use that as a way of showing favorites.

The last three features are optional, depending on how your brain works and how you want this tool to work for you. That is… a grocery list feature and a meal planning feature. Most recipe management apps include these features anymore. I love the grocery list because when you’re in a recipe, you can click on the grocery list icon, which will bring up all the items from that recipe. You can select all items from the recipe you need to add to your grocery list, and it will then enter them for you. It will also show me on the grocery list which recipe the item is for. I have found this highly useful; for instance, when I have an ingredient I can’t get at the store, I know not to buy the other ingredients for that recipe.

Meal planning tools don’t work for me in these apps. I’m old school in this way. As I said earlier, I use the “favorites” button to save recipes I’m making for the week, and then I keep a little spiral note tablet in my silverware drawer where I write out a list of the meals I’m planning for the week. I like the tangible visual in front of me when seeing all the meals laid out. Most planners, though, can simply add a recipe to a calendar on the app and name it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner for specific days.

The last optional feature, which was a fairly big one for me, is a desktop client. Just as programs like Spotify, iCloud, Zoom, Evernote, Notion, iTunes, and such are accessible via your web browser and desktop or laptop computer app, I also like having an app for my recipe manager on my desktop. I work much more quickly from my computer than I do smart devices, and I love getting into my recipe app and organizing it right on my desktop computer.

While the Paprika app at the time of this episode is only $5, it does cost an additional $30 for access to the desktop client. You’re in luck, though, because right now, at the time of this podcast publishing, they have a 50% off sale, so you can get it for just $15, which is a one-time purchase, not an annual fee. Get the link in the show notes. By the way, I am not getting any kickback for this – just sharing what I love!

Finally, the cherry on top of some of these recipe management tools is tools like scale conversion if you want to double or triple a recipe, built-in timers, distraction-free screens, and step highlighters.

A distraction-free screen will keep the iPad from shutting off when you’re in the app, which is especially helpful when your hands have been touching meet, and your screen goes off, and a step-by-step highlighter will help you keep track of where you are in the instructions by tapping each step.

Save yourself a bit of the crazies when it comes to all those recipes you have everywhere. Recognize what format you use the most, up your organization strategy, and dedicate a little time to putting everything in place. If you decide to go with a recipe management app like Paprika, I’m confident you won’t regret it! Pick a system, be diligent and consistent with use, and find yourself feeling a little lighter and more put together as a result.

Would you do me a favor? I don’t ask this every week, but if you enjoyed this podcast, will you take a moment this holiday season to jump over to your podcast app to rate and review the show? It’s your rating that help the podcast to become more visible to other teachers. Your five stars and review is the biggest thank you can do for me this season!

Find me on Instagram at Amy Chaplin Piano or on Facebook at Piano Pantry.

Today’s fun fact is a food one and that is that I don’t like proteins mixed with fruit. Like lemon or apricot chicken, pork with apples, or turkey with cranberry sauce. Ugh. That is just one flavor combination that I do not support or understand. Thanks for being here and we’ll see you next week!