Food & Fitness

Dozens of cookbooks and not a recipe to make!

Sound familiar? Over the years, through blogging and gifts and my own purchases, I’ve amassed quite a nice little collection of cookbooks. I probably easily have more than 50 cookbooks in the house (and that doesn’t even include the ones that Mr Science owns!)*. And yet, so often, we find ourselves returning to old standbys (mostly because they’re delicious, dammit!), or looking up recipes on the Internet.

Somehow, we seem to forget about all of the great (and very different types) of cookbooks that we have. Or maybe we don’t necessarily forget about them, but it just seems easier to type an ingredient or a vague recipe idea into Google, and have pages upon pages of results at our fingertips.

Because of this (and because I have an obsession with organizing and find it to be immensely fun**), I’ve decided to make a comprehensive database featuring some of our little cookbooks in Excel spreadsheets.

What a Homemade Recipe Database Looks Like

I decided to start with my raw food books first. It seemed like an easier task to begin with, since most of the recipes are pretty basic and ask for just a few ingredients. I created a spreadsheet with a section for the type of meal, the cookbook name, the recipe name, the page number, ingredients included in the recipe (not amounts, just the ingredient names themselves, to make it easy to find using the Find feature), and an additional Notes section which outlines if that recipe goes well with another recipe in the book, or if there are variations that can be made with the ingredients.

Why a Recipe Database is Awesome

Creating a little database is a really great way to see all of the recipe names and ingredients on one page, and to quickly search for specific ingredients without having to open five different books and scan the index and multiple recipes. It’s also useful for cutting out the recipes you aren’t interested in.

A lot of raw food recipe books, for example, feature coconut as a prominent ingredient. I love the smell of coconut, but I’m not a big fan of the taste. This means that I can pretty much eliminate 90% of raw food recipes that include coconut, since it is often the base of such recipes. It saves me a lot of time to just not bother including those recipes in my database so that I don’t even have to see them and make that decision to pass over them. Recipe databases keep everything much more simple and get you the information you want and need very quickly.

Things to Think About When Creating Your Very Own Recipe Database

First, how many cookbooks do you have? If you have 50, I’d recommend not including every single one of those in your Recipe Database. Or at the very least, start with your first 20 favourite books, and work from there.

Second, are your cookbooks easy to categorize? I have a number of raw-specific books, but that’s about where it ends. Then I just have a smattering of vegan cookbooks, “clean eating” cookbooks, environmentally-friendly cookbooks, paleo cookbooks, gluten-free cookbooks, dessert cookbooks… the works. It’s fun because there are so many different options (I could go on a different diet every day of the month if I wanted to!), but it also means that they don’t easily fit into specific categories of spreadsheets. This is something to take into consideration when you’re choosing which books to include (or how many spreadsheets you want to make).

Third, are there some cookbooks which just can’t be included in the Recipe Database? In my case, I’m choosing not to include Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, or The New York Times Cookbook, even though they’re two of my favourites, simply because they’re both so big and they both have so many great basic recipes that it would be impossible to narrow it down. Perhaps in the future I’ll create separate spreadsheets for each of those books – but that will be a very big project to undertake.

Do you have a Recipe Database? Do you prefer to look through cookbooks or find recipes online? How do you find recipes most efficiently? Share in the comments section below!

*Of course, one can never have too many cookbooks!

**Seriously. Organizing and planning stuff is the best.


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