Friday, October 15, 2010

The Great Recipe Roundup

Key idea: It might take a few steps to move you into using your ideal system.
Key idea: Sometimes it helps to have someone with you, helping you tackle the problem.

Congratulations again to Erin for being brave enough to enter my organization services giveaway! We got together recently to take a look at her recipe collection, which included:
  • A binder with neatly typed out pages (and the Word documents to produce them)
  • Cut out, handwritten and photocopied recipes that were loose in a pile
  • Recipes saved in random Word and PDF documents (some with mysterious titles)
  • A set of recipes and meal planning ideas in another computer program
  • A large number of bookmarked web pages with recipes and tutorials
Erin is a fabulous cook and takes pride in making tasty but uncomplicated dishes for her family and friends. In a short period of time, I quickly learned two things: (1) while there are a lot of great recipes to be found out on the web, it would be impossible to try every recipe that looks good, and (2) it might be possible to have too many enchilada (or pumpkin) recipes!

In trying to make sense of things, I tossed out a lot of ideas for Erin to consider, but not all of them fit her style. It is important for her to be able to identify what recipes she's already made versus the ones she wants to try. She also wants to avoid printing everything out. A few of the ideas that we brainstormed:
  • Creating a page for each recipe, then organizing each category of recipe by binder, such as Appetizers, Desserts or Vegetables. This way new recipes are easily be inserted without having to type and reprint.
  • Going to an all-electronic recipe system. This isn't ideal because of the limited counterspace in her kitchen. The laptop just intrudes on cooking space.
  • Organizing recipes by cuisine: Mexican, Italian, etc.
  • Only inserting recipes into the binder after they've been tested, and having a separate folder for ones to try. However, since Erin reads cookbooks for fun, this would have been almost as sizable as the tried and true recipe binder!
What Erin felt best about was an intermediate step. We hole-punched the paper recipes and inserted them in her binder by category. In this process, she was able to identify some duplicates, ones that she had already tried and didn't want to keep, and some that were printouts of electronic files (so we could get rid of one version or the other).

Then, we created folders on her computer for each category (Breads, Main Dishes, etc.). Her clean Word documents went into those folders, along with individual files for the recipes she wants to try. Finally, she went to all the bookmarked sites and copied/pasted into Word the recipes she wants to try, and saved those documents in the appropriate folders. Through this process, she realized she needed a separate electronic folder and binder for Mexican recipes.

Erin's next step will be to make some of the unfamiliar recipes from both her computer and her binder to see if they are worth keeping. As "keeper" recipes are identified, they will be moved into her master Word documents. She will reprint a category when there are enough changes to warrant new pages. This may mean expanding into a few other binders, possibly dedicating new binders to categories like desserts or main dishes.

While Erin was doing a lot of the copying and file management on her laptop, she commented to me that she wouldn't have been doing the work if I weren't sitting there with her. I saw that as a compliment; sometimes we simply need someone else to help us get going on a daunting project. That's why I started this blog: I love helping people get started or even just make small improvements to their organizational systems. The results are so fun to see!

I am proud of Erin for tackling this project. Maybe it's like the Swedish proverb: Shared joy is double joy. Shared sorrow is half sorrow...and shared organization is half the work!

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