As a person who has been professionally certified as a Lean Practitioner*, the last thing I want to admit is that I have become a recipe hoarder. The winter break from gardening and a 2018 goal to achieve #zerowaste brought me face to face with drawers, cabinets, mobile devices and hard drives overflowing with recipes. And I wish the problem was limited to stacks of papers and index cards. It’s not. There are drawers full of magazines that cannot be discarded until every page has been carefully turned in search of that next recipe that is going to be the new weekly family favorite or the family BBQ side dish legacy.
To combat this problem, I thought about why I have this obsession with ripping out all of the recipe pages in the free magazines I get from frequent flyer miles or sending every food blog recipe to OneNote in my Recipes tab. Why am I always in search of that next great recipe? Why do I have to keep all of these recipes when, chances are, I’m never even going to try them? Why have I not been able to get a handle on this after so many years? Am I the only one who has this problem?
After doing a quick Google search on “recipe hoarding,” I am clearly not alone! Reading other people’s comments and woes made me realize I also have a cookbook collection problem. But after reading more, I think I finally stumbled upon an explanation thanks to eclecticsynergy’s post on chowhound.com:
“The real irony is, when I cook I mostly don’t work from a recipe at all. Baking is the exception- I’m not experienced enough in that area to fly by the seat of my pants. I follow the old adage to cook by ear and bake by the book. A further irony is that as I evolve and tweak my favorites, I don’t think to go and adjust the ones in my files. So many of the recipes I have stored are really only the original departure points that I’ve since left behind and don’t refer to anymore. I never take the time to write out my own recipes, of course, and so have more trouble sharing my own version than I do sharing somebody else’s recipe that I may have started from years ago. It’s the mirror image of those aforementioned turds who deliberately maladjust a recipe when they share, so others can’t duplicate what they do.”
That’s it! I read and save recipes because they are my guides–not because I ever intend to actually make that beautiful dish in the photograph. Since I would never discard the instruction manual for anything I need to operate or use, why on earth would I ever discard a recipe in case I need detailed steps on how to baste a turkey one time per year (even though I don’t eat meat) or how to make my own soft pretzels (that would never taste anything like a national chain variety) or how to make my own cheese (which takes a crazy amount of milk, time and hard-to-find cultures)? Interestingly, we have this thing called the Internet now. Pretty much any question we have can be typed into a little box, and thousands of responses will appear. But what if I can’t trust the responses? What if the only real and true answer lies in the piles of ripped-out pages from my free magazines? What if I personally tweak a recipe so much that the only way to savor it is to revert to the original?
In the absence of a cooking/baking mentor, I swim in a sea of reference books, magazines and electronic files to become the next not-so-famous home cooking expert. Until I feel “safe” that I have absorbed every last piece of worthwhile (and worthless) knowledge, I am going to focus on organization. The first step will be transitioning to 100% electronic information. This should be easier as magazine subscriptions expire. No more trees need to die to fill my need for hard copy recipes!
The next step will be to organize my recipes into one source. I came across an app called MealBoard that combines recipes, meal planning and grocery shopping all in one place. The really cool feature is that, on a computer, recipes can be imported and synced with the app–no typing required! If I don’t like the photo or if one is missing, I can add my own. I can also email the meal plan and/or shopping list to the rest of my family. I can add my own categories ranging from “Italian” to “spaghetti squash” to “Dinner” and use these categories as tags for the recipes. For me, this is a perfect way to organize and search because I make most of my personal meals based on what is growing in my garden or what I’ve preserved. For example, I can tag any recipe containing “red beets” and filter on that category to see the list of dishes I can make with red beets. The app also has a search field to find recipes based on name, ingredient, or source–no category tags necessary. Once I choose the recipes I want to make, I can add them to the days of the week using meal names of my choice (e.g. Breakfast, Dinner, Brunch, Snack). If I take the time to lay out an entire meal plan for one or two weeks, I can save that template for future use. If I decide to make the Stuffed Shells on Wednesday instead of Monday, I simply drag the meal to the appropriate day. It’s so easy!
In the weeks and months to come, we’ll see if technology is the answer to my decade-long recipe hoarding problem. I’d love to hear from others who have tackled this issue or have some ideas on how to ditch this wasteful habit!
*A Lean Practitioner is someone who is able to create and implement practices and procedures that make processes more efficient and reduce or eliminate waste.
©Room2GrowGarden.com, December 30, 2017