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My Favorite Kitchen Assistant

12 May

Ok, not my kitchen--I wish! This one belongs to Kelly from  Cuppielove.

No, it’s not my Kitchenaid Mixer (although I do love it so much that Caleb has spotted me petting it’s brightly colored siblings in Williams Sonoma). It’s not my salad spinner, or my Pyrex bowls, or my wooden spoons.

It’s Evernote.

Evernote

I really don’t know how I managed before Evernote and I met. It’s my menu planner, my cookbook, my recipe file, my shopping list, and my pantry inventory (and that’s just on the kitchen side of things, look for another post in the future about how I use it for other areas of life).

And the best part? Yup, it’s free.

For the record, Evernote did not pay (or even ask) me to write about how much I love them. I just do, and I want to share it with all of you!

Evernote is basically an online collection of notes that you can access from your computer or any device connects to the internet. You can capture images, text, documents, PDFs and even voice memos, then organize them however you’d like–and search them with Google-like power (it even searches for words inside pictures). Everything is backed up to their database, so you never have to worry about losing your notes.

I have a variety of different “notebooks” in Evernote: Cooking, Graphic Design, Blogging, Home Design, etc. Whenever I create a new note (whether it’s grabbing something from the web or typing it in myself), I organize it by dropping it into one of my notebooks. My cooking notebook contains three things that give my kitchen (and our meals) an amazing organizing boost:

1. Recipes

Recipe Cards

All of my favorite recipes are here. Some are from cooking blogs or food websites that I’ve highlighted and clipped with Evernote’s web clipper, some I’ve typed in from my own recipe cards, and some are even pictures that I’ve taken with my phone of cookbooks. Evernote lets you label notes with tags that make them even more searchable, so I usually classify them with words like appetizer, summer picnic, potluck, etc.

Since my computer is next to my kitchen, it’s easy to pull up a recipe and refer to it while I’m cooking–but if your computer is across the house, you can still bring recipes up on your phone, or just print it out if you don’t have it in a cookbook.

It’s also great when I’m shopping and see a great deal on something like, say, artichokes. I can open the Evernote app on my iPhone and do a search for “artichoke” to see if there are any recipes where I already have most of the ingredients, then pick up what I’m missing. Or, if I’m in the mood for a certain dish, I can look up the recipe and know exactly what to buy.

Making notes on recipes is easy too–I can record whether a dish was a hit or a miss, which potluck I brought it to, or note any changes that will make it better next time.

Check out Ward Street Bistro’s post on Organizing Recipes with Evernote for a detailed step-by-step on adding recipes to Evernote.

2. Menu Plans

Menu Planning

Making weekly menu plans is a whole ‘nother post in itself, but suffice it to say that they’re the best way to shop effectively, eat out less, and eat healthier meals. Every Sunday I make my meal plan for the week, all kept in one note in Evernote–with the current week at the top of the list. I know exactly what will be for dinner each night and can easily look at past weeks for meal ideas or to make sure I’m not repeating the same meals too frequently.

This also makes it easy to see what I need to buy for the week, leading in to…

3. Shopping List and Pantry Inventory

Evernote Shopping

Since I have my meals planned out, I can copy or type ingredients I know I’ll need into my shopping list note, which also contains a list of what’s in my fridge, pantry, and freezer. That makes it easy to see what might be hiding in my freezer or in the veggie drawer that needs to be used up and helps avoid duplicate buying. Now, I’m not totally crazy–I don’t catalog every food item that’s in my kitchen. I just add things when I think, “Oh yeah, that _____ has been in the fridge/freezer/pantry for a while, I need to use it this week!”

And that’s it–my simple system for organizing meals, making shopping easier, and using up food before it goes bad.

To start, sign up for a free Evernote account. It’s quick and easy, and while they do offer a premium membership that has a larger amount of storage + no ads, I’ve been quite happy with the free versions (and I’d consider myself a power user). Then make your own notebooks, start adding recipes and you’re well on your way to having your own amazing kitchen assistant!

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