I think that finding a way to organize your recipes is THE first step to becoming a successful meal planner. Many of us are great at collecting recipes (some of us may even qualify as recipe hoarders), but what are we doing with all these recipes? Could we find them if we wanted to make them today? How many different places do you have recipes stored? It's like having a ton of clothes, but feeling as though we have nothing to wear because they are all hiding in a jam-packed, mess of a closet!
I personally LOVE the Paprika Recipe Manager app. I have used it for years and keep all of my recipes stored there. It allows me to load in recipes easily from any web site and choose my own categories (I.e. entree - chicken, side - veggie, appetizer, family favorite, special occasion) which helps when looking to fill in a certain course. It also has a meal planner calendar where you add recipes right onto the calendar and then you can add those ingredients directly to the grocery list. The newest version is $4.99 and worth every. single. penny! If you don't believe me, just check out the reviews.
However, there are a ton of ways to organize your recipes (see list in image). It doesn't really matter which one you choose, but just be sure to choose one that works for you and stick to it. If you have recipes saved in multiple places with no organization to them, it's going to take that much longer each time you sit down to plan out your meals.
Once you've decided how you are going to organize your recipes, you don't have to spend hours putting every recipe you've ever saved into the new system. Just start with where you are and transfer over as you go. I like to give myself about 15 minutes a week to cull through recipes I've saved in different spaces - usually social media accounts. If it looks like something I'd actually like to try, I go ahead and add it to Paprika tagging it as NEW. That doesn't mean I'll make it right away, but just saving it for when I feel like trying something out.
I generally don't recommend trying more than about one new recipe per week. This will prevent you from getting overwhelmed and spending a ton of money on new ingredients if the recipes require things you don't typically keep around. As you are organizing your master list - you should hopefully have a good number of tried and true recipes you know you all like, have most of the ingredients for, and can make fairly easily. If you don't, no biggie - the point of all of this is to help you get there!
While this may feel like a major pain in the beginning, it makes life and planning so much easier in the long run. Plus you'll likely come across some gems that you love, but had forgotten all about! Now when I'm ready to plan for the week, I just need my phone and a good cup of coffee because everything is loaded in. All I have to do is think about our schedule and decide what food mood I'm in (more to come on those) and start adding meals to the calendar - easy peasy.
Are there any systems you use that I don't have listed that you like? Would love to know about them!