I Started a “Recipe Glossary,” and It Saves Me So Much Time on Meal Planning

published Jan 3, 2024
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Credit: Carina Romano

For years my husband and I have created a weekly dinner menu together, which serves as the basis for our grocery lists. It started as a pandemic lockdown-era solution to going to the grocery store as little as possible — the more organized we were, the less we had to run back out to snag a forgotten ingredient or last-minute item. It still works great, but over the past year or so we’ve found ourselves falling into a rut of making the same meals over and over again, and even forgetting completely about some of our favorite recipes from menus past. 

Once we found ourselves in this rut, we realized we were bogged down not only by trying to add fun new meals to the list, but also trying to remember which cookbooks held which recipes, and going through our browsing histories, Instagram Story archives, and text messages for clues about things we loved in the past but didn’t think to write down. We had material to work with — TikTok bookmarks, Pinterest boards, and cookbooks galore. But we realized that it all needed to be organized more efficiently in order for us to get the most out of them. 

Enter: our Great Big Notion Recipe Database. One night, we went through every digital and physical bookmark to find every recipe we’ve made or saved in the past six months or so. We also went through our cookbooks to pick out some of what we were most excited to make. Then we loaded them all together into a simple shared Notion page, and it’s changed everything.

Credit: Taylor Maple/Notion Labs

What Is Notion?

If you aren’t using Notion, it’s time to get on board. At its core, it’s a note-taking app, but it is far more than that and is much easier to customize than others I’ve tried in the past. I use it for tons of things — daily to-do lists, long-term goal tracking, personal and professional project management, brain dumps, travel planning, everything — and I’m sure I’m still not using it to its full potential. 

I prefer to use it on my Macbook, but there’s also a mobile app for when I need to reference something on the fly (like ingredients). I’m keeping this brief to get back to the recipes, but I insist you look up Notion tutorials on YouTube or TikTok — you won’t be sorry. The company itself has super-handy instructional videos, including one on the type of database I use for my recipe glossary.

Credit: Taylor Maple/Notion Labs

How a Recipe Glossary Cuts Down on Time and Stress

In our database (which is a Notion spreadsheet), each recipe is a line that we customize with tags, meal categories, and a column noting the last time we made it, if ever. This ability solved our main problem — we can filter by if and/or when we’ve made something, so things I loved six months ago and promptly forgot about are bounced right to the top without me having to scroll for an hour to find them in my TikTok app.

But we also solved much more than that with the database — it also allows us to sort and filter by anything we want. If we know we have tons of chicken on hand, we can view only chicken recipes. If we’re craving an easy cleanup? We can filter down even further to chicken dishes that are one-pot recipes. Tags are fully customizable and there’s no limit to how many you can use, so filtering to an exact craving or whatever is in your cabinet is extremely easy.

Each recipe also expands into its own page from the spreadsheet. That’s where we store the link to the recipe or note what page it is in a cookbook, and also leave any helpful notes. This makes our cooking duties as a couple much more flexible — just because my husband is the one who usually makes a specific pasta dish doesn’t mean I can’t pick up the task if he’s had a long day. I know exactly where the recipe is, and any caveats or notes he’s picked up while making it (more spice here, less heat than the recipe says here) are right there waiting for me alongside it. It’s a sigh of relief every time.

The perks of this system are endless. We create our actual shopping lists in another Notion page that links back to this database, so if we’re ever wandering around Kroger unsure that all the ingredients are accounted for, the original recipe is just a few clicks away. What else? You can add photos to each recipe’s page. You can embed a TikTok video directly so you can watch it in the Notion app instead of switching windows. I could talk about this until an old-timey hook came out from backstage and yanked me out of view. 

Notion can be a little intimidating, but once you get the hang of it, it can be an invaluable resource. Cooking is so important to us, and this recipe glossary system has helped us offload stress while taking our meal planning to the next level. I now can’t imagine doing it any other way.