WorkFlowy for Foodies




a person keenly interested in food, especially in eating or cooking.
“WorkFlowy may help foodies to better organize their culinary pursuits”

Today’s awesome guest post and ideas were cooked up by one such foodie, Nathan Schafer. It comprises the meaty parts of a couple of email exchanges between Nathan and I (Frank).

Nathan is currently a stay-at-home dad. He used to work as a dialogue editor and voice over engineer for TV animation. He also composes music semi-professionally for various types of media and as a side hobby under the name Peaks of Valleys. You can check his work out here: Nathan also happens to be a seasoned cook – which is what he’s serving up in WorkFlowy for us today.

Nathan tells me that he uses WorkFlowy to organize recipes and make both shopping and following a recipe a lot easier…

… you might just get what you need

I’ve changed the typical recipe ingredients list into 2 categories, “Need” and “Have”.“Have” are things that I always keep around like non-perishables, milk, eggs, spices, things that I will always have in my pantry. This stuff takes up way too much space on a normal ingredients list and makes it cumbersome to look at when you need to make a grocery list. If something pertaining to this list gets low in my pantry I immediately add it to my shopping list so that I will never be without. The “Need” list is everything else. This makes shopping for a recipe SO easy since this list of things I need to buy is often shockingly small. Here’s an example of one of my LARGEST recipes:

My instructions are also bare bones. Most recipes have paragraphs of unnecessary words that make finding where you are in a recipe difficult while you are in the middle of cooking. I word things and lay them out in a super simple order that makes sense to me. Syntax matters. I can also see the whole recipe on my phone at a glance.

Tagging – The spice of life

I know what you’re looking at… those tags… 🙂 That’s the best part. Check this out…

So say I have a green pepper in the fridge… or green peppers are on sale at the store… hit the tag and boom:

All the recipes that use green pepper, and only the ingredients that I need at the store for that recipe pop up with it. Since I keep all these tags on one line I can click multiple ingredients to further filter down. It’s amazing!

To every season – a rice bowl

One little side tip that is the reason for my “optional” list… I try and keep a few super flexible recipes around as vegetable cleanups. I always have loose vegetables laying around that I didn’t need all of from a previous recipe. My ace in the hole for this is the rice bowl. You can basically put anything into a rice bowl so it sort of sucks up all your random ingredients and saves you from wasting them. This is where the “optional” category comes in. I put all the ingredients I could use in a rice bowl in there so the recipe will still pop up when filtering, but I know that I can use as little or as many of these ingredients as I want, none are necessarily essential to the recipe.

Tailor-made recipes

The one downside to this system… you have to enter all the recipes manually. But the upside to that is that each recipe is tailored to you, the ingredients that YOU have on hand or need. Also the instructions are then tailored to how you cook and what you need to know to get through the recipe. Whether that be just a reminder of what happens next or detailed instructions.

I enter everything manually, but you could just as easily copy and paste! I have a few reasons for doing it manually but it basically comes down to the fact that I edit things so much it just happens to be faster. For example most recipes have amounts before the ingredient… 1/2 cup milk. But my brain wants to see ingredients first cause I need to get that out before I measure it (milk: 1/2 cup).

Then for the instructions I get pretty crazy. Syntax is everything… sometimes I feel like my instructions are a programming language specific to how I cook. For example, instead of saying “saute the onions in a medium pan on high heat in olive oil”, I’d say, “oil saute onions”. Since I’m a fairly experienced cook I know the size of pan, heat to use, and oil to use, so I reduce it waaay down. It really just becomes a quick reminder. Also oil is the first word because that is the step that I’ll do first, put the oil in the pan. This might sound kind of ridiculous but it does help. And I just enjoy breaking things down to the absolute minimum.

“Good food is like music you can taste”

Now for what I think is a cool bit of advice pertaining to how I order my Favorites list… So as I mentioned I make music and I’m a music lover, I listen to a lot of records and have a decent collection. I don’t alphabetize them though. Instead when I finish listening to a record I put it back on the top left of my shelves. After some time of doing this you have a listening history so if I want to play something I haven’t heard in a while I go to the bottom right of my shelves. And if I want to find something I’ve been listening to a lot lately I go to the top left. I do this because I don’t usually ask myself “where is such and such album?” Instead I ask “what do I want to listen to?” I’ve discovered this is the same with deciding what I want to eat. So after I cook a recipe I pull it to the top of my recipes list… and all the recipes I haven’t made in a while fall to the bottom after some time. It shows the flexible nature of WorkFlowy and it can really help with the decision process, which is often the most difficult part for me! It’s a dead simple trick that works wonders.

I have two lists above my favorites list. A “to try” and “try again” list. These are just links to recipes around the web I’ve found and want to try. If I like it, it goes into “try again”. If it works a second time then I enter it in manually as a Favorite. This process ensures I’ve cooked it a few times before I write the instructions in case I want to adapt it for any reason (or tweak amounts).

Hopefully this will help the community – and I’d love feedback or any tweaks to my system! Let me know if you have any questions! – Nathan Schafer

If you’re up to tinkering with the above ideas, here’s Nathan’s shared recipe list you can add to your WorkFlowy:

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Workflowy replaces your notebooks, stickies and bloated apps with a simple, smooth digital notebook that makes it easy to get organized and be productive.

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16 Responses

    1. I have noticed that some emoji show up nicer on smartphones than on other devices. Sometimes they don’t carry over at all.

    2. Haha, I used an emoji by accident on mobile. It is interesting to see the chrome translation for the emoji. They are simple little black and white icons instead of the full featured color ones.

      Here is an example of cooking instructions for Pan Seared Steak I use:

      1. Nice to see you here Richard. People loved your “??” filtering hack 🙂
        Your approach for recipe instructions is on the other end of the spectrum to Nathan’s… but I do like the way you’ve nested your instructions recursively… no chance of getting ahead of yourself this way if you zoom in or expand one list at a time 🙂

      2. Glad to be here!
        That is exactly why I layed it out this way. I am a terrible cook. I always get lost in the instructions. I always have to read, and re-read before I move on to the next step. The nesting keeps me on task 🙂

  1. Awesome! I recently started sharing recipes a few months ago with family via Facebook to introduce them to WorkFlowy. I love the idea!

  2. I too have started using Workflowy for recipes (key word: ‘started’). I have one recipe for a specialty from Trinidad: Corn Soup:

    I like Nathan’s ideas and plan to adjust how I keep track of my own recipes… glad to have seen this blog post before I got beyond “started”.

  3. Very clever people here…. this (wf) recipe system is terrific. I d/l’d today. Review, Revise, Re-write, and.. and do it again.. IMHO rewriting is not a “downside”
    Hemingway re-wrote the ending to “Farwell to Arms” 29 times! A lesson learned if you want to be “good”

    “Good food is like music you can taste” – would expect a musician to put words together like this. Nice

  4. Maybe I missed something, but is there any other reason to tag the ‘Need’ category of items in a recipe. I was thinking that it would be helpful in terms of generating a shopping list of things that are needed…and I guess that’s true, but the explanation approaches this in the reverse…as in, “let’s say you have a pepper in the refrigerator” I paraphrased. Anyway, great idea…thanks!

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