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Recommendation: Mealie

I used an Android application called Cinnamon for years to manage my grocery shopping. It was very unstructured, allowed me to put items in different categories like “produce”, “meat counter”, “deli”, and mostly just stayed out of my way. It provided just enough help to make it more useful than pen and paper. Sadly, the author stopped updating it, and when I moved to a new phone, I couldn’t transfer it over without hoop jumping.

I tried Home Assistant’s task feature, tried using a plain text list, and even contemplated building my own, but none of those really worked for me.

At the same time, I was struggling a bit with recipes. I love cooking, and love trying new recipes, but I found myself thinking back to recipes I had tried from my various cookbooks and magazines and being unable to recall which ones we really loved. I needed a better way to manage recipe recall.

Obviously, this could all be solved with a pencil and paper or a text file. But I know myself, that wouldn’t be a long-term strategy. So I did some research to see if there was a recipe application I could host myself.

My research led me to Mealie, a self-hosted and open source (AGPL) recipe manager.

Here is a bit about how I use Mealie.

Recipe Imports

Scraping Recipe Image

I subscribe to a couple of magazines, and tend to get a lot of inspiration from them. Before, I would find a recipe, set the magazine aside, cook the recipe a few weeks later, then file away the magazine. Weeks or months later, I would have to dig through my entire collection to figure out which issue the recipe I made came from. Sometimes I never could find it.

With Mealie, when I find a recipe I want to try, I flag it, usually with some painters tape. Then later, I go through the magazine at my computer, open Mealie, find the online version of the recipe, and import it. Mealie grabs the ingredients, instructions, and description and creates a new recipe. Then I can add any additional information. I usually tag the recipe with the magazine I found it in and add a note for the issue and page. So I get the joy of enjoying a physical magazine and finding things to try, but then digitize it for easy retrieval.

I do the same thing for recipes I might discover when browsing the web. I have also started adding recipes from cookbooks I own that I consider go-to options.

Tracking New Recipes

Tag collection for Items to try

There are always new recipes I want to try. I used to either keep a stack of magazines somewhere or try to just remember that I saw something. Now, I just tag anything I have not made yet with #totry. I have a cookbook that only shows me those recipes. So when I want to try a new recipe, I can find something quickly. Once I make it, I not only remove that tag, I can track when I made it and rate it. Long term, this will be super helpful for letting me return to recipes we love and sharing those with friends and family.

Meal Planning

Meal planning screenshot

Ever since Covid Quarantine, my spouse and I go shopping together once a week. This is a departure from pre-covid when we would both shop on our own and I would often shop multiple times per week. Having the good fortune of both working from home has kept us shopping together. This change means that we usually have a meal plan prepared before we go shopping. I wish I had had something like Mealie early in this transition, because I have found that being able to go into the app, add things I want to cook to specific days to be much better than my old notebook solution. I just add a recipe to the plan and after confirming with my spouse that we are not making similar things, I can build my shopping list using the recipes. I can add all the ingredients from the recipe, excluding those I know we already have on hand.

A couple of “Hacks”

Placeholder Recipes

I have a subset of meals that I use as a base and then relying on what we have in the fridge or what looks good at the store, the garden, or farmers market.

One example of this is pizza. I love making pizza, but I rarely know what kind when planning. So in those case, I can just make a placeholder meal to throw on my plan. I sometimes add the “core” ingredients that I almost always purchase to the recipe. For The Pizza recipe, I only have Cheese in that section since I rarely buy sauce or crust and tend to choose my toppings in the moment.

Screenshot of the pizza placeholder

Pantry Label

There are things like olive oil, salt, soy sauce, etc., that we almost always have on hand. I label these as Pantry, and when I am building my shopping list, if I am not 100% sure we have enough for the recipe, I can add them to the list and “hopefully” check before we head off to the store.

Finally, because why not, I have integrated Mealie with this site. So I can now select a recipe to share and when the site publishes, it gets a page on my site. This is not only fun for blog purposes but is also a nice way for me to share recipes with others without needing to publicly expose my recipe site to the public Internet. I actually wrote a post about this already if you want to know some of the technical details. A simple recipe I am sharing this way is this super easy and delicious pasta.

I hope you give Mealie a try, the author is working on launching a paid version that might be a great option if you are not someone who wants to host it themselves.

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