The Perfect Recipe Organizer: Google Docs… It’s FREE!

recipes-google-docs.jpg Following is an update on my search for the perfect recipe organizer

I’ve actually tried quite a few different recipe programs. For example, MealMaster and MasterCook were my longtime favorites, and they served me well (in a very basic sense) for many many years.  But it was time to start looking for a recipe organizer that fit my needs better.

After trying it free for 30 days, then buying the Big Oven software ($29.95) and using the full program for a short time, I realized that BigOven wasn’t exactly what I was looking for either. (See the “update” at the end of that article and my comments.)

Yes, Big Oven is a fairly sophisticated program, and there’s a lot that it can do. But the biggest thing that I, personally, wanted in a recipe program was the ability to access (and edit) all of my recipes from any computer at any time.

For example:

  • On my laptop in the kitchen — when I’m cooking at home
  • On my desktop upstairs — when I’m importing and sharing recipes
  • On my mom’s computer in a different state — when I decide on a whim I want to cook up something special for her when I’m visiting
  • On my computer at work (back when I used to work outside the home) — when I simply wanted to browse all of my recipes and find an interesting one I hadn’t fixed in awhile

You get the idea… I never know when or where I may want to access my recipes. So the #1 priority for me was to be able to view (and edit) my recipes on the fly, no matter where I was.

After exploring all of my options and not feeling satisfied with any of the professional recipe programs created specifically for organizing recipes, I decided to think outside the box a bit and move all of my recipes, one by one, from Big Oven into Google Docs. UDPATE: Google Docs is now Google Drive.

While I hadn’t heard of many people using Google Docs for organizing recipes before, I knew that Google Docs would serve my purpose well — from a practical standpoint. Still, I figured it was going to be a rather “archaic” way to store and view all of my recipes. As it turns out, Google Docs is a fairly sophisticated way to organize recipes!


Google Docs Couldn’t Be Easier!

What I really like about using Google Docs for recipes is the ability to quickly copy and paste from another website (or email) recipes that I’d like to try.

With Google Docs, you simply copy & paste the part of a page that you’re interested in (either a recipe stored in another program like Big Oven, or a web page online for example), and you get everything in one click:

  • the recipe title
  • ingredients
  • cooking directions
  • nutrition info
  • photos
  • even comments others have posted to this recipe — if I’m interested in those


That’s right, little or no typing is required to copy recipes into Google Docs! You simply choose “Select All – Copy” to get every single thing on the page. Or, you select only the parts you’re most interested in.

With other recipe programs, you have to enter most of that info line by line manually, and then you have to type each piece into its respective “field,” and then you have to physically upload the photo. There are typically lots of individual steps to copy recipes into professional recipe programs.

Yes, there are simpler “import” options with the professional recipe organizers — making it easy to copy several recipes at once, but how often do you need to use that option? For me, only once:  the day I start using the program for the first time and want to bring all of my recipes over. I have no interest in downloading entire databases of recipes that others put together and share online. And even for importing just one recipe found on the fly, the copy & paste method for Google Docs is still quicker and easier.

For me, there’s no need to physically clip recipes from magazines anymore. Instead, you just search online for a recipe’s name, followed by the magazine you found it in, and a handful of recipe sites will have already shared this recipe online. Plus, you can usually find the recipe in its original form at the magazine’s own website as well!

All in all, Google Docs is just easy. No, it’s not fancy. Just easy. Plus, I love the fact that my recipes are always accessible to me — no matter where I am. And I can share them with whoever I want.

I’m completely 100% thrilled that my recipe problems have finally been solved!


Pros & Cons of Storing Recipes In Google Docs

Aside from the ease and convenience of using Google Docs to store all of my favorite recipes, there are a few other pros & cons worth mentioning…

For the true recipe aficionados out there, one of the biggest downsides to storing recipes in Google Docs is the fact that the “ingredients” aren’t stored in a separate “ingredients database”. Therefore, you can’t create shopping lists — by recipe — automatically. But I never used that aspect of the professional recipe organizers anyway. So I don’t mind that I have to write my own shopping lists by hand. Big deal.

Have no fear, while the recipe ingredients aren’t stored in their own “ingredients database” in Google Docs, you can still “find recipes by ingredient” — just like with the professional programs. Simply search Google Docs for any word (or combination of words), and you quickly see all of the recipes that meet the criteria. Plus, you can restrict you search by folder (or folders), as well. For example: “only show me chicken recipes that include sour cream” or “only show me chicken recipes that include sour cream that I have fixed before.”

Also, to sort recipes by category in Google Docs, you simply put recipes into “folders”. Each recipe can be stored in as many folders (aka categories) as you like.




While there’s no “fancy” iPhone app for Google Docs, it’s a cinch to access all of Google’s programs (including Google Docs) and all of your data stored in Google Docs on your cell phone via Google’s mobile app — which is also free. Like with most recipe apps, you cannot edit your Google Docs recipes from a cell phone. But (unlike most recipe apps), at least you can view them all!

In the end, all of the professional recipe organizers are nice, but I don’t need to choose ingredients from a database, create shopping lists, and use fancy category names. Nor do I need any more recipes — other than the few hundred that are my own personal favorites right now.

It’s a cinch to add recipes to your Google Docs recipes anytime you find a new one you might want to try. And you always have access to all of your recipes, no matter where you are.

Google Docs: More Than Just For Recipes

To give you some idea of the capacity to store info in Google Docs…

  • Before I started entering my recipes into Google Docs, I had 462 “files” saved in Google Docs.
  • So far, I’ve entered 240 recipes (as “files”) into Google Docs, bringing the total number of files I’ve stored in Google Docs to 702.

I probably have another 100 or so recipes that I also plan to import. They’re all recipes that I’ve clipped from magazines, so I just want to study them more closely first to make sure I really want them. Chances are, they just looked tasty at the moment I was reading the magazine, and I’d never be inclined to buy the ingredients or go through all the steps required to fix most of them!

As for those other 462 files I have in Google Docs… to be honest, I only use 15 or so regularly. The rest are holding old info that I just wanted to save somewhere. I’ve been using Google Docs for many, many years. It’s a great “holding tank” for things you think you might need later!

I believe Google Docs is just one of the many programs you can use for free, so long as you stay under some outrageous number of megabytes. Currently, that number is 7381 MB, of which I am utilizing 42%. Also counting toward my total allotment are: (1) emails stored in Gmail; and (2) photos stored in Picasa.

So yes, you can store recipes in Google Docs this way (or in the way that I’ve mentioned above, with more pictures, labels, etc), but you can also do so much more with this amazing free program.

Here are 10 Fun Uses For Google Docs.

These are the types of things I tend to store in Google Docs:

  • to do lists
  • ideas for articles I want to write
  • personal diary-type stuff on occasion
  • things I don’t want to forget like medical info
  • examples of things that others have done that I may like to try at some point
  • other random tidbits worth saving that would get lost if they were stored on paper somewhere

Are you using Google Docs for anything fun? Here are some more creative ideas.

Lynnette Walczak

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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Fun From Around the Web

  • Gary

    Have you checked out http://www.webrecipemanager lately? It’s web-based and you can create eBooks, shopping lists, weekly menus, edit your menus and it’s free for up to 500 recipes. I had a suggestion for an enhancement and they added it within two days. Great service!

  • FunTimesGuide

    I haven’t tried it yet, but I got an email from Dave Marsland, one of the creators of Recipe Binder. It’s an iPhone app that syncs your recipes to your Facebook account (so you can access them from any computer), and it looks promising.

    From Dave Marsland: “Based upon the popular Facebook application Recipe Binder, which has over 5,000 daily active users and over 20,000 recipes, Recipe Binder for iPhone allows the budding chef to search for and
    manage their favourite recipes on the move, in the kitchen, or when you’re doing your groceries and need to check on the ingredients!”

  • M. Altobelli

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!

    I’ve been searching on and off for months to find the right way to enter and share my recipes, and every recipe site just fell short. Too time consuming to enter, too focused on listing tons of recipes. I would never have thought of using Google docs this way.

    The ability to basically “tag” my recipes with courses and food types and whether they’re untried recipes is just what I needed. And now if someone asks me for a recipe for something I’ve made I can just send them the link. Now that I have an android and an app that lets me view my Google docs directly on my phone, i can use this to quick look up a recipe if I’m at the store, and I can look it up from wherever I am if I’m making a shopping list.

  • Jeanne

    Help///// I must be a bit slow. But where do I go & how do I install this google recipe management tool..?? just go to Google docs?? or /?

  • Mark

    Thanks, great tip..
    Adding recipes to gdocs atm.

  • Jan Wagenaar

    Hi, very good idea, as many others I had the same issues…
    I emailed web recipes to myself for 4 years, so they are all in my gmail recipes folder.
    Would you be willing to share your google docs recipes with me, that would be a nice jumpstart for me. In return I coulod share mine with you as soon as I find the time to convert them 1by1 to google docs!

    best regards,
    Jan Wagenaar
    The Netherlands

  • Lo

    I came to the same conclusion in my recipe database search, but I had another requirement that you didn’t mention: the ability to back up the files off-line to have a print version if needed. Google Docs does this nicely. You can export all or some of your Docs 2GB at a time in a zip file, either in Word or PDF format. Perfect if you don’t want to trust your recipe archive’s existence entirely to Google. Also, if you already have a bunch of recipes in Word, txt, or pdf format, you can bulk upload right into your recipe folder. Love it.

    • FunTimesGuide

      Excellent point, Lo! I’m glad someone else sees the value of using Google Docs for recipe storage 😀

  • Phil Michaelson

    Nice post! Very cleve use of google docs. Personally, I wanted a solution that also let me add my own recipes/photos to lists, as well as copy/paste in more recipes.

    However, I also wanted to be able to:
    1) Look up recipes on a phone when at the store
    2) Create lists to share with family/friends
    3) Collect links to recipes with a click

    So, I started

    We’ve helped people organize 18,000 favorites and earned a “Staff Pick” from Apple. Your recipes are backed-up daily. The web version is free–check it out at

  • Jeanne

    With Google Docs, if there a good way to get some of your favorite receipes in your old cookbooks out there? Suppose you could search for the same recipe online… ?? Or, do you have to buy a scanner?

    • FunTimesGuide

      Jeanne – that’s what I do – search for those recipes online. Just copy & paste (with images!)

  • Jim

    If you use Google Chrome, there is an extension allows you to automatically add recipes to Google Docs by clicking a button. More supported sites are added all the time. The only disadvantage compared to copy and paste is that you lose the photos.

  • Andrew

    I’ve been doing something similar with GMail, copy-pasting recipes and mailing them to myself. I have a filter set to automatically skip the inbox, mark them read, and tag them with the ‘Recipes’ label. If it’s something I really liked, I’ll use GMail’s star to mark it as a favorite.

    If I’m not mistaken, unless you pay for extra storage, Google Docs only gives you 1 GB storage. GMail, on the other hand, gives you about 7 GB (and growing by 0.35 MB per day).

  • L8deblu

    This is the greatest idea. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Steve Murch

    Hi there, thanks for this article!

    I’m the CEO of BigOven, and I am intrigued by your statement:

    “HOWEVER, the biggest thing that I, personally, wanted in a recipe program was the ability to access (and edit) all of my recipes from any computer at any time.”

    Did you know you can do that with BigOven? BigOven comes coupled with a free website where you can post recipes, free of charge, to the site. (If you’re a BigOven Pro member, you can post them privately.)

    Then, you can use the site, or mobile apps, to do things that Google Docs just can’t do. You can add them to grocery lists and get a sorted list, grouped by aisle. You can get that on your mobile phone. You can get calorie and protein and carb and sodium counts for recipes that you post. You can search them by ingredient, keyword and more. You can get them on the iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android with our free apps. And much more.

    I totally respect the use of free word processing apps to host documents — that’s fine and it serves and important need. But BigOven was built around making cooks more organized with recipes.

  • Dorothy Morrow

    Thanks for the detailed post!  I’ve been wanting to set up a recipe database in my Google Docs, and this is just the extra push I needed!

    • FunTimesGuide

      Glad to hear that, Dorothy! Google Docs is so simple and useful for lots of fun ideas… including recipes. Have fun setting up your recipe database 😀

  • Scarlett

    It sure doesn’t work for me. I can Select All, Copy and Paste all I like and NOTHING happens. :(

    • FunTimesGuide

      Scarlett – Seriously??? Do this: First open a blank (*new*) document in Google Docs. Then,move your cursor to select just a small portion of some other page on the Internet (instead of using “select all”). Do that as a better test to see if this works for you. There’s no reason that I can think of that it wouldn’t work — except that “select all” might be grabbing far too much for Google Docs to handle at one time.

  • Ehab Bandar

    Hi, this is Ehab Bandar, CEO of Foodfolio. Funny, I was in the same boat a few years back… trying to find the perfect way to organize recipes I already had, with new ones I was finding online. I tried google docs first, then moved on to google sites for its ability to share. But both seemed clunky, not easy to manage and dare I say not well designed. Instead, I decided to create my own. I called it Foodfolio, a beautiful recipe organizer, kind of like Pinterest for food… we just launched an iphone app. Give it a spin and let me know what you think.

  • Christine

    This is such a fantastic idea! I’ve been contemplating researching recipe software for a while now. My duo-tang of print outs from recipes off the web is at least 3 inches thick and I can never find the one I’m looking for. I have some of them saved as .docs and others just bookmarked or pinned and need some way to organize them. I don’t need thousands of new recipes, I just need some way to organize what I have. Most importantly, I don’t want to have to type in all the information! Thanks so much for this!

    • FunTimesGuide

      Yay – I’m so glad you found the info helpful, Christine! I’m just like you… had plenty of my own collected recipes that I wanted to store in one place, but no interest in seeing thousands of new recipes (which is what all the “official” recipe programs promote as one of their strengths). Thanks to Google Docs you can just copy & paste everything you want to save 😀

      • Christine

        I was playing around with it a bit last night, and it looks like Google is changing things a bit. They have a new thing called “My Drive” which Docs will become a part of. I thought I may as well start out with that, since it will be inevitable soon. It looks like with “My Drive” the folders are actually folders and so each document can only be in one at a time. I’m going to play with it some more and see if they have any kind of tagging system yet.

        • FunTimesGuide

          Oooh yeah, that’s a good point… the new Google Drive should ultimately be a good thing, but I haven’t experimented with it myself yet. Let us know if you learn any helpful tricks to make recipe storage faster/easier. I’ll do the same.

          • Christine

            Turns out you just have to hold down ctr while organizing to select multiple folders. I also discovered that I can upload the .doc files from my computer, so I don’t have to copy and paste all of them! My goal is to eventually own an android tablet that I can use in the kitchen to access all my recipes.

          • FunTimesGuide

            Thanks for the tips!! I’ve been using my laptop, but we just got an Android Tablet last week. Life is good recipe-wise around here 😀

  • Evi Jones

    Lovely, great!! This is by far the best idea for recipes because it is so easy and the copy/paste right into docs really cannot be easier. It’s great that images can be pasted in too. And what I like about gdocs is that you can use the service offline as well which is an added bonus. I would of hated to think I would need to pay a subscription or fee for an online recipe organizer when this all comes free!! Thank you so much!!

    • FunTimesGuide

      Evi – I’m thrilled to find another person who just wants a “simple” way to save their favorite recipes. I don’t need anything fancy… just the basics… with photos. Google Drive / Docs has been working perfectly for me for years now. Thanks for your comment!

  • Vivian Lee

    Just stumbled in your article. A little late (4 years later!), but the tips are relevant as ever. I’ve tried literally every recipe app out there – Epicurious, Pepperplate, Paprika… I’ve even tried professional organizing apps like Evernote, Simplenote, etc. In the end, Google Drive still wins out. It’s simple to use; I can categorize exactly the way I want it; it’s accessible from any computer or device. And best of all – the rest of my files are all in Google Drive, so I don’t need to spread my files across 5 different sites. It’s all in one place. Glad to see you and others are still very much in support of simplicity at its finest :)

  • Sarah Sponner

    I really like using Copy Me That for organizing recipes. It didn’t exist when this article was written. Like Google Docs, it allows you to copy any recipe with a click. But it also automatically formats the recipe and removes all the extra text and ads. You can then organize it, plus there’s a meal planner and shopping list. You can even transfer your Google docs recipes, same as from any other website :)

  • Beth

    Great tips. I personally use, you can save recipes from the search engine in recipe boxes or upload your own… There’s nutritional information for every recipe and a meal planner that I’ve been using to calculate my daily calories too. All in all very useful :)

  • Flannel Acres

    No matter how hard I try, I can not make my recipe box look as neat and organized as my mom’s. I’ve been wondering how to store my recipes electronically, so I was excited to come across this post! Thank you!

    • FunTimesGuide

      Yay! Have fun organizing all of your recipes online 😀

  • Doug Bell

    My wife has stacks of recipes she has printed out from different sources – online, books, friends give to her. They are not organized at all so when she wants to find one she has to go through the whole stack. I read a number of years back about a software program that was very popular in Japan. It was not recipe software per se, but you could use it for that purpose. You could take a photo of the recipe and then type in words or phrases associated with it such as pork, easy pork dinner, fried pork or whatever you wanted. It would store that image and when you wanted to retrieve it you could just type in one of the key words and it would retrieve all documents with those key words and then you could more easily find that recipe since only a few would probably come up. Are you aware of any software that works like this because I would love to get it for her. It would solve the problem of going through stacks of recipes everytime because she knows it is in the stack but she has no idea where. Thanks.

    • FunTimesGuide

      Hi Doug –
      You can do that same thing using the free Google Dogs/ Google Drive program. (It stores image files, as well as text files.) Just think of those “words or phrases” that you mentioned as “tags” or “folders”.

      1. Upload the images one by one to GD (or just check the box to let GD “sync” with specific folders on your computer’s hard drive, so there’s no “manual uploading” required by you at all).
      2. “Organize” your images one by one by assigning them to folders (aka “tags”) within GD. You can even use subfolders (another layer of “tags”) if you like!
      3. Search for any of those words to find relevant recipes. Or, just click on the folder names to see all of those types of recipes at once.

      If you don’t want to use Google Docs for some reason, you could also use your own computer hard drive in much the same way:
      1. Save your images to specific folders (think of them as “cookbooks”) on your hard drive.
      2. Name each image file with the actual words (aka “tags”) that you want to attribute to that recipe. (It’s a cinch to rename image files after you’ve saved them to your hard drive as well.)
      3. Search for the word/tag using your computer’s search feature.

  • Doug Bell

    Thank you very much. I will pass that along to my wife and see what happens.

  • Colette Noelle

    I’m confused about how Google docs handles nutrition information. Does it calculate nutrition information like the othe programs do?

    • FunTimesGuide

      Hi Colette – Google docs doesn’t manage nutrition info at all. Nutrition info only gets into Google docs by you physically copying & pasting (or typing) it in there. That’s because it’s not an official recipe program. I’m just using it as a no-frills recipe organizer that’s filled with recipes I’ve copied & pasted from other sources.