Paper Chase

I print lots of stuff off the internet.  You too?  Lesson ideas, recipes, instructions… and then what to do with it all?  Often, I stack it up somewhere on or near my desk, planning to organize it at some later date.  Eventually, I get frustrated with the clutter and unorganized papers and toss everything.  Whatever I wanted to do goes undone and resources (ink, paper, time, mental energy) are wasted.  Recipes I made (and which therefore ended up somewhere in the kitchen area) get stuffed into a binder I keep on my cookbook shelf.  When I want to make that meal again?  I have to spend fifteen minutes thumbing through all those pages to find the one I want, or, more likely, dreading the hunt, I just go print another, which gets stuffed into the binder, ad nauseum.  The mailbox is stuffed everyday with bills, statements, and documents that need to be saved for future reference, tax records need a home, school work needs to be held onto for portfolio purposes…

Paper, paper, paper.

Does this happen to you?  It can’t be just me.

The other night, as I was looking through my recipe binder for the second time because I’d missed the one I wanted the first time, I thought, “There has got to be a better way!”

Actually, this has been on my mind for a long time.  A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an iPhone app that takes photos of recipes and organizes them that way.  I tested it out, but it was a little less useful than I wanted it to be.  It turns out, though, that I have something on my PC already that does exactly what I want: OneNote.  It’s part of the Microsoft Office suite, so you Mac people are probably going to have to think of something else, but there are OneNote apps available for iPhone/iPod and Android, which means the same information is available on all my devices, and that is a major key to usefulness.  I’m not the only one in the family who needs or wants access to the information!  So if recipes, say, are stored in an app on my iPod, and I’m not home or have my iPod somewhere else, nobody else can use those stored recipes.  If it’s available on my iPod, my PC, and a tablet, well, anybody can pick up any one of those things and start cooking!

What I’m liking about OneNote:

It’s easy to copy-and-paste things off the internet, and it’s instantly synced to all my other devices.  If I take a photograph of printed text (say a recipe from a cookbook or magazine) OneNote can extract the text, which can be pasted into the note.  (You can just read the photograph, I guess, but text is searchable.)  Also, it only takes a few seconds to scan down the list of recipes to find the one I want, which is a lot less time than fifteen minutes.  Since I tend to tweak recipes as I’m cooking, it’s also easy to update the ingredients or directions right away.  Well, almost right away.  I probably need to wash my hands first!

What I don’t like about OneNote is that it doesn’t recognize handwriting, so no scanning of written notes.  I guess I can live with that, though, and maybe just type in the things that are important to me.  Most of my writings are only for short-term thoughts, anyway.

Things that just languish in my filing cabinet I’m scanning and storing in folders on my external hard drive.  I currently have hanging files labeled for two years worth of months, and I just drop all the paperwork and receipts each month into the current file, and when the month is over, I move it to the back of the drawer.  If I need to look something up, it’s available, except, I almost never look in those folders.  They’re just there.  BUT I also use those monthly files to store paperwork needed for upcoming dates.  Say I have tickets to an event in June.  I put the tickets and directions to the venue in the June file, so that when June rolls around, the necessary items are ready to go.  Or the orthodontist gives me an x-ray and some instructions for the dentist, so I put it in the file for the date of our next dental checkup.  Otherwise, they might get lost in those aforementioned disorganized piles of printouts!  This is a really good system that has been working for me for a long time, but I can probably downsize to one set of months.  Or maybe I’ll think of some other way to keep track of time-sensitive items.  😉

To make accessing all these things easier, I did purchase a kindle Fire this week.  They aren’t expensive, and I wanted a bigger screen than my iPod without the fear of ruining my very expensive laptop.  It has already made my life in the kitchen about a thousand times easier!  It looks like my next step is to hack it so it can access the Google Play store.  Amazon doesn’t have a lot in the way of apps.  But it does switch between apps more smoothly than my iPod, which is always reloading things and losing whatever I was just looking at, and the screen is a much better size for just about everything.  I’m very pleased with it so far.

I hope this is helpful!  If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments.  I’m always interested in how other people do things.