The Top 3 Family Cookbook Mistakes

cookbook ideas

There are many reasons to make a cookbook (church, business, etc), but this story focuses on ideas for family cookbooks.

Maybe you buy my fine software. Maybe you go it alone using Microsoft Word. Or maybe (heaven forbid) you go with one of those scoundrel competitors. Whichever you do, let’s be clear on one thing: You are a saint.

Really.

It was your idea to put together a document of the most precious things you give to your most precious people–the food you feed your family. Someday you’ll be dead and everyone will be very grateful. For the coobook you left them, that is. Not that you’re dead.

But I’m afraid, my poor dears, you are going to screw it up along the way.

Can’t be helped. Nobody every published anything perfectly the first time, and if it’s your first crack at it that’ll be especially true. The following tips won’t prevent all the mistakes, but they’ll at least clear the way for some new ways to goof. Alas, life is about learning.

Mistake #1. Making the One Final Perfect Family Cookbook.

Oh, I see it all the time. You spend hundreds of hours pouring over every recipe, quibbling over every detail. You go with one of these big Vanity printing presses that charge you thousands of dollars to get them printed. You proudly hand them to every family member. And have no idea why they get buried at the bottom of a cupboard.

Why? Because there’s no such thing as The One Final Perfect Family Cookbook. There are ALWAYS new ideas and new recipes to add. There are always little typos you missed along the way. And even if there weren’t, what does that tell the rest of your family when you foist on them a giant tome? “It’s not yours.” That’s what.

Go with a lower budget! Give everyone a cheaper book and say, “Mark it up and return it to me next Christmas!” Make your Family Cookbook a living, breathing document that gets added to every year, not just by you but by everyone. It won’t get buried in the cupboard, dear, if it belongs to everybody.

Mistake #2. Making the Family Recipe Book About Recipes

Last Christmas did you run into the house, tear open the presents and leave without talking to anyone? I certainly hope not. The holidays are the one chance to see everybody. Even the smelly ones are nice for a little while.

Building a family recipe book with just recipes is like ripping open presents and running out the door. Stay a while. Put some photos in there of big events. Write some scuttlebutt. (Nothing too scandalous!) Throw in an address book and birthday calendar if you want. (My software helps you do that, at the risk of tooting my own horn.) The point is to make it a family recipe book and a family year book. Will Great Uncle Larry really care about your new peanut brittle recipe? Probably not. But he’ll take a look at it if it’s got a photo of him at third base seats in Shea Stadium.

The idea of Christmas isn’t the presents. The idea of a recipe book isn’t food. It’s feeding people you love. Let your book reflect that by involving people in the book.

Mistake #3. Bad Proof Reading.

If you are writing your family cookbook, you are going to be a lousy editor. Even if you are a good editor most of the time, you will disappoint yourself with what you missed. Get two or three people to help you.

I always tell my proof readers there’s a Waldo on every page. As in “Where’s Waldo.” The Waldo is a mistake that I know about. “If you are half as clever as you think you are,” I say, “you’ll see it.” Sometimes there isn’t a Waldo, but more often than not the proof reader will find it anyway.

That’s all the mistakes I can think of for now. I suspect I’ll be adding to this as I continue to make more. The most important thing to remember about your cookbook, and life, is that the mistakes mostly don’t really matter. If you’ve shown people you love them and you pass on a little knowledge, the hiccups along the way tend to sort themselves out.

If you are interested in some really great cookbook software, come check it out at CookbookPeople.com.

Posted in Print Advice, Recipe Binders.

108 Comments

  1. Thank you,for all the information. I have not even started my cookbook so any help will be appreciated. I don’t even know where to begin really. Keep the Mistakes coming.

  2. Speaking of proofreading…in your last paragraph, second sentence before Mistake #1, you have written “Nobody every published anything perfectly the first time” should be “Nobody EVER published”

  3. Denise-
    Thank you so much for all the kind comments in my new blog. I’ve really enjoyed reading them, and I’m glad you like the feel of my kitchen.
    Matilda

  4. I am so happy to “Blog” with you all….I guess we can’t say talk or “type with you” so “Blog” is as good a word as any….wonder who thought it up…..must have been a recipe hunter. LOL

  5. I am about to buy your software. I looked everywhere on the Internet and checked yours over and over. I think this is what I want to make a family cookbook. Is there a way I can put my own pictures on the front cover?

  6. Yes, Annette! We’ve added a really easy way for you to put a picture of whatever you want on the front cover.

    I hope you enjoy our software. We’ve really built this with the family cookbook in mind.

    Matilda

  7. I’ve enjoyed checking out your site and product. I promised my mom that I would put her family recipes into a book for all the females in the family for Christmas…..well, here it is only 6 weeks to go and I’m still looking for the right product to use. Would I be able to scan in some of her recipes that are in her own handwriting and also pictures on various pages showing mom with her kids/grandkids cooking up a storm in her kitchen?

  8. Similar q’s to Shirly, I too am planning a small Xmas project but don’t yet have the software and don’t think there is time to get it(overseas).

    Would like to find a handwriting font similar to Great Granny’s writing and use that.

    Would like a mini downloadable template type product for just a very small booklet of a few favourite recipes from our family. I’m thinking ~ 10-12 recipes Xmas treats or something initially.
    Sue

  9. Shirly-
    Yes, you can add photos of people to your cookbook. We’ve got a Biography section that’s very handy for it. Check it out here:
    http://www.cookbookpeople.com/recipe%20book%20software%20features/biographies.htm
    Unfortunately, you’ll need to re-type the hand-written recipes. It’s not just our software–I think you’ll find that there just isn’t a scanning software out there that’s faster and more accurate than typing it yourself.
    You can attach photos of the hand-written recipes, but they’ll reproduce so small that they won’t be legible.

    We’ve had a number of people ask about this feature. We may add it to our next version. That won’t be for many months, though.

    If you do buy our software now, you’ll be able to upgrade it with the new features down the road. We’re planning on charging only $10 for the downloadable upgrade, and you won’t lose any of your work, so it’s not a bad option.

    As I point out in Point #1, a family cookbook is a breathing document. Don’t wait for our software to be perfect before buying (few things ever are)–just plan on a pretty inexpensive upgrade down the road for your next cookbook!
    Matilda

  10. Sue-
    If you need it sooner and you are overseas, email our customer service at info@cookbookpeople.com.

    For an added fee, they can put a copy in the mail and also email you a link to a downloadable version that you can get working on immediately.

    I understand the nostalgia of putting a recipe book together in a font similar to Granny’s, but be careful. You want a font that’s easy on the eyes, or else it’ll be hard for people with bad vision to use it.

    I also understand about just wanting a very small cookbook. That’s how mine started too! ๐Ÿ™‚ Now I’m at 487 recipes!

    The nice thing about our software is that it’s flexible. You can do a tiny cookbook, and you can do a massive one.

    You might think you only want a little book with a few choice recipes, but odds are there are a few cooks in your family. And once they see your initial version, there’s a good chance they’ll want to get into the act too!

    Matilda

  11. Hi Ronda-

    It’s very easy for people to add in such a category in our “recipes” section. Just make a new category called “Jokes” or “Poems” or whatever, and they will appear in the cookbook.

    If you want “Poems” to appear at the front of your cookbook, just call it “1. Poems”. Placing a number in front of the name helps you control where it appears in the recipe book.

    Does that make sense?

    Matilda

  12. Hi, Jane-
    The recipe pages are numbered on the full size pages. They aren’t on the half size pages. There isn’t an index feature for now, but because they are organized by type and alphabetized, most people find it pretty easy to find recipes.
    Matilda

  13. Can I transfer 100’s of recipes all at once from another computer (Networked) directly into your program?

    Thanx Matilda

  14. Hi, Kevin-
    We don’t offer an import feature on the current version. Most people copy and paste the recipes in. It’s something we’re looking into for future versions.
    Matilda

  15. HELP!! ALL I WANT TO DO IS WRITE A COOKBOOK FOR MY FAMILY WITH HISTORY. I KEEP READING AND I AM GETTING CONFUSED. i REALLY LIKED THE ONE SOFTWARE BUT I KEEP SEE THNG’S THAT MAKE MY IDEA NOT REAL.. PLEEASE hELP ALL I WANTED WAS RECIPES AND FAMILY HISTORY. IT WOULD ONLY MEAN SOMETHING TO THE FAMILY..

  16. Hi, Jeannie-
    I’m a little confused by your message. Have you bought our software? Are you considering it? You’ll have to be a little more specific. I’d really like to help you if I can.
    Matilda

  17. I decided to use this software to make a recipe book from my grandmother’s recipe box, and I love it. I think it’s so easy to use, easy to find the help I need, and a great idea. I have told many friends about what I’m doing, and they all want to do it now too!

  18. I am very interested in your software but haven’t found this anywhere, can you print your cookbook any size you want? Like index card size or 1/2 sheets?

  19. Does the software adjust the typing of the ingredient amounts to a uniform look or does the typist have to remember if she is abreviating teaspoon or typing out the entire word?

  20. Hi, Cherie-
    If you use the Recipe Builder feature, it will always display “Teaspoon.” However, if you choose not to you have complete control over how words like “teaspoon” appear.
    Hope that helps!
    Matilda

  21. I noticed that all of your samples show two recipes per page. Are the templates designed so that I can have only one recipe on a page? Thanks. I am still deciding whether or not to order.

  22. I also want to know if I wait until the update in Spring if there is anything I can do now to prepare that won’t be a waste of time. Besides organizing my recipes that is. Could you elaborate on the “everytime you go to work on the book you have to go though all the recipes you have already entered” issue?

  23. Kathy-
    Currently there are no other options than to have as many recipes fit on a page as possible.
    Matilda

  24. Cherie-

    This is a small issue to most people. Whenever you open the software, it takes you to the first recipe and not the one you last worked on. By clicking on “Search” you can easily scroll down to whatever recipe you last worked on.

    If you have 500 recipes entered, that can be a nuisance. However, you can bypass this nuisance just by typing in the first few letters of a recipe name and it’ll automatically take you to the recipe you want.

    Matilda

  25. I have seen great reviews on this software and wondered if it works on a Macintosh? I have Tiger OXS operating system and do not have windows. If not, do you know of any software like yours that does operate on a mac or as we users say Apples. I would not go back to a window pc and if you look at the sales apple computers are taking over the pc’s. Any suggestions???? Please respond, or make your software mac compatable. Thanks

      Hi, Karen-
      Unfortunately, there isn’t an Apple version available. We’ve definitely got our eye on the great sales growth of Macs, but we just don’t have the resources to go after that market right now. I don’t think there’s anyone out there who makes a decent cookbook software in Mac format, so we definitely see an opportunity there..
      Matilda
  26. No this program isn’t compatable for MACS. However Apple Stores all carry two different cookbook programs, (online Also), and run about $99.

  27. Does this software work with Windows Vista??

    Can you back up your work on the internet and share it with family?

  28. I have not yet bought your software,but after reading some comments of others, I have questions. If I already have some recipes on Word, it is my understanding that I would be able to “cut and paste” in the program. Any particular formatting required for this? Also, may the recipes be typed directly on the “recipe cards” on the program? How are the recipes formatted to a page? Columns? I am very computer challenged and need an extremely user friendly program in order to produce a family cookbook. Thanks for your help.

  29. Hi, D-

    Yes, it works with Vista.

    You can back up your work wherever you want by just copying the file in C:\Program Files\Matilda\MatildaBack.

    Sharing your work with family members is the whole point of this software. You’ll be able to print a cookbook on your own printer for nothing but the cost of toner cartridge and paper. Print as many books as you like.

    Matilda

  30. Hi, Deb Manly-
    Yes, it’s very easy to cut and paste from Word. There’s no formatting required–the software does it all for you. It organizes the pages into two column format. You can see samples of all your choices here:
    http://www.cookbookpeople.com/samples.htm

    It does print recipe cards as well. You just have to select them from the drop down menu and you are off and running. Again, no special formatting, no re-typing.

    We’ve involved several grandmothers in building this software, so you can be sure that large, easy-to-read screens and a really simple interface are two of its best features. You figured out how to find us and leave a comment on this blog–our software isn’t much harder to use than that. If you can use email, you can use our software.

    Matilda

  31. I am very interested in purchasing your software and after reading these comments/questions I am almost certain I will do so. However, I am especially interested in creating a PDF file in case I want to take my recipes to a local printer. Is PDF creator available on the software CD?

  32. Hi, Judy-
    Yes, you can create PDF files. Although our software doesn’t include a built-in pdf creator, we have a link in our software where you can easily download one.
    Matilda

  33. Wow, am I excited!! I have been looking for exactly this program. My question is once I get the receipes loaded on the software can I download them on a cd and use is as a portable cd cookbook?

  34. 2nd question: I just ordered your software and then read somewhere on here about a revised version coming out in the spring? Will I get the old or new version?

  35. How will we know when the updated version is available? I want to wait to purchase until it is available. Do you think that there might be an option on the updated one to have only one recipe per page?
    Thanks, Kathy

  36. Hi, Kathy-

    All existing customers will be given access to a very reasonably priced upgrade. It’s looking like $10 to download, or $15 on disk.

    We’re also considering a price increase for the next full version. Nothing is firm yet, but it may be that you won’t be paying much more to buy it now and then download the upgrade later.

    One recipe per page will DEFINITELY be an option, Kathy.

    Matilda

  37. Referring to Jeannie Suman Says:
    December 4th, 2007 at 9:12 pm
    ALL I WANT TO DO IS WRITE A COOKBOOK FOR MY FAMILY WITH HISTORY.

    This is exactly what i
    I want to do as well. I would like to use your software and want to add a personal story to each recipe. Is this possible?

  38. Mathiila,
    Am planning to buy your software but have a question about the page layouts. In the two-column/two-recipe-per-page format, can the second recipe/space have just regular text added instead of a recipe.

    Am wanting to put text/history or comments with many of the recipes and am trying to address this issue.

    Thanks!
    Peg

  39. Garret-
    Definitely! You’ll have a giant text box to type in your recipe, an ingredients list, and any family stories that go with the recipe. I’d say that this is exactly what 80% of our customers use our software for!
    Matilda

  40. Peg-
    You can write all the text/history you want. You can literally add thousands of pages of text for each recipe if you like.
    One note, though–the software doesn’t really do 2 recipes per page in the two column format. It often does because that’s just how the formatting works out, but if you have a long recipe it may only do one per page, or if you have a number of short recipes it may do three or four per page.
    Matilda

  41. I am considering the software and have a question about publishing. I want to publish my cookbook in printed form. Can I take it to a printer and have the book print on front and back like a regular cookbook?

  42. tammy-
    Definitely. We make it easy for you to create PDF (Acrobat) files out of your cookbook to take to the printer.
    Matilda

  43. I am probably going to buy your software so I was glad to read you blogs and watch your video. Can you add pictures or articles to the pages inside the book also if saved in a document?

    Thanks for this forum I love it!!

    Sue

  44. Hi, Sue-
    You can add photos. We don’t really feature an “Articles” section in the software, but many customers just make a Recipe or Biography category called “Stories” or “Articles” or “Welcome” and use that for their writing.
    Glad you enjoy the blog!
    Matilda

  45. I have your software, and I want to know if my two sisters also get the software, are we able to work on our cook book separately, then combine them into one book? How do we do this?

  46. Can i install different fonts onto this software, or am I limited to the fonts that the software provides?

  47. Hi, Jen-
    Currently you are limited to the fonts built into the software. We’re looking at changing that down the road.
    Matilda

  48. Hi,
    I was going to make a rather elaborate scrapbook cookbook of my family recipes and then have photo copies made for my family members. Your software seems to be an much easier and efficient way to do it. However, I have been photographing the food and the people eating it as I have been cooking the recipes …can I include these photos on the recipe page or do I have to uses your sample photos and then put mine on a separate category page? I really wanted the pictures and comments together with the recipes. I appreciate your help. Thanks

  49. Hi, Barbara-
    Our software currently does allow you to include a photograph of whatever you’d like with each recipe. We supply a few sample photos, but you can use whatever photos you want.
    Matilda

  50. I am interested for your software provided I can import recipes from web and more specific Greek recipes. Can I import from Greek text or program is build only for english text?

  51. Hi, Irini-
    You shouldn’t have any problem with Greek text, provided that same computer also supports Greek text in other programs (email, internet, Word, etc).
    Taking recipes off of websites is as simple as copy/paste.
    Matilda

  52. I want to raise money for my Grandson Jason to have medical treatment. We live on social security and I the prices of the cookbook co are too high for me. Would your software work for this project? BTW – LOVE your site. Thanks, Carole

  53. Matilda, I would like to have your software but I am not using credit cards. As there can order this by check. I have just completed putting 71 recipes on an online site called “The Great Family Cookbook Project”. It has proven to be very easy to use but I’m afraid of losing my info. So, do you have an address I can order from.

    Becky

  54. Hi, Becky-
    You can send us a check or money order to:
    The Cookbook People
    3607 W Yates
    Boise, ID 83703
    Please include $5.00 for shipping/handling, plus $34.95.
    If you can copy your recipes from there, you can easily paste them right into our software. Good luck!
    Matilda

  55. Hi Matilda,

    I am thinking about writing a cookbook and eventualy publish it ( not just in the family). I have been collecting recipies for a long time; some of them are my own and some of them “have no author” meaning that I don’t know where I got them from. Therefore, I’m left wondering: how do copyrights work with cookbook recipies?
    Thanks,
    Mara

  56. I just ran across this site and had to stop. My sister and I have been talking (for the past 2 years now) about taking our grandma’s recipes and adding the rest of the families (13 kids) favorite recipes and do a family cookbook. I think I just may have try this out because I too want this more than just a cookbook. I am actually in the process of doing a family tree to put on the cover of the book. Can this be done with your software? Can I just print my own cover page and then continue with the rest from your software?
    Any help would be appreciated!
    Thanks ~ Chris

  57. I am thinking about buying this software, but had a few questions. 1)Can I fully export all recipes or my book to one PDF document? 2) Can I customize my own cover? 3) Do you happen to have a Linux version of this software?

    Thank you!

  58. I think I need to clarify the question about customizing my own cover. I know by reading your site that I can add my own photos to any of the cover templates. My question is can I use a blank template where I put in my own background or border, along with text and a photo of my choice? Hope this helps.

  59. Hi Shyla-
    If you want something really customized for the front cover, you might consider designing it in Photoshop or another graphics program. The software really isn’t designed for that level of graphics detail work.
    You certainly can make a pdf, and many do. We don’t offer a Linux version.
    Good luck!
    Matilda

  60. I have 1189 recipes on “MasterCook Version 9”. MasterCook does not operate well on Vista, so am considering a new program. Question, can I import the ENTIRE 1189 recipes as a cookbook? Copy and paste is not an option…

  61. Hi Matilda,

    I am considering buying your software, but want clarification. Can I print a cookbook that is 51/2 by 81/2 one recipe per page,and do you have binding kits that size or do I have to trim them?

  62. Jane 2-
    Yes, you can print half page, one recipe per page. We don’t offer a binding kit for that (yet) but we hope to have a solution very shortly.
    Matilda

  63. I am definitely interested in purchasing your software. As a member of an Italian family, I was surprised not to see a template with an “Italian” theme in the sample template section.
    Any ideas?

  64. Hi, Maureen-
    The good news is that you can just make your own template by easily adding a photo to the top and bottom of all the pages. It only takes a minute, and you’ll have an honest-to-goodness Italian cookbook. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Matilda

  65. I have your software and I am nearly ready for a first printing. I have access to a color laser printer and I thought I would print one copy and color photocopy the other copies to save time and printer toner. Is there a particular paper you could recommend?

  66. Also, is there any way to stop a recipe from spilling over to the next page? Nobody wants to have to turn the page when using a recipe.

  67. Hi Linda-
    For paper, it sort of depends on your taste and your printer. If your home printer supports it, I prefer a glossy white 20# paper stock, since the gloss deflects water better.
    However, a friend of mine did hers on recycled creme 80# text, which gave it a more substantial feel and was eco-friendly. Very nice.
    We include paper with our Easy Bind kits, but it’s pretty average paper, frankly.

    As for recipes spilling over to the next page, in Matilda 4.0 you can select “one recipe per page”. If you don’t have that version, you can always use try to create page breaks that make it easier to read by hitting ENTER a few times at unfortunate breaks.

    Hope that helps!

    Matilda

  68. I have purchased this software but I need to print about 45 cookbooks. I was looking at the binding kits and I am a little confused. Is one kit only one binding? So, I need to order the number of cookbooks that I am making?? I did not want to order and end up with tons of bindings that I will not need. Please clarify :0)

  69. Hi Lori-
    Yes, each kit will bind together a 100 page (200 page doublesided) cookbook. If you order 45, we’ll ship them to you in bulk to make it easier to print and bind.
    Matilda

  70. Hello,

    If we add our own picture how big will they be? Can they be any size, full page or half page? Oris the size limited to what is shown in the example?

    Thanks, TMW

  71. Hi T.M.W.-
    The photos will be the size as shown in the templates section of our site.
    You can always add in extra photos on your own as you print your cookbook. Just size them how you want in Word or whatever and sneak them in where you want.
    Matilda

  72. Why don’t you offer smaller cookbooks other than the 8.5 x 11 size? I know you have a cookbook with recipe cards in them, but I mean a cookbook with printed pages that we can do at home. Why not use 8.5 x 14 (legal size paper) and print in landscape using 2 half sides??????

  73. Hi Donna-
    Actually, we do offer half page sizes (5.5×8.5). They’re our most popular format in our software. We also carry corresponding half page binders in our storefront.
    Matilda

  74. I am thinking about purchasing your software but have a few questions. If I choose 5.5 x 8.5 page size will they be numbered? Is there only one column or two on that size page and can there be more than one recipe per page? Can pages be printed without a design on each page? Is there a table of contents or index possibility? Thanks, Jan

  75. I have looked for this answer but can not find it. My sister and I each have purchased the software and have been entering the recipes to speed up time. We would like to combine the two, but can not do it. Explain why since we have both paid for the software. also, neither one of us can get spellcheck. She did have it only one time and then never again. Your cookbook software is not easy to navigate for the average woman that has good computer skills. Please assist. I have spend more time with the software problem, than the cookbook. This is 2009, where is the 800 number for walk-through help, please! …and Thank you for your time.

  76. I am interested in having my friend enter recipes too if we decide to purchase software. What was your answer to Mary?
    I am concerned by her comments that I might get in over my head because of my lack of “computer lingo/usage knowledge”.

  77. I started a “Family Cookbook” as a wedding gift for a cousin and am now on Edition #4. I have just copied the recipes in the past and inserted them into a photo album. Each edition I send out the invites to add more recipes and the recipe book is now wonderful. I come from a very large family and only wish my dear Grandmother was here to see it (I know she is watching over us just wished I could have seen her joy!). I have wanted to purchase a program and I think this one just might be it. My next wedding is early August and I have already started receiving my newest recipes. How quickly would I receive your program once ordered? I noticed in some of your photos Southport NC was in the information. Are you local? I am in Hampstead, NC.

  78. Hello Rhonda for NC

    How wonderful your Family Cookbook sounds. I just did a Family Cookbook to honor my mother. I used Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. It was so easy to use.

    Matilda is in Boise, Idaho. If you ordered a copy of our software you would receive it within 5-7 days standard USPS. You can visit our website at http://www.cookbookpeople.com and view the many items we offer place your order yourself or after viewing our site and our DEMO you could call your order in at our toll free number 866-961-6344 and I can assist you there.

    Becky
    Customer Liaison

  79. I am using Vista 64 bit version. Will the software be compatible. I’ve found so many programs so far that are not.

  80. Hello Judy

    Yes our software is compatible with Vista. It was developed using a Vista machine. You should have no problems with it. In fact, I am using a Vista machine with mine and it works beautifully.

    Becky
    Customer Liaison

  81. Hi,
    If I download the trial then buy the disks seperate can i transfer my recipes over to the full version.

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  83. Like your program, one question instead of printing can you burn to CD cookbooks? I am looking in to possibilities for an ms fundraiser? limited on cash.

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  85. Dear Matilda
    I’m starting with my cookbook today, for my daughter as a gift on her wedding day. Cant wait and thank you for your advise.
    Joekie

  86. I did one complete ‘heritage’ recipes cookbook for my grandson in 2009. Since that time I have not been active with this software, and just had to re-install because we have had to replace our PC. Question: the best I can determine is that the number 401 indicates v. 4? Now is there a later version? If so, what has been changed/added? And, if I want such, what do I have to do to get it? Cost?

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