painful paper lists
I have been wanting to build numnums since 2005 to solve a unique problem. My husband, Collin, and I cook almost every day, but we only shop about once a week. To keep us organized, I would jot things down in my notebook as kitchen staples ran out.
As we’d plan our meals for the upcoming week, I’d type out our shopping list in Excel because it would let me group the list by store and sort it by section of the store. (I know, it's a little OCD, but I really didn't want to waste time zigzagging through the store with an unsorted list.)
We’d go to the store with our paper list and cross items off as we added them to our cart. It took a lot of time to build these lists, but it was worth it. Since we were organized, we got in and out of the store quickly and, for the most part, we bought only what we needed, so preparing a list also helped us save money.
the numnums solution
As a web developer, I knew that I could automate these shopping lists from recipes. We built numnums to do exactly that. Here are some screenshots from the product to help illustrate this concept. Below is a sample recipe in numnums. I click on the “+” next to the ingredient to add it to my shopping list, or I click “ALL +” to add them all in one fell swoop.
the shopping list
I can then head to the store with the mobile list as shown below. I swipe left or right to cross items off my list. The color coding corresponds with store sections. Green = produce, blue = fridge, orange = pantry, yellow = deli/bakery.
I can also add non-recipe items or even non-food items through the “add an item” field. The result is a single list that can be sorted by the stores I frequent or major sections with in each store. I have complete flexibility to update the list by looking up other recipes and adding ingredients that feature a great produce find or a wonderful daily special.
This combined list functionality is essentially the digital marriage of the page in my notebook to the Excel spreadsheets I used to prepare.
proprietary recipe step mapping
When I get home with my groceries, I simply load up the recipe page on my iPad so that I can easily reference it in the kitchen.
For our recipe layout, I tasked Collin with making it easy to see which ingredients went into each specific step. (In addition to being my husband, Collin is also our co-founder, designer, and front end developer.) As you can see, ingredients and recipe steps are color-coordinated: blue dots go into step 3, the red dot into step 4, etc. With this layout, I can quickly reference a recipe at a glance while cooking. This is valuable because it’s tough to read through lots of prose when my hands are full or when I am in the midst of a complicated recipe.
recipe collecting and publishing
By using numnums regularly, I have organically accumulated my favorite recipes in a consolidated space in the cloud. Our very first version of numnums launched in March 2012. It was ugly then, but it worked. As of March 2014, I have over 500 of my favorite recipes stored in numnums. Some of them are still drafts, but you can see the polished ones in the featured recipes section of the numnums website. I didn’t chain myself to the computer to build this collection; I simply added recipes bit by bit as I cooked them.
With my recipes in the cloud, I can easily plan meals and even look up my recipes while in the store. I also love the ability to search. This comes in especially handy when I’m trying to figure out options for using leftover ingredients. For instance, if I had tons of extra basil on hand, I’d simply search among recipes I have made in the past to figure out the game plan for the leftover basil. Below are some example search results.
Having my recipes in a consolidated digital format also enables me to create things with them. When Collin and I got married, our wedding favor was a 50-page cookbook that contained recipes we cooked during key points of our relationship. Our guests loved the cookbook, but it was honestly a major pain to aggregate, type out, format, print, and bind. With numnums, I can now publish a PDF cookbook of my recipe collection at the push of a button. And if I don’t want to deal with printing and binding, I can order the cookbooks through numnums and they’ll be at my doorstep in about two weeks.
We set out to find a solution to my painful paper lists, and ended up building a really robust recipe-publishing platform that supports home cooks from start to finish.
our software and services
Our technology all runs on the web, so recipes and lists are accessible via phone, tablet, and computer. We’ve built it on a responsive framework so it’s essentially a single site that’s smart enough to resize itself depending on what type of device the viewer is using. And just in case you lose network connectivity deep inside of a store, our shopping list goes into offline mode so that you can continue using it.
At this point, we're focused on selling our software and services to culinary businesses so that they can build custom recipe websites on our platform, then use their recipes to market themselves brilliantly to their customers. You can find information on our small business plans here, but test accounts are free if you'd like to poke around and see how it all works.
Please drop me a note with any questions. I'd love to hear from you!