OK, guys…Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is JUST around the corner. While everyone else is on the hunt for antacids and stretchy pants, I’m raiding the baking section of my local grocery store to plan for my holiday cookie platters!
Baking Christmas cookies is a tradition I picked up from my dad. He used to bake cookies for family and friends every year, and since he’s now passed, I’ve taken on the duty of turning my own little kitchen into a butter and sugar paradise.
I always make his favorite cookies: gingerbread snaps, peppermint canes, butter cookies, almond cookies, and cranberry bread…but every year I try to make a few new cookies to help switch things up. This year I have a lot of new recipes I want to try, and it can definitely be daunting to figure out exactly how much of everything is needed so you can buy all your supplies in one shopping trip!
However, I’ve found a way to make this insanely easy and stress-free. The answer? EXCEL. Excel is seriously a life-saver. If you don’t have Excel, you can also use Google Sheets…it’s free and works exactly the same. PLUS, you can access your Google Sheets from any device that can connect to the Internet, which is super helpful in a pinch.
For my purposes, I’m using Google Sheets this year, as my home computer doesn’t have Excel. And I’m gonna take you on a step-by-step tutorial on how to use any spreadsheet program to make your holiday food shopping so much easier! While I use this for cookies, you can also use this for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any occasion when you have to bake or cook several recipes at once.
First things first—gather all your recipes. Open up Google Sheets or Excel and, in the first row, type “Ingredients” in the first column, “Amounts” in the second column, and “Recipe” in the third column. Then you’re just going to import all your data, putting the ingredient in column 1, how much of that ingredient is needed in column 2, and what recipe that measurement belongs to in column 3…so your chart should look a little something like this:
Keep going until all your ingredients for all your recipes are listed. It will also help you in the long run if you list ingredients the same throughout the sheet. For example, list “flour” and “all-purpose flour” just as flour. That will make this much easier to sort in the next step!
Also you can freeze row 1 so it remains at the top of the sheet as you scroll down through your data. To do that, just highlight the first row, then go to View—Freeze—Row 1 and the top row will remain at the top as you scroll down your list.
Once everything is added, create a new tab and copy and paste all the info from the first tab into the second. Highlight everything but the top row:
Then do a right-click, select “Sort Range” and sort by Column A, AàZ:
Now all your like ingredients are grouped together. As you can see, I have Heavy Cream, Salt, Sugar, and Butter listed several times:
Now comes the fun part! Next we’re going to combine all the double-listed ingredients. So for butter, I’d combine all the measurements (1 cup, 1 cup, ½ cup) and type “2½ cups” in the “Amounts” column, then delete the two rows I don’t need:
Go ahead and do that with all instances of doubles.
Finally, I like to add one further step of organization and just put like ingredients together so I’m not running all over the grocery store. For that, I turn the “Recipe” column into an “Area” column and type in the section of the grocery store where I would find said item:
That way I can walk through the grocery store once, get everything I need, and head out.
This method has been pretty foolproof for me since I started using it about two years ago. It makes it so much easier when I don’t have to guess how much stuff I need and I know I’m getting just enough ingredients to make everything I want to make.
If you plan on baking a lot like I do, you might have an instance where, after you tally your totals, you end up needing something like “40 cups of flour” or “15 cups of sugar”. For instances like that, keep in mind that one bag of flour can contain anywhere from 15 to 20 cups of flour, depending on the type of flour, the brand and whether or not it’s sifted. There’s really no great conversion for how many bags of flour you’ll need, but a 5 lb. bag should give you a good 15 cups at least. For sugar, the average is about 2¼ cups to 1 pound…so a 4 lb. bag should contain about 9 cups.
Knowledge is power! Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.