Evernote – Organization for Cooks and Travellers

By - April 13, 2012 (Updated: November 19, 2014)


Evernote organised my life

You probably wouldn’t guess it by looking around our flat; but I’m an organizer. I like to plan ahead and for everything to have its place. (I can hear my mother chuckling from across the Atlantic now. Hey, I said ‘organizer’ not ‘neat-freak.’)

About a year ago, I discovered Evernote, an on-line application for storing data – notes, photos, pdfs and web pages. If you love to cook and/or travel, like I do, read on to find out how Evernote simplified and organised my life.

Evernote for travel planning

Let’s talk about your bookmarked websites for a moment. If you’re anything like me, you start off with good intentions. You put things in neatly categorised folders for easy reference and feel proud of yourself for being so organised.

Fast forward six months. You know you saw something about a great hotel in Antwerp somewhere. Did you bookmark it under ‘hotels’ or ‘Antwerp’?  Or maybe you forgot to put it in a folder at all… You’d Google it again, if you could only remember the hotel name.

Here’s where Evernote comes in. Instead of bookmarking that great hotel, you can save part or all of the webpage in Evernote. You can drop it in a folder called hotels or Antwerp, just like your regular bookmarks, but here’s where it gets really handy.

Evernote for Travel Planning

Here you can see some travel notes I’ve made in Evernote

If you have a bit of forethought, you can tag your note with handy keywords, like hotel or Antwerp. But even if you forget to do that, Evernote’s search feature will scan all of your notes and bring up those with the words hotel and Antwerp. All of your notes are totally searchable.

Another nice feature is the ability to share any of your notebooks with someone else.

Right now I’m in the middle of planning a big trip in April. My parents are coming to visit Andrew and I for the month and I’ve been busily booking flights and hotels and planning some activities for us. I’ve created maps, saved interested articles and blog posts and made notes about hotels and B&Bs we’re staying in.

I’ve dropped everything into a notebook called ‘April 2012 travels’ and I can share that with my mom, dad and Andrew with one easy link. They can check it whenever they want, and see anything new I’ve added.

But for my absolute favourite feature, let’s move on to how I use Evernote for cooking.

Evernote for Recipes

I love to cook. I also love cookbooks, cooking magazines and cooking websites. I’ve amassed hundreds of recipes over the years.

Evernote for Recipes

My recipes are sorted into folders that make sense to me

It’s one thing to know I have a recipe for Thai green curry with prawns in a magazine; it’s a totally different thing to know which of 72 magazines that recipe is in. I’ve spent hours, in the past, searching for that one recipe I just knew I had somewhere.

The other issue with all of these magazines and cookbooks is space. In our small flat, I just don’t have room to keep them all. Something had to be done.

Enter my favourite Evernote feature – Optical Character Recognition, or OCR. OCR means Evernote can look at a jpg and pick out any text in it. If I upload a photo or scan of a recipe from a magazine into Evernote, that text is suddenly searchable. Miraculous right?

Evernote for Recipes

Here’s a recipe I scanned. You can see from the search box that Evernote found it for me.

It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good. I’ve been scanning in my recipes for a few months now and it has made finding things so much easier.

Say I get some celeriac in my organic veggie box and I’m not sure what to do with it. I simply search celeriac in my Evernote and volia! All of my recipes containing the word celeriac appear. Do that with your stack of magazines.

Of course I can also add recipes I find on-line, just the same as with travel planning and everything is searchable. Even if the website link goes dead, I still have the information safely in Evernote.

If you use Google Chrome as your browser, there is a handy extension to make clipping things to Evernote even quicker.

Evernote for Mobile

If you have a smart-phone, Evernote is even more useful. There is an Evernote app that syncs between your phone and on-line versions of Evernote. No more taking up counter space with my laptop when I want to use a recipe. I can bring it up on my phone instead.

If I’m travelling and want to bring up all my notes on a particular destination, it’s all right there at my fingertips.

So how much does this wonderful tool cost? Well, nothing actually. The free version gives you most features, including the OCR. You can upgrade to receive priority in the OCR queue (it does take a day or so for your text to be searchable otherwise) and have a higher monthly upload limit.  I upgraded when I was scanning my cooking magazines just so I could get them all uploaded in a timely way, but with normal use I’ve never run out of space.

There are many other ways to use Evernote. If you have a good one, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

If you like this, you might like:

Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
It's after Halloween so I can officially share Christmas Markets now right...? 🎄🎅 - 1 week ago


  1. Comment by Unexpected traveller

    Unexpected traveller April 14, 2012 at 09:55

    Coincidentally, yesterday I was being told all about Springpad which seems to be The sort of s/w that does pretty much the same thing.
    This is exactly what Cloud computing is all about – making life simpler 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 19, 2012 at 14:23

      Absolutely! It’s so nice to have everything in one easily accessible place!

  2. Comment by Edi

    Edi April 14, 2012 at 18:06

    Nice post, Alison!

    I love Evernote and use it not only for the above (well, ok, Isa uses it more for recipes and travelling planning), but also for filing all my reference (non-sensitive) material. A few examples?
    – Manuals (all manuals for gadgets, appliances, furniture, you name it are on a shared folder…. if I can find a PDF, i goes there, if I can’t, scan and go there as well)
    – Invoices & Warranty documents (have you ever tried to find when you bought something? if is still under warranty?)
    – Bills (Utilities, etc…. all searchable)

    Just one comments about OCR and searches. The free version works for images, but not for PDFs. If you want to search into PDF documents, you need to subscribe, but… it’s worth every cent.

    As of other options? SpringPad is nice but it has no desktop (Mac or PC) version. Yojimbo is nice, just not for me, ThinkDevon is too complex for me…. Evernote is brilliant!!!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 19, 2012 at 14:23

      Great tips Edi! I used to use Springpad way back 3-4 years ago but I haven’t looked at it lately. I’m sure they’ve added more features by now.

  3. Comment by limegimlet

    limegimlet April 15, 2012 at 12:11

    Thanks Alison, is is just *exactly* what I’ve been looking for. I have friends that just visited from Canada and I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to share with them the recipes we made and food shops we visited. It also would have been handy while we were planning their visit! Have you tried using this with the Camscann app? You take a picture with your phone, and it converts it to a PDF you can share by email, FB etc…or other apps such as Evernote. Works like a charm, perfect for capturing wine labels at dinner. 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison April 19, 2012 at 14:22

      I haven’t tried that app yet but I will check it out. I love Evernote and it’s always interesting to see how others make use of it!

    • Comment by Edi

      Edi April 19, 2012 at 15:28

      Interesting. I’m using Camera+ on iPhone when I need some more quality picture and Genius Scan (also on iPhone) if I need to capture anything which goes to Evernote, with the advantage of cropping and fixing perspective before sending as PDF.
      As for regular scanning, I have a Lexmark multi-functional, with an “app” accessible via touchscreen, sending documents directly to my Evernote account (or my wife’s one).

  4. Comment by wandergirl

    wandergirl May 5, 2012 at 15:59

    This is a great idea! I was thinking of using it mainly as a bookmark organizer, but uploading receipts and bills would be fantastic for me!

    You said you’ve uploaded stuff for your family to look at – I assume you can make certain things private and certain things shared?

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison May 5, 2012 at 17:01

      Yes, you can make notebooks private, public or shared with selective people so it makes it easy to share with family and friends. With the pro upgrade you can also have shared notebooks that multiple people can edit or add to.

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