Melissa’s magical recipe spreadsheet: How a grad student teaching herself to cook became the ultimate foodie

At our CSA member potluck last summer, I learned two things about CSA member Melissa that blew my mind a little.

First, Melissa doesn’t repeat recipes. Like, she makes a different thing every time she cooks. Compared to my staples recipes ways, this seemed wildly adventurous.

Second, Melissa ensures she’s always trying something new by tracking all her recipes in an ever-evolving magical recipe spreadsheet. In the spreadsheet, she also keeps notes on dietary restrictions, time spent, ingredients, and tweaks she’d make. As a person who loves her spreadsheets, I had to know more.

So I set out to learn more about the journey from Melissa’s grad school kitchen to her current life as maybe the ultimate foodie.

When Melissa moved to DC 7 years ago, it was her first opportunity to cook for herself, and at that point, she was just trying “trying to find recipes that fit my grad student budget and that I wouldn’t mess up.” Originally, she saved recipes she liked in a Word document, and enjoyed keeping notes on what worked. She found she truly enjoyed reading food blogs and planning her meals for the week. (Scroll down for links to Melissa’s favorite recipe resources). “I always aspired to more seasonal eating because I was aware of environmental impact of what I was eating, but being on a budget made it hard to integrate into my diet,” says Melissa. She got her feet wet with a CSA that dropped boxes at her workplace before finding her way to Owl’s Nest.

Along the way, she met her partner Dave, who impressed her with his knowledge of food and cooking. They connected over their shared love for culinary adventures. Eventually, she turned her list of recipes into a spreadsheet they could share. After that, she says, “it got out of hand really quickly.”

Today, Melissa is a self-described “huge CSA nerd.” Not only does she use ALL her share each week (as in she brought pickled chard stems to our CSA mmember potluck), she and Dave have volunteered regularly on the farm over the years.

How does she make time for such a delicious life? For one, she loves to research, plan, cook, and eat!

And her recipe spreadsheet is a helpful resource: she has some recipes tagged as weeknight meals, and she usually makes a couple of big batches of those in “one big cooking session that will last till the weekend.”

Then, Melissa and Dave spend weekend hours on culinary adventures, trying more elaborate recipes.

A Caprese salad with Owl’s Nest veggies

A Caprese salad with Owl’s Nest veggies

Melissa's recipe resources

Dave and Allie planting cabbage at Owl’s Nest

Dave and Allie planting cabbage at Owl’s Nest

The spreadsheet

Here are some notes about how to use it and the cleaned up-ness of it.