Fail – online recipes from grocers

It should be such a neat match.  Loads of people are searching for inspiration for what to cook … and having found something, often need to buy the ingredients.  So, it is hardly surprising that every grocer publishes recipes.  We have tried quite a few, as part of an effort to try many more recipes, and to broaden our range of stuff we eat (see post here for more info … and we are still trying a lot of new recipes 8 months in).

It has been getting rather hard to track all the different recipes, including remembering who thought what was hot or not.  So, I have been repurposing a web site called Yololi that I was playing with, to do the remembering for us (example below).  It is designed for us, but built to be able to be used widely, so if you want to have a play, let me know – you can find it at, but I should note that unless I have put your email address into the valid beta users list, you won’t be able to sign up – leave a comment if you want a beta login.

Anyway, what has been interesting to find out as I have been playing with this is how ill suited grocery web sites are to one of the key facets of the web – that it saves you having off-line printed copies, so you have all your favourites at your fingertips.  FAIL.

A couple of examples will show the challenge, starting with Sainsburys.  They have quite a few recipes, and thus far they seem pretty good.  But, if you want to link to the recipe as part of a single list of favourites, then you are in trouble.  The recipes are on pages that have no obvious permanent address (that I can find) – storing the address in the browser bar will get you a ‘no such page’ page if you try it a day later.  They do give a ‘save to my account’ option, but that ends up with recipes distributed across different suppliers, each with different accounts that you need to track … this is not an advantage over physical books that can be simply pulled out, with no danger of forgetting how to open them!  I have patched this in Yololi, by translating information about recipes from Sainsburys into the format that the Sainsburys site expects for a search, which gets you there pretty fast.  And, if you store the recipe in your Sainsburys account, it does seem to have a more permanent link that might be an even better solution.  But, it is a pain that simply didn’t need to be there, and which an average user would have no hope of cracking.

At least Sainsburys has the advantage that it fails straight away, making you realise that if you want to retain the recipe then you need to do something.  Asda, however, has a more annoying issue.  Everything appears to work just fine, with simple links that always take you back to the same recipe.  But, as we discovered today, they seem to do some cleaning that involves moving/deleting recipes, resulting in the message “Sorry this recipe is no longer available, please use the search box bellow for more Asda recipes.” (yes, it does say ‘bellow’, not ‘below’, that’s not my typo).  Viewed from the perspective of a magazine that is fine – it keeps the result of searches short enough to avoid intimidation.  But, in terms of going back to recipes that you have used it is a complete pain.  I cannot see why they cannot leave the old recipes there, and simply hide them from searches if they want to manage the volume of returned items.  But, if we want to go back to ‘Moroccan lamb with cous cous’ we can’t.  Not even by searching that site – it has been expunged from the lists.  As it happens, we didn’t like it anyway, but that is hardly the point.

I will continue to add more special handling to Yololi so that it copes with this sort of thing, and so allows us to keep track of what we had, and how to find it again.  But, if I step back from that challenge, it feels so short termist from these suppliers.  And, it does make me think I might do a but more of a systematic survey to see who fairs well in terms of robust web recipe supply.

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