I love cooking and experimenting with a wide variety of food. That’s a big part of why I started My Kitchen Culture and started writing about food and the best kitchen appliances to make it.
Even so, I’ll admit that I was occasionally overwhelmed by keeping track of the ingredients in my kitchen, especially when I have a lot of leftovers or when I’m experimenting with a bunch of complicated recipes.
It really made it hard to keep track of what I had on hand. That meant that I was spending a lot more than I needed to on food. At the same time, it made it so that I had ingredients expiring in my pantry just because I’d forgotten I have them.
I wanted something more than a simple organization tool. I wanted something that would help me keep track of what I had, and would help me make the best use of every ingredient in my pantry.
That’s when I found Chefling, a smart kitchen assistant app that does a lot more than just helping you stay organized or find new recipes (and it does those things too!).
How Chefling Works
The first thing that stood out about Chefling was the signup process.
Instead of just making an account with my name and email address, Chefling walked me through a customization process that included a lot of information about my eating preferences as well as what I already had in my pantry.
It wasn’t complete, I had to go in and add other ingredients later, but it was a good sign and a good starting place.
The app also allowed me to customize things like whether I prefer a vegan or vegetarian diet, or whether I wanted to avoid sugar or only use recipes that are low-carb or keto-friendly.
From there Chefling was ready to act as my kitchen assistant, suggesting meals based on the ingredients I already had on hand in combination with the food preferences I outlined when I signed up.
There were a lot of options even just on the home screen when I started using the app. Things like easy meals and 5 ingredient dinners immediately stood out as a way the Chefling could help make things easier in the kitchen. It was clear that this was more than a simple grocery or refrigerator organization app. It was a full kitchen assistant that helped with every step of keeping my ingredients and choosing recipes.
The recipe search function made it easy to find recipes according to the diet limitations I’d already set up, and I also had the option of toggling additional dietary preferences that I could use to plan individual meals.
For instance, if I’m looking for a vegetarian meal for a couple of days in a week I can easily toggle the vegetarian food preference and all my search results will be vegetarian.
Chefling also takes the ingredients that are already in my kitchen into account. The first recipes in any search will feature some of the ingredients I have on hand.
Sometimes, I’ll even be able to find a new recipe using only the ingredients I already have!
That’s not a requirement though, because it’s simple to add any of the ingredients I’m missing to a grocery list. No more worrying about forgetting ingredients for a recipe.
When I go to add ingredients from a recipe into my shopping list, another useful feature pops up. I can customize which ingredients get added to the list. Anything that’s already in my kitchen is automatically omitted, but I can add them back on if I’m running low.
I can also skip ingredients if someone in my family doesn’t like something.
Plus, since I can customize family allergies in my food preferences, I don’t have to worry about recipes that include anything my family is allergic to.
Once I’ve added all my recipes for a shopping trip I can also manually add and edit my shopping list. Things like paper towels and trash bags might not be included in recipes, but I can easily add them to my shopping list so I know everything I need to pick up at once.
Chefling lets you add ingredients as you buy them or by scanning the barcode on items you already have. When you mark anything on your grocery list as ‘purchased’ the app will automatically add that ingredient to your pantry.
You can use the same feature to add ingredients from your pantry and refrigerator as well!
It does take a little while to get used to–updating the app when you’ve used the last of something, but once you’re in the habit–keeping everything updated is simple. If you also add the expiration date of items as you add them, the app will help you keep track of what ingredients are about to expire, helping prompt you to use food that would otherwise go to waste.
This was a feature that wasn’t on my initial list for a kitchen organization tool, but I decided to give it a try anyway.
The most helpful feature at first was the ability to add my own recipes. Like a lot of home cooks, I have a collection of recipes that I’ve created for myself and others that have been passed down from friends and family.
Having an app where I could collect those recipes made remembering them a lot easier. It also made it easier to make grocery lists because I could add anything I was missing from the recipe directly on to my grocery list.
Using the app for recipe inspiration when I have a leftover ingredient and no idea what to do with it has saved a lot of time and effort in the kitchen.
I also love the app features recommendations by themes such as ‘Cook with Instant Pot’ or ‘5-ingredient Meals’. I absolutely love easy recipes that only require 3 to 5 ingredients, especially on nights where I don’t feel like making a trip to the grocery store and can use what I have already.
This was probably the most useful feature for me other than being able to create grocery lists and monitor what was in my pantry without digging through the whole thing.
When I have a little bit of a vegetable leftover or some extra protein I wanted to use instead of freezing for later, I just open My Chef and ask for recipes using that ingredient.
A lot of the time I use this tool as inspiration, something that helps me remember my favorite recipes and come up with new ways to use a leftover ingredient. The effective difficulty rating also makes it easier to choose a recipe that matches my energy levels.
I might want to get rid of that extra chicken in my fridge, but I don’t always have the energy to make a gourmet meal after a long day at work. By looking at easy recipe options I’m usually able to come up with something tasty that doesn’t take too much time or energy.
If Chefling weren’t already doing enough to be worth using it as my kitchen assistant, the app also allows you to make a meal plan and set meal planning and cooking reminders.
Once I’ve picked a recipe I want to make, I can press ‘plan’ and it’ll be added to my meal plan, with an automatic prompt to add the ingredients to my shopping list as well. When I go into my meal planning page I can also select which day of the week I want to cook the meal.
Then, from the profile settings page, I can also create cooking reminders for myself. The reminder pops up on my phone to remind me what I’m supposed to make.
I also loved the meal plan reminder. I could set it for a weekly reminder to take some time to plan the meals for the week and make my shopping list. I loved using this feature to make my list the night before I went grocery shopping, and it saved a ton of time.
In addition to setting up reminders for myself, the profile page also gave me a handy way to navigate to my favorite recipes, change my diet preferences, and more.
From the profile page, I could also invite other people to see what I was doing on Chefling. Adding family members meant no more asking “what’s for dinner tonight?”. More than that, though, it made it easy for me to ask other people to pick up one or two things from the grocery store, or even to send someone else shopping if I got sick or something else came up.
The app even let me add a list of the appliances I have on hand. That way I never have to worry about not having the equipment I need for a recipe. The profile page really does think about almost every aspect of what you need in the kitchen.
There are a few problems with the app, but that’s to be expected. After all, no program is perfect.
With all the uses I’ve found for Chefling in my home kitchen I can forgive a few small faults, but they are still worth mentioning.
The main drawback I found was that it’s difficult to list the weight of home-packaged items. I often break down my own chickens and prepare other cuts of meat before freezing, which means that I label the freshly cut meat myself.
It would be helpful if I could list the weight of each package somewhere other than the name of the item.
Even with that drawback though, this app has been a huge lifesaver, it really does work as a kitchen assistant.
Speaking of keeping your kitchen manageable, I wrote an article covering some of the best kitchen hacks to help keep your refrigerator organized and odor-free. I really noticed that Chefling combined with these habits made a huge difference in my refrigerator and even helped save money on my grocery bills!