Okay, I normally like to post in order of how I've tried things, but this one is just too cool not to let you know right away.
I'm low on groceries. Like super low. And this being a tight money week, I'm having to get creative (again). However, since we make so much more of what we eat now, I don't have things on hand like Minute Rice or ready-made stuff. That means I'm buying to what we make, which takes more intentional shopping. So if we're low on foods, that means I have things like celery, potatoes, honey, bread flour, and several random cans of black, pink, and garbanzo beans. (Which we never eat, by the way.)
So I did a search - no joke - for "put in ingredients on hand get recipe suggestions." My goal in doing this was two-fold:
One, I could find recipes that I didn't know of before, that might really have all the things I have on hand that I would never think of putting together.
Two, I might find a recipe that I don't have everything to make, but it might contain other ingredients that are cheaper to buy than hamburger or chicken. Hear me: we are not going vegetarian. But that stuff is EXPENSIVE!!! So I'm trying to find more recipes that don't include meat, but still have sufficient protein. (If you have a link to recipes like this, please feel free to send them to me!) Even if they include beans: something my California-based hubby enjoys, but I'm not entirely keen on. Hey, I'm taking one for the team...and taking my kids along with me.
So the very first return was a blog entry by the Fun Times Guide called "Find Recipes Using Ingredients You Already Have On Hand." Perfect!! (And you know it's a good article when it's bringing up a result from 2007!)
If you scroll partway down the page, you find her suggestions of sites that do this for you.
The first one is supercook.com. At the top left, you add in all the ingredients you have. ALL of them. Underneath they will suggest things that might work in a recipe, and there were several that they suggested that I was like, "ooh, yeah, I do have that." Things like condiments and stuff, but it still helps the site round out the recipe suggestions. Then, as you keep listing, on the right it starts listing recipes with a very encouraging "You have everything needed for this recipe!" That's very encouraging when you're so low on items.
Granted, although it said I had 196 recipes that I could "right now!", most of them are things like potato salad and potato and celery soup. But! That's two dishes that I can absolutely make, that I probably wouldn't have thought of without the site. (And mashed potatoes. It's simple, but when you're in "my cupboards are bare and I'm getting desperate" mode, you don't always think of the simple things.)
The rest of the sites she listed returned few hits on the ingredients she entered, so I skipped them. But honestly, simply having found supercook.com was worth that whole blog.
I went back to my Google search, and tried another site. This one was recipematch.com. In the same way, you start typing your ingredients (for the record, with both these sites I entered 27 ingredients). This site made it a little less obvious: when you're done entering, scroll down and it will say "choose your cuisine." Fortunately it lets you choose more than one. I chose things like "Italian," "American," "BBQ/Grill," "30 Minutes," and "Crockpot," among others.
It came back with 1,283 recipes, but this one was much more tailored to my Reason #2 for the search. On the results page, it shows you the recipes that match, but gives you a basic ingredients list and shows you what ingredients you'd have to buy. Bingo! The first one, for instance, was a Carrot Salad. I have the mayo, raisins, and celery, but it showed me that I'd have to buy carrots. How helpful! For their "Awesome Potato Salad" recipe, it tells me that I'd have to buy salt and pepper, which of course I have, but didn't bother to list. That tells me that I might be able to find recipes with only a few simple (cheap!) ingredients!
I seriously hope these two suggestions give you hope - it can be downright dark and dreary when you're facing what would usually be a very large shopping trip for your normal recipes, with very little money. There IS hope, there ARE recipes, there IS creativity to be shared! The very reason we bloggers write what we've found. (grin)