I have been trying to organize my recipes for a while now. I have visions of eventually having them all categorized and with personal notes added to the margins… unfortunately I’m not there yet (or even close). But I think I am making some headway.

I am starting to organize family favorite type recipes in a small three-ring binder. These binders are only 7 1/2 by 9 inches so they fit in nicely with my bound cookbooks. I designed some simple (decorated) lined pages to fit the binder and printed them out myself using ordinary twenty-pound copy paper. I have a paper cutter so cutting the pages to size was not a problem. My plan is to write one recipe per page and place each recipe page in the appropriate category section. I also made divider pages by cutting pieces of cardstock to the same size as the recipe pages and attaching a small plastic tab designed for file folders. The small binders, copy paper, card stock, and the plastic tabs are all inexpensive and easily available in any office supply store, so the initial investment was small. I’m still experimenting with this system, so I haven’t really decided if I will try to rewrite all the recipes or if I will paste some of the existing recipes I have onto the pages. So far I have only been rewriting the recipes. I have added notes and comments about the origin of the recipe, any changes I made in the ingredients or procedure, and anything I think is interesting related to this recipe and my family’s reaction to it.

Bumblebee on joe pye-weed

My mother also used a three-ring binder system, but she used the full sized binders, and her binders are filled with ordinary pre-punched ruled theme paper. Some of the recipes are written directly on the ruled paper. The recipes that she clipped from newspapers or magazines are pasted on the same ruled paper with her handwritten notes in the margins. Since her pages are large, she usually had more than one recipe written or pasted per page, with spaces dividing the different recipes. Often recipes that other people have given her are already written on the right size paper, so she just punched the page and added it to the appropriate binder. Over the years she created several of these binders, and she had the recipes and information divided into categories… one binder for cakes and cookies, another binder for breads and pies, etc. My mother started making these recipe binders before I was born, and she accumulated a massive collection of recipes and information. Her recipe binders are a joy to read through and offer a wonderful insight into her personality, tastes, and interests. I’m hoping that my recipe binders will someday be as interesting to my children.

If you don’t like the binder idea, here are a few other ideas for organizing recipes.

  • Journal type notebooks with bound-in pages… This is how I have organized my favorite recipes in the past. I have two of these journals… one is for baking recipes and one is for main dish recipes. The pages are a mixture of pasted recipes and handwritten recipes, and this has been a good method for me, but the books are nearly full and also need updating because we eat almost an entirely vegetarian diet now and many of the recipes I collected earlier don’t reflect that.
  • Index or recipe cards stored in a recipe box with recipes written or pasted one to a card, with the cards separated by cardboard category dividers. The colored tabs are nice here too. Did you know that most people have fifteen or twenty recipes that they keep going back to? Sometimes it’s nice to keep a small recipe box for just these favorite standby recipes. Recipe cards can also be stored in loose-leaf notebooks in the clear plastic pocket dividers. An index or recipe card just fits into these pockets.
  • Index cards or pages stored in an accordion file folder… Accordion folders have several pockets that you can use for categorizing… you can put in handwritten recipes, clippings, index cards… but each group will need to be sorted through each time you’re looking for a recipe. I tend to get really messy with something like this, although an accordion folder would be convenient for the recipes I have not yet put into my binders.
  • Photo albums with clear plastic protectors and self-adhesive pages… Personally this would be one of my last choices because the pages are so bulky.
  • Computer programs… Again, not an option I would personally choose, but many people like the searchable features, including the ability to type in an ingredient and find any recipe that contains it.

If you feel you have collected more recipes than you can ever organize, maybe it is time to purge some of them. Start by separating the recipes into categories. Then go through each category and discard any recipes that fit any of the following criteria:

  • If the recipe has an incomplete ingredient list or instructions (I can’t tell you how many times I have written down abbreviations that made sense at the time but mean nothing now)
  • If the recipe is for something that no longer fits your lifestyle
  • If you can’t imagine why you saved that particular recipe in the first place
  • If you have tried the recipe already and your family didn’t like it
  • If the recipe uses ingredients that are too costly or hard to find
  • Or any other reason that makes sense to you

I’m including only recipes my family really, REALLY likes in this new recipe binder I have been working on, so until I have tried a recipe, I keep it with the rest of the uncategorized recipes in a small box that is slowly emptying.

About printed cookbooks… although I have several Betty Crocker, Good Housekeeping, and Farm Journal cookbooks, and a few specialty cookbooks, I don’t have a huge cookbook collection, so organizing them is not a problem for me. I have always written in the margins in my cookbooks, and many of the pages are well-used, so eventually I will probably add some of the recipes I regularly use in these cookbooks to my recipe binder.

I’m finding that this project is taking longer than I thought it would, but that is probably because I don’t work on it very often! I am pleased with how my recipe binder is progressing, though, and I’d love to hear from any of you about how you have organized your recipes.

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martha bandy

Thanks for your input for organizing recipes, I am now working toward that end and am having difficutly finding the 71/2×9 3 ring binders. Do you have a resource I could use? Looking forward to read more from this site. M

Shirley (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Martha, I bought my small ring binders at Staples and at Office Depot, although I have also seen that size in other office supply stores. Good luck with your organizing… sometimes I wonder if I will EVER get all the recipes I have collected organized and written up the way I want them!


Shirley- I’m new to your blog and have been reading your past entries. This one on organizing recipes hit the spot since I recently began transferring some of mine to recipe file cards. I’m taking it a step farther though and including household tips also. It all started with the idea that I would like to have some sort of collection to leave for my son and future generations. My parents died when I was a young adult, and I thought back on all the times that I floundered without a parent’s loving ‘advice’. This file box idea seemed to fit my plan because I’m always learning. It is easier to add another card than to write in a journal or book…more portable too. By the way, keep up your good work. Your blog is terrific!


Hi. Came across your website while I was searching for “ideas for storing recipes”. I found a really neat file box and index cards and since I now print all of my recipes from sites such as recipes.com, etc. I am going to glue the recipes that I print to the back of colorful index cards. I’ll be blogging about my project shortly on my blog.
I am enjoying your posts!


I too am trying to organize my extensive recipe collection. It is also taking longer than anticipated. Here are a few of my tips. Any recipes I already have that are messy, to small a type etc., I look up on one of the recipe websites to see if I can find my version and then print it out in the appropriate size. Tada, nice, neat, typed recipe without me having to retype or rewrite the whole thing. Some even have a way to customize the recipe. Next, I’m trying to go through all my cookbooks and pull out only the recipes I know I will use or have used. I buy cookbooks a lot at yard sales, so I don’t feel bad about recycling the rest since I only paid .25 for them. I also borrow a lot of them from the library and make copies of the recipes I want.

Lola H

I am getting older and need to remember things better. I also have been a computer junkie (before I retired almost 2 years ago) It is hard to change.

Learning is important to me and my interests grow daily (like reading but not fiction).

In a previous life, when I was young, I had a variety of cookbooks that I rarely looked at, except if I needed something.

After retirement I bought a copy of Microsoft Office which contains a program “OneNote”. It has become my personal reference library and with the Internet continues to grow GROW GROW! The program allows me to create many notebooks of whatever info I find and want to save i.e. sayings, articles of frugality, couponing, computer tutorials on various programs, recipes that “I” like and would want to try, etc. I can go to a website highlight something I want to research, learn or whatever and save it to one of the notebooks within the program. I can even add “how to” or YouTube videos, .pdf files, pictures, scanned info or hand written recipes or notes–you name it.

It is wonderful! for me. For my December birthday, my son bought me a Kindle fire HD and Microsoft has made OneNote to sync to SkyDrive so all my library will be available anywhere. I can take it to my cooking area and look up my recipes reading while I prepare and cook what I want.

In addition, I can print out the info (recipes) or watch video instructions as well.


In the past couple of years I’ve turned to Pinterest to store my recipes. Whenever I see a recipe that I like or would like to try, I immediately pin it to a Pinterest board (if you’re not familiar, think of it as folders). I have a few boards for recipes: savory meals, desserts and drinks, etc. You can customize it to whatever you want with however many boards you want. My problem now is that I’ve pinned so many delicious looking recipes that I think I need to go back and make new subcategories!

Other things I pin as well are gardening ideas, kitchen tips, etc. I’m a very visual learner so having a visual board helps a lot.


I found a Mac app I love: Paprika. I have never been successful using computer software for recipes. This one, I use continually. It has apps for my iPhone and iPad as well, and I especially love that they sync. When I am at the grocery store and want to know what’s in a recipe, I can just pull up the app and find out. I still print the favorite recipes for a 3-ring binder though. Right now, I’m tackling the project of streamlining my collection to just the good basic recipes we actually use. My husband now says, “Put that one in your book” whenever I make something he loves :) He knows the project I’m working on. I love the recipes you share here on your site. They’ just good, simple basic recipes.


hi, all glad to see im not the only recipeaholic!!
I have lots of recipe books and as always u might only find a few recipes you want to try. looked on the internet found some recipe applications but not all worked for me. SO I stumbled apon Microsofts ONe note program. o my word this was it. I made all my categories and in the categories I placed all the relevant recipes to the categories. no save button u upload to the cloud. Technology you wonderful thing. so no matter where I am I can log onto one note and wolla I have my recipes with me. when I want to cook something take out my tablet log on and make my dish. no more cookbooks gathering dust. I scanned in some of my recipes from my books and put them all in a box. now I log onto web sites find nice recipes copy and paste to my one note. no more papers and books lying around. all nice together and once touch away

just wanted to share something I thought someone might like to use