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.