How To Organize Recipes

If you are addicted to collecting recipes, you are not alone. Recipes from Grandma, your mother-in-law, and every ladies magazine on the stands; how many hundred do you have in every nook and cranny in your kitchen? If this is you, then the following step by step guide on how to organize recipes, will be a great time saver.

How many of your recipe collection aren’t even old favorites, but are just sitting in an ever growing ‘to try’ pile? You have great intentions of trying them all, but just never get around to it. But, you tell yourself, you will…someday. Sure you will. Not! So now is as good a time as any to weed through them and get them more organized. Chances are, if they’re more organized, you might just use a few more of them.

Recipe chaos is cumbersome to deal with. It is hard and time consuming to find what you are looking for in the midst of handwritten recipes and cookbooks, cooking magazine clippings, e-mailed recipes and online bookmarks.

If your recipes are organized, menu planning is a cinch, and grocery shopping is easy. So read on to discover the easy way to eliminate, categorize and keep track of your recipes as part of your ‘how to organize your home‘ journey. You can use either physical products such as a recipe box, a binder system or click the link to discover the best way to organize recipes using your home computer or an online recipe organizer.




Step 1 – Get Started

If you’re anything like me with thousands of recipes to go through, this job is one that just gets put off. So break it into manageable chunks and try and do some recipe filing for 10 minutes per day until they are all done.

Step 2 – Before You Decide How To Organize Your Recipes

Before you organize your recipes you need to eliminate the unnecessary. Go through them all to see which ones you really will take the time to try. Need a little help deciding?

  • Get rid of any that take more preparation time than you are willing to put in.
  • Throw out or pass on to someone else any recipe that hits the ‘eewww, ick’ radar of more than one person in your household. Why bother for something nobody will eat?
  • Does it cost more to make than you’d spend going out to eat?

When you’re down to the ones you want to hold onto, you need to come up with the best organizing system for you. Do you want to store them in some sort of file or binder or do you need to learn how to organize recipes online or on your computer? Or do you want to combine the two and create digitally scrapbooked recipes?

Step 3 – Ideas For Organizing Recipes

To Try Recipes

Keep your to try pile separately, perhaps in a drawer or box and start trying those recipes out. ‘Keepers’ can be filed in your new system, and the ones that aren’t up to scratch can go in the trash with the leftovers!

Rotation Recipes

Most families have 15-20 staple recipes that they use over and over again. These should be kept separate from the rest on a handy shelf in your kitchen.

Sort Other Recipes Into Categories

Before you think about where to store the rest of your recipes, you need to sort them into categories. Your categories can be anything you like from Soups, Main Courses, Desserts etc to Vegetarian, Poultry, Meat, Fish etc. Pile up your loose recipes into each category; if the piles get too big, split them into sub categories. Don’t forget to print out any recipes held digitally or photocopy those in recipe books that you like.

Step 4 – Decide Where To Store Your Recipes

You could just chuck your recipes in a cardboard box, but having done this, I don’t recommend it if you ever want to know where to find them again! What you choose to store your recipes in will largely depend on your budget and taste, but you should also consider the size of your collection. Here are a few options:

Your current recipe holder – cost $0

Pros: cheap

Cons: may not be the ideal solution if it is just an old cardboard box unless you can introduce some form of category divider system.

Recipe card organizer box – cost from $14 plus cards, covers and dividers

Pros: various styles, sizes and colors

Cons: unless you have a large collection of cards already, I find them too troublesome to deal with. You have to copy the recipes onto the cards or cut up your magazine pages or printouts to fit onto the cards.

Accordian style expanding file organizers – cost from $7

Pros: variety of styles; ready made tabs and pockets ideal for your categories

Cons: you may need a few

Photo albums – cost from $6

Pros: various styles available including sticky pages and plastic pockets, all of which offer protection to your recipes

Cons: a large collection will take a lot of albums

3-ring binder – cost from $4 for standard binders or from $9 for recipe organizer binders

Pros: versatile as you can punch recipe cards, magazine clippings, printouts etc; can protect recipes by using refill pages from photo albums or plastic sleeves

Cons: your collection may outgrow the binder so you’ll need to buy separate ones

Notebooks – cost around $10 for a decent one

Pros: can add notes to the margins; can use nice looking Moleskine notebooks to create a recipe organizer book of all time favorites, perhaps you could make a copy as a very personal gift.

Cons: messy to glue recipes into the notebook; hard to add new recipes into the right category as the notebook fills up, unless you have one notebook for each.

Pick out whichever option appeals to you most and get filing.

Other Considerations

Protect Or Not?

Recipes are magnets for grease stains and creased corners, so it is often wise to protect them in plastic sleeves or other page protectors. That is unless you feel these marks give the recipe a bit more life where you can even scribble notes or ratings to the paper. You may want to protect hand written family heirloom recipes though to avoid the ink fading.

Meal Planning

Meal planning is a tried and trusted technique of performing your grocery shopping efficiently. It is cost effective as it eliminates waste. Once your recipes are organized you will easily be able to find and plan your meals for the upcoming week or fortnight and write your shopping list accurately so that you don’t forget anything or wander round the supermarket wondering what to buy. It is a good idea to keep the week’s recipes handy in a little magnetic pocket on the side of the fridge. You can then refile them away and sort out the next week’s meals at the end of the week.

Ongoing Maintenance Of Your Recipes

To ensure your system does not attract clutter, it is advisable to go through the whole lot once or twice a year and purge any no longer required based on the criteria at the start. This is still relevant to those held digitally.

Alternatives To Organizing Your Recipes

Whilst the above maybe some of the best ways to organize recipes, you could just leave them in a complete mess – you never know what treasures you’ll find while searching for the one you want. Or how about just chucking them all and eating out or buying ready-made convenience foods. Whatever works!

I’d love to hear your ideas for how to organize recipes. Please leave me a comment.


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Photo credit: WordRidden.

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