Last year, my recipe collection was a mess! I had dozens of magazine clippings or recipes scrawled on scraps of paper, tucked away inside cookbooks or crammed into the pockets of binders. When I found a recipe online that I wanted to make, I would write it out on anything I had handy–an old receipt, the back of my shopping list, or a piece of junk mail! The recipes I invented were all jumbled together on one yellow legal pad–the flops sharing a page with the successes.
The result of this chaos was that I couldn’t find anything when I needed it, or if I did find it I couldn’t read my writing because the recipe was scrawled in haste (or on too little paper).
I made it one of my New Year’s Resolutions to get all of my recipes organized and in a usable format. Here’s the system I’ve come with, and am quite happy with!
Keep Everything Together
Instead of having to sort through dozens of paper scraps to find the recipe I needed, I decided to keep all recipes together in one spot, in one uniform size.
My mother-in-law gave me a beautiful Susan Branch recipe binder as a wedding shower gift, and this was my perfect solution! The binder is a kit for creating your own customizable cookbook. It’s a tabbed, 3-ringed binder with scrapbook-style pages as well as stickers and illustrations that you can use to decorate the book. There are a number of other great recipe binders on Amazon!
Decide What Goes in the Binder
I want my recipe binder to be an evergreen collection–tried and true recipes that I know I’ll return to many times. I don’t want it to be a dumping ground for every recipe I come across or that catches my whim. A recipe only makes it into the book if I’ve tried it a couple of times and we’ve decided it’s a family favorite.
If I find an online recipe that I want to try, I work off of my computer the first time I make it. I put my laptop on the side counter (away from the rest of kitchen prep) and make the recipe straight off of the screen.
If I find a recipe in a magazine that I want to make, I bring the magazine into the kitchen and work straight off of the page.
If I’m inventing my own recipe, I write down the ingredients and steps in a composition notebook as I go along.
If we like the recipes I try, but they need adjustments, I make them again in a couple of weeks and experiment to get the taste and process right. If a recipe isn’t a hit, I simply don’t return to it (and since it’s not written down, I don’t have to worry about dud recipes getting mixed in with the keepers).
If a recipe is excellent and we’ve adjusted it to our tastes, then and only then does it get transferred to the binder.
Write Everything Down
I use one of the pages or recipe cards provided in the binder–or simply a blank 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper–and carefully write out the recipe, including our adjustments. I often make the directions more concise or include my own methods for cutting back on prep time.
Sure, I could simply put the magazine clipping inside the binder–or print out the recipe if it’s online–but I prefer the uniform look of handwriting everything according to the format I like to use. This way I can also write the adjustments right into the recipe, rather than cramming them into the margins.
If I’m writing down a recipe from a blog, I usually record the blog name next to the recipe title, even if I’ve made edits. That way I can look up and email the blogger if I ever have a question about their recipe, or simply want to send them a thank you note!
I slip the recipe inside a page protector and file it in its appropriate category in the binder. I don’t worry about alphabetizing the recipes, but I do try to keep similar recipes together. So if I have a recipe to write down that uses ground beef, I’ll start a fresh sheet of paper rather than adding it to the page with fish recipes.
It’s a little bit more work to write out all of my recipes by hand, but the organization is worth it. Magazine clippings and paper scraps are not a good long-term solution! When it’s time to cook, I just snap the page out of the binder. The plastic sheet protector keeps the page clean.
Do you have a good system for keeping your recipes organized? I’d love to hear about it!