Organizing your recipes can be an overwhelming thought, but recipe clutter is just like any other clutter. You accumulate too much and end up having to flip through the recipes you don’t like or won’t use in order to get to your favorites.
Why is it so difficult to keep recipes organized?
Reason #1: Recipes come from different sources (family, friends, online, cookbooks) and therefore take different shapes (3×5 recipe cards, scribbled on a scratch piece of paper, saved to your phone, printed from your computer).
Reason #2: If you’re like me, you’ve tried different styles of recipe organization throughout the years, and now you’re stuck with a variety of cookbooks, cards, binders, and magazine clippings.
In trying to decide what kind of system I wanted to use, I had to ask myself a few questions.
Question: Which recipes do I use most often and why?
Answer: Recipes for meal planning. I know most of these recipes by heart, but occasionally need to reference measurements or oven temperatures. And sometimes when I’m brain-tired, it would be nice to have all those recipes in ONE PLACE so I can thumb through and pick the 3 dinners I’m going to cook that week.
Question: What kind of system will be easiest to maintain going forward?
Answer: A binder with screen protectors (protection from splatters). When I find a new recipe, it’s most often online, which means I’m printing it out on an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper. I’ve tried the cutesy recipe books, but their page sizes are unrealistic. Recipe 3×5 cards are too small for me to read, plus it’s really hard to get the entire recipe on one side of a card. It’s annoying to flip back and forth on a recipe card. I’d rather have the entire recipe on one page!
Question: What are the categories of recipes I use?
Category #1: Everyday Recipes
These are the recipes I use when I’m meal planning for the week. I’ve mentioned before in my meal-planning series that I normally choose 3 dinners to make each week. I want to organize these recipes by protein/vegetable because that’s normally how I meal plan. Breakfast should probably go in this category, too, since there are a few breakfast recipes I use weekly.
Category #2: Entertaining and New Recipes
I don’t pull out entertaining recipes daily, so I’d like for them to stay separate. When I think about the tabs for this binder, I think more in terms of menus, appetizers, main courses, sides, and desserts.
New recipe hoarding can be just as big of a problem as anything else! I love to cook, and sometimes Pinterest will suck me in, and before I know it, I’ve printed off a dozen new recipes to try…eeek! I think I’ll keep new recipes in a pocket of this binder and only file them in a sheet protector once I’ve made the recipe and decided I like it enough to keep it!
Category #3: Baking and Desserts
I don’t bake or make sweets that often, so it makes sense to have these recipes in their own binder. Normally, there’s a very specific reason why I need to make a dessert or baked good. I’ll pull out these recipes for festive snacks or birthdays… or Wednesdays 🙂
Category #4: Holiday
These recipes are used even less frequently- mainly twice a year for Thanksgiving and Christmas! For years it was chaos trying to gather all of my family’s holiday recipes, and it took a TON of prep time just to prep for the cooking process. One year I decided to make a Thanksgiving recipe binder for my mom, and it made ALL the difference! Our Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes tend to overlap, so the tabs in this binder state each individual recipe title. Easy peasy!
Now the fun starts!
Step 1: PURGE
As with all organizing projects, step one is to PURGE! I started by taking the recipes out of every recipe book and binder and tossing all the ones I don’t make anymore.
Recipes I purged:
-New recipes I never tried
-Recipes that I tried once, then never made them again. (Sorry, Chicken Avocado Soup. You were pretty in color, but not tasty in flavor.)
-Redundant recipes. (How many variants of a lemon chicken recipe do I need? Just one. One is fine.)
-Fancy recipes that were a fun challenge and delicious…but I will never make again. (Thank you, Beef Bourguignon, Coq Au Vin, and Duck a l’Orange. Au revoir!)
-Recipes with too many ingredients or too exotic ingredients
-Recipes with great pictures, but are not realistic to make or eat. (ex: crostini. Crostini always looks like a great idea, but it’s an awkward, crunchy mess to eat.)
Step 2: SORT
Now I’m left with the recipes I love, and the ones I really want to try. So now it’s time to sort all the recipes into categories. Since I already know my categories (Everyday, Entertaining, Baking & Desserts, Holiday), I’ll use post-it labels to help me keep the piles organized.
Tab Labels: Meal Plans, Breakfast, Chicken, Beef/Turkey, Pasta, Fish, Salads & Sides, Soups
Tab Labels: Menus, Apps & Dips, Main, Sides, Desserts & Drinks
Tab Labels: Green Beans, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Sweet Potato Soufflé, Pie Crust, Pecan Pie, Blackberry Pie, Whipped Cream
Note: I’m not doing tab labels in the Baking & Dessert binder since there aren’t enough recipes to categorize. Just keeping these recipes in their own binder is perfect!
Step 3: EDIT
The most labor-intensive part of this process was transferring recipes from 3×5 cards and specialty binder pages over to my new format of organization. I was able to find some recipes online and print them. That way, I didn’t have to type each recipe out by hand. But some recipes were from family or an unknown source, and there was no way I’d be able to find them online. So type them by hand I did. Just tell yourself how wonderful it’s going to be in the end, to have all your recipes streamlined and oh-so-pretty!
Step 4: CONTAIN
Last—CONTAIN and make it pretty!
I started with a shopping trip for supplies.
Target: white binders and gold washi tape
Office Depot: sheet protectors, 5 tab sheet protectors, and 8 tab sheet protectors
Hobby Lobby: pretty cardstock (you can also order it from Amazon!)
Now, I’m no Martha Stewart, so no judgement on my crafting skills! I tried to prettify these binders by giving them a color theme, then printed labels on white card stock. I framed the labels with gold washi tape and cut off the excess border.
Next, I used my Dymo label maker for the tabs in each binder.
Since these recipe binders will live in the cabinet above my microwave, I also needed to label the spines so I’ll know which binder is which!
I cut gold washi tape the same length for every binder and gave the ends a decorative clip. Then I hand wrote each label with a white Sharpie paint marker.
Not gonna lie. This project took some time! But for something that I use every day, and sometimes multiple times a day, it was a worthwhile investment of my time to have these recipes organized…and pretty!
I’ve been enjoying these recipe binders for a couple weeks now, and I LOVE THEM!!! It is SO much easier to find the exact recipe I’m looking for. It’s also been much easier to manage the NEW recipes coming in! I added a few blank sheet protectors to the back of each binder so it’s easy for me to print a recipe and file it where it belongs!
Tell me some of your favorite ways to organize your recipes!