recipe organization ideas

aboc1212October 4, 2009

Hi - I love to cook and I tend to get a lot of recipes online rather than from a cookbook. I am wondering, does anyone else do this and how do you organize your recipes? I do am not a fan of electronic systems since cooking and computers don't really seem to be a good mix in my opinion. Instead, I just print the recipes from whichever website and I punch holes in the page and put in a binder. What I don't like about this system is that the binder is rather large and takes up a lot of space. Also, the pages aren't super sturdy so if I take a recipe out a lot (since the book is too big I often do this) the holes I punched tend to get a little pulled/stretched.

What do other people do to store recipes? Should I just commit to copying them onto recipe cards? I am not in love with that idea because cards are small and I tend to make notes about modifications as I go - but I just don't know if this binder idea is sustainable either.

And also what's your favorite method for organizing recipes and why?? Alphabetically, by course, by ingredient?


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I print full sized sheets with a decent font.
Easy to read and I have room to add modifications.

They are individually in sheet protectors... and in 1" binders by category.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 10:03PM
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I do the same as luann, printing them in a large font that will fit the on one page and then put the recipe in a sheet protector in a binder. The binders are organized by category including one that are my "tried and true" recipes. I also put recipes I've cut out of magazines and newspapers in sheet protectors and file them by category.

I don't print every recipe I find on the internet unless I plan to cook it that week. I save it to a desktop folder and whenever I decide to try something new, I go to that folder.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 10:11PM
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I tried other methods, but marie26 and luann have the only easy method I've been able to stick with!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 1:28AM
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I keep a recipe folder on my HD w/ subfolders by type. when I find one I like or think someday I'd like to try I save it to that subfolder. most you can print out to the size of recipe cards - if you like it and want to make it again, laminate it to a recipe card.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 3:08AM
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Thanks everyone. So the sheet protector is the key I guess. And saving the file in a folder on the computer gives a back up if something goes wrong with the version you are using (i am v messy in the kitchen).

Do you all use a full size regular binder? Doesn't it just take up space on the counter? What about a cook book holder, maybe that would help?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 8:32AM
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I use a full sized binder with page protectors. In fact I have several small ones each with different catagories of recipes. They are all color coded and a list of which holds what is on the wall of the cupboard they are in.

I did make an index for each and stuck on dollar store numbers, so any recipe is easy to find. The index page is a full page one so it's easy to add more recipes at the bottom. Every once in a while I go back in and alphabetize them. but even a a new recipe is easy to find--If it's not alphabetized it is listed at the bottom

I used to use a picture stand to hold them when I'm baking until a friend gave me a wooden one her husband made

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 11:21AM
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If you can't find numbers--mine were in the school learning part of the store--you could use the round ones you get for yard sales and write in the numbers with permanent markers

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 11:37AM
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When cooking, I clip the recipe, still in the sleeve, to the refrigerator with a magnet clip. If the fridge isn't in a spot where you can easily view the recipe, then I'd just lay the recipe on the counter. Because it's in a plastic sleeve, the recipe is protected. I have several 3" binders of recipes (that I really need to cull). They don't take up any more room than cookbooks.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 7:15PM
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I have a folder on my hard drive of interesting recipes.

I print them out to try them, and if they are worth keeping they get punched and put in a binder by category.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 3:24PM
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Melissa Houser

I have a folder on my computer for recipes. When I pull a recipe from the net, I place it in that folder and print a copy for use in the kitchen. If I make changes, I write them on the copy and transfer them to the file later. For me, this is the easiest method because I don't want another binder or recipe book hanging around.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2009 at 10:23PM
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Here is a group of generic concepts. My "I want to try list" is lots larger than my actual actions and also larger than what I am likely to want to save or have room to save. I am sort of addicted to looking at recipes, but wish I would try more and look less.

I like to use a recipe and then decide if it's a "keeper" and why. Family gets to vote or decide, too, of course and that's really key for those still cooking for kids, teens, etc.

Do I need the actual recipe (important list of ingredients or proportions I'll never remember), or did it give me an idea I can use without saving the recipe?

Only "keepers" should get an actual place in a book. Or is it kinda like what I would like, but not a keeper, so I toss it and try another similar one, or maybe save and write on it what I need to do to make better or write, keep looking!

So I have a special recipe notebook with sections for different foods, but I keep a small table-top file, also organized by foods or types (casseroles) and including specific things like "tortillas/wraps" or multiple-meal recipes--things that I like to use that might not fit under another category. That's where I toss stuff I collect. But once I try it and if I plan to make again, it goes in the notebook.

I also keep a small file of "recipes to try soon" in hopes I will remember to get the ingredients at the store. This is not working so well, because I never remember or I say, maybe next time, and so I mostly cook food components, not recipes, but wish I would branch out more.

I'd like to get to a point where I might actually try most of my recipes in "real time"--that is, let's say I get a magazine. I would like to (don't laugh) try every worthwhile recipe in that magazine that very month, or soon, rather than tear out for "some day". Would perhaps just keep the magazine until have used the several recipes that get my attention and then toss the whole thing--eliminating an entire step of paper tearing, filing, and finding. Exceptions being classic dishes or reference types. Idea being, only have coming in what you can turn out in the same time frame--with some wiggle room for one's cook-fantasy life.

Also as I get older I get more picky about a recipe, even for saving. You know how you can look at most and say, huh, that's nothing special--special meaning: really simple, really good, really healthy, uses stuff you always like, uses stuff you always have on hand, uses stuff you want to eat more of, bullet-proof, church potluck will like, great to take to someone experiencing trouble or illness--any or all of those things and more, but somehow adds to your quality of life as a consumer, or cook, or community person, or whatever. And you get over the photo-shoot seduction--hey, that's just baked salmon with some teriyaki sauce--I do that already.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 1:28PM
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To answer one of the original questions, I group my recipes by the type of meat in them, if any. Vegetarian protein dishes are in their own binder, "grains, beans & pasta." Another binder for "sides & salads," in alphabetical order by the name of the most prominently featured fruit or vegetable. Then a separate binder for desserts.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 7:53PM
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I use the free software program Yum. Only my keepers go in there. I also make a hard copy of "keepers" and I bought a large binder maybe 3" and dividers. The dividers are labeled soup/salad, breakfast, main dish, side dish, dessert etc. The dividers also have a pocket in them. I can file recipes in there before I get to enter them in my computer. The best part is my binder is a pretty pink. It has a slot on the side and a slot in front. I am looking for the perfect family photo to put on the front and going to put the title on the binding "kelly's keepers"

    Bookmark   October 22, 2009 at 9:32PM
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the sheet protector is a good idea but they are kinda expensive aren't they?

i tend to buy those 10c back to school spiral binders..and i also stock up on glue sticks when they are on sale as well..and then i cut out the recipes or print them and cut off the excess on the pages..and i paste them into those spiral notebooks by category..i have different notebooks for different categories..

last year we bought 30 of the notebooks for $3 and a whole bunch of glue sticks for practically nothing..

you can label the front of the notebook with what is in them..say vegetables, main meals, desserts, breads, or seasonally like Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays..etc.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 11:10AM
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I like the sheet protectors because they keep the recipe "protected" in the kitchen. I use it just in case something spills on it.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2009 at 11:16AM
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I ended up with so many recipes I didn't even want to deal with binders. And the recipes come in so many formats I didn't want to commit to one of the recipe software programs. So I scan a clipped recipe or download an on-line one to a word program. I have a different folder for each category of recipe (main dishes, desserts, etc). But at the same time, I also enter the name of the recipe on an Excel spreadsheet. This spreadsheet has a page for each of the folder categories. And there's a column that contains a hyperlink to the recipe file. I also have a notes column that indicates main ingredients I wouldn't normally keep on hand. This spreadsheet also has a column I use a lot: a recipe locater for favorite recipes in my cookbooks. I hate wanting to make something & not be able to remember which book it's in. Another column on the spreadsheet "sub-categorizes" the recipes. For example, desserts is subcategorized into cakes, pies, etc. Being in a spreadsheet, I can sort by any column and quickly find the recipe I want. I can also do a word search to find any noted ingredient. And with one click, I'm looking at the recipe. Easy to print them out for friends, too.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 3:49PM
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thanks everyone for the great tips. so far I haven't changed from my binder system and I have sort of gotten used to the larger size of the pages. still don't love just having paper around the kitchen (spills and stuff) but until I get a recipe book holder I guess I'll have to do that.

frankie in zone 7 - I really like your thoughts about recipes one wants to try vs recipes that are keepers, and anything in between. I right now have those 'potential recipes' in the slot that is inside the front cover of the binder, but it's pretty full now so I need a solution for that too.

kay in pa - i like the computer idea but how do you deal with actually reading the recipe while you're cooking? I don't think I'd want to have my laptop around while I'm cooking!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 10:56PM
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Right now I have a computer visible to the kitchen but just outside it. But actually, more often than not, I just use the recipe for "idea fuel". Unless it's something baked, recipes are more like options for putting different things together in a process I'm already familiar with (50 years of cooking means you've tried most processes!). But sometimes, especially if it's something baked, I jot down a quickie ingredient list on the back of an envelope out of the recycle bucket. Draw a line under the group of ingredients that are part of a step.. one note... stir/beat/whatever. You don't need to copy the whole thing. You'll develop your own shorthand pretty quickly. You can also grab a sheet of waste recycle paper & print on the back if it's a more complex recipe.

But, like I said, probably 75% of the time, I'm just skimming the recipes for new combination ideas. And it's so easy to print or email one when friends or family request a certain recipe.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 8:12PM
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I created a file in Word called "Recipes". I only have the 1 document, and within the document, I made categories (Chicken, Desserts, Hamburger, etc) and just separate the categories with page breaks.

Any recipe I see interesting for future use, I copy & paste into the file. I don't worry about changing the fonts or making them pretty.

When I want to try one of them, I either take my laptop right into the kitchen, or jot down the recipe on junk paper in my own coded shorthand so I don't waste time writing it out...and I don't waste paper by printing.

If it's a keeper, I write it properly onto a card and make any notes for future alterations on the card.

I really like to cook, but I'm always amazed at how many recipes I collect on the computer and never end up trying...or don't sound as good a week or month later. The "never-tried collection" is my motivation for not wasting paper, time, or space in my house for recipes still pending.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 9:02PM
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We love to cook and bake, and have 6-10 cookbooks that we use regularly, plus binders with collections of recipes.

Loose "want-to-try" recipes go into an expanding file folder until we try them out. In there they're roughly organized by season... we garden and tend to cook cyclically: lots of fruit and vegetables and grilling in the summer, lots of baking, etc. in the winter.

Once we try it, if we really like the results, the loose recipe sheets go into a binder.

The key to our recipe system is an old rotary Rolodex file.

We simply make a card for each of our all-time favorite recipes (we have a lot of them!), and cross-reference the location of original recipe.

For example we'll list a cookbook name and page number, or "Holiday Binder" or whatever. We also make a note of any special ingredients, or if we'd made it for a party or whatever.

The rolodex is organized alphabetically by main ingredient, unless we have a lot of recipes for a particular item: for example "Soups" are all together, "Breads", "Cakes," etc.

We've been using the rolodex for years, and it works great for us. We keep it in the kitchen. It's fun and easy to flip thru it for ideas.

We bought the rolodex at a rummage sale for next to nothing, but I know you can still find them new. Most large office supply stores carry the blank cards.

Here is a link that might be useful: classic rotary Rolodex

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 12:58PM
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I love your Rolodex idea. I am definitely going to keep an eye out for one.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 5:12AM
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These are all great ideas - keep 'em coming! What about cookbooks? They just operate as separate collections of recipes? DH is vegetarian and I'm reasonably skilled in the kitchen but needed some new ideas so have collected a few over the recent years. I always feel it's a pain to pull one out since they don't lie flat (REALLY need a recipe book holder) and unlike my collections there are more in the books I don't use than I do....

    Bookmark   January 13, 2010 at 8:23PM
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Most of the greeting card stores have smaller binders that are made for recipes. Each page holds 2 4" x 6" on each side in plastic sleeves. Refills are available and you can get double sized sheets if you want. I've been using mine for years. They come with typical dividers. You can print out most recipes on 4 x 6 size or just slide clippings into the sleeves. My kitchen is too small for a full size binder and this smaller size fits just right on my cookbook stand. Here are some examples below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Examples of Recipe Binders

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 6:06PM
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