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How do you organize your recipes?

I have many recipes: from books, magazines, friends and of my own creation. Some are handwritten, some printed on computers, some photocopied, some are still in books or magazines. It's becoming a bit of a problem as the years move on as to where I found a recipe or where it is now kept. I have many years of cooking magazines and hundreds of cookbooks. I waste a lot of time trying to find something I've liked in a magazine, or book etc.

I'm thinking of using a program such as "Cook's Palate" and possibly making a book out of all of the recipes. Perhaps I should simply create an index and leave the various sources where they currently live. I love the scribbled, memory stained recipe cards but the grease stains and fading ball point sometimes makes life difficult.

So how do you Home-Cooking-Hounds manage? I'd love to hear some of your ideas.

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  1. I have a "to try" pile ... after I try a recipe, it either goes in the trash or gets punched and goes into a 3 ring binder in a plastic sleeve...the binder is divided into categories: vegetarian, poultry, meat, desserts, etc. Works pretty well for me but my "to try" pile is kind of getting out of hand. I need to get back to trying one new recipe each week; that would help!

    1. MasterCook for online and favorite recipes; if something out of a cookbook I own was extra-good and I want to easily remember it to be able to search on it, I type it into MasterCook. (Even easier if I can find it online and use their Import Assistant to easily plop it into MC.)

      1. I have recipes all over the place - 3x5 cards in my own recipe box, and I also got my mother's recipe box when she died. There's a drawer full of recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers, handouts from various cooking classes I've taken, and of course the ever-popular Epicurious and a bunch of Word docs for recipes I've found online. I finally created an Excel spreadsheet, just to keep track of where things are. I have pages for appetizers, salads, fish, poultry, etc., and columns for the name of the recipe, type of dish (main, side), where it came from and where it resides - i.e. Recipe Box, Mom's recipe box, Drawer, Word, Epicurious.

        The last column is open, and I add comments - what did I change, did I serve it to guests, etc. Of course if I try something and don't like it, it's deleted from the spreadsheet.

        Now the only problem is remembering to add new recipes as I acquire them.

        1. post-its and printouts mark recipes that I want to try-- and I force myself to be selective so as not to end up with a pile of forgotten ideas.

          the ones i try and love i copy by hand into my notebook, along with the date and a few words on the occasion for which it was prepared. so usually i have a faint idea of the season / occasion where the dish was served, so I can look it up chronologically when i want to prepare it again.

          1. UGH! This chore consumes a large portion of my time, as I try to do my grocery shopping based on a menu for 2 to 3 wks at a time.

            I finally settled on a large notebook and transfer the recipes I want to save into it. I also have a "to try" pile - and nothing gets written in the notebook unless it has been tried and deemed "worthy". That way, I can make my own changes and notes as I go. I don't always write recipes in, though, sometimes I photocopy or print off stuff from the internet and staple it to a page in the notebook. And since it has pockets in it, it's nice to shove bits and pieces from here and there inside ;-)

            1. One of my folders on the computer (under recipes) is "Pasta and Doughy Things". In my recipe box I keep recipes even when I hate them and write comments on them like "NEVER AGAIN" so I will not remake it. I do that in cookbooks too. When people borrow my books I think they enjoy the commentary more than the actual recipes. I am tickled when they write in their own. Once my sister wrote over a salad I always make "Stop making this nobody likes it".

              OK that last part was not really on topic, but...

              Am I the only one that has most of her recipes in her head and then when you try to write them out you forget a few key ingredients? I wish I was as organized as Judybird. Nope... I am resigned to being "Pasta and Doughy Things"

              1. Oh one more thing. It actually answers the question. You might want to consider a scanner. You can get all your mags together and mark the pages of the recipes you want to scan and then org. them into a folder on the computer. You can print them out whenever you want. I tried to keep a little book telling the pages of magazines where certain recipes were located. I found that book recently under a pile of junk when part of the basement flooded. Sooo... You can see how far that little organizational tool went. I have copied some recipes I LOVE onto 3x5's in fits of organization. That works. Or cutting the recipe out and gluing it to the card. I like the scanner idea. That way you can collect recipes off the net, type in ones friends give you and scan the ones from the mags or books. If you must have the cards and do not like the stains, try laminating them. But... he stains are part of the memory.

                1. I create cookbooks on my MasterCook program. I also keep a file folder and collect recipes I want to try. I check this folder every couple of months and throw away the recipes I know I won't try. When I have tried one I put it into my MasterCook program. I also keep a note book in my kitchen and when I make something new I jot down anything I did that varied from the recipe (I find it hard following recipes, like them only for ideas). Next time I go to make the recipe I read my notes. I am editing my recipes all the time.

                  1. I make Xeroxes of all recipes I use and like, even ones from cookbooks that I own. I three-hole punch and put them in a binder called "Tried and True."

                    It is organized with numbered tabs and an index. The tabs are labeled thusly:

                    Drinks
                    Condiments and Staples (like homemade cheese recipes)
                    Breakfast
                    Breads
                    Appetizers
                    Salads
                    Main Dishes
                    Vegetable Sides
                    Starchy Sides
                    Desserts

                    I alphabetize within those categories. That pretty much covers everything for me.

                    Obviously this is one of the first things I would think to carry out of a burning building.

                    1. Like Snackish, I keep everything in a 3-ring binder.

                      But I tend to scan recipes that are in hard-copy form so I always have a copy on my computer. That way I always have a backup and can easily email them to others.

                      I also put everything in plastic page protectors to stave off the inevitable splatters and stains.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: okie

                        yeah plastic page protectors are key. i type up the recipe on the computer because i don't have a scanner and also word files are small.

                        1. re: choctastic

                          I do am a big fan of the 3 ring binder with plastic page protectors. Organized into section by meal (like breakfast) or ingredient (like lamb, chicken, etc). Made my life a lot easier.

                      2. Xeroxes, pages ripped from magazines, recipes printed from internet, recipes surreptitiously copied from cookbooks in bookstores. I tried to be organized, plastic sleeve, etc, but finally just crammed them into a notebook, punched or not. Some I've made, some I haven't.

                        My Grandma's recipes I typed onto 3x5 cards and put into one of those little snapshot flip-books. A couple of them I had lost copy after copy, and she was getting peeved at being asked to send endless replacement copies.

                        1. Never, never, never organize recipes. You never know what you'll come across while digging for the one you want!

                          1. I've been adding recipes to an old database program for years and am currently around the 16,000 mark. The index makes recs easy to find.
                            I also have a directory devoted to recipes I've done with my comments, dates done, alterations etc.
                            Lastly, I have another directory where I dump anything I've collected off the net, the various categories in ZIP files so again pretty easy to find.

                            1. I have about 10 various colored pocket folders (paper cover with 2 pockets, one inside each cover.) This is a flexible approach, cheap and easy to update. Scissors required; no computer needed.
                              Also a 3/5 file box with recipe cards.
                              In the folders are magazine tearouts, recipes printed out from websites, newspaper clippings including articles on "what great ingredients are in season" so I remember to check the crab harvest in March etc.
                              Current folder labels are:
                              Spring/summer
                              Fall/winter
                              Soup (mostly winter)
                              Holiday/entertaining
                              Wine/cheese
                              Fish/seafood
                              Mediterranean
                              Eggs
                              Asian
                              Desserts

                              1. I'm another MasterCook user. I am a computer professional, and I have some issues with the software, but generally speaking, it does all right. I have managed to get all of the old family recipes in it, and now my current project is to go through all of the cooking mags I have saved and my years of hand-written menu diaries in there. I have divided it into cookbooks for courses, in which I only put tried and true repeats, and "to try" course books, where I only put the recipe title and a reference to where it is (what issue, etc.) I don't type in the entire recipe until I've tried it and have declared officially "I will make this again". THEN I move it into my regular cookbooks. That way, if I want to try something new, I can pull up any of my "to try" things, find the magazine recipe, try it, and either keep it or toss it. I am slowly but surely whittling down and recycling my 15-year collection of cooking magazines by going through them and pulling things this way.

                                1. MasterCook - and usually I don't fill out the program's form line by line, I just paste the whole recipe into the "directions" box. Lazy, I know.

                                  1. I have my cookbooks, of course...but I never keep magazines around for long. When I get the mags, I look through them and dog-ear the pages that have recipes I want to try. Then I put them in a box near my desk...and then about once every 2 weeks I type up those recipes on my computer. I have a "recipes" folder that contains folders for all the categories...appetizers, fish, desserts, etc...with folders inside that for specifics (Desserts is broken down into cookies, cakes, pies, other, etc.) This has worked really well for me for 15 years. I'll sit at my computer and plan menus, and then print out the recipes I need. I know it's not very paper-efficient, but I recycle religiously. :)

                                    1. I had a lot of ideas about notebooks and index cards and computer filing, and finally bought a hanging folder stand and put 5 hanging folders in it -- appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, desserts, and baked goods. Those folders can hold magazine rip-outs, computer print-outs, 4x6 index cards that don't fit in my 3x5 index card box, or any other size and shape. If I'm looking for a particular dish, I just pull the whole folder and sit down with it to thumb through. Once or twice a year I go through the folders and purge what I never make. The folder stand sits on top of the cookbook bookshelves.

                                      Usually when I try an internet recipe, I either put my laptop on the counter, or go ahead and print. If it's not a rave, I toss the printout.

                                      The other thing I started doing recently, is creating a Word file for special occasions. We do the same menu for our tree-trimming party every December (more or less), and after a few years of going "what book was that chicken recipe in and is it indexed under nutty or pecan or what...," I either cut-and-paste electronic recipes into the file or at least type in the cookbook name and page number so everything on the menu is collected in one place.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: momjamin

                                        I do the same thing, we have a recipe "crate", with recipes divided by Appetizer, Potato, Rice, Pasta; Salads; Fish; Meat; Poulty; Desserts; etc. I rip out articles from magazines, also will scan recipes from cookbooks if I'm using them and then I'll file. I actually find a lot of the recipes easy to find on-line, so I do that. I would love to get a better system. I also keep some recipes in word documents on my computer.

                                      2. I'm a major recipe collector...have even ripped the odd one from the mags at the doctors office ! These, along with family recipes etc, are written or glue-sticked into a book i've had for years, a journal type thing. I'm on my second one. I make comments in the margins too. You can tell some of the favorites by the splotches.

                                        I have been getting Gourmet and Bon Appetit for a couple of years, and while i toss my other food mags for the most part, these have been a collection. A while back, I sat down, went through the ones i had and wrote the page and recipe down in a journal. Now, when i get a new one, i'll jot down the recipes i want to try. Its helped me keep track of all the things i kept saying i'd try but kept forgetting.

                                        The internet is a great resource for recipe logging !! I have two favorites folders, recipes...and recipes:tried and true. Once i try them, and like it, i move it to the 2nd folder.

                                        I recieved a gift from a friend of mine a couple of years ago, and one of the things she'd given me was a folder with a bunch of recipes in it, that she'd thought i'd like to try.
                                        ..She titled it : "a bunch of copies for a true original" , I loved it !!!

                                        1. I have a special Yahoo e-mail account where I keep recipes I got on-line. I have recipes sorted according to chef/cook (i.e. Ina Garten, Bobby Flay, etc.) and then I have categories (Desserts, Cakes, Poultry, Main Dishes, etc.). This way the recipes are available where ever I'm at in the world. Favorite recipes from cookbooks or personal, I type up and send to that e-mail account. It's worked really well so far, makes life easier.

                                          I also clip a lot of recipes from magazines and I keep those sorted according to category in labeled file folders. Five years ago I went through and organized all of the recipes and had around 1000 of them and pared it down to 700. I'm getting ready to re-organize and down size a lot more. I want to buy a scanner so I can convert everything to the computer though I will probably keep a hard copy available just in case.

                                          I'm glad to see I'm not alone in my recipe addiction, LOL!! ;o)

                                          1. I put mine in a file labeled "Recipes" on my computer and let my computer alphabetize them.

                                            1. Card file.