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Oct 12, 2007 07:24 AM

Help Me Organize My Recipes Please! [Moved from Home Cooking board]

So, I've decided to take on the arduous task of organizing my recipes. I have a huge stack of recipes printed from online resources such as Epicurious, and then a bunch more that were cut out of magazines. I got a few good ideas from the thread below. I am a big fan of 3 ring binders and will go that route for most of my recipes .

Right now my biggest dilemma is what I should do regarding my grouping of recipes. These are my thoughts so far...
There is the obvious choice of setting up tabs for apps, mains, dessert etc. However I'm thinking more along the lines of doing a binder for menu's in "heavy rotation" or my basic weeknight dinner recipes. Instead of just a dessert section, I am thinking of setting up my recipes based on holidays. We have some specific foods we eat for Easter and X-mas and I'd like to keep them all in one place. Then there are the apps I make whenever we have company and I'd like to keep those separate as well.
My concern is that this may make finding recipes difficult. Am I creating way too much work for myself by having so many sub categories? I want to think this through before starting.

What are some organization tips you all have found that work for you?

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  1. I am most interested in the cuisines of various countries/regions.

    I keep a ringbinder for each (China, India, ...), then break recipes down by the usual categories (vegetable, soups, ....).


    3 Replies
    1. re: Big Bunny

      Although I have about 100 cookbooks, and 3 huge ring-binders, my on-line printouts were accumulating fast and furiously. I finally resorted to a filing system. At Staples recently I bought a black box which holds hanging files, and several packs of file folders in different colors. I sorted the files according to the major ingredient of the dish, i.e. cabbage, potatoes, rice, macaroni hot, cold mac....ground turkey,,,etc. Vegetable recipes are in green folders, seafood is in light blue, and so on. Various holidays have their own section because dishes cooked for holidays are not duplicated during the year which makes the holiday that much more my small mind, anyway. Each hanging file is tabbed, and each recipe is in archival plastic sleeves, which doubles the space plus the recipe doesn't get messy in the kitchen near the prep area.

      1. re: Gio

        what software do you use for these recipes? Mac or PC? thanks

        1. re: Gio

          Gio I have done the same thing as you except not to the same extent. I think I even got my box at Stapes and bought the colored files. Vegis in green, seafood in light blue! Great minds think alike! I also did not go as far as putting them in plastic sleeves so they can get stained when in the kitchen but I figure I can just reprint it if it gets to bad.
          I originally had them in a huge three ring binder but it quickly filled up and I found I was not punching the recipes just sticking them in the front so it wasn't long until I had a large pile of unorganized recipes. In my box I have tried to keep the number of files limited. Apps, breads, salads/dressings, vegi dishes, soups, legumes, meats (with a separate file for stews/chilis because I do a lot of these), desserts and a misc file for sauces, conversions, things that don't fit into other files. I found when I had to many categories I had a harder time trying to find a place for them. It really doesn't take me that long to flip through them and find what I am looking for. In the future, I may add more categories but for now this works for me.

      2. I really had to computerize everything, because there's no way that I can divide things up into simple categories... for example, Thai spring rolls: do I create a Thai section with an appetizer subsection, or an Appetizer section with a Thai subsection? And then I'd also like to flag favourites and have them grouped together. The only way I could get things to work for me is to put them on my computer and assign each recipe any number of tags (e.g. Thai, appetizer, favourite) for organizational purposes. I then print 'em off as needed or just bring my laptop into the kitchen with me while I cook.

        It works well, too, because I can take pictures of my creations and associate them with the recipes, too, which is nice if I want to share them online or just jog my memory.

        It was the only solution that worked for me. Then again, I'm not known for my stellar organizational abilities :-).

        6 Replies
        1. re: vorpal

          I have some that I input into my epicurious "recipe box" but there is no real organization. I think it would take even more work for me to put them all on the computer at this point. But that's what I should have done from the beginning!

          1. re: vorpal

            I'm in the same camp as vorpal. My entire recipe collection is stored in a handful of Word docs - one for desserts, one for mains, one for apps and one for beverages. Each recipe is tagged with categories, and I can also do keyword searches for ingredients if I'm in the mood for something particular (or if there's something in the fridge that needs to be used up).

            I had been using a file folder system that I started way back when I was a chowpup of 12, but as I got older I started moving frequently and realised that I didn't enjoy having to lug the collection around from one place to the next. So about 5 yrs ago I decided to switch to digital to lighten the load.

            The downside is that it did take a few months to input all my recipes from hard copy, but now that it's done, it's really quite low maintenance. It also helps that most of my favourite magazines have started archiving their recipes on the web, so it's a simple cut and paste job rather than data entry nowadays.

            1. re: vorpal

              I use a computer-based system as well - namely, . It's not a cooking application per se, just a free-to-use free-form web text editor that lets you tag all your documents, so I have everything tagged by main ingredients, cuisine type (if applicable), fast, vegetarian, etc. It also has a nice text search will bring up any word in any document, which is useful if you've got a few lone ingredients lying around that you want to use up.

              For recipes that I get off the internet, I just cut & paste them into the pad; for cookbooks that I have at home, I just list the ingredients for my favorite recipes and reference the actual recipe at home. It's really useful because I can look up my recipes anywhere - it's nice to be able to make a shopping list when I have some time to kill at work.

              I'd be in a bit of trouble if they killed the service, which is my one reservation about using it. They do have an export function though so it's not too bad... I just need to remember to export regularly!

              1. re: sistinas

                I just started using Helipad, and it's great. Almost exactly what I'm looking for. Another option may be Google Base, but it seems a little too clunky and overkill for what I need right now, and when you put things on Google Base, they automatically become public (which may or may not matter).

                Thanks, sistinas!

                1. re: dtasse

                  Google Desktop might be an option.

                  If anyone is extremely serious about this... you can hire an inexpensive, over seas IT expert at to build you a custom database with a slick interface etc., (as oppossed to using Access, Word, or Excel).

                  Another option is learn a little bit MS Sharepoint if you have it at work.

                2. re: sistinas

                  So it's taken me forever to get around to doing this, but so far I love this program! Just wanted to thank you for your help!
                  Thanks to everyone else too, I was going to do the macgourmet, but it looked like (I think) you need a Mac computer, which I don't have.

              2. I'm with vorpal and tartiflette. My recipes are all on a 2 GB memory stick in word format (cut and paste from online recipes). It took a while to organize, but was fun and I was able to weed out lots of recipes I thought I'd use but never did. Use categories like appetizers, breakfast, bread, ..., pasta, poultry, etc. Use as many sub categories as you need. And if you have a recipe for a chicken linguine, decide whether you want it in pasta, poultry or both. Having all your recipes on a memory stick also makes them easily portable. Just make sure you back it up to your hard drive in case you lose it!

                5 Replies
                1. re: dinner belle

                  I had this delima about one year ago and decided I had to take charge. I looked up any recipies that I had printed from an on-line site, used the print function and copied the recipe to a Word file. Saved. Then I created a new Hotmail account specifically just for recipes... emailed the word files (with the recipe name as the subject) and then created sub-folders for app, main, desserts, and then moved the recipes to the classification to which they belonged. Over time, I slowly typed in the recipes that didn't come from somewhere on-line so I'd have them in an electronic format. Well worth the effort... now I can find/print a recipe really quickly and then just throw away the print out without worry. Also, sharing recipes is super easy.

                  1. re: burbankfoodie

                    I haven't found the perfect solution yet. I was hoping someone would recommend some software like sistinas did. We have a new kitchen under construction so I have visions of getting organized! What I have done with my magazines is set up some index cards, one for each category listing the source. I'll have to check out sistina's website recommendation. Creating cross indexes with be perfect ... good for those times I need to use up a particular ingredient.

                    1. re: dfrostnh

                      Hi sweetpea: just love that name. I did my recipes and put them in binders, that
                      way I have them right there in the kitchen where i am cooking. I have one big
                      binder with all the catagories divided up. and then I have a binders broken up
                      for each catagory. and one for each holiday that I cook for. and then one for
                      my favorites. It also keeps the space cut down on your computer.

                      1. re: dfrostnh

                        Wish I could recommend some specific software. I'm a UNIX user, though, and as there's really very little available for that platform and my other non-food passion is computers, I created my own XML based system that suits my needs...

                        1. re: dfrostnh

                          The best software I've found for a PC is Mastercook. Easy import assistant for individual recipes OR whole books that have been put in MC format by people out on the web.

                          You can categorize by as many categories as you can dream up, put in pictures you pull off the web (I just imported an asparagus salad recipe from Wednesday's Boston Globe food section with a picture of the salad that I wanted to save).

                          It comes with many cookbooks already built in, but you can also create your own cookbooks.

                 - go to their Home & Office section - several versions of MC....Deluxe 9.0 is the latest and greatest.

                    2. Great ideas everyone, thanks and please keep them coming. Now I'm tempted to try to put them all on the computer, especially since a lot of, my recipes come from websites. The thing I love about Epicurious is that I can type in ingredients and it will give me a recipe based on what I want to use up. So Sistinas software link sounds very appealing as do the other computer based ideas .
                      I do have some concerns regarding what would happen if my computer crashed, or the software was no longer available though.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: SweetPea914

                        What I posted is actually web-based, so it's not platform dependent at all. You can use it from anywhere, on any system. It does have an export so you can dump out a big text file with all of your recipes to print or store elsewhere. It's free so giving it a whirl doesn't hurt... and I'm not an employee or anyone who works on it, just someone who's looked around for a solution also and that was the best I could come up with for myself. I'm a fan of tagging for cross-references and lo-fi things that aren't feature-bloated.

                        I've heard of people mailing recipes to a separate recipe-specific gmail account and using gmail's tagging and search features to reference their recipes, which I think is pretty cool too. I don't think gmail is going anywhere, so you could also try that. If you have a lot of recipes from magazines and other sources who doesn't want to retype, you could also just scan and tag the images, as gmail has a ton of storage space.

                        1. re: sistinas

                          ooooohhhh, I forgot I have a scanner and therefore don't have to actually type everything in. Also I typically do bring my computer into the kitchen, put it on the breakfast bar and follow recipes that way anyway. OK, now I'm leaning toward a computer based filing system (I think). I'm so glad I decided to pick everyones brain!

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