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How do you manage your recipe copies?

I print out recipes (from the internet) on 8.5 x 11 paper and I've got a stack more than 2" thick. I've yet to file them in my loose leaf binder (complete with subject tabs) because I don't have a 3-hole punch.

It's a flippin' mess and everytime I have to find something, I have to shuffle paper for 5 minutes looking for it.

Yes, the easy thing would be for me to bring a 3-hole punch home from work, but maybe there's a better way that works for other people.

Any ideas?


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  1. um, you answered your own question...get a hole punch.

    1. "a better way that works for other people"

      I bought my own three hole punch. I think that's better than filching office supplies. Since it has taken you so long to bring it hone where you actually need to use it, imagine how hard it will be to return to where you don't really need it.

      Before I acquired one, I punched holes in the paper with a ball point pen. You also can get single hole punches at the dollar store.

      Before I started my own recipe book, I just slid them into the appropriate section of somebody else's cook book.

      1. scan them, then title them so you can sort electronically. and if you :borrow: that punch, don't forget to return it! ;-) (just go get one at staples.!!)

        now ask me if i have scanned mine yet.....
        hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha ha

        1. Why not buy three hole punched paper to print on. Or do as I do and save the recipes in "Notepad" files and print them as you need them. Mine usually get wet and smeared during the prep so I just throw it out and print a new one when needed.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Eric in NJ

            love that idea. how do you save in "notepad"? (please mods, let us get info here!)

            1. re: alkapal

              I just copy and paste then save thefile to a folder called recipies. Nothing complicated. Inside the recipe folder I create folders for different catagories and sort the recipies to the proper folder.

              1. re: Eric in NJ

                That's what I do too... when I print them out I slip each into a 3-holed plastic archival sleeve. (2 can fit back-to-back.)
                The recipes don't get messy in the kitchen.

                I have a small file cabinet where the print outs are stored categorically.

                1. re: Gio

                  I started doing that but got lazy. I keep meaning to resume.

          2. I do the 3-ring binder thing, but I use the 3-ring plastic protector sheets into which the 8.5x11" pages slip. So you not only don't have to punch, the plastic protects the paper from spatters and other kitchen hazards while you're cooking.


            3 Replies
            1. re: tubman

              I second that recommendation. I also have different binders for different types of recipes - cakes and frostings in one, cookies, bars and brownies in another, etc.

              1. re: punkin712

                I third that recommendation, but I only do it for the recipes that I have tried, liked, and will try again. Takes up less space. I keep all the others in the computer in my folders which I can print out when I want to try them,if I like it, it goes into my book, otherwise I dump it and delete it from the computer.

              2. re: tubman

                I also put mine in the 3 ring binder, inside plastic protector sheets. I have some recipes on index cards that are old, and some that are clipped from mags, or paper, so I tape those onto a blank sheet of paper, organizing by category, and use the front and back of the paper. Then I bought some over sized index tabs to separate the different courses. But now I have so many that the binder is busting! I'll have to use punkin712's suggestion about different binders for different types! Thanks!

              3. I'm glad I'm not alone. I just shove them in a draw. I need organizantion too. Storing them on the computer is great, just a pain in the butt when trying to make something.

                5 Replies
                1. re: MrsT

                  I have an entire cabinet devoted to my piles of recipes, above all of the cookbooks. I own the 3-ring binder and the hole punch but it has become a daunting task. I have been looking into the online recipe books/holders but seems like a lot of work. Any other suggestions would be great! Also what do you do with all of your magazines? My husband doesn't understand why I keep all of the issues of Gourmet, Bon Appetit etc. But I can't get rid of them, too much valuable information.

                  1. re: travelchow

                    I have HAD to let go of all the magazines - they were overpowering our kitchen! so I cut out the recipes I wanted, and as far as the valuable info, I do the same with that as I do with the recipes (see above) only they go into a separate binder. I still have a few that I won't let go of, though!

                    1. re: danhole

                      Aren't most of the Gourmet and Bon Appetit recipes on Epicurious.com? I know I've gone there and printed out many of my favorites for my notebook - I'm of the page protector school. Anyway, that enabled me to recycle many of my old magazines. I have also copied a lot of recipes which are posted here to a Word file to be printed out.

                      1. re: sheiladeedee

                        I know they are there but if I already have them in magazine form, I don't want to waste the toner, and paper to print out again, when I can just cut them out. Another thing is that I know hard disk drives will eventually crash, and I sure don't want to lose anything!

                        1. re: danhole

                          Do copy all your information on a CD, that way you will have everything if the computer crashes. Or, on one of the flash drives that holds loads of information.

                2. I use the three ring binder sytem as well. I actually did *borrow* a three hole punch from work. Once you get past the initial filing, it's easy to keep up. Whenever I need a recipe, I remove it and tape it to the cabinet since the binder is pretty large. It's really worked well for me. I like being able to flip through it for recipe ideas...

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: diablo

                    I finally organized most of my printed recipes in plastic sleeves in a three ring binder and it's proved to be worth the time and effort (unlike some organizing tasks!). It's so nice to be able to find the recipe I need, take out the page and stick it with a magnet to the cupboard or range hood.

                    1. re: janeh

                      We must come from the same school, as I do the same thing.

                  2. I just took my pages and binder to work and punched them there so no need to borrow the punch and lug it home.

                    Then at home I organized and separated them into cookbook like sections.
                    But the plastic sleeves don't sound like bad idea to protect against spills, but then again how do you know what the best recipes are if you can't judge them by the amount of spills.

                    1. I'm all for computerized filing and do that with ones I find electronically but what to do with all those ones I ripped out of magazines? Seems I just can't keep up on those but I don't want to spend a lot of time on a recipe I haven't tried yet.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AlaskaChick

                        Back up your electronic files, just in case! I recently had a hard drive crash and it wasn't pleasant!

                      2. I use the Memo area in my Palm organizer... if its not electronic, its useless to me. I created a list called Recipes, then I start each entry with the type -- like beef, poultry, sides or dessert -- then the name of the dish. it organizes them alphabetically, in each category. then I can put the Palm phone on the counter and follow the recipe from there. I have a small pile (like 5) recipes in hard copy that I'm waiting to try, then I'll either key them in or chuck em. DOing this for years and everything is always readily scan-able.

                        1. Another vote for the looseleaf system and for not filching office supplies. For the moment, I just have a series of manilla folders by topic and periodically shove recipes (if printed out from the internet, on 8 1/2" x 11" paper) in the folders, but I am thinking of moving to the looseleaf system. Beware that if you put a sheet of paper into a plastic protector, you are taking up "extra" space in the looseleaf with the plastic and your looseleaf will get fuller faster.

                          Putting aside for the moment that I am technologically impaired and do not have a scanner, anyway, having things on the computer obviously means you are tied to looking at things on the computer. Sometimes I like to read and compare recipes and find it easier to do that with hard copy rather than having to move around on the computer screen. If I ever get a scanner, I might use the computer as a back-up.

                          1. I love the plastic sleeve idea!

                            I do have some integrity - I would have returned the 3-hole punch. I work alone most of the day so there aren't any office supply police. ;)

                            Thanks everyone!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: OysterHo

                              One warning about the plastic sleeves - they come in 2 sizes. You want the ones that an 8 1/2 x 11 fits into, or you will end up trimming all the pages - been there done that :-(

                              Also get the ones that are a thin plastic. The thicker ones have a tendency to start tearing around the edges after a few years, or even worse, turn yellow! You can get an economy size box for a pretty good price at the office supply store.

                              1. re: danhole

                                Those thin ones are the kind that get crispy after a while, aren't they? We use these things at work and we still have some of those old ones lying around. They are yellow and crispy LOL.

                                But fear not, I won't even steal the yellow crispy ones! ;)

                                1. re: OysterHo

                                  Some that I have had for years are Avery PV119E. They have not torn, or discolored. Come in a box of 100. I bought mine at Staples, but I suppose they are available in most office supply stores.. I like these because they are easily wiped with a damp sponge if they get messy in the prep area... or wet, etc.

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    Gio! Those are exactly the ones I use! Avery PV119E. Got mine at Office Max.

                                    No the thin ones don't get crispy, I swear!

                                    1. re: danhole

                                      Actually I think the PV119E designation might refer to a universal code of some sort, because I have another brand that has the same code number. A & M or something. I'll double check tomorrow..... all my files are in another part of the house. Time to have a central checkpoint for all my culinary files. My cookbook collection remains in the kitchen though. Need ready and easy access.

                            2. Well... you could BUY a 3-hole punch.

                              For me, MasterCook software works fine (and I no longer enrer every ingredient in its database, I juist cut-and-paste the recipe in the "preparation" field) - lets me categorize my favorites, and now and then print out a fresh copy to pitch in a corner of my kitchen until it gets too dirty to use.

                              1. I use 2 systems for new recipes; they both work for me in their own way.

                                Things I find online go into a giant word document on my computer. I format the recipe title to Header because I have inserted a Table of Contents at the top of the document (Insert>Reference>Index & Tables>Table of Contents tab). As you refresh the TOC (right click on it, update table) the new recipes I've added with the header formatted titles pop in. Each line in the TOC is a clickable link to the recipe below in the document. This is handy because the document is around 100 pages. I also will use word's search feature to hunt for recipes with a particular ingredient (file>search>tumeric). Easy to do, easy to use, and good for the trees.

                                Magazine clippings and other paper items go into a classic accordion file. Each section in the file is a basic recipe type (bread, poultry, desserts...). I don't have the discipline to deal with hole punching or sheet protectors. Especially for recipes I might not like.

                                The recipes that I actually make and plan to make again I put into the ancient version of Master Cook I use.

                                And then there is the old wooden cigar box of family recipes, but that's a whole different category.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: GilbyEast

                                  I neglected to mention that I use Paste Special>Unformatted Text to paste recipes into my word document. This gets rid of all the text boxes, pictures, and whatnot.

                                  1. re: GilbyEast


                                    Thank you so much. The unformatting the copy/paste is arduous sometimes. Will have to try the Paste Special next time.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      I may be exposing myself to ridicule here for being a little over the top; but for you jfood I’ll add that I’ve used the keyboard shortcuts feature to set Alt+Q to open up the Paste Special dialog box.

                                    2. re: GilbyEast

                                      Could you please explain the Paste special. I went to a page that had pictures, a recipe and a lot of other junk, clicked on copy, went to word clicked on Paste Special, but all the page still came up. I do a lot of copying and pasting of recipes, so if there is an easier way, I would love to know about it.

                                      1. re: Mother of four

                                        I figured it out, just didn't go to the Unformatted Text the first time I did it. Thanks, this is great and will save me lots of time.

                                    3. re: GilbyEast

                                      I do exactly the same thing. My word document is now well over 300 pages. I have prepared an index for hard drive cookbook, but I was an editor in another life and I realize that's a bit much to ask. Even with the index, often as not I just use the search function. When I want a recipe, I just print it out and throw it away when I'm done with it. Wasteful, I know, but . . . .

                                      I also have another Word document containing the menu of any signigicant dinner/party I've hosted. I list the date and who was there and, if the recipe came from one of my 250+ cookbooks, I put in parentheses next to the dish where the recipe came from so I can find it again. I still have a ridiculously thick file of recipes in dead tree form, and I do peruse those on occasion. But rarely.

                                    4. Hi Oyster,

                                      My wife and I use kind of a hybrid system. We save recipes from the internet to a file utility called AZZ Cardfile (http://www.azzcardfile.com/). It's a basic organizer and works great for recipes (we have over 1,000 so far.) When we're planning our menu we search through the recipes and print the ones we want. After preparing dinner we put the recipe into a plastic sleeve and then ito a 3-ring binder for future use.

                                      1. I have to vote for the plastic holders in the binder. I did this for a present for my mom a few years ago in my jobless high school years-- she asks me to update it from time to time. Of course, it would drive me nuts to have everything organized according to someone else's system, but if it makes her happy, what can you do?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: becky1

                                          I forgot all about those plastic holders - they're great! When I was first starting out and collecting recipes from family I put a bunch in a binder in the sleeves. The plastic makes the recipes portable and splatter-proof :)

                                        2. hole punches are $1 at the dollar store and are handy to have around.
                                          i like the little filing boxes that you can organize recipes in alphabetically. you can get them to match your decor too if you dont have space to hide them away in. Plus they are smaller than a binder, and easier than running back to a computer to look up an electronically saved recipe.

                                          1. So funny! I just bought a binder and 3 hole punch from Target yesterday JUST for that purpose!! Next I am buying the alphabetized dividers and I will organize my mess soon. The 3 hole punch was about $7 but worth it. I realized though that I didn't get a big enough binder. Husband will lift an extra from work.

                                            1. I have a Mac and I use a program called MacGourmet that organizes all my recipes and allows me to create shopping lists, and smart lists of different categories.
                                              There is a feature called "Chef View" that shows the recipe in large type so I just plop my laptop on my kitchen table and follow it from there.
                                              The only snag is that you need to own a Mac because its not available on PC.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: HungryRubia

                                                Where did you find that program? I have a Mac, too, and would love to have something like that. There are a lot of those for PC's.

                                                1. re: danhole

                                                  Sorry for the late reply, dan. You can go to: http://www.macgourmet.com/
                                                  and download it directly from their website. They offer a free trial so you can see if the program works for you. I think it costs $24.95 and they are constantly sending updates.
                                                  There is even a simple feature where you can import recipes directly from Epicurious.

                                                  1. re: HungryRubia

                                                    Thanks. I did find it and I still have 10.3, and it is for 10.4, but I found another on version tracker that looks pretty good.

                                              2. Did my wife put you up to starting this thread?

                                                1. I realize it's a lot of paper but instead of bringing a three hole punch home from work... perhaps the safer (from a moral standpoint) thing to do is to take the paper to work and punch it on your break.

                                                  Otherwise epicurious has a make your own cookbook that they'll bind for you (for a price) I'm not sure about uploading other copywrited material however.

                                                  Or, like others have said, 3-hole punches are easy to find at your local Staples. :)

                                                  1. jfood does the electronic version of recipes. He has several "word" documents categorized by types, i.e. beef, pork, chicken, etc. When he downloads a recipe he places it accordingly into the appropriate word docuemnt. Each is sub-categorized by cooking method, i.e braise, BBQ, stir-fry, etc. He uses a Table of Contents category and when he wants a recipe he looks at the TOC and when he finds it the little index finger icon transports him to the reciep. Either he prints it out or he keeps the computer atthe far reach of the counter and reads as he goes. He also keeps notes and addition/modifications to each recipe as he improves.

                                                    1. Instead of punching holes in the recipes, I slide them into plastic pockets and put the pockets into a binder - that way I can flip through them and pull out whichever one I want to use, the paper is protected from grease marks, the recipes can be rearranged as many times as I happen to feel like fiddling with them, and if one DOES get messed up I can just print another copy and slide it into the pocket.

                                                      PS. I store all my recipes on my computer (or pull them up from Google if I want to make something I don't have a recipe for yet) and print them out as I need them - then I put the printout into my binder if I liked the end result.

                                                      1. I have a file box, with tabs for each of my favorite catagories but ones that I haven't made yet go in the front - when I'm ready to try them I pull it from the front (if I like it, then I file it). Some get tossed, that way I don't keep lousy recipes around. Many stay in the computer, I send them to myself and keep in a file until I'm ready to print them. Some come from magazines so that aren't a nice 8 1/2 x 11 - file box works better for me. They make different sizes.

                                                        1. Staples sells binders with plastic sleeves built in. No need for a hole punch. Each binder has 24 sleeves, works great. I believe they are report style binders, no tabs.

                                                          1. I wouldn't use the computer in my kitchen, so it's the 3-ring binder for me. Actually, most of my recipe-printing happens at work, so I just use the hole punch at my desk.

                                                            The most valuable lesson I've learned, however, is not to keep everything. We've got to be realistic. If I haven't cooked that recipe I cut out of the Boston Globe in 1994, I'm not likely to use it now. Out it goes! My binder is very manageable now and I don't even miss the old recipes I never used.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Kagey

                                                              LOL, I know what you mean. I have recipe copies from 1989 that I don't even think I made back then. They are yellow for crying out loud and I can't seem to throw them out. Being ruthless was never my forte.

                                                              Thanks for all the great ideas :)

                                                              1. re: OysterHo

                                                                But even though I know I'll never make them, being as how they take three days. equipment I dont have, and the family turns up its collective nose at the key ingredient, reading over some of these old recipes is like reading a travel brochure... just can't bring myself to toss them.

                                                                1. re: sheiladeedee

                                                                  Reading through my old-but-never-made recipes makes me realize how far I've come. I, too, had clippings from 1980s and I look at them now and wonder what was I thinking? With so much available on-line its crazy to keep so much paper, but its fun to remember what kind of a cook I thought I was going to become!

                                                                  I, too, use the scanner quite a bit, but am nowhere near as close to being organized as some of you above. Ive just got a bunch of file folders with catgories that I drop my clippings into. About once every 6-8 weeks I take a Sunday afternoon and go through the most recent pile and put them in their respective folders. I do a periodic purge of the fattest files (chicken, party food, sweets, etc) but there are still some moldyoldies tucked away.

                                                            2. I have different binders using the plastic sleeve method but I'm pretty proud of myself for coming up with a binder just marked "Holiday Recipes." It's great to be able to just go to that one for those special recipes.

                                                              1. I used to shuffle thru papers. Now I have everything electronically. I'm much happier, my kitchen is much neater and it's easier to find what I want.

                                                                1. I'm a shameless recipe clipper. Collecting recipes for me is as much fun as actually cooking with them, but I'm and organization and office supply freak. For recipes that I have TRIED and I will USE AGAIN, I use the binder/ plastic sleeve method (I just started my second binder). I started using that system for my "wow that sounds good" recipes, but once I had 4 binders filled up (all nicely categorized, of course), I realized I needed to do something else. Now I have two crates (like the kind we used to put record albums in!) that hold hanging files. So now I have everything categorized and labeled. So if a new recipe come in for "carrots", I can just toss it in the file folder. I'm organized seasonally for fruit and veg - so in the midst of zucchini frenzy I can pull out a lot of options; by meat, by international cuisine and then a few odds and ends. The categories match the way my brain works, so I can usually find what I'm looking for. Oh, embarrassingly, I still have a paper box (the kind that holds 10 reams) half full of unfiled recipes. So many hidden treasures to rediscover!

                                                                  1. Similar to the 3 ring binder idea, but slightly different- I use those old school photo albums- the ones that have the thin plastic sheet that pulls off of a cardboard page backing. The pages pop out like a 3 ring binder. It's handy because the cardboard make the page very sturdy + protects the recipe nicely + is easy to wipe off when I'm done. And no hole punch required!

                                                                    1. Digital all the way. Most of my recipes come off the internet or are emailed to me, so it's easiest. When it's cooking time my laptop gets a protective layer of plastic wrap and comes into the kitchen with me, though well away from possible leaks and spills.