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How Do You Organize Your Recipes?

I have a recipe binder, but it's positively overflowing with newspaper and magazine clippings, handwritten family recipes, and internet print-outs. I'm thinking about switching to a filing system. How do you organize your recipes? Binder? Index cards? File folders? What categories do you use to separate your recipes? Do you keep the recipes you've already tried separate from the recipes you haven't cooked yet, but would like to try?

Thank you!

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  1. I like a big index card box. I have categories for cakes, cookies, drinks, starchy sides, marinades/ sauces, but you'll need to categorize in whatever way you think.

    1. To answer your question - not in a logical manner...

      Most of my recipes are in a recipe box, on index cards, sorted into: Breakfast, Appetizers, Salads (subdivided into Dressings, Salads and Main Dish Salads), Fish, Meats (subdivided into Duck, Chicken, Lamb, Beef, and Pork), Vegetables and Side Dishes (subdivided into Hot and Cold) and finally, Sweets (subdivided into Cookies, Cake/Pie and then Christmas). I go through these once a year and throw out recipes I haven't made in a long time or that don't sound as appealing as they once did.

      Then, I put recipes in cookbooks, the ones I can't get onto index cards. For example, a terrine recipe will go into my Jacques Pepin cookbook - 'cause it's a French recipe, so I put it in a French cookbook...

      The only problem I run into is that I sometimes have a huge pile of recipes to get onto cards, which can take up some time. But on a rainy day, that's not a bad thing.

      It's a gray rainy day here, guess what I'm doing this afternoon?

      1. i actually bought recipe software (and i never like software enough to buy it). it's really easy to use and organize. unfortunately, i find way too many recipes online, not to mention the 120+ cookbooks we have, to get them all in there without having to quit my job. :)

        1. Up until recently I was putting them in sheet protectors and organizing them in 3-ring binders. Then, I had a different binder for different types of food. I have one binder for soups and stews, one for sandwiches, salads, and drinks, one for desserts, one for rice and legumes, and one for appetizers and other main dishes.

          But really, it was a pain. I don't have any good storage near my kitchen and no room in my kitchen. I have a great dislike of bookshelves because they look ugly unless you have "pretty" books and they collect enormous amounts of dust.

          My solution has been to computerize everything. Most recipes are offered online now. I have a file of bookmarks for all my favorite recipe sites: epicurious, cookinglight, recipezar, etc. When I really like a recipe, I put it in a word document and save it on my hard drive.

          Not only does it save space, but it makes everything so easy to find, and I can save things in multiple folders. For example, I have a folder for Jewish food, but so many of the things I put in it can be filed elsewhere, so I do it! So those recipes are in other folders as well, such as main dishes (broken down by type of protein), sides (broken down by vegetable type, etc.)

          And then, if you can't find something, you can do a file search.

          And no recipes get ruined by something spilling on them!

          I just love it that way!


          4 Replies
          1. re: puppymomma

            Meryl, how do you use a recipe from your files? Do you bring a laptop into the kitchen while you cook? Or do you print off a recipe when you wish to use it?

            1. re: saltwater

              Well, since my printer is in the basement, I bring my laptop into the kitchen. But if I were worried about my laptop, I'd print a recipe. :)

              1. re: puppymomma

                It almost reminds me of that Jetsons cartoon, having a computer to help in the kitchen. You know, I suppose you don't really need the keyboard in the kitchen, just the monitor to display the recipe, unless you are typing notes as you go...

                I could just lay something over the keyboard to protect from accidents.

                1. re: puppymomma

                  I do the same thing. A while back, I typed up all of my mother's favorite/most used recipes, then printed them out and put them in a binder for her as a mothers' day gift (no more having to remember which book a particular recipe is in, since they're now all in the one binder.) The perk for me is that I now have a computer file with all those family recipes, plus whenever I see a good one online I just cut and past it in. A nice benefit, besides saving space and mess (though I've still got plenty of real cookbooks taking up space) is that when I have an ingredient and don't know what to do with it, I can just do a find in the document for, say, zucchini and come up with all the recipes that use it. Then, yes, I take my laptop into the kitchen to cook.

            2. Thanks to everyone who posted. :)

              1. I'm converting all my recipes to my laptop. On my desktop (I'm using a Mac, but I think a PC will translate the same) I have a folder entitled "food/recipes" - I also like to save food articles - and in it I have more folders; Main, soups/sauces, salads/sides, desserts, etc. I am currently in the process of subdividing those folders further (confections, cookies, cakes, etc.) just to make it easier to find something. Although, if I know I'm looking for a main course, it's nice to browse all the recipes.

                1. I keep my recipes in manilla folders. Each folder is lables-such as main dishes, sides dishes or salads, appetizers, desserts, etc...I have to go through them every so often to remind myself whats in there. Actually the recipes I keep in there are ones I cut out from magazines or download from the internet. I keep my favorites in my head. Someday I oughta write them down.

                  1. Archeologically. Open drawer, dig down to appropriate depth depending on when I last made the dish.

                    1. I make a copy of every recipe I use frequently, whether from a cookbook, magazine or online. That way they are all on 8.5 x 11 inch paper AND the source material does not get stained while cooking. I three hole punch them and put them in a binder.

                      I got file dividers with about a dozen sections numbered 1 to 12 with an index at front. Labeled the numbers 1 - Drinks, 2- Salads etc - whatever categories work for you. File within those sections alphabetically. Most sections have fewer than 50 recipes, so even if I forget what it is called, I can still leaf thru in short order.

                      1. My method is fairly archaic. I keep a three ring binder with dividers in it by category(salad, pasta, vegetarian, beef, fish, etc).

                        I clip recipes and then glue them on three ring note paper and file accordingly. I can usually get a couple recipes per page. Recipes that I print from teh computer get hole punched and filed.

                        I usually sit down every couple weeks and clip and file things so they don't get too out of control. Everything gets filed in the same binder by category, whether it's tried and true(mom's koulouria recipe for instance) or something that caught my eye and I might want to try someday.

                        I have a bookcase in my kitchen and the binder lives there with my cookbooks.

                        Like I said nothing fancy but it works for me..

                        1. My method is probably a little demented...I have this 3 ring binder but ONLY the "keepers" get punched and inserted in their category (chicken, red meat, veggies, sweets) and the "to try" stuff is just loosely placed in 3 ring binder. My son is on a low-sodium diet and living with me right now, so my "to try" pile is just wasting away there because of the low-sodium situation that I'm trying to be supportive of...BUT I do have a new category of "low-sodium" keepers!

                            1. I have a cool Longaberger basket recipe "box" that comes with 4" x 6" decorated cards. Then I print the recipe out from foodnetwork or whatever - foodnetwork lets you print recipes in several different sizes. Or since I'm into that sort of thing - I hand print the recipe on the card, unless it's too long, contains too many ingredients. Too much chance for a scrivener's error with those.