Saturday, January 15, 2011

Recipe Organization

The need for a recipe organization makeover comes with a love of cooking. Pursuant to a conversation I had with a friend, Nora, over the holidays, I decided to revamp my need to maintain organization with all of my “loose” recipes. I have my fair share of cookbooks, which require little effort to keep organized, but where the challenge lies is the recipes I print off the internet and the recipes I rip out of my many cooking magazine subscriptions.

I was able to house my loose recipes in file folders until I filled two to capacity and couldn’t find anything. If you only have a few favorite recipes, this could work well for you; however, those of you who see a picture of something delicious and decide to rip it out of the Food Network Magazine like I do… well, you need something bigger and better to stay sane and also to save time.

One of the problems I had with keeping all of my recipes in file folders was that I would have to sort through hundreds of recipes just to find something to eat for dinner or to find a favorite recipe that I wanted to try again. No fun that is. So I picked a beautiful rainy evening (living in Seattle, I have had many to choose from!) and went through all of the recipes about four times trying to consolidate and weed out the recipes I just knew I would never ever try. You’d be surprised how many I got rid of!

Then….. I came up with several categories and sorted recipes based on categories, including: baking, breads, meat, chicken, fish, brunch, sandwiches, slow cookers, sauces, soups, salads, beverages, holiday, ethnic, pasta, etc. After categorizing the recipes I went out and found a recipe organization book on It took me quite a while to narrow down which book to buy; my selection was based mostly on the categories on the dividing tabs that it came with. I chose a C.R. Gibson recipe organizer; C.R. Gibson makes a lot of different recipe organization paraphernalia you might be interested in. I’d recommend browsing Amazon to find a wide variety. There are certainly plenty to choose from! Be advised that these binders don’t come with too terribly many sheet protectors, so you may want to run out and get a pack of them. I quickly ran out!

Aside from the greatness in organization, one of my favorite parts of the new recipe binder is that all of my recipes are kept in sheet protectors, which allows me to wipe off all of the cooking remnants after I’m done with the recipe. I can always tell what recipes I’ve tried before because they have been destroyed.

Another organizational tool I employ for my recipes is for the 3x5” notecard size recipes I print from the internet. Mostly these are from, a personal favorite site of mine (I keep an online recipe box here, too!). I keep these in a little notecard box that I used to use for school, I think. There are some great notecard boxes on the market that will fit 3x5 or 4x6” recipe cards. I like this idea, too, because it’s alphabetized. I usually remember the name of the recipe that I am looking for if I liked it, so I can find it pretty quickly; but regardless of the recipe’s name, I keep all chicken in the “c” and all pasta in the “p” instead of having, say, “Anniversary Chicken” in the “a” category or “Lemon Pasta” in the “l” category. I just think that’s easier to keep track of everything.

I have to tell you, though, my dream kitchen would include a touch-screen computer in my that pops down from under the cabinet and magically stores all of my recipes and allows me to view online recipe collections for easy kitchen access. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming for a while.

P.S. – you may be wondering how I keep this system up! That is a “resolution” for me this year. I have subscriptions to three (or more?) food magazines. I have formed some new habits around ripping recipes out of these magazines, due to the fact that with all of the recipes in my house I would need to try a new recipe every day at every meal time for about 900 years in order to actually try something, so I am only allowing myself to rip out a recipe if I am really going to make it. I do look through the ingredients and determine if that’s something I’m even remotely interested in, and if so, then it comes out and goes into a file folder. Yes, a file folder. Also, I should note, after I page through each magazine and determine what I'm going to use, I recycle the magazine, so as to avoid messy buildup. Well, actually, I keep my Cooks Illustrated magazines, but only because every page is filled with delicious goodness and fantastic tips.

From that point, I plan my weekly menus around new recipes. Err, I try to, anyway. If I try the recipe and enjoy it, it goes in my recipe binder, if not, it goes to the curb. So far this is working for me, but I have a lot of new recipes to try and a very, very excellent new cookbook from friend Nora that I am ecstatic about (Williams-Sonoma’s Cooking at Home)…. Off to the kitchen I go!


  1. Would you ever use a laptop to organize recipes? If so, what software would you recommend. Thanks for the tips...

  2. I have never used a laptop, specifically, to organize recipes. Most of my recipes are in hard copy, as I described; however, the recipes I have online I store on websites. My favorite recipes are kept on, or Other websites, such as, has the option to save recipes electronically, as well. Once I do get my dream kitchen laptop I will play around with some computer software and see if I can come up with something better. Hope that helps!

  3. Hi Alison,
    Thanks for taking the time to help all of us with file folders stuffed with recipes. I have been working on my folders since you originally posted. I can't wait to show you how far I have come. I really liked the sheet protector idea. I will send you a photo, before and after! The only thing I worry about in storing my recipes on websites is if they somehow discontinue the site for some reason.

  4. Nora - I would love to see all of your before and after pictures! Those are the best. I am so glad to hear that you have been motivated to organize your recipes.

    Maybe I can make my million by designing some kind of computer software to organize your recipes? I'll let you know when that happens.