How To Organize Recipes…And USE Them!

There’s no denying it. . . I am a recipe hound.  I subscribe to cooking magazines, browse through cookbooks constantly, read all sorts of yummy foodie blogs, and long to be a real chef as I watch cooking shows.  I actually like finding new recipes more than the actual cooking, but I figure they go hand in hand, so I do both.

People constantly ask me how I organize all my recipes (yes, I have lots and organization is essential!).  I’ve seen tons of “recipe systems” on Pinterest and blogs, and though they look attractive in pictures, I don’t want an entire wall in my house devoted just to menu planning nor do I need a hundred little tags or index cards with my menu plans on them.  I don’t need all that complexity.  I love my system because it’s straightforward and tidy.  Every recipe has a place.  Plus, it’s organized by my foodie mood. . . you’ll see what I mean later. . .

So here’s how to organize recipes SIMPLY.

Three Essentials For Organizing Recipes

My system just has 3 parts:

  1. My Clipboard
  2. My Recipe Binders
  3. My Fridge White Board

My Clipboard

My system starts with a clipboard.  Any time I find a new recipe to try I put it on my clipboard. The clipboard is reserved for NEW recipes that I’ve never tasted before.  If I try something someone else has made and ask them for the recipe I already KNOW I like it and I can put it straight into my cookbook.  Each week when I’m planning my menu I look through the clipboard recipes and select at least one new thing to try that week (usually 2-3 things).

My Clipboard

If something stays on the clipboard very long and never gets made, I toss it.  If it doesn’t look good enough to make after a month or so I’ll probably never make it often enough anyway.  One of the biggest problems I see with people’s recipe collections is that they’ve held on to recipes they’ve never made for years.  If it’s been more than 3 months, definitely TOSS IT.

New Recipe Night

At least once a week we have New Recipe Night!  It’s easy to find that recipe I saw in the magazine because I’ve already stuck in on my clipboard.  I try out new recipes on my family and they all get to give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  If everyone likes it (or most of them do anyway) it gets to go into our family cookbook.  New recipe night has become almost a celebration at our house.  There are only 2 rules –

  1. You must TRY EVERYTHING.
  2. You are completely free to express your opinions and Mom’s feelings will not be hurt.  (On normal nights they are NOT allowed to complain or criticize the meal.)

How-to-Organize-Recipes-New-Recipe-Night

We’ve all come to love this weekly tradition!  It gives me a reminder to test out new recipes and I also really believe that kids that try a lot of new things are less picky eaters.  But I digress. . . back to recipe organizing 101.

My Recipe Binders

My recipe binders are just simple binders that is divided into categories like “Mexican,” “Italian,” “Casseroles,” “Breakfast foods.”  That’s why I say that it’s sorted by my foodie moods.  If I feel like Mexican food I can always flip right open to that section of the binder.  I also keep a master list at the front with the same categories so I can easily see what’s in each section and can browse for meal ideas without flipping through the whole book.  It also serves as a table of contents for my cookbook.

My one binder has grown into three over the years.  Binder #1 is for main dishes, sides, salads, and soups.  Binder #2 is for breads, appetizers, snacks, and non-food recipes (like homemade cleaning products and salt dough).  Binder #3 has all the goodies!  Once I’ve found a new recipe that everyone likes, I type it up, print it off, and put it right in its’ section.  About every 6 months or so I update the master list.

My Recipe Binders

My Recipe Binders

I type up my recipes, but that’s not necessary.  If you just want to slip the magazine page, recipe card, or other printed recipe into your binder that’s fine too, but I like to have one recipe per page and be able to easily give a copy to my friends without any effort so I type them up and then have them handy, since I swap recipes with a lot of people.

How-to-Organize-Recipes-Cookbook-Pages

I put little colored stickers on the tops of the certain recipes. Pink mean “quick recipe” (like 20 minutes or less to prepare), Blue means “freezer meal.” Yellow means “crock pot friendly.” Green means “cheap,” for those weeks or months that our budget is tight.

Only ONE Recipe

I never have more than one recipe for any dish.  I’ve never understood why people need 3 or 4 banana bread recipes.  Find the one you like best and use it.  If you ever come across a better one, toss the old one before you put the new one in your book.

The cupboard above my stove houses my recipe binders.  Slipped right in beside them is my clipboard for new recipes I want to try.

The cupboard above my stove houses my recipe binders. Slipped right in beside them is my clipboard for new recipes I want to try.

 My Fridge Board

You can see that I have my three binders right in my kitchen cabinet, and slipped right by them is my clipboard with new recipes.  Once a week I pull out the book and the clipboard and plan my menus.  I just choose 6-8 recipes that sound good, including at least one new one from the clipboard, and write them on my white board that sticks to my fridge.

How-to-Organize-Recipes-fridge-boardWhile I’ve got the cookbook out I also make a note on my shopping list of any ingredients I need to buy.   I also jot these things in my Mom’s Ultimate Planner, but the planner is for ME while the fridge board is for EVERYONE.  If my son notices his bathroom is low on toilet paper or uses up the last of the peanut butter, it’s his responsibility to write it on the shopping list on the board.  My fridge board has our calendar, our menu, our shopping list, and a spot for random notes, reminders, and phone messages.  I used to put menus on a calendar, but I was never in the mood for what I had planned so I never stuck with it.  This method gives me a way to plan out menus, but still allows for a lot of flexibility.

When I cook the meal I just erase it off the board. By the end of the week I usually have 1-2 left depending on if we had leftovers or if Daddy spoiled us by bringing home a pizza one night.

How-to-Organize-Recipes-Menu-List

So that is how I do it! You just need 3 things: a clipboard, a binder, and a white board (or heck, a piece of scratch paper will do!).  Spring a new recipe night on your family and see how they like being your personal food critic for the night!

 

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One Response to How To Organize Recipes…And USE Them!

  1. Danielle says:

    Loved your tips! I am also an avid recipe reader/trier, and have wrestled with the organization and purging of my collection. It’s always good to know you are not alone in your obsession. 🙂

    Thanks!

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