Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Organizing Recipes (Part 1) - A tutorial

My dear friend Julie mentioned that I had helped her organize her recipes before her move.  You, faithful readers, have shown quite a bit of interest for more details and especially pictures.  I've had emails and phone calls from around the U.S.  Who'd a thunk?

I've pondered on how best to do this since I can't sit side-by-side with each of you and walk you through it...but I've decided that really is the best way.  So, I will "collectively" sit by your sides and help you through this process. I'll answer any and all questions!  It's really very easy and hopefully will be something you can use forever.  It will require a small investment in supplies but that will pay great dividends in the time you save and the stress you relieve.  Plus you'll never loose Aunt Martha's secret pie recipe! 

It took me many years of tweaking to come up with my system.  I've used it successfully for years now and am very pleased.  It is easy to expand, covers recipe cards, newspaper clippings, recipes from friends, books, magazines, and even the internet - all organized in a simple system.

I'm going to do this in at least two parts - these will be picture heavy posts so it may end up in three parts.  Today, I am giving you the list of supplies.  I encourage you to gather these over the next few days.  I'll be sharing about a building project that the boys have been working on over the next couple of days to give you time to gather your supplies.  Then we'll meet back here at the end of the week and get started.

I came up with this idea because for years I threw recipes I wanted to try into the lid of a box and kept it under the couch (which quickly turned into a big box in the closet!).  However, I very rarely went through that box!  I needed to get a handle on it so that if I wanted to try a new chicken dish, I didn't need to sit down and sift through that box for an hour - I don't have that kind of time and I'm sure you don't either. But there were just some recipes that sounded too good to throw away.  I needed a system!  

Let's get started!

You will need a 3-ring binder.  They come in many colors - pick your favorite! I encourage you to spend a little more and get the heavy duty version - this will be a well used book - it will last much longer than the cheaper binder.  Ask me how I know...

If you have a lot of recipes, choose the 1 1/2 inch or 2 inch binder.  I happen to like the 1 1/2 inch.  I have small hands and the 2 inch binder is a bit awkward for me to use. I also chose the PVC free version since PVC can be unhealthy to handle much - especially for women. The binder pictured above also has pockets on both the inside and backside covers - these are very handy and will be discussed later. If you have a choice, get binders with pockets on the inside covers.

You will also need a package (or two) of these dividers, depending on how many categories you want in your cookbook.

These are Avery # 81825 Two Pocket Insertable Plastic Dividers (also PVC free!) These dividers come in both 5 tab and 8 tab. I prefer the 8 tab because it allows you to have more categories.  I have two packages in each of my books. It is VERY important that you get the two pocket dividers - not the one pocket.  It is crucial to your plan to stay organized as you will see a bit later.

You'll need some of these.

It doesn't matter what brand but I prefer the lighter weight sheet protectors. The heavy ones take up too much space in the book and you don't really need that thickness. The lighter weight are also called "economy" because they are cheaper! These will do fine.  I think I used 200 of these when I started - I'd recommend getting a box of 100 as a minimum to start with.  Julie and I used almost all 100 when we did her recipes and she has continued to add to her book.

You will need either some good heavy cardstock in whatever color you choose or you can pick up a package of these binder inserts.

I use the 1 inch and they fit nicely in the 1 1/2 inch binder spine.  This is so you will know which book to grab off of your shelf when you have more than one.  I think Julie ended up with three books which is also what I have - we each have a binder set aside for canning since we do so much of that each summer.

That's it for things you might need to purchase.  But you also need to gather these things...

Gather the cookbooks and magazines that you find yourself reaching for the most.  If you have cook books that you use over and over, or magazines that you refer to constantly start gathering into a pile for our next post...

Oh, and be sure to get these....

Your stash!  Don't tell me you don't have one - if you truly don't you probably don't need this post! One of the reasons I like to buy old cookbooks is that they are often filled with lovely handwritten family recipes - I've found some real treasures stuffed into these old cookbooks.  Gather recipes that are tried and true and be sure to have some that you want to try but haven't gotten around to yet....we'll have a place for everything!

Get your recipe box, cards, newspaper clippings, scraps of paper, hand-written notes, post-it notes, emails, recipes written by family and friends, internet pages....gather them all...hither and yon....and before you know it you'll be able to have them at your fingertips anytime you need them....and just think of the space you'll save under your couch or in your closet!



  1. My cookbook is almost identical to that! I've now made close to 20 of them as wedding gifts- ALWAYS the hit of the entire shower! However...my own cookbook is overflowing now- it needs to be re-evaluated SOON!

  2. LOL I hope you have a good solution for my treasured recipe that my BFF wrote on a napkin for me....that napkin has been tucked into my recipe box for nearly 20 years. :)

  3. Andrea! That is so amazing! Perhaps you'll have some good suggestions at the end!!

    Yep! We can even handle napkins :)

  4. I could use something like this, but then I wouldn't be able to find anything. Also,wanted to let you know, I used your recipe for garlic knots for lunch today,along with pizza and salad. Your garlic knots are great!

  5. My neighbor taught me the same method 5 years ago! It's a wonderful way to keep recipes clean and together.

    BTW, your new blog design is lovely! I especially like your Tennessee Farmgirl logo!

    Blessings to you,


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