High- & Low-tech Ways to Organize Recipes

Have you ever struggled to find that perfect recipe you know you made a few months ago, but can’t remember which cookbook it was in? It can be frustrating to me when I can picture exactly what the finished recipe looked like, but can’t remember which cookbook it came from.

This still happens to me occasionally, but I am getting a handle on it, so it should not happen as much in the future.

Since Thanksgiving, I have been doing a lot of cooking and baking, and it got me thinking about how I search for new recipes and organize my favorites.  I must admit that my methods have changed over the years.

In the past, before the digital age, I collected cookbooks (the older the better). I would read cookbooks like they were novels. You may think this is strange, but many cookbooks include interesting stories and mark a time in history that intrigues me.

There’s also something very special about a handwritten recipe on an index card. I have many from my grandmothers and my husband’s grandmother that are very special to me. I treasure these and keep a few of these close by.

But I realized recently that my first instinct is no longer to reach for a favorite cookbook on my shelf or handwritten index card. I have evolved to where I can open the refrigerator at dinnertime, google a couple of ingredients that go together, and find a new recipe to try within minutes.

I no longer need to spend time flipping through cookbooks in order to help me decide what to make for dinner.

With this evolution comes some new methods of saving these new recipes that my family decides are “keepers.” The result is that I have gained some efficiency, including:

  1. Freeing up precious shelf space. I have reduced the size of my cookbook “collection” considerably over the past couple of years by donating the ones that I rarely used. The truth is that I only used a few recipes in each book, so before I gave them away, I scanned our favorites for safekeeping. It was hard to part with some of them, but in reality, I appreciate the available shelf space much more.
  2. Centralizing the family favorites. When I print a recipe from the Internet, and the family decides it’s worth making again in the future, I file it in a three-ring binder. I have divided the binder into categories such as Appetizers, Soup/Salads, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, and Baked Goods. I now know that whenever I reach for that binder, I will find an option that everyone will enjoy.
  3. Searching by keyword is much faster. I often come across an interesting recipe that I want to keep it for future reference. When it’s online, I just save a .pdf version of it, or I’ll scan the recipes I find in a magazine or newspaper into my computer. When I’m ready to give one a try – searching by a keyword is much faster then flipping through pages of a cookbook.

Don’t get me wrong – I still have two recipe boxes full of recipe cards, along with a couple of shelves of cookbooks, but the options available online have allowed me to create new well ordered, shelf saving ways of organizing my recipes.

Have you developed any new or similar systems for organizing your favorite recipes? If so, I would love to hear from you.

TA DA Tip of the Month

In addition to the traditional methods of using a cookbook to decide what cookies to bake for the next bake sale, here are a few new places you can create to store and organize your family favorites:

  1. Three-Ring binder with sheet protectors – As mentioned above, my newest system is to print recipes from the internet, slip them into a plastic sheet protector, and file them in a three-ring binder. In addition, when I scan recipes from old cookbooks, or cut them out of the newspaper or magazines, I store them in a three-ring binder as well Amazon offers some nice options if you search for “recipe binder organizer.”
  2. Pin on a Pinterest “recipe board” – While browsing through Pinterest you can find a plethora of recipes. However, it can be hard to find them again if you don’t “pin” them to one of your personal “boards.” Be sure to create a board of your own and pin recipes that you find so they are easily available when the time is right.
  3. Save to DropboxDropbox is a great way to file all your recipes in one place, online. You can set up a Dropbox folder for free, and easily share links to your recipes with friends.
  4. Use a recipe-planning App – With the proliferation of smart phones and tablets there are a number of apps available that will help with recipe organization, meal planning and some even create shopping lists. I use AllRecipes and their “dinner spinner” which has come in handy on occasion. But there are plenty more to try out. While researching for this e-newsletter, I found this article from the LA Times that lists quite a few. I may have to try these myself!
  5. Repurpose old photo albums – I have been known to repurpose old photo albums (the ones with sleeves for each photos) by inserting handwritten index cards into each open slot. In some ways I find this easier then leafing through an overstuffed recipe box.
  6. Select a High-tech option like “Demy” – If you are inclined to go high-tech, a friend of mine just told me about “Demy” which is a digital recipe reader specifically designed to be kitchen safe. It also includes timers, a measurement converter and substitutions list. I just may have to check this one out!

If none of these options appeals to you and/or you sometimes choose to use traditional cookbooks, be sure to mark your standby recipes with some sort of tag so they stand out in the future. Ta-Da!

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