My Recipe Organization System

For my last #FridayIntroductions post on Instagram, I referenced a recipe binder that was basically my brain on a bookshelf. Before all of our food needs/restrictions popped up, this binder was the rock in my cooking world. It kept meal planning easy, especially when company was coming. It was filled with recipes that I was experienced with, knew the timings of, and had perfected. It made me confident in the kitchen.

When our intolerances started surfacing one by one, it was agonizing to lose my rock. This sounds dramatic, but I’m being completely serious. I hate change. I want everything in my life to be reliable and predictable. When change happens, I act like a drowning cat – it’s ugly and pitiful. It takes me a long time to learn how to thrive in new situations, so for me to have found such a gem of a tool in the kitchen, and then lose it, was incredibly hard for me.

After 15 months of drowning in our food lifestyle change, I finally feel like I’m getting my feet under me again. A huge turning point for me was realizing I needed to create a new rock – the old one is not coming back anytime soon. I’m in the process of putting together a second one that fits our new lives and I’m so relieved.

I also know a lot of families out there are facing this same lifestyle change, so I thought I’d share this with you, in case it’s helpful. I’ll rewind a bit though, to explain what it is and why it works so well for me.

How to Organize ALL Your Recipes

A few years ago I was in dire need of help. My recipes were ALL OVER THE PLACE. I had some of them in misc piles, in binders, in word documents, on pinterest, in magazines, etc., etc.

I hunted high and low for organization ideas. I’d seen lots of different methods but I needed something that worked with my train of thought, not someone else’s. Everybody works differently and so should their organization; I needed something that fit me. I finally came up with a game plan that merged several different ideas and I never looked back.

It took some time to sort through everything, but I did it in 3 phases, which helped to break up the daunting task. In a nut shell, I:

  • Organized a magazine holder full of folders, sorted by food category, to hold all the recipes I want to try.
  • Created a family cookbook, with the same food categories, that only contains recipes we’ve tried and loved.
  • Created reference pages in my family cookbook binder for recipes we’ve tried and loved from other cookbooks.

No more going to multiple sources to find recipes or sifting through things I haven’t made mixed with things I have. Before I check pinterest anymore, I check my folders first. It’s filled with recipes I already know I’m interested in, which saves me time when meal planning.

The best part about this though is that it’s STAYED ORGANIZED! If I’m in a time crunch, it’s so easy to quickly stash a recipe in the side of the magazine holder, until I can put it into a folder, keeping things clutter free until I have time to put it where it goes. Or if it’s a recipe I made and loved, I stick it inside the binder until I have time to hole punch it and place it in a protective sleeve behind the correct tab. No more lose recipes in every crevice of my home.

Here was my plan of attack:

Phase 1 of recipe organizing - Recipes you HAVEN'T tried  

PHASE 1:  Recipes you HAVEN’T tried  [loose pages]

Supplies:

  • folders [# depends on how many categories you chose. I also prefer all folders to be a different color/pattern]
  • magazine holder
  • address labels
  • sharpie
  • loose leaf recipes

Directions:

  • Gather all the recipes you own, that you want to try but have NEVER made before. Tear them out of magazines, print them off your computer, etc.
  • Determine your categories and begin separating them into piles. I chose:
      • Breakfast
      • Drinks
      • Condiments
      • Ferments
      • Kid Snacks
      • Snacks/Apps/Sides. [These 3 things overlap in my opinion, so I combined them]
      • Salads
      • Bread
      • Lunch/Abundance Bowls
      • Entrees [I also made folders for Entree subcategories like Grill, Soups, Ethnic, Crockpot, etc]
      • Dessert
      • Food facts [I keep misc info here like how to substitute eggs for flax seeds, etc.]
  • Place each pile of paper into a different folder. I put all the small pages on one side and the full sized pages on the other so they’re easier to find. 

Organizing folders for recipes you want to try

  • Use an address label and sharpie to label each folder.

Labeling folders for recipes you want to try

  • Place all folders into magazine holder. Throughout the week, as I find recipes I like, I stick them in the side of the magazine holder. Whenever I have the time, I sit down with the stack of unsorted recipes and put them all away.

Organized folders of recipes you want to try

  • Give yourself a high five.

 

Phase 2 of Recipe Organizing - all the lose leaf recipes you've tried and loved!  

PHASE 2:  Recipes you HAVE tried and would make again  [loose pages only]

Supplies:

  • 3 Ring Binder [mine is 2 inches, from target]
  • Page protectors [optional]
  • Page dividers or sticker tabs if you use page protectors [page dividers don’t stick out far enough to be seen between the page protectors]
  • 3 hole punch [if you aren’t using page protectors]
  • Printer paper
  • Tape
  • Loose leaf recipes

Directions:

  • Gather all the recipes you own that you HAVE made before and would make again. Tear them out of magazines, print them off your computer, etc.
  • Any recipes that were small on a large piece of paper I cut out and taped these, along with other small recipes, to computer paper and hole punched them. I wanted this to be as uniform as possible! I didn’t want all my pages to be different sizes.

IMG_1816

  • Insert labels into page divider tabs or label sticker tabs that are the same as the categories you chose in phase 1. I also added subtitles in the Entrees section for: Crockpot, Soups, Ethnic, and Grill.

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  • I also added tabs for things like:
    • Meal Plan Pages – I made a simple template in Word for my weekly meal plan
    • Grocery List – I keep notebook paper behind this tab so I can make my list easily. 
    • Try Soon - For recipes I can’t fit in this week but that I really want to make ASAP! I check here first when I’m meal planning.
    • Seasonal Produce - I’m trying to get better about shopping what’s in season, but I can’t meal plan around it if I can’t remember what’s fresh! I printed off a list for all 4 seasons in my growing zone

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  • Insert recipes into page protectors or 3 hole punch all your recipes and place in the corresponding section of your binder.
  • Give yourself a round of applause.

Phase 3 of Recipe Organizing - Cookbook recipes you've tried and loved

PHASE 3:  Recipes you HAVE tried [cookbooks]

Supplies:

  • Notebook paper. [1 per category in your binder, including subsections]
  • Pencil
  • All your cookbooks

Directions:

  • At the top of each piece of notebook paper, write a different category name.
  • Go through every stinkin’ cookbook you own. If you made it and you would eat it again, write it down on the corresponding piece of notebook paper with the name of the cookbook and page number.
  • When you are FINALLY finished, insert each page at the beginning of each corresponding section of your binder. If you chose to use them, insert these into page protectors as well.

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  • Treat yourself to a nap.

How does this work?

  1. Anytime you make a new meal from your folders either throw it away if you didn’t like it, or insert it into your binder if you would make it again.
  2. If you did like it, write down commentary – tweaks you would make, if it would freeze well, the date you made it, who you made it for, if it would be a good meal to help someone in need, what would complement the dish, etc. Every time I meal plan I’m filled with memories of past dinners we’ve shared with friends and family and can’t believe how long it’s been since each memory took place. I cherish my little notes.

 

You have now created your own personal cookbook. A giant go-to for all your favorite recipes. No need to shuffle through recipes you are skeptical about to find something to make for company, you have tried and true recipes at your fingertips!

So, what’s in our binder?

For those that have the same diet restrictions and are curious about our favorite recipes, here are links to those that are found online! We don’t have a huge binder yet, because it’s been harder for us to find good staples under our restrictions, but hopefully this will help you get started! 

Breakfast:

 Ferments:

Kid Snacks:

Snacks/Apps/Sides:

Entrees:

Bread:

Dessert:

love and less stress,

amber.

ps – I also have all my pinterest food boards labeled the same as my folder and binder categories. If you’re interested, here are the links! [I have multiple food boards that I’ve accumulated over the years because of our evolving diets. These are the most recent.]

My System for Recipe Organization [RealFoodwithKids.com]