Whether or not you’re a serious recipe collector, organizing recipes in an efficient manner can be challenging.
You have a few goals to accomplish, recipes need to be:
- Easy to find
- Easy to add to
- Easy to browse
- Kept clean (ideally)
There are dozens of different ways to collect and organize recipes on a computer via software or online applications, but I’d like to reinforce the tradition of keeping hard copies of favorite family recipes that are handwritten, typed or even snipped & pasted on cards. Why? Because favorite recipes are part of every family’s history, they play an important role in shared meals and memories.
These copies of recipes are wonderful keepsakes for loved ones and ensure that favorite dishes aren’t lost over time. There’s something impersonal about a computer printed recipe on a sheet of 8×10 paper–it can’t match the warmth of Grandma’s handwritten recipe card or mom’s favorite recipe clipping that she took the time to stick on a pretty index card and file away.
There are several options to organize recipe cards and scraps of papers, starting with:
- Organize them in photo albums using the plastic pockets to keep them clean.
- Use binders with plastic sheet protectors.
These provide the ability to keep the recipes clean, organized and easy to add to (just pop in more plastic protectors), but I find this method to be somewhat bulky and inefficient. If you want to keep things in alphabetical order, you’re forever shuffling and rearranging when adding new recipes. If you have a large recipe collection, count on maintaining several photo albums or binders.
Other storage methods:
- Looseleaf pages in a binder, or spiral notebooks. This method has the same downside as above, it’s not flexible to rearrange and sort. The binder is easy to insert pages wherever you like, but a lot of times recipes won’t fill a whole page so you’ll have a couple written on each side–now how to insert new ones?
- Recipe boxes are great, but they’re typically too small if you have more than a small collection of recipes.
- Pocket file folders to toss in all clippings, papers and recipe cards. Each file folder is a category, such as “Breads”, “Salads”, “Desserts”, etc. This can quickly get cumbersome though if you have a large collection of recipe cards and clippings in a folder to pick through when trying to find a certain recipe.
Here’s the setup I think is ideal when storing and organizing recipes, one that doesn’t have the above downfalls:
- Use a long index card file box. They can hold a huge amount of index or recipe cards. Easy to add to, easy to rearrange and organize. It’s a recipe box on steroids. If you need more than one, they stack nicely on top of each other.
- File recipes alphabetically by category.
- Easy to browse through and get reacquainted with favorites. The boxes are portable so you can set it on the kitchen table, sip some tea and flip through the cards to see what catches your eye.
- When removing a card to prepare the recipe, keep it clean and protect it by using one of the simple methods given toward the bottom of this post.
I’m not proposing this organization method for every recipe you’ve collected or want to try, just the ones that you use regularly or those special occasion recipes that your family loves. Continue stockpiling all those recipes you’d like to try someday on the computer or store online with your favorite method, but as you weed through them and find the keepers, create hard copies of these to use and keep in the family for generations.
This is a great way to keep track of which recipes are tried and true–if they’re in the card file box, you know they’re good.
More Recipe Card Goodness
If you find it redundant to write out cookbook recipes, take a card and fill out the recipe name plus the cookbook and page number where it can be found. File the card as you normally would in your collection of recipes. You no longer need to search through or remember which book had a certain recipe, just look it up in your recipe card system.
Recipe Card Categories:
- Continue with the basic categories like Desserts, Beverages, Casseroles, Slow Cooker, etc. Also create categories like Homemade Cleaners, DIY recipes, Special Occasions (great to keep all your Christmas favorites in a Christmas category). By creating your own recipe filing system, category setup options are unlimited.
- Working with original copies of recipes, you’ll find they soon get covered in flour and grease and maybe even have a bit of dough stuck on them. To preserve the cards and keep them clean, place a little hook on the inside of a cupboard door, hang a clamp off it and use it to clip and hold onto a recipe card. Place the hook so that the recipe will hang at eye level and above the counter space that you will be using.
- If you prepare recipes on a kitchen island that has no overhead cupboard, that’s easy enough to manage by protecting recipes with a plastic bag  (tip #47) or even a plastic sheet protector and setting it on the counter beside you while you work.
Maintaining and collecting recipes is a wonderful hobby and a great way to keep favorites from being lost. Once you have an ideal card system in place–organizing recipes isn’t such an overwhelming job after all :).
- Free Printable Recipe Cards – A Nice Collection 
- 21 Free Kitchen, Household & Crafty Printables 
- You’ll also find some freebies on this page: DIY Cookbook Printables From chroniclebooks.com  (scroll down to find zip folder to download).
- Binder Cover : Free printables including a meal planner and a fridge/freezer checklist.