Thoughts On Keeping Recipes Sorted, Organized & Accessible

Whether or not you’re a serious recipe collector and have hundreds of paper slips to deal with, or just a few dozen, organizing them in an efficient manner can be challenging.

You have a few goals to accomplish, they 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 them on a computer via software or online applications, but I’d like to reinforce the tradition of preserving hard copies of family favorites that are handwritten, typed or even snipped & pasted on cards.

Why? Because these 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 printout on a sheet of 8×10 paper–it can’t match the warmth of Grandma’s handwritten notes or mom’s well-worn clipping that she took the time to adhere to a pretty index card and file away.

There are several options to organize these precious “receipts” (as they called them long ago), 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 copies 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 arrange things in alphabetical order, you’re forever shuffling and rearranging when adding new ones. If you have a large collection, count on maintaining several photo albums or binders.

Other Storage Suggestions:

  • Looseleaf pages in a binder, or spiral notebooks. This system 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 ingredients & instructions won’t fill a whole page so you’ll have a couple written on each side–now how to insert new ones?
  • Boxes are great, but they’re typically too small if you have more than a small collection.
  • Pocket file folders to toss in all clippings, papers and 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 stashed in the folder to pick through and trying to find something in particular.

Here’s The Setup I Think Is Ideal

This is the solution that I favor and it doesn’t have the above downfalls…

  • Use a long index card file box, they can hold a huge amount. 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 items 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 one to begin cooking, protect it by using one of the simple methods given toward the bottom of this article.

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 favorites that your family loves.

Continue stockpiling all those 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 in the family for generations.

This is a great way to manage all the tried and true–if they’re in the file box, you know they’re good.

More Ideas

If you find it redundant to write out cookbook recipes, take a card and fill out the name of the dish plus the cookbook and page number where it can be found. File it as you normally would in your collection. You no longer need to search through or remember which book had a certain recipe, just look it up in your card system.


  • Continue with the basic sections such as Desserts, Beverages, Casseroles, Slow Cooker, etc. Also create a spot for things like Homemade Cleaners, DIY Mixes, Special Occasions (great to stash all your Christmas favorites in a Christmas category). By creating your own filing system, category setup options are unlimited.


  • Working with original copies, 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 card. Place the hook so that the instructions will hang at eye level and above the counter space that you will be using.
  • If you prepare dishes on a kitchen island that has no overhead cupboard, that’s easy enough to manage by protecting hard copies 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 system in place–organizing your “keepers” isn’t such an overwhelming job after all :).

Related Posts


    • Texas Girl

    This was great info…. I recently tried to organize all of my recipes, and got so overwhelmed that I put it away until I could come up with a better plan.
    I would like to add an idea that I have used for sucessfully for years for those “most often used recipes”. With a hole puncher, punch holes in upper top corners of recipe cards and attach them to loose 2″-3″ binder rings (find at office supply stores). This makes a flip-style, free-standing holder and orgainizer. Insert divider cards for different recipe catagories. It will also fit nicely in a kitchen drawer!

    • TipNut

    That is a great idea Texas Girl, thanks for sharing that!

    • Larese

    hi! here’s a tip to help work the photo album method… the 9×13 albums that fit 3 cards a page (top to bottom) make it easy to read (cards are right side up, instead of sideways, like some albums!). instead of alphabetizing, just use dividers and label them by category. even with my very full beef category it only takes a minute of flipping pages (here’s where the 3 cards top-to-bottom helps, vs 4 cards sideways) to find the one i want, and it never needs reorganizing when i add one… this size album fits right in with your regular size cookbooks, instead of sticking halfway out like larger albums!

    i use: beef, ground beef, pork, chicken/turkey, seafood, pasta, grill, soups,
    veggie main dishes, casseroles, oriental, breakfast, side dishes, salads, dressings/dips, gravies/sauces, breads/rolls, cookies/cakes, misc. desserts, snacks, beverages, spice blends, Fun stuff (kid-made/holiday foods), even one for kitchen-related Tips. and i use the first pocket in each category to store new recipes till i get a chance to try it (which always scares my family). hope this helps!

    • Tricia

    Great ideas! I love the hook to keep them clean! Thanks (:

    • Farmers Wife

    I am looking for recipe cards on line that I can type on and print out. I am making recipe collections for my daughters of all my (and their) favorite recipes and don’t want to hand write the same recipe over and over. My friend did this and I love it but she just printed 81/2 by 11 sheets to put in a binder. I want cute 4X6 card in a card file.

    Can anyone help me find this?? Thanks, Farmers Wife

      • lynnsf

      I did this for my oldest daughter and because I have 3 girls, made 3 copies on cardstock. Cut the recipes into cards to fit the Martha Stewart metal box I bought and decorated each abit with ribbon, buttons and stitching. I plan to do the same later for the other two in colors they like. Kinda like scrapbooking on recipe cards.

    • Bette Beneker

    I was in your site awhile ago and found recipe card dividers that I could type in what I wanted on each card to put into my recipe file. Now I can not find it. Thought it was in the recipe cards file, listed seperate.(Would be great if you posted the recipe card dividers to print in that area) Could you please send it to me? I put all my recipes on a 3×5, cover them in a plastic sleeve and file recipes in a plastic shoe box. It fits in my kitchen drawer. Works great!
    I love your site as it has so many good ideas in many area’s. Can spend hours looking at different things. Have given your site to many people and they all enjoy it too. You have done a wonderful job on this site.
    Thank you,

    • Monica

    I absolutely love the long file card box for recipes. My little recipe box is way too small. I also like the idea of clipping the recipe to the back of a cabinet door. You can tell my favorite recipes by how dirty the cards are. I’m also going to start a favorites file tab and then arrange the favorites under this tab. Then I will put the less used recipes in regular order. Thanks for all of the great ideas.

    • LeAnn S

    I have a recipes folder I keep on a USB drive that’s always with me. It has several subfolders of different categories. I have them all saved either as pictures where I’ve scanned ones I clipped or as plain old notepad documents that I have copied and pasted online recipes in. When I want to make one I print it and scotch tape it to an upper cabinet door to use temporarily so it stays where I can see it, if we like it I have a spiral bound cookbook that was bought for me to record favorite recipes in and I write it in it. This way if a friend or someone wants a recipe I’ve made I can just copy and paste it in an email to them or print it off for them from pretty much any computer because I always have my flash drive. I can also use windows search feature to find the one I want. I have a folder exclusively for “Tried & True” recipes. If I try one and we don’t like it, it gets deleted from the computer.

    • Karen

    I have wanted to organize/clean out my little recipe box and large collection of cookbooks for years now, and put it off because it seemed like such a daunting task, and because I couldn’t seem to come up with a way to do it. My heart leaped when you gave your reasons for hard copies, because that is how I feel about recipes. They are part of my family’s history, and they are personal. Computer print-outs don’t fit for me. Anyway, I am excited about the long index card box idea ~ I will be heading to the craft store this weekend to find one and get started! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *