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.
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 :).