There are plenty of good reasons for saving recipes. Most of the times, it’s because we love cooking and trying new recipes, or because we need inspiration about what to put on the table, or because we want to embark on a new diet. Sometimes, it’s for sentimental reasons because we inherited the recipe from a loved one or it’s been transmitted down the generations. Other times, it’s for aspirational reasons – we don’t really cook but we aspire to be a great cook and impress our family and friends with inventive recipes.
Whichever is your own reason, the fact is that recipes accumulate quickly, and the challenge is that recipes come in different forms: a recipe book, a piece of paper handed down by a loved one, the back of an envelope on which you scribbled down some notes while watching a TV show or a YouTube tutorial, a picture snapped from a magazine, a bookmark or a file downloaded from the internet etc.
Without a proper recipe organisation system, it might be difficult to lay your hands on them when you need them, or even remember you saved those recipes in the first place. So here are a few tips to help you set up a proper recipe organisation system.
CONSOLIDATE ALL YOUR RECIPES IN A RECIPE FOLDER
You know the adage “a home for everything and everything in its home”, right? Well, this fundamental organisation principle applies to recipe organisation too.
The most versatile solution in my opinion is to invest in a ring binder where you can file all your recipes, regardless of which form they came in. I love mine from kikki.K but a plain one will work as well.
Photocopy, or scan and print, the recipes you most frequently make out of your recipe books. Alternatively, mark the pages of the book, but I must say having only one place for all your recipes will save you a lot of time when you need to find the recipe.
Print the recipes you had digitally saved.
Put the recipe into a plastic sheet to protect it from greasy fingers when you cook. I like to put mine on the fridge held by a magnet while cooking to protect it and keep it at eye level.
Sort your recipes into categories e.g., salads, soups, grains, fish and seafood, meat, vegetables, cakes etc. Each category can be divided into sub-categories if needed e.g., meat into chicken and poultry, pork, beef, lamb etc.
Use dividers to keep each category separate and label each divider with the name of each category (see picture above).
Your recipe binder should be about recipes you’ve cooked and that you and your family enjoy. I find it helpful to have an interim category for RECIPES TO TRY until I’ve tried the recipe and decide whether it’s worth keeping it.
Make sure you give yourself a chance to try those new recipes otherwise it’s pointless to save them. I personally keep Saturday dinner in my meal plan for new recipes.
Also, if like me, you like to adjust quantities or the method – I often experiment with sugar and fat contents as my husband doesn’t eat artificial sugar and my son has an intolerance to butter and cream – write those amendments on the recipe so it’s easier to remember them next time.
GET RID OF YOUR RECIPE BOOKS
Unless you’re like a photographer friend of mine who keeps her recipe books just to admire the photos although she likes to come up with her own recipes, get rid of your recipe books.
A few years ago, to help me purge my recipe books, I set up a retention rule whereby I would keep the recipe book if I were cooking, or planning to cook, at least 5 recipes from that book. Less than 5 recipes, I would scan and print the recipe, file it into my recipe binder, and get rid of the book. By applying this rule, I reduced my recipe book collection from 35 to 9. 4 more books went out since then.
If you decide to keep your recipe books and cook a recipe that you didn’t enjoy and won’t do again, add a cross on the top of the recipe for example so that you don’t have to remember next time whether it’s worth trying it or not.
I’m personally not comfortable having an electronic device in my kitchen while cooking, but you might be ready to completely get rid of the paper and go digital instead. A digital recipe organisation system makes sense if most of your recipes are saved digitally and if the persons cooking in your household have access to an electronic device.
But even if you go digital, you need to have a system in place for your recipe organisation. You need to select one location to file your recipes, create categories and name your file with a proper recipe name.
Although all my recipes are in a paper format, I also have a digital version as a back-up that I store on my computer / Google drive. It’s very convenient in case the paper gets damaged or if I’m asked to share one of my recipes.
Of course, there’re plenty of applications that can help with recipe organisation, in fact some offer extra features such as building meal plans and grocery lists that might come handy. Having a system in place for meal and grocery planning, I personally don’t have the need for such apps so you may want to check this article that will give you a list of the most popular recipe organisation apps if you’re thinking of using one.
You could obviously buy a new binder as you keep adding more recipes, but ask yourself first whether you really use and love all the recipes you’ve saved. The size of my binder is the limit to how many recipes I keep.
Once a year, go through your recipe folder, whether it’s in a paper or digital form, and get rid of the recipes you or your children have outgrown, the ones you haven’t tried yet although you’ve been saving them for years, the ones that no longer support your diet, for example if you’ve eliminated gluten, maybe the ones that require ingredients that you can’t use in any other recipe etc.
I hope this article will help make cooking more enjoyable and will enable you to make use of these yummy recipes that are lurking somewhere in your home. I’d love to know how you organise your recipes. Please leave a comment below.