One of the reasons that people often give for eating out a lot is, “I don’t know what to make.” (That, or “I don’t know how to make it,” which can be overcome with some simple cooking lessons). Yet many of us have recipes for wonderful, simple dishes scattered all over our kitchens. Some may be tucked into cookbooks, or they’re tacked to the fridge. Sometimes they’re stuffed in junk drawers or just placed in an envelope with no way of knowing exactly what’s in there. When it comes time to make a meal, we’re stumped. We know we have a recipe for something good, but we can’t lay our hands on it. Forget it, we say, as we head out to the local restaurant.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. If you take the time to collect and organize your recipes you’ll find it easier to cook at home. You’ll be able to lay your hands on that great recipe immediately and start cooking. While there are lots of ways you can organize your recipes, three main ways seem to prevail. Here are some ideas for each.
You can set up a binder with printed or handwritten sheets of recipes. You can protect your recipes from spills by investing in some plastic sheet protectors. Use tabbed dividers to separate by meal, main ingredient, or occasion. Get some baseball card pockets or plastic binder pockets to store recipes cut from magazines and boxes. Binders are great because they lay flat on the cooking surface and are easy to store on a shelf amongst other cookbooks.
Index card file
You can write your recipes on index cards and put them in a hard sided, plastic or metal box. Use tabbed dividers to separate recipes by meal or occasion. You can also use an accordion/check file. Most come with tabbed pockets and you simply need to label each pocket. Recipes from boxes and magazines can be placed in the appropriate place without requiring special holders.
You can create your own document or spreadsheet, or use one of the many commercially available software programs to organize your recipes. The benefits of computer organization include searchability and cross referencing, and they can be backed up to prevent loss. The negatives are that you must have your computer, tablet, or phone in the kitchen when cooking and you have to be careful not to spill something on it. It also means that anything you find on a box or in a magazine will have to either be entered into the database by hand or scanned, or you’ll have to keep a second system for those loose recipes.
For further organization, you can dedicate a section of your binder, box, or computer file to your meal planning sheets. Each week or month you can plan out what you’re going to make and then attach the recipes to the meal sheet. It makes it so easy to cook dinner when you not only know what you’re making on any given night, but the recipe for it is right at your fingertips. When the next week or month rolls around, file the unneeded recipes and attach the new ones.
A well-organized recipe collection goes beyond making your own meal planning easier. It also makes a great gift. Give one to your daughter when she starts her own home, or give one to a bride-to-be. Your heirloom recipes will make a great keepsake and give someone just starting out more dishes to choose from.
You can be as creative or plain as you want with your organization. If you’re into crafts, you can make an elaborate scrapbook-type binder. If you’re less inclined, you can buy a plain binder off the school-supply aisle. There are also dedicated recipe books and card files available at many stores. Whatever method you choose, make sure it works with the way you cook. Some people will prefer a binder they can lay flat on the counter, while others will prefer a small card box that can be tucked away. Once you have your recipes all organized in a way that works for you, you’ll probably find that eating at home becomes less problematic and, maybe, even enjoyable.
(Photo courtesy of Starsammy)