Organize all your printed recipes, index cards, and magazine scraps into one or two neat and tidy recipe notebooks!
As the weather turned colder and colder and the snow kept coming down with more snow in the forecast, I decided to tackle a project that has been niggling at me for years…
Over the past 25 years, I have been collecting recipes. It started after my engagement to my wonderful husband, Ty, when my then boss invited me over to her house so I could copy some of her favorite recipes. Prior to that, I had 1 little booklet of recipes from my High School Home Ec class, and about ZERO kitchen knowledge (Home Ec was sadly NOT helpful in teaching me how to cook).
During our early married years, I had all of my recipes neatly housed in a red plastic index card box, but then the internet happened…
Or rather, the internet EXPLODED! What used to be a place filled with simple forums and basic news became a place filled with blogs, and resources, and recipes…LOTS and LOTS of recipes.
And I may have printed every. single. one.
I went from one red recipe box to slips of paper tacked on my refrigerator, lying on my countertop, and crammed into notebooks that were not even close to being organized.
And about 2 years ago, it started driving me crazy.
At first, I tried organizing my recipes with Evernote. I use Evernote a lot. I particularly like to meal plan with Evernote. So, it would make sense that Evernote should be the perfect place to house all my recipes as well, right?
I’m too visual of a person to have everything “hidden” away in Evernote. I literally know where certain recipes are based on photo recall of where they are in relation to other recipes. Evernote can’t do that for me.
Plus, putting everything into Evernote was a task I never seemed to get around too, which in my world means that’s NOT where my recipes should be.
Check out my page on Large Family Meal Planning >>
When Evernote didn’t work, I decided to get a bigger, nicer recipe box. My red plastic one was broken and all of the paper recipe dividers were ripped or faded. I got on etsy and bought a nice wooden recipe box with wooden dividers with the intention that it would become a family heirloom. I even had our last name etched onto the front of the box.
The recipe box was designed to hold 4×6″ cards, so I purchased an extra set of cards so I would have plenty to transfer all my recipes over. But as I began copying recipes to put into the box, I realized I had a lot of 3×5″ recipe cards that were handwritten by Ty’s Granny for our wedding shower.
There were other cards handwritten by old friends and family, and when I put them in my new recipe box, they were dwarfed by the larger cards and dividers.
There were several other issues with this “heirloom” recipe box and I finally had to admit defeat. Sometimes you can’t redeem bad purchases. *sigh*
NOTE: My husband has suggested we take the wooden recipe box out to the Mountain Cabin, so perhaps it can be redeemed after all.
Just as I had resigned myself to drowning in a mish-mash of recipes lying all over the kitchen, I read THIS POST from Elsie at Richly Rooted about her quest to organize her recipes.
I began to reminisce about my mother’s recipe notebook – a 1970’s floral self-adhesive photo album that looked a lot this:
Mom had all of her recipes organized in this notebook – from neatly written recipe cards, to bits of paper on which she had hurriedly scrawled recipes from friends to jagged scraps of recipes ripped out of magazines. And while these vintage photo albums are definitely not the best way to store recipes, the concept is tried and true.
And…I already had the start of a recipe notebook. Actually I had about 4 starts. I had a notebook for “Trim Healthy Mama” recipes, one for “Family Heirloom” recipes, one for “Real Food” and one I had begun for “Freezer Meals.” But sometimes, the Real Food and the Family Heirloom recipes overlapped and I didn’t know which notebook the recipe should go in. And what about all the recipes I hadn’t tried yet – where should they go? And what about the red plastic index card box, sitting on the shelf broken and sad?
I could do better than this.
So, I decided to leave the Trim Healthy Mama recipe notebook alone, and combine ALL of the others, including my precious old handwritten index cards, into two notebooks.
NOTE: I originally thought I could get them all into ONE notebook. I eventually realized 25 years worth of cooking and baking and canning doesn’t fit into one notebook. If you are less of a recipe hound or have been an adult for less time than I have, you might be able to fit everything into one notebook, but I could not. I’ll explain later how I separated out these 2 notebooks.
Here are the resources I purchased for this project:
I decided on the 2″ white notebooks because they are a nice size and can fit plenty of protector sheets. They also make a nice, clean background for whatever cover and spine design I settled on.
NOTE: Be sure to get notebooks that have a clear view front cover and spine, so you can label and “prettify” your recipe notebook. More on that in a bit…
I bought pocket dividers because I wanted to be able to put extras in the pockets like my Vitamix manual. You want to be careful which dividers you purchase because some do not stick out beyond the 8.5 x 11″ sheets, meaning you’ll never be able to see the division of recipes or the various labels.
Next, you will want recipe card protector sheets AND regular sheet protectors. Get good quality of both of these – you won’t regret it!
You might notice I purchased the 4×6″ recipe protectors – that is because I do have some recipes on 4×6″ cards AND I bought all of those extra recipe cards during the new recipe box fiasco…AND I couldn’t find anything but 4×6″ protectors. So, that’s what I bought, and I’m quite satisfied with them.
And finally, I purchased 3×5″ index cards because I just like 3×5″ index cards when it comes to recipes, and when I run out of the 4×6″ cards, I’ll go back to transcribing recipes onto 3×5″ cards. Oh, and I like them lined. Goodness – I sound picky.
As I began transferring recipes over to the new notebooks, I also culled any recipes I knew we would never make. These include recipes that use ingredients I don’t usually keep on hand, require equipment I don’t own, or are too time intensive for a large family mom to ever accomplish in a normal day.
I was shocked by how many of these waste-of-my-time recipes I had acquired! What a relief to pitch them into the trash!
I also noticed there were many, many recipes in my possession I had NEVER made!
So, I decided to choose 1-2 recipes a week from the “I’ve-never-made-this-so-I-don’t-even-know-if-it-is-good” pile and cook or bake them for my family. This past week, I made a crumble cake and healthy homemade poptarts – both of which did not make the cut. *facepalm*
Despite all the purging, I still ended up with more recipes than one notebook could (or should) contain. I decided what made the best sense to me was to divide the recipes between 2 notebooks in a way that made sense to me.
And this is where things get personal…
One issue I had with that wooden recipe box was the fact that it did not contain ENOUGH dividers nor enough specific categories. I even bought blank wooden dividers and painstakingly woodburned new labels! Even that didn’t redeem the recipe box in my eyes because there simply wasn’t room in the box for everything I wanted/needed.
The fact of the matter is YOUR RECIPES have to make sense in YOUR BRAIN. They have to be divided, classified, organized in a way that makes sense to YOU. I’m going to share MY categories, but ultimately, you have to divide your recipes in a way that doesn’t confuse you.
For instance, that wooden recipe box has Pasta & Sides as one of the dividers. In my world, those 2 don’t go together. Sides & Salads? Yes. But Pasta goes with Pizza and even contains my tried and true Pizza Dough recipe.
See what I mean? This totally makes sense to ME, but it might totally confuse YOU. (Just keep that in mind when you read through my categories!)
So, without further ado…here are my categories in the order I like to keep them in:
- Sides & Salads
- Soups & Sandwiches
- Pasta & Pizza
- Main Dishes
- Cake & Pie
- Canning & Preserves
- Freezer Meals
I’m sure there are a few of you rolling your eyes or looking all quizzical. Please refer back to my statement about YOUR RECIPE CATEGORIES making sense to YOU.
My first notebook contains everything from Breakfast to Ethnic. And in case you are wondering what I mean by Ethnic, I am half German (of General Conference Mennonite descent) and half Irish. I grew up with some very different recipes like Rull Kuka and New Year’s Kuka. We also have an Irish Supper every year on St. Patrick’s Day, so those recipes are in that section as well. Literally, they are MY ethnicity.
The second notebook contains everything from Bread to Miscellaneous. This is where I keep things like my Sandhill Plum Jelly recipe in the Canning & Preserves, my Freezer 2 Slow Cooker recipes from Sidetracked Sarah in the Freezer Meals, and my Playdough recipe in Miscellaneous.
By the way, in that first notebook, I also slipped the list of Favorite Family Meals in the inside cover pocket. I highly recommend you create a resource similar to this for your family! Here’s how…
Finally, I used Canva to add a simple cover and spine that makes me smile.
By the way, I use Canva for LOTS of projects – from blogging to homeschooling to homemaking, this is a VERY good tool with tons of templates that make it all much easier than trying to create something on your own. CHECK IT OUT HERE >>