I get asked frequently how I organize the recipes in my life and thought I’d touch upon that today, as well as give you a few of my favorite recipe resources. In this day and age of recipe prevalence online/electronically, my method is twofold: 1) Electronic Organization and 2) Hard Copy Organization.

Basically, here’s how it goes down:
Most of the recipes I find that I want to try are online (on blogs and websites) or are sent to me via email. Because of that, my first line of defense is to save recipes in folders on my computer. I have a folder called RECIPES. Clever title, I know. Inside this folder are two subfolders: Recipes to Try and Tried and True.

Within each of these folders are my preferred recipe categories:

I save recipes I want to try in these folders. Mostly, the recipes I save here come via email and the recipes are already in a convenient Word (or similar) document. I download them from email and save them into one of the nifty categories in the RECIPES TO TRY folder. I also keep recipes here that I’ve copied or typed up from library cookbooks I’ve checked out and read like a novel (I have NERD tattooed on my forehead, I know, I get it). When I go to plan my menu or search for a recipe I want to make, I check these folders first. I print out the recipes I want to try (or drag my laptop into the kitchen, which can be dangerous to those who want to keep a spiffy, clean keyboard) and if the recipe is a success, then voila! I move the recipe from the RECIPES TO TRY folder into the TRIED AND TRUE folder on my computer. (If the recipe is a failure, the recipe is sent straight to the recycle bin, sorry failed recipe!)

There are many recipes found on internet sites that aren’t in an easy format to save to these folders and I don’t want to print out every recipe just because I want to eventually try it – my home is not big enough to house such a stack of paper. Behold the smash hit that is Pinterest! Pinterest has revolutionized the way I organize recipes found via the web. I have a board on Pinterest titled Recipes I Gotta Try

And another board titled Made It…Loved It, similar versions of the folders on my computer.

Any recipe I find online that I want to save to try later gets pinned to my Gotta Try folder. When I’ve made it and loved it, it goes…well, to the obvious Made It…Loved It Board. Some of the recipes on this board may at some point in time make their way onto this blog (probably revised in some way, shape or form because I find it impossible to make a recipe exactly as written) and some may not, but either way, at least I know I loved the recipe, right?

A quick note that you can create as many subset boards as you like in Pinterest (a board for Main Dish, Appetizers, etc.) – I only have one board because I don’t pin hundreds of recipes. I’m pretty selective about what I pin (am I the only one that’s noticed that 1,487 repins does not make a winning recipe? I’ve learned the hard way on that one…some pretty nasty casseroles have entered our kitchen thanks to Pinterest). Create and do what works for you.

In my house, if a recipe has been tested and devoured with love, not only does it change residence on the computer (moving to the coveted TRIED AND TRUE folder or moving boards on Pinterest) but I also print the recipe for a hard copy, if I haven’t done so already, which brings me to my beloved recipe binders.

These recipe binders have been around much longer than Pinterest and much longer than this blog. My famed Aunt Marilyn gave me a HUGE recipe binder full of extended family favorite recipes when I first got married ten years ago. As I started cooking and baking more, I quickly realized I needed more than one binder to hold all my favorite recipes and so I created a system of binders. I love systems. And I love binders.

I have four 2-inch binders full of sheet protectors and dividers with pockets (the pockets are essential and I’ll tell you why in a minute). When I have a recipe that has made it into the tried and true category (meaning, I want to make it at least 100 more times), the hard copy gets put in the appropriate binder. We have to really love and adore the recipe and consider it an immediate family favorite in order for it to make it into the binders. Not just any recipe makes it in. These are elitist binders, my friends. Here’s the breakdown:

Binder 1:
Main Dish, Salad, Soup/Stew
Binder 2: Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Bars/Brownies, Candy, Other Desserts
Binder 3: Yeast Breads, Quick Breads, Breakfast
Binder 4: Appetizers, Drinks, Side Dishes, Sauces, Vegetables

DISCLAIMER: These binders could be broken out into a variety of different categories or organized in a myriad of ways. This is how I keep them but I’m sure your imagination and mad organizational skills could think of 100 different combinations to make you smile.

Let’s take a peek into the Desserts binder for a closer look.

I have dividers with pockets outlining each category subset (i.e. Cookies, Pies, etc.)

The pocket on the divider serves a very important purpose. Even in this day and age of finding recipes nearly exclusively online, what about those recipes I spy in a magazine that I need to store and refer to when planning my menu? Well, I pop them right into these pockets in the appropriate category. If they haven’t made it into a sheet protector, I know they haven’t been tried and tested yet. Take for instance this Strawberry Shortcake cookie recipe I snagged from an impulsive Martha Stewart Living purchase years ago. It’s waiting here for me to make it.

When I make it, if I love it, I’ll slide it into a sheet protector behind the divider to live amongst the other tried and true recipes. Some of my tried and true favorites are handwritten:

And others are typed up all fancy-like (most likely printed from one of the electronic folders that houses recipes I want to try).

You can also store other nifty things in the pocket dividers, like this detailed diagram on how to cut a circle cake into every plausible number of slices.

I stack these binders next to the very few cookbooks I own (seriously, I probably only own 5-6 cookbooks). They are monumentally indispensable for when I need a favorite recipe at a moment’s notice. And someday when I have all the time in the world, I’ll type up all the recipes into a beautiful format so I can bestow them onto my children when they grow up and leave me (although, by then, I’m not entirely sure paper will even exist anymore).

Here is a PDF of the files I use for the covers and spines of the binders, just in case you want to copy my exact method. The document can’t be edited, so if you have an entirely different vision for recipe binders, go ahead and create your own categories and covers. Otherwise, feel free to use what I’ve created.

Basically, when I start planning my menu, I start by looking at the recipes I want to try: 1) computer folders, 2) Pinterest, 3) magazine or handwritten recipes in the pockets of my recipe binders. Then I fill in the menu gaps with the tried and true recipes my family is pining away for me to make again and are conveniently stored in the sheet protectors in my recipe binders. I am old school enough to still love having a hard copy versions of my favorite recipes at my beck and call.

I hope this not-so-brief overview gives you some ideas on organizing recipes. I’ve been using this system for years and years and it works very well for me!

And just to end, in case there are inquiring minds, I thought I’d list the cookbooks I have in my possession that I refer to all the time (again, I don’t have hundreds, just a handful), the few cooking magazines I subscribe to, and a handful of my favorite cooking blogs. We can all use a little recipe inspiration now and then!

My Favorite Cookbooks:
The Joy of Cooking
Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook
America’s Test Kitchen Best 30-Minute Recipe
America’s Test Kitchen Best Skillet Suppers
Cook’s Country Cookbook

Cooking Magazines I Subscribe To:
*The list ain’t long, people, but I love both of these magazines for the fact that the recipes are tested, tested, tested and I have rarely made a recipe from either resource that wasn’t a hit*
Cook’s Country
Cuisine at Home

Recipe Blogs I Love:
*I have more blogs than I can count in my Google Reader and I love each of them for different reasons. Below are several of the blogs that have great recipes, plain and simple – I’ll share more of my favorites in the upcoming weeks but for now, here’s a start*
Favorite Family Recipes
Our Best Bites
The Sisters Cafe
Simply Recipes
Smitten Kitchen
Baked Bree
Annie’s Eats
Jamie Cooks It Up!
The Girl Who Ate Everything
Taste and Tell

75 Responses to How I Organize My Recipes {And My Favorite Cookbooks & Blogs}

  1. Kim in MD says:

    I love this post! You are so organized! Oh, Mel- I know I have asked you this before, but after reading this post I must ask again…were we seperated at birth? :-) Except for the Pinterest pinning, I organize my recipes exactly the same way you do! I am one of those people that must be organized in order to function, and I like knowing exactly where any given recipe is when I need it. My MIL recently gave me a hand held scanner and I LOVE it! It’s perfect for scanning magazine recipes into the computer. It would come in really handy when you want to copy recipes from those library cookbooks. As you know, I collect cookbooks (and have hundreds), and the cookbooks on your favorite list are some of my favorites, too. You can’t go wrong with CI and ATK- their recipes are foolproof! I also love, love, love The Barefoot Contessa’s cookbooks. Her recipes are always delicious, too. Ok- I’m off to join Pinterest so I can organize my on-line recipes! Thanks for sharing this, Mel! :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing! I’ve always been curious :)

  3. Carolyn says:

    Mel, you are amazing. currently I have a stack several inches thick of loose papers (recipes) that I’ve printed off. I flip through them each time I want a recipe or attempt to make a menu. I hate it and struggle with it and keep planning to organize but I can’t seem to get around to doing it. Now? I’m thinking I’ll hock my daughter’s school binders and get started today. (I don’t think she’ll notice).

  4. I struggle to organise my recipes so I just love this post, thanks for sharing. I will tackle all my internet printouts and magazine cutouts soon. Do you keep your magazines or cut out what you need from them? I am undecided on that. Love the blog!

  5. Amy says:

    A few years ago for Christmas my grandma took all the family recipes she had and wrote them down and put them into binders for each of her grandchildren (there are 8 of us). She also included birth dates, death dates, and other information about the person from whom the recipe originated. It is so personal to have them in her own handwriting and to have the family history. Although digital recipes may be sleek and convenient, I think that hand written recipes are a treasure and I always try to hand write my favorite recipes. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Ruth says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. It is so helpful for those of us who struggle with organization. It is also timely because binders, dividers and such are on sale. Here’s hoping I will get it done while I am motivated. I have no excuse–it is too hot in AL to do much else. The heat index is suppose to be about 112 at 2:00 PM.

  7. Deborah says:

    LOVED this, since I’m trying to get more organized. I have about 7 binders full of recipes right now that I’m trying to go through to organize. I’d love to have everything on the computer, but I would need about 10 extra hours to every day to get them there. And thanks so much for the link – you are the best!

  8. Peggy Ann says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  9. Debbie says:

    My recipe organization system is very similar to yours, from the computer files to the binders. Although I a binder for desserts and one for everything else and that binder is getting way too stuffed, so I think I’ll have to separate them out like you have.

  10. Julia says:

    Ok Mel. We MUST be related! I have my computer folders like you, as well as my notebooks, with dividers, with sheet protectors for my tried and true recipes, just like you. My only differences–I need to use pinterest more and I have my own special notebook for your recipes. I kid you not! I immediately print out almost all your recipes and into this special notebook they go. Because almost everything you post becomes a tried and true around here. Thanks!

  11. TXMEL says:

    Thanks for this post. I love seeing how others organize recipes. I am really loving doing so as well. I have ONE other way that I am LOVING organizing with, and it’s FREE!!! I use Evernote. They have a website and an app. When I post all of my favorites onto Evernote, it automatically attaches a thumbnail pic and then I add tags. The best part… you can SEARCH by a word, name, or ideally, an ingredient!!! This is so very handy for recipes that I forgot the name of, OR I have an ingredient that I want to use up, and can easily search for!!! You can also share the recipes with friends via a link, OR make a “notebook” public. I can tell you there are several dozen “Mel’s Kitchen” recipes included! My friends also enjoy looking thru the lists of recipes and using them. The BEST part… when I am at the grocery store… Evernote has my recipes right there on my iPhone. When I cook in the kitchen, they are on the iPad, and are of course easily available on my laptop, or any computer, ANYWHERE! What’s NOT to love??? Oh, yes, and again… it’s FREE! I hope you try it too!!!

  12. Stacy K says:

    Thank you for the inspiration on organizing my recipes! I currently have a stack of loose recipes, recipes on my computer, and too many recipe books that I never look at. This post makes me want to head right to the store to buy binders, pockets, and sheet protectors (perfect time since everything is on sale right now). Thank you!!

  13. Carol says:

    Thanks so much! I’ve been looking at my huge piles of recipes not wanting to get started organizing them. Every time I need a recipe I end up searching through that pile until I find the one I’m looking for. You’ve inspired me to get the job done.

  14. Julie spady says:

    I love organized recipes! I can’t wait to do this. When you have a smaller sizes recipe that gets to move to a binder, does it go in a plastic sleeve by itself or do you combine a couple of recipes on one sleeve?

  15. Mel says:

    Julie – if I have smaller recipes that I don’t have time to type up on the computer and print, I tape as many as will fit onto an 8 1/2X11 sheet of paper and slide that into the sheet protector (great for recipes that I’ve clipped from magazines so they are small little snippets).

    Sinead – I’m a declutterer at heart so I always remove the recipes from magazines – keep the recipes and toss the magazines. I don’t like having the huge stack of magazines pile up.

  16. Christina says:

    Great post!! Thanks for sharing. I have all the cookbooks listed and have subbed to those mags in the past too. I have to say America’s Test Kitchen are my favorite.

    I organize my recipes in an app called Paprika. I have over 1000 recipes and counting!! I love that it has a menu planner and shopping list!!

  17. Marcia says:

    I love this post! I think I have read just about every cookbook at our library-like it’s a novel! Thanks for the idea of moving recipes on Pinterest onto a Tried and Liked board. I don’t know if I will ever be as organized as you are!

  18. Kim S. says:

    Great post! I have been saying for the last several months that I need to get a handle on my recipe organization! This post has inspired me to do that (this winter!). I have a binder of a ton of Weight Watchers recipes, and I’ve just started to put a bunch of loose papers in the front of the binder, either in the pocket or not, so there’s always the danger of papers flying all over the kitchen when I take the binder out of the cabinet. I’ve been resisting joining pinterest, because I think it will be a huge time-suck for me because I get sucked into things like that easily. So, how about you just post your favorites from pinterest?! :)

  19. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been working on getting my recipes organized just like this! Great post!

  20. Rachel says:

    Okay, If I had a favorite foodblog list, it would consist of yours! Haha.:) But seriously! Thanks for your great posts! Love them! keep `em coming!

  21. Anne says:

    Wow, you are much more organized than i will ever be! Especially with the paper printouts. I have tons of printed recipes – so many that I will never find anything I am looking for. I have to move everything online so I don’t suffocate under all the paper. I love the app “Paprika Recipe Manager” which I have on my Mac, on the iPad and our iTouch. I am not sure if they have an Android version, but the desktop version works on a PC as well as a Mac. The different versions sync with each other automatically, so I can add a recipe on the iPad while I travel, and hubby back home can pull it up on the desktop. It is awesome, and easy to import recipes from various web sites or other less helpful recipe manager programs. It is not free, but is worth every penny.

  22. Shelly says:

    Another Vote for the paprika app. I used to have all my recipes organized in folders on my computer, but I used Ignition to move my collection of over 500 typed-in-word-recipes to paprika. I love it! Since your blog isn’t one of the supported sites for paprika do you know what it would take to get your blog in the format where’d I can just import your recipes with one click?

  23. Marcella Rich says:

    Hi Mel! I love your blog and have been following it for a while now! I have a similar system to recipes as you do. I was wondering if you would be willing to share your sheets you put in the binders. Thanks! Marcella

  24. Bobbie Czajka says:

    Love your organizing ideas. One thing I do with recipes that turn out to be duds is to put them in the Tried folder, with a big fat NO in front of the name. That way, when I see the recipe again and like how it sounds, but don’t remember that I/we didn’t like it, I don’t print and try it again!

    Keep up the great job posting yummy recipes!

  25. Jen T says:

    This is great! Thanks so much for sharing!! I really needed to see this. . .:)

  26. Amy says:

    Love the binders! I have always loved your site and someday hope mine is one on your google reader list:)
    Thanks for sharing!

  27. Ashley says:

    Great post! I am totally type-A with my recipe organization as well. I do most of it in excel, and reference back to the recipe book or whether I have it saved online. Thanks for sharing your favorites too, I share many of the same!

  28. leilani says:

    Life is serendipitous, isn’t it. I had just decided that my bulging hard-copy binder HAD to be organized. Instead of reinventing the wheel, so to speak, I’ll simply copy your excellent system.

    Thank you so much!

  29. Megan says:

    I do the same thing! Works fabulously and with the recipes in the page protectors you can just wipe clean and put back in the binder if any mess gets on them while cooking. Saves paper and time!

  30. Leslie says:

    Love this!! Mine are getting out of control and I love nothing more than cooking and organizing!! Great!!! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Laura says:

    I have used binders in the past but am now trying to cut down on the paper in the house. I use Evernote as mentioned above and Google Documents to keep all of my recipes in the cloud as well as on my computer. I use the app “Camscanner” to take pictures of my recipes and save them as pdf’s. Camscanner allows me to upload them directly to Google documents where I can then back them up on my computer. The Evernote app on Google Chrome allows me to save recipes posted on any blog or website. It syncs with the app on my phone – awesome!

  32. Michele says:

    This is so awesome!! It’s funny…I bought several binders last week and I have spent a long time sorting recipes. But I was trying to think of what system would work best. The system I had used with my binders previously had not worked! I am going to try your system! Thanks!!

  33. Melanie–your posts are the best! Our systems are very similar and I love it too! However, my Ipad is my new best friend and lives in my kitchen now. Your website is bookmarked for quick access so I can pull up any of your delicious recipes at a moments notice. Thanks for more great ideas & all of your delicious recipes. My new goal in life is to make it on your ‘top reads’ list of food blogs ;) You were my inspiration in the beginning and if it weren’t for you, my blog wouldn’t be around. Thanks!!

  34. Sarah M. says:

    I love your organization skills. I have a similar system for my recipes, but not so complex simply because I don’t have the high number of recipes that you do. Mine are in a word document which is labeled food we eat. It’s separated into three categories, main dishes, side dishes, and desserts, which are further separated into meat types,veggies, starch, and so on. I just have the title of the recipes in this document or just a generalized name. I guess all these recipes are things that we eat on a regular basis and I know which recipie I like best for that dish so I’m able to get away with this. I know where all the individual recipes are stored which isn’t that vast of a search area. I also have a hand written list of recipes that I want to try categorized by cookbook name and page number. It’s not as detailed as your system, but it works for me and my small (probably 70-90 recipes) that I make quite frequently, some more than others. I also like having my word document list of the things we eat because i can just scan through it when I’m trying to plan out my meals. It’s really helpful lately because I’m pregnant and can decide based on what I’m craving. I’ve also copied this document into an email that I sent to myself and into a note on my iPad and iPod touch so I have it at all times.
    I also wanted to tell you that I’ve made those strawberry shortcake cookies from the Martha Stewart magazine and they are oh-so-deliscioso. They are best when eaten the day of because they have that light airy lovely biscuity texture that strawberry shortcakes tend to have, and if they’re stored in an airtight container they get moist which usually isn’t a bad thing with cookies, but with these it isn’t great. The flavor stays the same, but the texture is off. They most definitely are worth making, though, and I’m sure you won’t have to worry about storing them cause they will disappear quickly!

  35. Chris says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us! I have SO MANY recipes that I printed out before Pinterest came along and I have been thinking about putting them in binders and organizing them. I love the idea of using the pockets for recipes that haven’t been tested yet! :)

  36. Catherine says:

    When you make a recipe out of your binder, do you open the rings and take the sheet protector out (which is inconvenient in the kitchen), or do you pull the paper out?
    I discovered a way to keep recipes I am in the middle of making in my line of sight, off the counter, out of the way of spills, and staying in the same place so I don’t look around wondering where I set the recipe down. Whether it is a recipe card, magazine clipping, full sheet of paper, or a recipe inside a sheet protector, I hang it (or several of them) on a cupboard door or the microwave door (over-the-range kind) right at eye level using a bit of the white tacky stuff for sticking posters to walls in dorm rooms. Doesn’t hurt the recipe paper or the cupboard door. I keep a wad of the tacky stuff on the inside of my kitchen cupboard door to use over and over.

  37. Lady, you´re so organized! No wonder you can have 5 kids, a food blog, run a house, go to church and I bet a million other things! Love the Pinterest idea for to-try-recipes, especially since I usually read recipes for a different season (it´s winter here) and it´s hard to remember the xmas pudding in december when it´s 105º. But first I have to organize my written or printed recipes, which are lying around everywhere. Great post Mel, I just tweeted it!

  38. Jodie Miles says:

    Mel,
    This may seem like a crazy question but what font did you use for the pictured recipes…I love the way that you have typed them up! I have been undecided for a long time about how to organize my recipes and after seeing yours I think I want to type them up exactly like that!
    Thanks

  39. Julie spady says:

    I’ve started this project…thanks for the jumpstart! First I’m putting all of my old “tried and trues” into the binder. But I’m finding that many of these handwritten recipes are are on 2 sided cards, handwritten, that I don’t want to re-type. How do you handle that?
    What a big project, but I’m so excited to get it done!

  40. Teresa says:

    I just found this blog via Pinterest and I am in recipe heaven! When I do my monthly meal plan for August I won’t have to go far to look for some great recipes for my family to try. And I am positively drooling over your organizational skills. They are to die for! :-)

  41. Mel says:

    Shelly – I’m not sure what format the app Paprika uses to import. I’d have to do some looking into it. Sounds like a fabulous way to organize, though!

  42. Mel says:

    Krista – that’s a good question about subcategories. So far, I’ve kept my categories pretty broad. The upside is that I know where to stick a recipe (sloppy joes would go into Main Dish – Beef) but the downside is that the categories get really overloaded. I just stick the recipes where my instinct says I’ll look first. Some would look for sloppy joes in sandwiches but I would only serve them for dinner so I’d put them in Main Dish.

  43. Mel says:

    Jodie – the headings of the recipes are Arial Black and the body is Arial.

  44. Mel says:

    Julie – for the two-sided recipes I don’t want to type in, I just put them in a sheet protector so I can see both sides. I can usually nestle a couple of the in there (securing with double sided tape helps to keep them in their place) so it doesn’t waste a whole sheet protector for one smaller recipe.

  45. Stacie D. says:

    Love this post, Mel! I do a lot of the same things, but you have given me some additional ideas and motivation!

  46. Brittany says:

    I think we would be friends if we lived nearby. :) I have a similar system for organizing my recipes, but never thought til now to use separate folders for each category. Here I am trying to cram all my tried and true’s into one binder. Not working- there are too many! Thanks for the post!

  47. Mel,
    You are so, so, sweet to mention me! I wish I was as organized as you. In my next life…:)

  48. Beth says:

    It’s funny to think about all the women in the world trying to organize electronic recipes, cookbooks, apps, and old recipe cards. I think I need to break down and put all my binder recipes in sheet protectors like you have done– there have been many spills. Lately I have been storing my “to try” recipes in the recipe box feature you already have on this website, and then I print them off if I want to make them again. I also write all over my cookbooks, leaving hints about what I would do differently next time. Finally, I rate every recipe I make — Excellent/Good/Average/Poor (I’m a teacher by training, cooking nerd in the present). Mel, how do you test all these recipes and balance a family’s need for familiarity? I always want to try new things, and sometimes my kids are just tired of facing whatever I’ve whipped up recently (even when it’s totally delicious!)

  49. Lucy says:

    You’ve inspired me! Thanks for this post. I’ve added binders and pocketed dividers to our back to school shopping list.

  50. Mel says:

    Beth – that’s a great question, actually. As much as I would love to try a new recipe every night of the week, my kids also crave the familiar meals. I resisted that for a while and just made new recipe after new recipe but my kids actually started wanting to try new things less than they used to – almost like they were getting overloaded on new foods/meals. Usually they are pretty good about eating new things but I realized I was missing out on them being excited because we were having one of their old favorites. Now, I balance it by trying new recipes for dinner maybe, 3-4 nights of the week and the other nights we eat meals they’ve eaten in the past. It seems to work for us. There are weeks where even I get the craving to just make our good old-fashioned favorites and I don’t try any new recipes but most weeks its about half and half.

  51. carrian says:

    Lots of fantastic organizing ideas for me and I also love all of those blogs, and yours;)

  52. karen says:

    thanks for the explanation! you are a wonder. btw, martha’s strawberry shortcake cookies are phenom. thanks!!

  53. Megan says:

    Hey I started to read through the comments to see if anyone else asked this question, but there are so many I gave up! So sorry if you’ve already answered this question! Do you have subcategories for your Main Dishes binder? If so what are they? Any other subcategories in other binders? I love the organization!

  54. Mel says:

    Megan – I break out the main dishes by beef, chicken, pork, pasta, seafood, and a couple others (including a miscellaneous to catch the ones that don’t really fit anywhere). It’s really up to your style of cooking. Hope that helps!

  55. Shar says:

    Mel,
    Thanks for giving me a jump start on my recipe system. I actually use the same method you do (even cutting & pasting my magazine recipes), but I tried to put everything into 2 binders: Desserts & everything else. I use notebook dividers with tabs for my sections. My summer project was to go through stuff and rearrange, but I haven’t gotten to it. Now that school supplies are on sale, I’m going to go out & get myself a set of binders that fit your PDF files. I think I have time to get on it before school starts! (I should have a notebook called “Mel’s Recipes” because I use & love so many of yours!)
    Thanks,
    Shar

  56. stephanie says:

    Thanks – I too like to try new recipes – but most of the time I make one, like it, and then forget about it. I realized I could save a lot of time when menu planning if I saved some of those recipes in an easy-to-access way rather than looking up new recipes, which takes a lot of time (as fun as it is!). So, the idea of reserving a place for “tried and true” will solve this problem. Also – pocket dividers? Genius!

    My problem in the past has been that I have tried to have one place to keep recipes – either on Evernote, pinterest, etc. and I just can’t commit. I like that you have the three different storages. I think I will struggle with what to put in the elitist binders, though. I really do seem to like most recipes I try but I DO want to keep those sacred:)

    I have one idea to add that I’m going to try and other readers might find helpful. I’m not as organized as you sound. I can start this method but my struggle will be keeping up with the moving of the recipes from the “to try” into the “tried and true” category. My husband suggested that when I sit down to do my meal planning, that is when I can move the recipes we liked from the previous month’s menu into the “tried and true” folders if they indeed were something we wanted to have again. So – that’s my plan.

    I have a couple questions. First, do you have a system for marking recipes in your cookbooks (I’m shocked that you have so few – it’s made me rethink how many I have. I think I need to give some away)? Do you tab or mark the ones that are to try/favorites? Also, when you find recipes in cookbooks from the library are you scanning them in order to save them or do you have your own copy machine?? I’m going to look into the phone app another commenter mentioned, but I wonder what you do.

    (ugh, another long comment from me!)

  57. stephanie says:

    Another question, if you have a chance… It seems your binder is for absolute favorites or recipes on loose paper you haven’t tried. What about those you’ve tried, liked (so didn’t throw away) but it’s not a “favorite?”

  58. Mel says:

    Hey Stephanie – in answer to your questions, first, don’t rethink how many recipes you keep! Everyone is different and I tend to be very, very particular about the recipes I consider favorites and that I want in my binders. The recipes I keep are ones I know I will make over and over – not ones that were just ok. The ones I want to try I keep in the pockets of the dividers. The others that make it into the sheet protectors are favorites. When I find recipes in cookbooks, I scan them in and save them on my computer under the “Recipes to Try” folder. I haven’t looked into that phone app (mostly because I’m not quite hooked to a smart phone or iPhone – I’m pretty old school still). About your last question in the second comment – again, I only keep absolute favorites. But that’s also because we are pretty decisive about our views on a recipe. If it is just “ok” and I know I can tweak it to be awesome, I stick it back in my “to try” spots (either on the computer or in one of the pockets). Hope that helps!

  59. Reyna says:

    Thank you for reading my mind, and knowing I really needed to revamp my system. I love the way your brain works, and I’m gonna get on board!

  60. Carmel says:

    I actually started this same type of organization system and started typing up (!!!) ones I had collected from the newspaper since they were too small to really read while cooking. A friend was so impressed by my ambitious goal, he even went out and bought me sheet protectors, but alas, it became too overwhelming and I eventually gave up on the project. I am addicted to my Cook’s Illustrated online membership and the Epicurious app on my iPad. One day I’ll get around to organizing all of them again…

  61. Bliss says:

    Mel… I think you wrote this post JUST for me! I have a pile (just moved from the drawer!) FULL of recipes that I needed to figure out how to put together in an organized fashion, and you solved my dilemma! Thank you lovely lady for sharing this awesome idea!

  62. Great tips! I have a similar recipe organization method, but I am so far behind! Have about ten magazines I need to go through and clip and a whole file folder of other recipes I need to put away in my trusty blue binder.

  63. Marna says:

    I’m so glad to see that someone else has their recipes separted in binders as well. Now when my husband teases me and I tell him that Mel does it to! :)

  64. Becky says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for this post. My sister introduced me to your blog and I LOVE it. I’m just starting out in my collection of recipes and its been relieving to find a way to organize them that makes sense! Thanks!

  65. Heidi G. says:

    I used your binder covers and I love them. Everyone that comes over tells me what cute font it is and how organized I am. I am not really, but thanks for helping me be better at organization. You are awesome!

  66. Julia B says:

    I have to second Sarah M way up in the middle of all these comments: you MUST try those strawberry shortcake cookies. I agree with her that they are really only amazing the first day, then pretty good after that. I’ve also made them in mini muffin tins with similar taste and texture results. My husband gets excited when he comes home and sees these little beauties on the counter.

  67. Sonya says:

    It’s fun to read about how you and the other commenters organized their recipe collections. I limited myself to 6 cookbooks and maybe 12 magazines, and I slowly hand-entered my recipes into bigoven.com. Once in their, it is super easy to search for recipes by ingredient or type, make shopping lists, make menu plans, and change things around at the last minute. But it was a ton of work initially, so I don’t think it would work for people with a huge recipe collection. [Eatyourbooks.com is perfect for that.] I also have a binder, but just one, since I mostly cook from my cookbooks. It’s organized by type, too. I write comments on my recipes so I know what we liked. If we loved it at least 2 times, the name gets highlighted in the cookbook. Duds get an X next to them. Anyway, it is cool to see how other people get organized too.

  68. Jean Norris says:

    Just recently found your blog by searching for a potluck dish. So glad I did.
    There is one thing I could add to your recipe system (which is way better thought through than mine – I’m copying like mad).
    What I use for the dividers in my binders (set up about 20 years ago) could be the first sleeve in each secton for others. It is a handwritten “locator list” of recipes in cookbooks, magazines, etc. It has the title of the recipe, MAYBE mention of the key ingredient(s), the book or magazine name (and issue if a magazine), and the page number.
    Examples (Eggs tab):
    Asparagus Curry Omelette, Vegetariana, p. 65 (Easter)
    Greek Omelette (Spinach, Feta, Dill), Eating Well, Winter 2004, p. 11
    When that great day comes that I trim my cookbooks, these lists will help decide what to keep.

  69. Lisa says:

    Mel,
    You sound a lot like my oldest daughter Mallory. She is newly married and loves to organize AND cook. She’s always emailing me recipes, but I’m not so internet saavy as she. If you have time, can you point me in a good direction for a unique Christmas gift/s for getting her started in electronic (and otherwise) recipe organizational tools and props?
    Even though I don’t spend much time on the internet, I WILL be checking in on your blog again and again.

    Lisa

  70. Joelle says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE everything about your site and am having so much fun on just this page clicking around! thanks for sharing how to organize recipes! I told my mom I would do it for her for Christmas, but I didn’t have a clue where to start. This is super helpful. Thanks!! I’m about to read your menu planning page. As a young mother of 3 I love everything about you and this site. (ps I’ve been making your recipes for a couple years now, and never tried one I didn’t LOVE)
    THANKS!!

  71. Ilze Boultinghouse says:

    Mel,
    I can’t believe my recipe binders are similar to yours. I have slowly started to organize recipes from many years of collecting. My printer has a scanner and I have figured out how to scan my recipes into separate categories. I have gotten an external drive so I don’t use the memory on my computer. Thanks for all your ideas.
    ,

  72. Hogs'n'Quiches says:

    I just found this site and I’m in love!

    I scan all of my recipes into my computer and keep my favorites on a thumb drive which stays in my purse. That way when I am at work I can print it out before going to the store on the way home.

    The printed recipes go into a 3-ring binder which is labeled about like yours. Great minds! ;)

  73. Melissa says:

    Mel, just found your blog…love it!! I planned our menu this week with all new recipes. We had the oatmeal pancakes for dinner last night and my family loved them! (Oldest had to add chocolate chips of course!) Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for that and for the great recipe binder covers. I organized a recipe binder last summer with our tried and true recipes, but it is growing so much I will have to split it up. Can’t wait to try some other recipes! :)

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