Recipe roundup

In my recent post on cookbooks, I discussed ways to keep clutter contained in your kitchen by limiting the number of cookbooks you have in your home. This post is a continuation on that theme, but looks at individual recipes in your collection.

Growing up, my mother had a wood recipe box that had storage for two rows of 3×5 index cards. Once every few weeks, she would take the time to copy down by hand her favorite recipes from magazines and friends. The box was organized by dish and season, and she would go through her file twice a year to remove unused recipes.

When I got my first apartment, my mother gave me a recipe notebook as my housewarming gift. She was realistic enough to know that I could never keep up a system as meticulous as hers. She wanted me, however, to at least try to emulate her behavior.

I have since replaced the exterior of the notebook that she gave me, and added to it in various ways, but it is still fundamentally the same book she gave me years ago. If your recipes are in shambles and causing you clutter, let me recommend that you create a similar product.

What you’ll need:

  • A vinyl-coated 3-Ring Notebook with a front pocket,
  • Post-it notes (I prefer two sizes — one larger, one smaller),
  • A pen that dries quickly and doesn’t streak (I like ballpoint pens),
  • A pack of 50 sheet protectors (or as many as necessary),
  • Ten notebook tab dividers (or as many as necessary), and
  • Ten or more sheets of looseleaf notebook paper.


  • Make a cover and artwork for the spine of the notebook, so that it is clearly identified as your treasured recipes.
  • Put the post-it notes and pen in the front pocket of the notebook. You’ll want these easily accessible for when you make notes on the recipes (Big hit — Too much salt — Add five minutes to baking time). Also, if it’s a recipe that I make often, I’ll write the ingredients on a post-it note and then move it from the recipe to my weekly shopping list, and then back to the recipe when I return home.
  • Drop in the looseleaf paper so that it will sit at the back of the notebook. This paper is for you to write down your personal creations as you invent them in the kitchen.
  • Write the following categories on the tabs of the dividers: Appetizers, Salads, Soups, Breads, Beef Entrees, Pork Entrees, Chicken Entrees, Vegetarian Entrees, Other Entrees, and Desserts. If you have other categories, add those accordingly.
  • Put your recipes into the sheet protectors, and then organize them by categorical tab. You can put one recipe per sheet protector, or you can put two recipes in each back-to-back.
  • Load up your notebook and enjoy having all of your recipes in one location.

I like the notebook because I can easily print e-mails from friends or recipes off of websites and include them into my collection without any additional work. I just slide them into an empty sleeve without having to recopy them. Also, the sheet protectors keep the recipes clean — I just wipe them off if they are splattered while cooking. There is no need to keep old cooking magazines in the house because I just rip out my favorite recipes and put them into the notebook. Remember, as with your closet and MeBox, go through your recipes every six months and discard those that you no longer need to keep.

A few of you might wonder why I don’t just keep digital copies of my recipes, especially since I have the Fujitsu ScanSnap. The truth of the matter is that I would love to do it this way, except that I feel very uncomfortable with having my laptop in the kitchen. As technology changes, though, I imagine that there will come a point when I digitize my recipes and look at them on a computer screen in my kitchen.

Finally, parents might consider creating a “kid’s favorite” notebook to leave for the babysitter. Especially if your child has food allergies or is a picky eater, it’s nice to provide many dinner options that you know your child will eat. Also, you could bring it out if you’re stumped for ideas and let your kids pick the lunch or dinner.

7 Comments for “Recipe roundup”

  1. posted by Zach on

    I thought it might be useful to point your readers to a simple Excel-based tool that we posted on our blog ( It lets you keep all your recipes in one place and easily create shopping lists for your week of dinners.

  2. posted by Mark on

    Good tips… I found going completely digital to work the best, though – one added benefit I found was that when I wanted to cook something elsewhere, and didn’t have my recipes along, I could just go to my website and look at them there. Another benefit was that if people wanted a recipe, I could just give them the link with no fuss… Works great because part of my initial effort was to write down some of the old family recipes, and share them with other family members. I have a safe spot for the laptop in the kitchen, but if If you don’t, you can still just print off a quick copy, or print out copies in a binder for local use, as you describe.

    I ended up using a PERL script that converts a simple recipe format into html and uploads them, if you’re interested you can check out the result at:


  3. posted by Beth on

    I’m heading towards a combination of digital and print, myself. I have a recipe program on my Mac that allows me to search the recipes by ingredient (so if I’m trying to get rid of something in my pantry, it’s easy to do) and keep track of where the recipe came from, when I last used it, how much I liked it – and I can even add a photo to it. I also have my recipes printed out (since that’s the way I find most of my recipes). That way, I can find the recipe on my computer, and then pull the paper copy (in a sheet protector!) out of my binder for use in the kitchen.

  4. posted by BigNerd on

    If you are making covers and spines for your notebook, head over to
    Here you can choose a category, type/size of binder, styles, fonts and then easily print them out for a professional/personal look. It’s Free too!
    Also, at work I use three ring binder sheets used for 4×6 pictures. I find that index cards easily slide in and out and it’s a great way to log info you use on a consistent basis – eliminating Post-it note build up.
    And lastly – Post It Note brand now has Index cards that don’t stick to each other, but will stick on most smooth surfaces. They come in different colors and have two boxes at the top of the card to add titles, dates, etc. I’m using these at home and at work in place of yellow post-its.

  5. posted by Shirl on

    I print my recipes to .pdf

  6. posted by Chris on

    I do this same basic trick with all the delivery menus I’ve been collecting for my neighborhood. Every once in a while, I go through them all and move the good ones to the front, bad ones to the back, etc. I also write all over the menus with suggestions and warnings and such.

  7. posted by Stacy on

    I keep my recipes stored online as .pdf files, it makes it easier to find.

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