Recipe Organization

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Today I’m going to share my system for organizing recipes.  If I could choose a few adjectives to describe my recipe binder I would choose:

  • Extremely Functional
  • Basic and
  • Low-Maintenance

Words I would NOT choose to describe my system.

  • Visual perfection
  • Great hand-writing 😛 or
  • Type-A perfect

If you’ve learned anything from my past organization posts, it’s that I like things orderly, but have given up striving for perfection.  Perfection is overrated, in my opinion, and too hard to keep up with anyway!  I use my recipe book to stay in budget and have all my tried-and-true recipes at my fingertips when I want them, but I haven’t used fancy printables or identical recipe cards to do it.

Let’s jump right in…

First off, in the front of my binder, I have mini plastic page protector I’ve used to corral my to-try recipes.  I try to keep these minimal by only keeping what I really, really want to try. Everything else in my binder has been tried before.  That’s right.  NOTHING gets taped inside unless I’ve tried it and liked it.  I don’t want my experimental recipes cluttering up my beloved ones.

Note: I also have a Pinterest board where I keep my online to-try recipes, but otherwise that’s it.  I actually got up the nerve to GIVE AWAY *gasp* all of my dusty recipe books a few years ago and haven’t missed them.  I’m just a child of the modern age, I suppose.  I like being able to read the online reviews before I try something and I’ve put our recipe book shelf space to more efficient use housing toddler school supplies.

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I only sort my recipes into four categories.

  • Breakfast
  • Main Courses
  • Sides  and
  • Desserts.

I know it’s in vogue now to get super-specific with recipe categorization (Pastas, Breads, Chicken, Beef, Salads, Vegetables…), but when I’m about to make dinner, there are usually only two categories in my head I’m concerned about. (What’s my main  dish and what am I going to serve with it?)

Prepare yourself for some construction paper and crayon dividers…

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Inside, I literally just TAPE whatever it is I’d like to keep.  Some of my recipes have been taken out of magazines, printed offline, hand-written on recipe cards, or just penned in directly onto the page.

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If it’s an easy, memorized recipe I still write the name of it in my binder so I’ll remember it as an option when I menu plan.

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One of the perks of not having a ‘perfect’ set-up, is that I don’t feel badly at all writing notes to myself on top or along the side of the recipe.

ImageIf you’ve read my Keeping Our Household Budget under $300 a Month series, you know that serving budget recipes are a huge part of our secret.  Do you see those tiny numbers along the side of my recipe cards?  Those are price estimates.  I won’t claim that they’re 100% accurate (ingredient prices vary all the time anyway), but it’s helpful in knowing the price range of the dish.

ImageSome of my recipes produce very large servings.  This one is estimated at $5 for a half recipe which would better-suit my family size anyway.

ImageI’ve also transferred my deep freezer inventory page from my Home Management Binder, where I received a marvelous tip from one of my readers.  (See, I learn things from you girls too!)  Thanks to her, I’m planning on converting this page to dry-erase, which should make for much less scribbling and become a bit easier on the eyes.

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This is also a great place to include any dietary notes or reference information, as well as a reminder list of healthy snacks.  That way it’s right there when you menu plan or just when you’re starving and exploring the dessert section.  🙂

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I know this isn’t my recipe binder, but I thought I’d include a mini-tour of the front of my fridge… Think of it as a bonus.

Aside from family photos, shopping list, and week-at-a-glance preview, my menu plan for the next two weeks is in the lower left.  Basically, it’s just a dry erase board where I include two-weeks worth of dinners at a time (I only shop every two weeks).  I don’t necessarily cook them all in top-to-bottom order.  Instead, I just choose from the pool of available dinners and rejoice in the confidence of knowing I have all the ingredients in the fridge.  Also, in that third column on the board, I include snacking options or ‘Fellowship Lunch’ reminders (for church or baby showers, etc).  For those curious, I don’t ‘plan-out’ lunches or breakfasts.  I just cook extra for dinners and we eat the leftovers for lunch.  Breakfasts are pretty standardized around here and I just make sure we don’t run out of cereal, biscuits and gravy, or toast essentials.

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So there you have it.  No fancy bells or whistles, but hopefully a realistic dose of recipe organization.  I’d love to hear what you think!

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33 thoughts on “Recipe Organization

  1. This is so much easier than a hundred recipe books laying around

  2. Beth S. says:

    Thanks to you, I had a Recipe Drawer Epiphany. Yesterday, I cleaned it all out, will donate the cookbooks that I was saving “just in case”, and have a small pile of good recipes to organize. And there is now room in my recipe box for them! Thanks for the motivation.

  3. Thanks. Great idea to de clutter 🙂

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by, Janine!

      • Heather says:

        My family and I are in the process of buying our first home and are going to be on a really tight budget and I only have $300 to spend for groceries myself, my husband and two girls, 10 and 7 could you send me some of your recipes to help get me started one his budget friendly meal plan? I would appreciate any help! I have idea how to to budget shop. Also what store do you use? Normally I shop at Walmart but I’m thinking aldys? My email greenhez@yahoo.com.

  4. Nicole says:

    Hi Kelsey! I just love that you don’t strive for perfection but have a realistic view on organization and saving!!! I always try to be perfect and get discouraged. It’s hard to build a habit of planning and organizing when it’s not first nature!!! You are inspiring me!

    ~Nicole

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Thanks, Nicole! That’s so encouraging to hear. I’m also a perfectionist at heart, but just don’t have the time to make it happen. 😉 Basic organization is much more doable for me. Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Courage says:

    Thanks Kelsey. Very good ideas, will pin and follow.

  6. I agree with not trying to make it perfect. I recently made my own binder, dressing it up a bit to fit my taste, but not going all out to make it “perfect.” Yet, it *is* PERFECT for ME because I made it the way I wanted it. And…I enjoyed the process too! 🙂

  7. Franki says:

    My 2 year old is allergic to milk. I’m constantly trying to find recipes and meal ideas. I have cook books, print outs, and magazine clippings everywhere. I’m normally an organization freak but have not been in the kitchen. I have to try this. Not only will I eliminate clutter but I can be rest assured that all the recipes are “Eli friendly”. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  8. Keatha says:

    great ideas – I have to get up the courage to get rid of my un-used cook books too I think – thanks!

  9. Debbie says:

    Fantastic idea! I had the recipe binder idea years ago & started one with plastic sheet protectors & put in some of the random recipes I had printed out (WAY before Pinterest!) but have yet to try most of them. This is one of those genius – WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT – moments for me. I’m going to make sure all my favorites are now in that binder. My triplets are also 13 and cooking now so I’m going to make sure to write down all my “recipes” that I just throw together. THANK YOU!!!!! 🙂

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      You’re welcome! Having triplets helping out in the kitchen seems like lots of fun! 😉 Thanks for stopping by!

  10. This is great! I am inspired to make a recipe book this week:-)

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      Thanks, Michelle! Have fun! It’s amazing how much more I enjoyed cooking after my recipe binder came together!

  11. Andrea says:

    I have a stack of recipes sitting in my room and each time I sort paperwork I wonder what I am going to do with it….I now have a little project!! Make my recipe binder!!! Yeh I’m so excited I found your website and the fact that its not perfect encourages me as I like things to be pretty close to perfect but the fact that its not perfect tells me that I can still do it without it being perfect and just be creative. Love, love this!!! Also like the fact that you put a price on the dinner thats huge!!! Also the different sections will be helpful as well! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  12. Shanz says:

    I use clear scrap book page sleeves in my binder. I can slip a page in, and not worry about it getting oogy if spill, I turn the page with messy hands while I am cooking. It’s easy to rearrange or change a page.

  13. Sara Brown says:

    My husband won’t eat chicken or turkey and I need big time help coming up with recipe ideas!!!! Please help.

    • I'm Kelsey! says:

      That does make it a bit trickier! I have plenty of dishes that revolve around beef, fish, or beans as the main protein. Try pinterest for inspiration galore!

  14. lina says:

    wow I LOVE your realistic recipe binder ! Thanks for sharing !

  15. Arwen Robertson says:

    I have an empty recipe book from my mom that I love that thing is always on my counter. We normally try stuff a couple times, and if it’s a keeper, it’s written down. =D

  16. S.W. says:

    I loved your comments about writing notes on your recipes. Since my Mom, Aunts and Grandma have all passed away, I still have their handwritten recipes, some with notes they had added. I cherish these SO MUCH. Not just for their content, but to still feel that connection by seeing their handwriting. It’s precious. The electronic age has benefits, but remember somethings have lasting benefits, even if they seem old fashioned.

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