Overflowing with stacks of recipes in multiple places? Here's a super simple way to organize paper recipes with basic office supplies to make finding recipes easy again, plus ideas for digital recipe storage, too.
This is just one of the organizing strategies you'll find on the site - other strategies include:
I will be the first to admit that I'm not a super organized person. I do not have systems for everything, but I do like feeling organized and have found a few strategies that work well.
One of them is organizing recipes. I found myself dealing with a lot of printed recipes that I would have to thumb through every time I wanted to find a recipe.
The simple system I came up to fix this has worked really well with very little money invested.
I do not, however, think my recipe organization method is the best, most awesome method ever. But I'm sharing anyway.
Why? Because I don't believe a perfect organization method exists!
Each person has different amounts of time, energy, and needs, so a one-size-fits-all approach just won't work.
But seeing how other people organize things can:
- Inspire us to use a part that does work for us and create a hybrid system...
- OR, makes so much sense to us that we just copy it!
And I do have to say that when I started this method for organizing recipes, it was like a light bulb going off for me!
It immediately became easier to find a recipe I wanted without going through stacks (and stacks...) of papers.
But no matter what method you choose, hopefully you'll be inspired to get those recipes in order!
Digital Recipe Organization Ideas
If you don't have paper recipes to deal with, you may need a digital organizing system. I need to make notes as I cook and bake, so I will always use paper to some degree, but if you're strictly a digital recipe user one of these ideas might be useful to you:
- Create a spreadsheet with tabs of your categories - here's an example of how to set up a sheet in Google Drive.
- Save your favorites from different websites by clicking a heart button (or other type of "save" button) on individual websites. They will save your favorites within your browser by using your email to sign in. (You can find the heart button on the lower right hand corner of my site to test it out.)
- Email a recipe link to yourself and keep it in a folder labeled 'food' with nested folders of categories like chicken, dessert, etc.
Paper Recipe Organization
Two Binder System
I have a two-binder system, which you can see illustrated above:
- Binder Type 1: The two binders on the middle left are slightly taller and hold smaller recipe cards and recipes cut out of magazines.
- Binder Type 2: The regular 9 x 12 inch binders are labeled with categories and hold letter sized printed recipes.
Binder Type 1: Smaller Sized Recipes (Recipe Cards)
The first type of binder is for small clippings and recipe cards.
- These "binders" are actually three-pocket page photo albums. The two I have came with a fabric type cover so I covered them with clear Contact paper to protect them.
- Since they were both the same (because I really liked them and wanted them to coordinate) I just numbered them "1" and "2." After awhile I just came to know the categories in each (all the salads, soups and mains in 1, apps, cookies, desserts, etc. in 2).
You can make it easier on yourself and get different ones if you'd like.
- To make divider pages for your categories, simply attach stick-on tabs from an office store. Place them on the top of the pages so they don't interfere with putting recipes inside the pockets on the sides.
- You can make as many divisions as you need and use labels that make the most sense to you - a bonus to making your own versus using a pre-made system.
Here are the category divisions I used in the books as examples:
Small recipes book 1:
- Meat (beef & pork)
Small recipes book 2:
- Once you have your binders set up, simply place all the recipes you've collected that fit in the photo sleeves (well, after you probably throw a bunch away that you wonder why you'd been keeping, if you're anything like me...).
- Recipe cards that are 3x5 and 4x6 will just slide in and recipes cut out from magazines and papers may need to be fitted by folding.
TIP: Some I have to pull out to read the whole recipe, but I try to cut and tape them so they can be read without having to be taken out.
This is photo album method is pretty simple, but was such a revelation for me. It is SO much easier than the little recipe boxes and files I attempted to use before.
Binder Type 2: Full Size Printed Recipes
The second type of binder can hold larger recipes since little photo pockets don't work for large recipes from magazines or printed out.
- Use basic three-ring binders with divider pages labeled with categories similar to the photo albums.
- Include clear page covers to slide large clippings into.
- Punch regular paper with a three hole punch and add them directly to the rings.
This is what most people use, I think, but what helped me was realizing I didn't have to try and fit all the recipes into one size binder - it's okay to have two.
Because those little clippings and recipe cards were a pain to try and fit into the large binders. I find it much easier to slip them into the photo pockets.
When You Outgrow a Single 3-Ring Binder
Depending on how many recipes you collect, one binder with divisions may be fine for you.
When I outgrew one I divided the categories into three large binders and labeled them with:
And then I created some recipe-specific binders when those recipes started piling up:
- Slow-cooker recipes
- A binder for homemade "basics" recipes (Pantry basics as well as health/beauty recipes)
- Our past menus
- Update: I've since added Instant Pot, Preserving and Fermenting Binders as my needs in these areas grew - make this work for you.
PRO TIP: I keep our past menus to be able to refer to when making new menus and I arrange them by month so I can easily find what we like to eat for that season using what is growing in the garden or on sale.
The Recipe Organization Video
If you'd enjoy a good laugh and a peak into Brian's sense of humor, be sure to watch the accompanying video we made about this. (It was meant to be like those serious interview shows, so I'm not smiling on purpose, lol.)
A video on recipe organization? Yeah, I know - but he's good for a laugh. Actually he's great for a laugh. It's what makes life so fun with him.
I hope this has helped you to think of how you can organize your recipes to work for you - I'd love to know your recipe organizing strategies!
This article has been updated - it was originally published in May of 2010.