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Monday, August 02, 2010

Organizing Your Recipes

Do you have a wad of recipes, recipe books stacked somewhere, recipe clippings stuffed in a drawer? Are you wondering how to organize your recipes? I got some great ideas from the Internet.

My Grandma collected recipes and I have her old recipes and her recipe clippings from newspapers and magazines. I also collect recipes and have a lot of recipe books.

I've tried several different ways of organizing my recipes. I wrote, typed and taped recipes to index cards and have a large box full organized in categories. These are from the 1970's and early 1980's. After that I was able to afford cook books. So I have a collection of the annual Southern Living Recipe books. I bought most of them at book sales and yard sales so I don't have a lot of money in them but they are some of the best cook books I've ever seen. After that phase, I got into the Taste of Home magazines. These are also very good, practical, down-to-earth recipes. I have a couple of years worth of magazines in magazine holders. I also have a special Family Cook Book. I handwrite family recipes in this nice recipe book. This book goes back about 25 years. Last, but not least, I collect recipes from the Internet and keep them in MS Word. I have 3 binders full of these printed out.

I have too many systems going for my 33 years of marriage! When I need that good chowder recipe... is it on a card, in a magazine, in one of the dozen cookbooks or in my binders? I need to spend some time getting it streamlined.

Here are my goals:
■ Easy to find
■ Easy to maintain and add to
■ Easy to browse
■ Kept clean
■ Easy to share

Here are some ideas I saw on the Internet.

This person uses an accordion folder organized by categories. This isn't big enough for all mine but it's a good starter system. It can hold any size whether it's clipped from the newspaper or a whole page printed from the Internet.



Using pocket pages is a good idea! Either photo pages or baseball card pages.



Using binders with recipe categories. With my large collection I might need a binder for each major category and then use the dividers for sub-categories.





For those who are very neat, make your own recipe books. You can laminate your recipes or place your recipes in page protectors. Laminating can increase the acidity which can eventually destroy the item. So it's up to you whether or not you want to laminate. It keeps you from getting stains, drips, crumbs on them, but it's not good for longevity.

In fact, it would be best to purchase acid free printer paper (it's not any more expensive, make sure the packaging says "Acid Free"). Print on acid free paper and use page protectors in binders. For cards, you can place them in a plastic Ziploc bag while you are using it so it doesn't get splashed. Then take it out of the plastic bag and place back in your box.

If you have antique recipes passed down in the family, be sure to make copies on acid free paper before you do anything to them. If you make your own recipe books and cards, use acid free products. Include a photo. It could be a picture of you (or your loved one) preparing the recipe or presenting the results or just a photo of your dish. If you are good at sketching then make your own sketches. Some people even do "altared books", their cookbooks are personal handmade books. So use acid free products (paper, pens, stickers, etc) for these family heirlooms. I made family recipe books for my niece and nephew when they got married. I bought 8 x 8 scrapbooks and did a page for each family recipe. They really enjoyed those. Here are some wonderful examples I found on the Internet:















Using a rolodex is an idea! You can laminate the recipe cards or not. Make them as fancy as you like or just your own handwriting.



Organizing your recipes doesn't have to be expensive. My Grandma used a shoebox and this person used a Dollar Tree (everything for $1) basket.



If you use cookbooks, you can do some things to help you. You can use bookmarks, sticky notes, paper clips or book darts to mark your favorite recipes. Using colorful ribbons (as bookmarks) or sticky notes can help you color code your favorite recipes such as red ribbons for Beef Main Dish, pink sticky notes for Beverage recipes. You could also tape an index card in the flyleaf and put your favorite recipes and page numbers like Peach Melba Pg 63. You can use a pencil to make notes. For instance, I would write "Stan liked" to indicate that this is something he enjoyed. You may put "Nuts are optional", "My big blue bowl was big enough", "Toast the coconut", "Served this at 2010 Family Reunion and everyone loved it", "Good for Sunday School Class", "Makes a lot more than you realize", etc. These personal notes are valuable not only to you but are dear to your family members when they inherit those books.







Save counter space and turn a small, spare kitchen drawer into a recipe box filled only with your family's favorites. My Aunt Ruth did that until she decided she needed the drawer for other things and she began using a shoe box.


Recipe software is available from free shareware to purchased software. It can keep up with nutritional information, make shopping lists, do menu planning, is easy to sort and organize, and easy to print. A long time ago I tried using recipe software but I lost all my recipes and that was all it took. But I'm sure things have drastically changed since those early days of software development.

This is Cookware Deluxe. I have no idea how good this software is, I just found this image to give you an idea of what recipe software can look like.


I use MS Word. I have a file for Poultry, another file for Beef, another file for Vegetables, etc. So each category is it's own file. When I put in a new recipe I include the Source and any notes. I also put some tags so I can do a Search. Each recipe goes on it's own page. This works real well. Or you could consider using the Google Docs feature. This makes your recipes available via Internet no matter what computer you are on. Let's say that you are at the grocery store and you can't remember how many tomatoes you need for that special salsa recipe. You can use your cell phone to access you Google Docs recipe file. Or maybe you are at work and a co-worker asks you for your favorite cake recipe. You can access your Google Docs recipe files from your work computer. This has the advantage of saving your recipes off site in case your house caught on fire or a tornado hit.


You can use an online recipe box. http://onetsp.com/ is an example of an online recipe box. This also has the advantage of saving your recipes off site.


You could have a dedicated "kitchen" laptop that contains all your recipes. You can copy and paste a recipe into emails for those in your Book Club who asked for a copy of your Divine Chocolate Balls. You can copy your files on DVD's to pass your family recipes on to your children when they get married.


If you have spiral cook books, it might help to use tags and attach the stringed tags to the spiral spine. This would help you locate the recipe book without having to pull each one out. You can use magazine holders to corral them. Make your own holder by cutting down cereal boxes.


If you, or a loved one, are known in your family for special recipes, then you might think about doing a video of you (or your loved one) making the recipe. Make these videos available to other family members via YouTube or DVD. I would love to have a video of my Aunt Ruth making her homemade sauerkraut, or her dill pickles. I would love to have a video of my Grandmother making her lye soap or Grandma making her butter beans or her coconut cake (using a real coconut).


You can use Photo Albums with the self-adhesive pages.


Keep the "Keepers" separate from the "Try Soon" recipes. Once you've tried a recipe and you and your family like it, then it's ready to put in your "Keepers" system. Some people put their "Try Soon" recipes in a plastic Ziploc bag or a pocket in the front of their recipe binder. Some tape the recipes to the inside of a kitchen cabinet, on a bulletin board with their shopping list/coupons to remind them to try the new recipe.


Let's talk about categories. Some of this will depend on you and your family. You will start with some broad categories. Here are examples:
Hors D'Oeuvres
Main Dishes
Sides
Desserts
Soups
Salads
Breads
Beverages

Then you can break it down into sub-categories. Here are some examples:

..................................Poultry
Main Dishes..............Pork
..................................Beef

..................................Pasta
Sides........................Vegetables
..................................Fruit


Now you can further categorize with sub-sub-categories. For example:


...............................................................Turkey
......................................Poultry..........Chicken
...............................................................Casseroles

...............................................................Ham
...............................................................Sausage
...............................................................Bacon
Main Dishes.....Pork.............Chops
...............................................................Ribs
...............................................................Roasts
...............................................................Casseroles

...............................................................Hamburger/Ground Beef
...............................................................Steaks
...............................................................Roasts
.......................................Beef...............Ribs
...............................................................Casseroles
...............................................................Sandwiches

These are just examples. You can categorize any way that makes sense to you. For instance, if you are a vegetarian, you probably won't have meat recipes and your categories may be Tofu, Bean, Salads and Soups. Or you may love chocolate and you can categorize your "Desserts" into Chocolate Cookies, Chocolate Cakes, Chocolate Pies, etc. Your family may love desserts and you have enough to categorize by Cakes, Pies, Cookies, Tarts, Donuts, etc.

I also have a category for Misc. Things like a soap recipe; how to make candles; how to season a cast iron frying pan; how to clean silver, brass and copper; starch recipe for table linens; uses for peroxide; uses for vinegar; uses for baking soda; homemade cleaning solutions; and other misc things.

You may even consider a separate category for parties or large gatherings. For instance, my husband makes hash for the big family July 4th party. I could keep that recipe in the section for "Large Gatherings". We also have annual themed Halloween parties and I could keep those party recipes in the "Party" section. Same for those recipes you use for showers, church gatherings, birthdays. I never make a punch bowl of punch except for those big gatherings. I never make huge pots of cowboy beans except for those church gatherings so it might make sense to place those recipes in the "Large Gathering" or "Party" categories.

I hope I've given you some things to think about and some ideas. So go organize those recipes!

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