Thursday, May 12, 2016

Recipe Organization

All our recipe binders stacked on a shelf in our bookshelf pantry.

     Every family has a collection of favorite recipes. Ours are housed in four 1-inch binders! If there is a recipe that we've made, enjoyed, and might make again I will store a copy of it in one of the binders. When it comes time to make a meal, I don't want to waste my time searching online or in a recipe book for a recipe. The binder system allows me to quickly find exactly what I'm needing. Our binder recipe system is quite nicely organized presently, but it took a bit of time and work to get it that way. As with most things, there is a process to create it to fit me and my family precisely. That process has involved finding resources for recipes, organizing the recipes themselves, organizing the binders, and the extention potential for recipe binders.

     A vast majority of our recipes come from Eating Well. They have such wonderfully healthy recipes with a wide variety of ingredients and flavors. Although the magazine is beautiful and affordable, I prefer the convenience of printing out desired recipes and adding them to the binders. Other recipes are from a few cookbooks we have or from other sites on the internet. (If the recipe is from a cookbook, I will either make a copy or handwrite the recipe onto a piece of paper to add it to our binders so that I don't have to guess which cookbook it came from or flip through the entire cookbook to find it again). I've learned one way to reduce how many unused recipes or books collect is by writing the date acquired on the recipe, and then periodically toss unused recipes (if the season or even year has passed and the recipe is still sitting in waiting, then just go ahead and toss it out!).

      In my experience, simple binders make the best means for organizing recipes. Although there are some lovely pre-made recipe binders and books available, I find that a generic binder and tabs are best as they allow for complete customization. I used to keep all of our recipes in one large 3-inch binder. However, the binder was very heavy to lift on and off the shelf, wore out quickly, and was rather cumbersome to flip through. I then decided to break the binder up into four smaller 1-inch binders. I now only have to lift and flip through a much smaller selection at a time! Each of my binders contain about five categories, which keeps the size managable and able to be easily expanded. The sections include:

  • Menu plans
  • Guides (organic vs. conventional, types of oils, safe seafood etc)
  • Beef
  • Beverages (mostly smoothies)
  • Breakfasts
  • Breads
  • Canning
  • Desserts
  • Fish/Seafood
  • Meatless
  • Sides
  • Slow Cooker
  • Snacks
  • Soups
  • 30 Min. (mostly quesadillas, which we have each Sunday night)
  • Pizza (a Friday night usual for us)
  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Salads
  • Sauces/seasonings/condiments
  • Kids (recipes for play dough etc)

     The recipes themselves are stored in clear sheet protectors. The sheet protectors are essential if you want to keep your recipes from potentially getting ruined during the cooking process. I can also snap the ones we'll use for the week out of the binders to have them on hand as we need them, which cuts down even more on any wasted time. (Tip: Keep extra sheet protectors in each binder. That will make adding recipes easy and keep them from piling up in the binder pockets!)

    Recipes waiting to be tried can be kept in the tabbed dividers (if you purchased pocket dividers) or a single sheet protector at the front of each section. I'm careful to not keep too many recipes I haven't tried in the binders as the main design and purpose of the binders is to store only tried and true recipes and be a quick reference when preparing meals. 

     If there are any desired alterations to the recipe, I'll write that on the printed sheet. Since we purposely repeat the dinner meal one night to be lunch the next day, I frequently need to adjust the written proportions to serve 6-8. If I try to make the adjustments while cooking, then I'm likely to get the proportions of the ingredients mixed up. Best to just write adjustments on the recipe sheet for future reference instead of ruining dinner when hungry bellies are waiting! 

     Not only does this recipe binder system work really well for us for storage and meal preparation purposes, but it can also be extended for a couple other fun purposes. On one occasion, I made created a single recipe binder with copies of several of our favorite recipes and packed it up with an apron for a newlywed gift. Many newlyweds nowadays have very little knowledge or experience in preparing meals (I was one of them!). 

     I also intend to create a couple of memory recipe books for our children. They will each have their own book that is filled with recipes that pertain to them as well as a picture or a note. For example, for my son's book there will be a copy of the banana cake recipe that I made him for his first birthday as well as a photo of the event. Photos or journal notes of us cooking together or he/she enjoying a particular meal are wonderful occasions to include.  It will be so fun to look back on these books to the foods and moments that we enjoyed when they were a year old, five years old, nine years etc. Perhaps, the books will be given to them and their spouses when they marry (and I, of course, keep a copy for my own keepsakes!). 

Other Posts In This Series:
-Bookshelf Pantry
-Menu Planning

-Grocery Shopping

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