Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Good Old-Fashioned Recipe Organization

"Now what the heck did I do with that recipe for Great Aunt Martha's favourite chicken salad?"

If you're anything like me, you probably have tons of recipes stashed away in drawers, folders, books, computer files and assorted random piles. And when the moment of truth comes, you can't quite remember where to find the recipe you so desperately need.

These days, there are a myriad of options for organizing our recipes, both on- and off-line. I've tried a variety of approaches over the years (and as a result, gotten into the mess of having more than one system in place at the same time, leading to even more chaos!)

I've found online options really don't work all that well for me. If I had a laptop on my kitchen counter, maybe this would be a better solution. I don't own a laptop, and even if I did, I don't think I'd feel comfortable having it on the kitchen counter while I was in the middle of cooking up a storm (too much potential for spilling stuff on the computer!)

In the end, I have developed a very simple system that works well for me. I refer to it affectionately as the Big Blue Binder Recipe Management System. The system is divided into two basic components:
1. a large 2" binder full of plastic page protectors that I have divided up into categories (main dishes, salads, desserts, etc)
2. a file folder for each category in my filing cabinet.

As I acquire new recipes I want to try, I add them to the appropriate file folder. Then, when I'm inspired to try out a new main dish or dessert recipe, I rifle through the folder until I find something I want to cook.

Every time I try a new recipe and it's a hit, it goes right into the binder. If it's not worth making again, it gets tossed into the recycling bin.

This works well because every time I find a new recipe I want to try online, I print it off onto a full-size sheet of paper (in a nice large font so it's easy to read when I'm cooking!) If a recipe happens to be on an index card or newspaper clipping, once it's gained "make it again" status, I take a couple of minutes to type it up and print it out.

Having one recipe per page makes it really easy to group similar recipes together (like different types of cheesecake in your dessert section), even when you're constantly adding new material to your binder. It also makes it easy to remove recipes that are no longer of interest! You can also find the recipe you're looking for easily with a quick flip through the appropriate section, since all the titles are at the top of the page.

I've been using this system for a few years now, and it has worked far better than anything else I've ever tried.

So, if you're still struggling to maintain an organized recipe collection, why not give it a shot? It only takes a few minutes to set it up, and once you've got it going, it maintains itself!

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