Organizing Recipes

Recipes are everywhere and so many look so good that we bookmark, we rip, we email, we save, we print and we write in order to collect and keep them organized in some sort of orderly fashion.  Ideally we’d like to be able to find them again when we need to without having to waste too much time searching for them.  I love trying new recipes and often will have two or three new recipes on the menu plan to try each week.  The problem is of course finding the best method to track not only new recipes to try but our tried and true favorites as well.

Before I share how I organize my recipes though let’s discuss some of the various methods available to us.

Recipe box:

Recipe boxes work well for recipes on index cards but don’t work so well for holding magazine clippings or 8.5×11 sheets of paper.  Most recipe boxes aren’t near big enough either.


There are a number of different ways to mange recipes on your computer:

1.  Type your recipes into a Word document

2.  Bookmark them into your Favorites using a specific recipe folder and then further organized into various sub-folders for the different food categories

3.  Online using a bookmarking site such a Delicious.  Elise from Simply Recipes has an excellent tutorial on how to do this.

4.  Online using recipe software such as Big Oven or Cookbook Wizard

5.  Create your own recipe book with an online service such as Tastebook

Photo album/3 ring binder:

Using the old style peel and stick photo albums or a 3 ring binder with page protectors are great ways to contain both regular size sheets of paper as well as smaller clippings and scrap pieces of paper.  Adding some simple tab dividers allow you to sort your recipe pages into specific food categories.

It’s important to remember that no one method will work the same for everyone.  We are all unique in our priorities as well as with our likes and dislikes.  That is totally A-okay.  Regardless of whichever method you choose I think it’s important to take into consideration your personality and what’s important to you.  I discussed this in more detail here.

For me I needed a system that included a place to keep the recipes that my family loves and another location for recipes we want to try.  I also know that I don’t enjoy writing out recipes by hand or typing them out on the computer so any kind of system that requires me to do that just wouldn’t work for me.  I have comfortably settled on a combination of systems that meet my needs.  Due to Menu Plan Monday and wanting to be able to link to the recipes I post I now find most of my recipes online.  I created a Recipe folder in my Bookmarks with multiple sub-folders (ie: chicken, pork, beef, meatless, salads, desserts, etc) that make it very convenient for me to add recipe links to as I find them online.  Recipes that we enjoy and I know I will make again get printed out and put into a three ring binder that has been divided with the same category tabs.  I only have one binder so once that is full I have to go through the purging process before I can add anymore.  For recipes found offline I use my folder method until I’ve had a chance to try them out.

As many of you know I also adore the Taste of Home publications and have quite the collection of magazines that I can’t bear to tear apart.  I want to keep them intact so I have found that a recipe journal works well for tracking these recipes.  I rarely use cookbooks any more but this method would work well for tracking your favorite cookbook recipes as well.

In addition I’ve also been finding it extremely helpful having a Family Favorites Index on my site.  To keep consistency I’ve got the recipes listed there organized into the same categories as I use in the other systems I have going on.   This definitely makes it very easy to find what I’m looking for.

To keep my bookmarks on my computer under control and from getting out of hand once they’ve been tried they get added to my index and/or printed out and then deleted.

As you can see the possibilities are endless really and I know I’ve given you a lot to think about but let me know if I’ve missed something and/or which method works best for you.

For more kitchen organizing tips visit this special edition of Works for me Wednesday taking place today over at Rocks in my Dryer.

Filed under: Recipe Organization


47 Responses to Organizing Recipes

  1. 1
    TopazTook says

    Thank you for this post. I will be saving it and thinking about the different options and what will work best for me — I have so many recipes saved online and in physical form, and it’s one of my goals to get them organized some day. (Preferably by the end of 2009.)

  2. 3
    Karmatir says

    I’m in the process of converting my recipe box over to a Tastebook. Its helping me weed out a lot! But at the same time I need to find a better method of organizing the recipes I want to try and showcase on my food blog…you gave me plenty of ideas to start with…

  3. 4
    Jenny says

    I keep mine on the computer. I have it organized and the awesome part is I bring the laptop into the kitchen turn it on and voila…recipes…saves from printing recipes and the clutter of recipe books etc.

  4. 5
    Kim says

    Don’t forget! You can input your own recipes there as well as adding the recipes on their site to your “recipe box.” It’s a really great tool.

  5. 6
    sara says

    Thanks for a great post. I just went through this myself a few weeks ago. I ended up deciding on a digital format too – using googlepages ( I sorted into recipes we love, and recipes we want to try… and so far, it’s been helpful in trying a few new recipes! Taste of Home has all their recipes I love from the magazines on line, so I was able to make those recipes easier to find too.

  6. 7
    Tiffany says

    I actually save each recipe in a separate word document, then categorize them in folders of main dishes, chicken, etc. I can get as specific as I want to be in order to find a recipe when I need it. I also condense them and print them out according to their ‘genre’ (you know, main dish, dessert, appetizer) and put them sheet protector and a binder with category dioviders. Truthfully, I still have them clipped out of magazines, jotted down on scrap pieces of paper, and in random cookbooks all over my house!!! But eventually, I want to make a separate binder for each ‘genre!’

  7. 8
    Lori says

    MY FAVORITE TOOL is from Midwest Living magazine. They have a cookbook maker that is FREE. You can use their recipes or add your own, and even use your own pics! I am making a family favorites book to print on my pc and give away at Christmas =)

  8. 9
    Susan says

    Personally, I’ve found that the Cook’n software on my computer is fantastic for storing recipes, creating menus, printing shopping lists (hurrah!), etc. I then have binders with page protectors for the recipes I print out.

    You are right – having this part of our lives organized makes an enormous difference!

  9. 10
    [email protected] says

    I save “to try” recipes in my email then print out when I’m ready. I recently went through all my recipes and pared them down to tried & true. They are now organized in a binder by category. Easier to flip through a binder than a stack of papers.

  10. 11
    Trish says

    Great ideas. I tend to use to find new recipes, so I utlize their onsite recipe box to keep track of them. I also use to keep track of other online recipes.

    Ultimately, though, my goal is to have an actual paper version that I can keep in the kitchen. As I come up with keeper recipes that the family loves, I print them out nice (like a digital scrapbook page) and place them in page protecters in a notebook. Eventually I may even have this professionally printed. I like the idea of having my own cookbook of favorites.

  11. 12
    Marcia "HDMac" McFar says

    I am a cookbook/recipe junkie! There are some excellent ideas here. I am going to have to check out delicious, that sounds like an EXCELLENT idea! I, too, have collections of TOH magazines… I finally did get rid of those that I had the annual cookbooks for …. that was very hard for me! lol Love your journal idea!

  12. 13
    Rachel says

    I actually took the plunge and typed all of mine and printed on 4×6 index cards. Then I took a slide in photo album, made my own post-it tabs and slid them all in. This works great for me because if I decide I don’t like something or want to make another category – it’s super easy to move things around!!

  13. 14
    Mandy says

    I just love your blog. I may take this idea and turn it into a Christmas gift. Thanks!

  14. 15
    Kirstin says

    I’ve been in the process of organizing my recipes but it is very slow going! I plan to put them in a 3 ring binder with sleeves. Typing the recipe and any other notes along with it that I think would be helpful. I hope to make copies someday to give to my girls. I haven’t worked on it for awhile though.

    I like your ideas as well.

  15. 16
    Brenda says

    I do a twist on the 3 ring binder plan that really works for me – it might for you.

    I have binders, one for each catagory (Veggies, Meat, Seafood, Cakes, Pies, etc.) and I fill them with page protectors. Then I label each page protector with a sub-category. For instance, in Sweets I have Cookies, Bars, Brownies, Candy, etc. Then I just stick the recipes – all of them – into the sheet protector. (If I have an overstuffed sheet protector I just add a second one for more.)

    Usually I either remember a recipe that I want to make or want to peruse my collection for something that strikes my fancy so this is, for me, the quickest and dirtiest way to get things together in an organized way but not spend forever doing so.

    For recipes that I make all the time, like Gram’s sugar cookies, Belgian waffles, our favorite chicken recipes, I tape them inside the cabinets that are over the area where I would be putting them together. SO FAST AND EASY!

    Thanks all for sharing!

  16. 17
    Lyndsi says

    I have two three ring binders: one for desserts and the other for main dishes. I put all recipes that are not in a book in one of these binders. I print everything on normal 8.5 by 11 paper and just organize it in the binders with a few categories. I also receive Taste of Home but I do not keep the magazines. Instead I copy the recipes I am interested in and put them in my binder.

    To keep track of those recipes which are staples for my family I have a index card box. In here I keep track of recipes that I have made and enjoyed. I don’t write the entire recipe (just a reference to where to find it). I also write prep time, cook time, ingredients, and family member ratings. This allows me to just grab a card from the box and take it with me to the store. I have found it makes for quick menu planning.

  17. 18
    Amanda says

    I just added my bookmarks to delicious. i am loving it for my recipes.

  18. 20
    Susanne says

    I have so many recipes. LOL. I had started an alphabetical binder where I list the recipes names alphabetically and then write down where to find that particular recipe. For example: “Jeremy’s Fave Chili” – personal computer recipe file under crockpot. “Creme brulee” – foodgawker favorites. “Sweet and sour meatballs” – origianl Betty Crocker recipe book pg. __., etc, etc. It helps me to locate when I can’t exactly remember where it is.

  19. 21
    Peggy says

    I print alot of recipes off of Kraft foods website. So that’s when I decided to do the 3 ring binder with page protectors idea. I have an older recipe book with smaller pages so I’ve either retyped the recipe and printed it. Or just put the smaller page into the page protector. They are separated by food category. And the newest thing I started to do is when I go through and choose what I am making for the week, I put a post it note on the recipe with the day of the week I’m making it on.

  20. 22
    Krista says

    Organize recipes…seriously! I think it would be impossible for me. I have some on the computer under favorites. I love cookbooks and I collect them, so I have tons of cookbooks in the dining room cabinet. I wouldn’t even know how to begin to catalog the recipes that my family really likes.

  21. 23
    susieshomemade says

    I use a combination of 3-ring binder, online and software method. It meets all my needs:-)

  22. 24
    Deonia says

    I do the binder w/sheet protectors;That house all the most immportant recipes I have ( 10 of those LOL) so that I have a hard copy for reference or if my computer crashes… word docs:In case of a fire or flood and I lose my hard copies LOL and cabinet door things for the ones I use the most, only thing is, I’m running outta cabinet doors 😉

  23. 25
    Heavenly Homemaker says

    Most of my recipes are in a recipe box, or in my favorite cookbooks…or stuck up in my head somewhere. I have a weird gift for memorizing recipes. Thanks for this great post telling us all kinds of great options for keeping those recipes organized. (Eventually, this keeping recipes organized in my brain thing is just NOT gonna work anymore.)

  24. 26
    The Roost says

    Keeping my recipe’s organized has always been a challenge. You have given me several good options! 🙂

  25. 27
    curvaliscious says

    I actually use my computers excel program for mine. Its great because I can highlight the recipes that we love, add the actual recipe itself as a note on the recipe title, sort it, add extra pages for different items, keep track of my weekly menu and everything right in one place. All I have to do is click “edit comment” then copy and paste it into a word doc and print.

    Eventually I would like to create a book of all my favorite recipes but thats something I have to work on later 🙂

  26. 28
    Shannon says

    So funny . . . I was just thinking over the past few weeks that I must do a better job of organizing my recipes. I’m so glad I read this today!!! I’ve been using, like a few others mentioned, but have been looking for something to take it to the next level and tidy it all up a bit. I still find it hard to remember where I found a certain recipe in the past – then I go to look for it and can’t find it. I’ll definitely be trying to tackle one of your suggestions 🙂

  27. 29
    Diane says

    I used ShopN’Cook menu to keep my recipes AND to organize menus with shopping lists. I’m loving it! I’ve even reorganized their categories to match my grocery store (we’re overseas military so I typically do most of my shopping in just one store, on base) so that groceries are a BREEZE now! And recipes are EASY to enter, copy and paste! Love it!

  28. 30
    SheSue says

    A lot of great ideas on your site. I use a photo album to keep my recipes in. The kind that has slots for 4×6 photos. I write or type my recipe on an index card and slip it into a slot.

  29. 31
    Catharine says

    I have all of my recipes on-line ar but Im more a hands on person so I’ve been wanting to nicely handwrite them all out and organize. You have given me some AWESOME ideas and I think I might actually take some time and get my recipe book together. Thanks for the motivation!

  30. 32
    $5 Dinner Mom says

    Thanks for these great ideas! I was thinking that I needed a better system for printed out recipes, just last night, as I taped my print out onto the cabinet where I was prepping the meal. If I put the paper on the counter it gets wet spots (I don’t have a cookbook holder upper!), so I taped it up. It’s still there 2 days later because I don’t have a system in place for storing them! I too use
    Is your son GFCFEF? I saw your comment on Twitter?!? We were on that temporarily, but discovered we have to be soy and oat free! So glad you have great recipes for him!

  31. 33
    Kari says

    Thank you for this. I was just thinking about organizing my recipes last night as we are starting on a new diet for our son due to his special needs. All the recipes I have are online, on sites that I pray don’t go down or away before I write them down.

    So, I will get my 3 ring binder today and start creating our family recipe book.

  32. 34
    Margaret says

    Wow, a great summation of the dilemmas and the many possible solutions! Currently, my efforts at organizing recipes have amounted to: a Recipes folder on my desktop, a Recipes folder in my email inbox, a Recipes Bookmark with subfolders, a shelf-ful of magazines that are thinned down to recipes to try (or tried), a pile of Recipes pages ripped out of less-worthy magazines, and another shelf-ful of cookbooks with sticky notes on a quarter of the pages! The problem (and the blessing of course) is that there are so many sources (and thus formats) for these recipes! So I think I will continue with the stickynotes, but try to evolve into a Recipe Journal approach, since that so appeals to the librarian inside, lol. Thanks so much for the clear and inviting suggestions!

  33. 35
    Marianne says

    Well…I, use I like to keep my groceries organized, and edit recipes so that they align with my family’s taste and diet. It did take FOREVER to type in all of my personal recipes, but on the upside, there are no dusty books, no thumbing frantically to find something, and I can share recipes in just a few clicks. There is also a new component to the program for food allergies and gluten free menu planning. Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the Menu Plan Monday, it’s been busy around here – I’m making dinner now (It’s 2:00) because there will be no time later…

  34. 36
    Carrie says

    I keep a spreadsheet that I update every 6 months or so. Each category has a tab on the spreadsheet – chicken, beef, pork, salads, side-dishes, desserts, etc.

    Under each category I have the dish, the place where I can find the recipe (the cookbook or issue of Food and Family for example) and the page number.

    I print each spreadsheet out and keep it in a binder in the kitchen. When I want to find a recipe then I just check the index and pull out the source. 🙂

  35. 37
    ageekymom says

    I use Evernote to capture website recipes (unfortunately they haven’t kept up with the latest version of Firefox) and Mastercook (no longer supported by Broderbund – are they still around?) to keep my recipes in order. When I find a recipe that I ant to try, I’ll often enter it into Mastercook to be able to manipulate it (calories, serving sizes, etc.) It’s definitely NOT a perfect system! I’d pay for something better.

  36. 38
    Meal Magic says

    Great ideas of how to organize recipes. Not too long ago I purged my recipes and got rid of so many of those super old newspaper clippings. Now, the only ones I save are those that have been given to me friends or family. The rest I save on the computer or know I can find a similar one online whenever I need a recipe for a certain ingredient or occasion.

    What I have found over the years is that everyone’s system seems to evolve depending on your interests, time constraints, changes to your family (kids coming or going, etc.). There is no one right system–just the one that works best for you!

  37. 39
    Marcia, org queen says

    Oooh, I love this

    I only have one binder so once that is full I have to go through the purging process before I can add anymore.

    I do the Exact same thing so that I don’t live in “what if” land!

  38. 40
    Honey says

    I got tired of having lots of cookbooks around that I only needed 6 recipes out of. And the e version of organizing didn’t work that well for me as the recipes I have come from many sources-not just the computer (friend’s, magazines, tv, etc)and I don’t always want to log on to get to recipes. So, I keep a simple folder full of recipe’s to try. Then recipes we tried and liked go into a cheap photo album from Walmart. I have several depending on the type of recipe (soup, side, dessert, salad, vegetarian entree, main dish). This way my cookbooks are small and only filled with recipes we like! And they don’t get dirty. And they fit in a book holder on the counter while I cook. And from sources on the computer, most have a printable version and some will ask you what size you would like(very nice of them!) so these fit well. Great post and ideas from commenters!

  39. 41
    Jeannie says

    I have a question about the Midwest Living “make your own cookbook” software. I entered many recipes in the Appetizer chapter to get started and then went to the place where I could “view” my book.

    Every recipe was on a separate page and there were 12 pages. These are full pages….8 1/2″ x 11″ with just a few lines on each one as there aren’t many ingredients and directions for these recipes.

    Can anyone tell me how I can get several recipes on a page?
    How can I print on the back side?
    Can I make the book 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 instead of a whole page?

    Sure looking for some help! Thank you VERY much!

  40. 42
    shris says

    My solutions:

    For the ‘while cooking’ process, a command adhesive clip on the kitchen wall under the upper cabinets. Clip the recipe in there and it’s up on the wall, visible but out of the way.

    For the ‘need a recipe for this ingredient’ I use allrecipes. If I like the recipe, I file it in my online recipe box so I can reprint if/when the printout gets gunked up.

    For the ‘recipe storage’ in the kitchen, I have a stand-up hanging file folder box–the kind for your desktop. I have one folder for each ‘category’ of recipes, and I have a few sheet protectors in there for the particularly good recipes I want to keep protected from splashes.

    I tried a card box, I tried hole-punched ring-bound books.. They all were too much overhead for me and the recipes stacked up until they were falling all over the place. The hanging file folders have the right amount of overhead: Print, use, drop-in. And when it’s time to find the recipe I used three weeks ago, very easy to find. Flip, grab, use.

    I sometimes scribble recipes on 3×5 cards, especially for stuff I ‘made up’ that the family likes enough to eat again. I do the same thing with these, just stuff them in the folders.

    I have some recipe books I consult for some things–but honestly, I like allrecipes better than books. All except bread recipes. 🙂

  41. 43
    Terry says

    I love the posts here. Thank you for sharing. I like to get new recipes. But I decided just to get a domain and create my very own website at where I can record all of my own favorite recipes. These are the ones that I like and use all the time. It makes it really easy to get to them now, especially from my iPhone if I’m not at home. I can send my family and friends there so they can get my recipes too. There is a small hosting fee I have to pay, but that ends up being cheaper than other membership sites, and I have complete control about what I can put on my own site.

  42. 44
    Kate says

    You can use BigOven’s mobile apps to organize recipes. Just take photos of paper recipes and they do the work to type them up for you. Love that they become portable on my phone, automatically categorized, easily searchable by ingredient and I can easily add them to a grocery list that sorts by aisle…plus I get nutrition info too. Check it out at or download their free apps for iPhone or iPad. They also have apps for Android or Windows Phone too.

  43. 45
    Julie says

    I actually use IT has totally changed my kitchen! I love using it for all my recipes. I even transferred over all of my pinterest saved recipes and am slowing getting all my random paper copies of recipes moved into pasplore, either by typing them, or going back to the website I printed them from.
    Pasplore extracts the recipe for you, no need to copy and paste! With the click of a button I can save a recipe to my free digital cookbook in the category I want!

  44. 46
    Amber says

    I LOVE! It is a phenomenal tool and site. I have never felt more motivated to cook and share recipes. Pasplore makes saving, editing, organizing, and creating recipes a breeze!


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