Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How to organize recipes: part two

After going over ideas for organizing cookbooks, we're moving on to...

Loose Recipes

I have recipes from magazines, newspapers, emails, newsletters and food packages. I have hand written recipes from relatives, photocopied recipes with handwritten annotations from relatives and homemade cookbooks from relatives. Recipes come to us in all shapes and sizes, and putting them in some kind of order can be daunting.

The little index-card sized recipe boxes are pretty to look at, but require rewriting recipes to fit on the appropriate cards. Definitely too much work. Even if you had a container that held all of these recipes perfectly, then the question is, how to you file them? By ingredient (meat, rice, vegetables, fish)? By course (breakfast, appetizer, dessert)? In this day and age, you could even organize them by chef (Jamie Oliver, Paula Deen), by origin (Martha Stewart Living, Gourmet, The New York Times Magazine), or by audience (vegetarian, vegan, raw). Not to mention family-passed-down recipes. Plus, there’s another designation: those tried and true favorites that you practically know by heart, the ones you tried before and worked, but aren’t in the regular rotation, and the recipes you want to try one day, when you get around to buying coriander seeds.

I’m beginning to think an entire book could be written on organizing recipes! Let’s just say that the ultimate way you organize your recipes is up to you. The important thing is that you create a system through which you can actually find the recipe you are looking for when you need it. Here are some suggestions:

  • Toss any recipe that you tried and hated, or will never try. (Less to organize later.)
  • Decide how you want to organize your recipes and sort them accordingly. I have mine sorted by broad categories (Meat, Vegan, Dessert, Soups), and then have a couple of sub categories (Cookies, Duck). Of course, many recipes will belong to more than one category, but don’t agonize over it. Just put it in the category where you think you’d most likely look for it in a month or two.
  • Assess your space and decide on a container. Do you have cookbooks and loose recipes and want to keep them together? In that case, my suggestion is getting a binder or magazine holder that can be filled with clear plastic sleeves and maybe even dividers with labels to hold your recipes. Then the entire thing can be shelved like a book. Do you not have room for the loose recipes on your bookshelf and want something decorative in the kitchen? In that case, you might want to try a recipe box.
  • Once the recipes are filed away (with room add more in the future), test the system by looking for a few recipes and seeing if you can find them easily. Have a family member try as well. It would be handy if your kids could find the macaroni and cheese recipe in the pasta section of your recipe binder as easily as you can!

Click here for one more post on organizing electronic recipes!

Lelah Baker-Rabe is a Los Angeles-based professional organizer. To discuss your organizational needs, call her at 818.269.6671 or email lelah@lelahwithanh.com
Visit her website at http://www.lelahwithanh.com/

6/11/09 update: I found out about a product called Recipe Nest via the Need Another You organizing blog. This is a binder-like product that apparently makes it easy to store paper-based recipes. I like the bright colors it comes in, and the fact that it is pretty spill-proof and can be stored on a shelf with your books. The site for the company that makes it, Recipe Relish, has more info, but it is made with Flash so I can't deep link to the most useful information. I haven't used this product myself, but it might be work checking out.

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