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Monday, February 9, 2009

Recipe Organization

I find a lot of people struggling with how to organize their recipes. Some keep it all electronic, some keep it all on paper. I have a mix of the two. I would love to be 100% electronic, but my kitchen is a little short on counter space, and I'm very messy when I cook. My kitchen is no place for my laptop. ;-)

I get my recipes from a variety of sources. Online recipes that I have yet to make are stored one of two ways. All other recipes, plus online ones that I have made and like, are filed in a binder and then listed in a central excel spreadsheet for easy viewing (more on that later). Let's start with online organization:

Online Blogs: When I see a recipe I like, I subscribe to the blog in Google Reader (if I haven't already) and then star the recipe as well as add tags. I like to add tags based on ingredients (chicken, cream cheese, banana), as well as, category and subcategory of items (Dinner, Dessert, Cupcake, Burgers). This helps me both when I'm looking for dinner ideas and when I'm trying to figure out what the heck to do with extra cream cheese.

Other Online Recipe Sites: I bookmark other sites in categorized folders, and edit the title so the recipe name is readily visible when I view my bookmarks.

Now, as I mentioned, the other recipes are all listed in one central excel worksheet. I do this so I can quickly and easily search for ideas based on ingredients or categories.

Magazines: I currently subscribe to Cooks Illustrated and Everyday Food. When each issue arrives, I open up the excel spreadsheet and start flipping through the magazine. Anything that looks like something we'd like gets added to the spreadsheet, with "MAKE" listed in the column for Rating. If there is only one or two recipes of interest in a particular magazine, I'll just copy them over, being sure to include the original source, and keep them in the binder. No sense taking up all that space for just one or two ideas!

Cookbooks: I have a number of cookbooks, and each one has been numbered with a little sticker for easy referencing. When I make something that I like from one of the cookbooks, it gets entered into the excel spreadsheet and the number of the book is used to identify which book it came from.

The Binder: This houses recipes from friends and family, or tested internet recipes. I received a box full of recipes at my bridal shower from all those in attendance - which was a great idea! They were all on 3x5 index cards, so I've continued with this pattern. When I am ready to try an online recipe, I copy it down on a 3x5 card and use that in the kitchen. If we love the recipe, I add it to the excel spreadsheet and give it a home in the binder. The binder is organized by the following categories: Appetizer, Bread, Breakfast, Dessert, Fish, Pasta, Poultry, Sauces, Vegetarian, and Drinks.

I got some 4x6 photo sheet protectors and can fit 8 recipes per sheet. The one problem there that I didn't foresee is that the sheet protectors are as long as the tabs on the dividers, so you can't see them all. Not a huge deal for me. These are all loaded in 1" binder (for now!) with a flexible binding so I can fold it over and use in my cookbook holder in the kitchen. Crockpot recipes are stored similarly, in a separate binder. (very soon the label maker will make it's presence known to the binder!)

The Spreadsheet: The excel spreadsheet lists all tested recipes, plus any that are in the binder that I have yet to make. There are six columns:
~Recipe - the name of the recipe
~Location - Where it is stored. BPL26 stands for Binder, Poultry, 26th slot (yes, that's specific, but when you have 50 some odd recipes in that category, you need more help narrowing it down!). EF-59-70 stands for Everyday Food, Issue 59, page 70.
~Category - this relates to the section of the binder it is, or would be, located in. This is necessary for the recipes stored in cookbooks and magazines.
~Tags - here I indicate main dish, side, cupcake, ice cream, etc. It just gives me another angle to sort with... if I come in knowing I need a cupcake recipe, I can sort that column or search for cupcakes.
~Ingredients - Here I list many of the ingredients of the recipe, which helps in two ways. When perusing for dinner ideas, it's a quick way to see if I have what's necessary... fresh lemons for instance. It also acts as a search tool when I have a leftover ingredient and want to use it up.
~Rating - since I am only putting good recipes in the binder, it seems silly to have this, but I still like having a way to denote minor differences in preferences, or maybe recipes that could use some tweaking. I also use this column to specify which recipes have yet to me made, by entering "make" in this column.

Now, when it comes time to plan my meals for the weekend, I have three places to search. I can go to my cookbooks or Google Reader for new recipe ideas, or I can go to my excel spreadsheet and look up old favorites. Same goes for if I have a pesky cup of buttermilk left and need to use it up. I hope this provides you with some ideas on how to better organize your recipes so THEY work for YOU!


Lindsey said...

I do a combination of the cookbooks and binder. I pretty much print everything that I like off the internet, and my binder is growing every day. I love the plastic sheet protectors, as I have been known to make a mess or two when I cook. I also could never get the laptop anywhere near the kitchen.

Melissa said...

Very impressive! I thought I was organized, but my system is sloppy compared to this! I see a winter day project in my future.

Tiff said...

Wow - you are super organized!

Bridget said...

Holy smokes, you're organized.

Erin said...

Ok, I haven't finished reading the post yet, but I just wanted to say, I feel honored! That dessert bar is a post from my blog, using the pumpkin bar I got from Cate's blog!!! I feel special! PS. If you haven't made those pumpkin bars yet, they are incredibly addictive and yummy!

Jodi said...

Love these ideas!!!!

But now I am VERY HUNGRY!

Stop by and enter my GIVE AWAY!

mamakrystal said...

Wow...you're very organized! I'm impressed with the excel spreadsheet!

Hilary said...

Holy organization! Great job!

Michele said...

I am in awe. I don't know what to say. Please, please come help me organize my recipes! lol

Spryte said...


nancysrecipes said...

Fabulous job!!!

Michelle said...

I just found this (someone linked to it on BakeSpace) and I am so totally and completely in awe! I have my stuff all over the place. I am inspired to organize, organize, organize! Thanks for all of the awesome ideas (and I never thought much about the tagging in Google Reader!). Awesome post.

Keaki said...

Thank you for sharing your organization tips! I really need to start getting better at organizing my recipes.

booksncooks said...

This was a great article. I had started a spreadsheet for one of my magazines, but for recipes I wanted to try. I have the rating column, similar to yours, but its more for descriptions and when I made it (so that I don't make the same things over and over for the same people). Wish I had the patience to add in the ingredients though - that's a great thought!

Kim said...

I have taken your advice and organized my recipes similar to what you have done. I have two words for you. . . Genius idea!! Thanks so much for sharing!