Organizing Recipes

I have about 10 projects in the works and I finally finished one!  Organizing my recipes!

I am willing to bet that many of you can relate to my situation.  I had stacks of recipes to recopy onto index cards but I just couldn’t find the time or motivation.  My recipes looked like this:

I vowed to get my recipes under control before I moved again.


I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do, but I did know I was over recipe cards.  Mainly because I am lazy, but also because I am practical.   So many recipes come from pinterest and blogs now that a little file box doesn’t make any sense for me anymore.  Or I get random recipes from church or I want to tear one out of a magazine, and I don’t want to take the time to transpose them to a card.  Plus so many recipes don’t fit on small cards.  The cards just aren’t big enough or the recipes are too long.


I did some research and talked to a few people, and in the end I decided to go with an old school photo album with those sticky pages.  (The ones that we all got rid of several years ago because they damaged our pictures.) I was surprised to find some really cute ones at Target.  They also come in red on-line.

I liked these albums because my old recipe cards and odd shaped papers would stick to the pages.

Magazine recipes could go straight from the magazine to the recipe binder.  They could just stick in also.

But then I could also insert full sheets of paper in sheet protectors and they would fit in the binder too.  So these photo albums would handle all formats of recipes with no transposing.


Once I had decided on the sticky photo albums, I gathered all my recipe cards and stuck them in.  (You should know that I only wrote on one side of my cards.) I printed out favorite recipes from blogs or emails and put them in sheet protectors and put those in the binders.  I threw away several recipes that I had sitting in my bin for several years, but had never made.  And I retyped some recipes that were scribbled on scratch paper unless the original form held special memories.  I kept this original icecream recipe because I was doodling names for Baby #4 on the top.   As you can see, Locke was almost Cohen.  The recipe doesn’t look as neat as a typed one, but I love the memory.


I bought dividers at Office Depot. (You should know that most dividers come in sets of 5 or 8 so plan accordingly.)  I decided to buy the kind with front pockets so I could store recipes to try in the pockets and then if I liked the recipe I would transfer it to a page.

I went with long, sturdy, durable plastic tabs that would hold up to wear and tear.  There were much flimsier (and cheaper) ones that I bypassed.  Plus the colors were cute.

There are so many ways you could organize your recipes, but this is what I did:

Binder #1: Dinner

Main Dish





Binder #2: Treats






(I haven’t actually labeled the dividers yet because I want to make sure I like my categories.)

Then I broke down some of the larger categories into sub categories with smaller tabs.  For example, under ‘Main Dish’ I have chicken, beef, fish, soups, etc.

Now these binders are not full with recipes.  I purposely bought two binders because I wanted to have room to grow and have space to add in the new recipes we come across all the time.


Once I got all my recipes in, divided and organized, it was time to add some personal touches here and there.  I wanted it to be more than a recipe collection.

So I marked who loved certain recipes.

I wrote down common recipe adjustments.

Sometimes if there were a special story with the recipe I wrote it down.

Lastly, I made labels for the front of the binder and covered the binders with contact paper, so they would be more washable and last longer.  I had never used contact paper before and it was surprisingly forgiving.  I think I pulled it all off at one point and started over.

If you have any desire to reorganize your recipes, I would suggest just tackling one category a day or you could use the 10 minute Rule.  Like I just did ‘breads’ one day and then I did ‘cookies’ another day.  It took be several days and several weeks to complete this project, but I am really enjoying my new recipe system.  And because it accommodates all recipe formats, it is so easy to maintain. I don’t have any stacks of recipes anywhere; they just go right into the binders. I feel like one black hole has been conquered.


10 thoughts on “Organizing Recipes”

  1. In a desire to go as paperless as possible, a few years ago I began using the free Evernote app on laptop and mobile devices, all of which sync in the cloud. Evernote is a digital filing cabinet. I web clip, type, scan, or drag and drop (PDFs) recipes into Evernote, beginning each recipe title with its category, e.g., Appetizer. Each note in EN is searchable. When I want to use a recipe, I prop my iPad or iPhone on the counter or window sill. I’ve been able to scan and save handwritten recipes from my grandmother and mother. A recipe note is easily shared via email, Twitter, Facebook or URL. So easy and convenient!

    1. Joy, thanks for the tip. My husband is a big Evernote fan as well. I think this is a great idea for those people that are tech savvy and prefer electronics. I am just technologically challenged and still prefer paper. I still concept ideas on a yellow legal pad. Maybe one day I will get up to speed.

  2. I desperately need to do this…I’ve been putting this off for so long. I’ve used sheet protectors for most…love the photo paper idea..didn’t know they still made those.

  3. I’ve been thinking about this since you first showed me. I really want but don’t want to do it. You know what I mean. Dread, dread, dread. They look great and I really like what you’ve done. Great ideas.

  4. Your in my mind! I’ve been working on this same thing except, I’ve been typing out all my recipes to put them in a binder with sheet protectors…..Sticky photo paper genuis! I figured I better nip this before my recipes grow and I NEVER want to touch them. Love it:)

  5. OK My husband is going to LOVE you! His biggest complaint about my kitchen is my recipe system…..aka no system. My recipes looke alot like your top picture except I don’t even have a labled drawer. Thanks for the idea because I really had no idea how to tackle this.
    I better run to target before there is a rush on those photo albums 🙂

  6. I’ve done alright keeping caught up with my recipes, I just wanted to let you know that I LOVE your handwriting!

  7. I have done one with the sticky photo pages. I love it. I took it to my family Christmas gathering just to show them. I want to get some binders and and page protectors to do some more.
    My only suggestion would be really think about your catergories before you start. After I did the basics, I wanted to add ones for the different holidays.
    I also do this with different ideas that I get out of magazines like cleaning tips, money saving, and crafts.

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