Organization in the Real Food Kitchen: My Recipe Binder

We’ve talked about some ways to streamline our meal planning, as well as how to use lists of your favorite recipes for ease of planning and quick reference. Here is the last step of the recent meal planning/recipe overhaul that my own kitchen has been receiving lately:

recipe binder outside

My beloved recipe binder!

It doesn’t get much simpler and cheaper than this, and yet this system is a really efficient way to manage all of my favorite recipes. Since I began using the internet in a more significant way, I now find that I rely on my printed and handwritten recipe cards much more than I use my cookbooks these days. Transforming one binder into my recipe store-all has made meal time preparation oh-so-much-easier!

To make a similar binder of your own, here’s what you will need:

  • A large photo album (the kind with plastic pages with slots intended for slipping photos into), that has a 3-ring binder system that you can open and close. I think I got mine in a set of 2 albums for about $10.
  • Lots of index cards. White, colored, it doesn’t matter. The dollar store can be a great place to buy them cheap.
  • Some sort of sticky, colored tabs. I am currently using paper sticky tabs, similar to mini Post-It notes. These are only temporary, as they will ultimately come off or rip. Next chance I get, I’m going to pick up some Post-It Flags (like these) which are much more durable. The other option is to get actual binder dividing pages, although these will add more bulk to your binder, which I doubt that you need (I know that I certainly don’t- it’s full enough on its own!).

recipe binder at a glance

An inside look. It’s certainly nothing fancy. I do love, though, how I can flip through and see at a quick glance the recipes that I’m looking for, through the plastic page protectors.

To keep it organized by recipe type, here’s what I’ve done with my tabs:

tabs on recipe binder

I didn’t color coordinate my tabs, although you could. There’s a bit of method to my madness in that all of my Main Dish tabs are dark pink, both of my Treats tabs are light pink, but it doesn’t go much beyond that. The main point was to change up the colors and space them out so that I could easily find what I’m looking for.

Here is how I’ve organized my recipes:

  • Main- Chicken
  • Main- Beef (meat)
  • Main- Fish
  • Main- Vegetarian
  • Veggies and Sides
  • Salads
  • Soups and Stews
  • Appies
  • Treats- Healthy
  • Treats- Company (not so healthy, but ones I sometimes serve to guests who aren’t into my healthy offerings as much)
  • Breakfast
  • Drinks
  • Breads
  • Special Holiday (like Passover recipes, for instance)
  • Dressings/Sauces
  • Condiments
  • Finger foods (pickles, beef jerky, etc.)

I’m sure that you could come up with other categories or ways of ordering your recipes, but this is just what works for me. Each category gets just enough pages to fit how many recipes I currently have, but the beauty of using something with a 3-ring binder system is that I can keep all of my empty, unused pages at the back of the binder and as I need a new page, I just grab one from the back, open up the rings and stick it in the category where it belongs.

open recipe page in binder

This last photo is just to show you how this system works, even without having each and every one of your recipes printed neatly onto matching 3 x 5 index cards (because most of us just aren’t like that in real life, are we?). You can see that in my binder, I have a bit of a mish-mash, but it really doesn’t matter. On this page you can see 2 recipes that I copied out onto cards (one from a friend, and one from a library cookbook). There’s another recipe that is a photocopy from a friend’s cookbook, with some of my own notes scrawled on it. The one on the bottom left is taken from a blog (Turkey Stromboli from Heavenly Homemakers). I copied the text in the blog post, pasted it into a Word document, printed it and then just folded it up to fit.

One good thing to know if you’re big into getting recipes from online sites (like allrecipes.com, or epicurious, etc.) is that most of them have a printing option to create a 3×5 index card. When you choose this option, you can just cut out the recipe, fold it in half, and it’s a perfect size for fitting in your recipe binder!

Ahh… at last. All of my recipes are organized and meal planning will be a snap. Now does someone just want to come and do my cooking for me? Pretty please?

(Scratch that. I like cooking. Wanna clean my toilets or put away my laundry? Any takers?)

What kind of a system do you use for keeping your recipes organized?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Still trying to come up with somthing like this, but want something with magnets for a weekly menu board. Got an idea as I am writing this…. doh….. cut out a sheet of seven and put magnets on the back, days on the front….. hmmmm …. got the LazyMomma’s tinker thinking….. will come up will something more permanent and post on my site someday…. someday…

  2. Good morning Stephanie, Thanks for your helpful page on making a recipe binder. Not too many young people have the time or even want to do something like this. I want to make a recipe binder for my daughter for Christmas. This is a really great inspiration from you to help someone like me. I am a grandmother of four, with three children of my own. I had been wanting to do something like this for a long time, just didn’t know where to start! God bless you, Faye

  3. Hi,
    my binder is very similar to yours, except what I use is the sticky type pages for photo albums. That way when I print or clip a recipe I stick it on the page & can fit several recipes on one page. It also means my recipes stay under the plastic, protected. Of course, this is not a forever solution because after a decade or so these kind of pages lose their stickiness. So, either I get new sticky pages or figure out a new system! I like the pocket pages, but I would need to put my recipes on 3×5 cards so I can see them without removing them. I may do this for my new NT friendly recipes! New book time!

  4. I have been struggling with how to re-do my recipe binder. At this point it feels unorganized and it getting large because I have one recipe per page in sheet protectors. Thanks for some inspiration!

  5. I came across your blog recently and didn’t realize till just now that we probably live in the same area. How exciting to find another mom around here with the same ideas about nutrition as I do! I’m a Christian and mom of 2 as well. I’ll be sure to check back to your blog often. :)

    I came across your blog originally cause I was looking for a place to get kefir grains – any advice? I’m very new to the whole kefir thing but I’ve been buying store bought kefir and I love it.

    • @Simone, There are a few places online to get them (like Cultures for Health is good). If you live near me, though, I don’t mind giving you some of mine. Why don’t you email me and we’ll see how close we really do live? stephanie (at) keeperofthehome (dot) com

  6. Using a photo album is a great idea. I have a couple of binders now, but the picture openings in yours are much better than my sheet protectors! Thank you for sharing!
    .-= Amy Lynne´s last blog ..Menu Plan for the Week 1-24-10 =-.

  7. Great idea for organizing recipes on cards.

    I too use a binder, but ours recipes are printed on 8X10 or written on all sorts of strange shapes of paper, so they are in page protectors…which aren’t protective ENOUGH in this house of many helpers!

    Good luck finding a toilet cleaner! :)

    Thanks for sharing your creativity.
    .-= Christy B.´s last blog ..Letter from Christ =-.

  8. I, too, keep a binder much like yours! I still have trouble finding time to put in all the recipes I copy or cut out, but I’m working on it. I also added sections on canning/preserving and fermentation.

  9. I’ve been thinking about doing this for so long, but this system is better than what I had planned — thanks!

  10. I have the exact same system, except I want to RE-DO it soon!

    Hey, I’d love to meet you at Blissdom! Last year was a blast!

  11. How funny that you posted this today! After reading your last entry about the homemakers notebook, I decided that what I really needed was a recipe binder because all my “favorite” recipes are in my notebooks (which change every year!) and therefore have to be re-written.

    So, I went up to my office and found a folder and then started a folder very similar to this one!
    .-= Natasha´s last blog ..About Haiti. =-.

  12. I passed along a award,if you are interested in taking part in.

  13. I have a 3-ring recipe binder similar to yours, but I’m a cookbook junkie as well.

    If I have a recipe I use over and over from a certain cookbook I tab it with a post it. If I try something and it does not turn out well, I write that IN the cookbook so I don’t make the same mistake twice! I also write the date of the first time I try something, and any adjustments/variations I’ve made or want to try. Its neat to go back and see something I made during the first month of my marriage or for my husband’s birthday!

    Hopefully my (yet to be conceived) kids will treasure the cookbooks all splattered on, marked up and dog-eared that I pass on to them!
    .-= Kait Palmer´s last blog ..Wardrobe Challenge Day 7 & 8 =-.

  14. Stephanie, you have definitely inspired me–my recipe binder project starts this weekend! Thank you.
    .-= alexis´s last blog ..Preparing Nourishing Food During Seasons of Busyness =-.

  15. I love seeing other people’s organizational tools. I blogged my recipe binder last week. You can take a peek here: http://tadacreations.blogspot.com/2010/01/recipe-organization.html

    One thing that I still need to do is add little tabs sticking out the top of the binder that tell me which recipes use ingredients like buttermilk, half and half, fresh herbs, etc… Things that I hate to buy for just one recipe when it means the leftovers may go to waste.
    .-= Angel/TaDa! Creations´s last blog ..A Giveawy is Coming! =-.

  16. I love your recipe binder! We just had baby #4 and my menu planning and ideas are taking a hard hit! The photo album idea is perfect! I hope to implement it as soon as I can get an album! Thanks!

  17. I love getting a peek at how others organize their recipes; thanks for sharing! I wrote about how I divide recipes sections in my binder here: http://vanessa.hoozh.net/2009/10/13/tabs-in-the-recipe-book/
    .-= Vanessa´s last blog ..Yummy Granola =-.

  18. Thanks so much for sharing this! I have a system of organization, but only with my 3.5 x 5″ cards. I have them alphabetized, but as you point out, many recipes are not my own. I have so many from websites and other people that just get crammed somewhere. I like the binder idea! Thanks too for sharing your labels for each section. I’ll use many of those for my recipes as well!
    I think I’ll organize mine and then put it on my blog as well. :) Thanks for the great idea!

  19. THanks for sharing, I enjoyed seeing yours. I am working on mine, and its going really well. It needed updating since it had not been done majorly since I was first married. Things have changed A LOT since then! :)

    I use plastic sheet protectors for mine, since I only have recipes that are printed off that way, or that are photocopied that way. My new lists of each type of meal tell me where the other recipes are that aren’t in the binder, but there are only a few in cookbooks. Its great having it all more organized and I look forward to finishing it really soon. Thanks for the inspiration to get going.

  20. Mrs. Rocal Lanotte says:

    I have a great cookbook library, accumulated over many years. I also have many recipes – all collected from web sources – in document files on a hard drive. Those are my two primary resources for menu planning and meal prep with the real books being my favorite to use. I forgot to mention that I have a shoebox full of recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines, a habit started way back in my teen years. We’ve been trying to weed them out by trying a few every month. Just can’t bring myself to dumping them all untried or at least considered… You can buy stick-on divider tabs, just like the ones on regular notebook divider pages, complete with little cards to slip in the plastic tabs, though they might be too permanent for your notebook, which, by-the-way, is a great idea. Blessings!

  21. Organizing my recipes has been one of the best things that I have done for my kitchen! I love to try new recipes, but then if we like it I can never remember what cookbook I got it out of. So I created my own recipe book. I have a short article on my website that explains how I do it. I even have some downloads to help you get started here: http://www.school4jesus.com/How-to-Make-Your-Own-Recipe-Book.html

    What I do is if I try a recipe and we really like it, then I add it to my list of recipes in my Home Management Binder (for use when making menu plans) and then type out the recipe nice and pretty and then slip it into a sheet protector in the appropriate section of my recipe book.

    I have this stack of recipes that I have printed out from the internet that I want to try…that sits on top of my microwave. It doesn’t make it into my recipe book until we have tried it and liked it. The recipe book is only for those recipes that we like and that I plan on using. This system has worked great for me….you guys all need to give it a try!

    Thanks Stephanie for sharing how you have organized your recipes!
    .-= Sheri Graham´s last blog ..An amazing homeschool package….and helping a family in need =-.

  22. I have a program called Living Cook that I find really helpful.
    .-= The Local Cook´s last blog ..Lime-Ginger Marmalade (Can Jam Challenge) =-.