Whether you’re an accomplished chef or just someone that likes to cook and try new foods for your family, it can be easy to find hundreds of recipes that you want to try, only to have them be forgotten or unavailable when you need them. There are plenty of ways to organize your recipe collection, but trying to find the one that works for you can be maddening.
If you don’t do it correctly, every recipe you find will only end up in a black hole never to be seen again. Or worse, you’ll make something you absolutely love and never be able to recreate it because the original recipe is lost in a pile of others. It doesn’t take much to get organized, but there are a few steps you need to take before you can do it. The following tips will help you figure out the best plan of attack for you.
Get Them in One Place
Recipes come from many sources; cookbooks, cooking magazines, blogs, and handwritten recipe cards are all popular spots for getting recipes. Having a drawer full of computer printouts and torn magazine pages in your kitchen and a bookshelf full of cookbooks in another room is hardly the best way to find what you’re looking for when you need it. For this reason, your first goal of recipe organization is to figure out where you want to keep all of your recipes and then get them there.
Save or Mark Recipes Immediately
When you find a recipe, catalogue it right away, otherwise, you will likely not remember where you found it when you want it, or you’ll forget about it altogether. You can do this in a number of ways depending on the format, but you should have a system that is consistent. If it’s a magazine page, tear it out and file it for later sorting. If it’s a cookbook, use post it notes to flag the page. If it’s something that you know you want to make later, put it on your radar now.
Easily Add Notes
You want to be able to easily add notes and comments to your recipes, because as you probably know, nothing works out exactly like you had hoped. Maybe you want to add more seasoning the next time, or maybe it needed to be cooked longer. If you don’t note these things immediately, it’s likely you’ll forget next time.
Put All Recipes in the Same Format
Find out a way to get all of your recipes in the same format for ease of use. This can mean using a recipe collecting software, a binder with printouts, or an old-fashioned recipe card box that you handwrite all your recipes on. Not only does this make it easier to put all of your recipes in one place, it makes them easier to read, and thus, easier to use when you need them.
There are plenty of ways to collect recipes digitally, and there are many benefits to doing so. First of all, if your recipes are stored on your computer or tablet, they aren’t taking up physical space in your home. Cookbooks can be useful, and fun to have around, but they’re cumbersome, need storage space, and if you ever move, having boxes of books is no picnic. Even magazine pages or computer printouts can be a pain when they end up shoved in a drawer or floating around the house.
Your options for digital storage are practically endless. There are plenty of recipe organization software programs on the market, and just as many free web services that allow you to clip and save recipes you find online, or scan them in so that you always have them.
Keep in mind that if you find a lot of recipes online, it’s best to clip a screenshot of the recipe or import it into a software program rather than simply have a collection of links. If you find something on a food blog or recipe site, and that site goes down or worse, shuts down entirely, you’ve lost a recipe you love if you only have a link.
Do What Makes You Comfortable
With that being said, just because the world is going digital, it doesn’t mean that you have to. If you prefer to collect recipes in a three ring binder that you keep on your kitchen counter, then do that. Maybe you like old fashioned recipe cards, and that’s okay too.
The most important part of having an organized collection is having everything in one place, and being able to find what you need when you need it. Cooks in the past used paper systems and they worked just fine; they’ll work just fine for you if that’s what makes you most comfortable.
Divide Your Collection into Sections
You should have at least three main sections in your recipe collection: Recipes you’ve tried and love, recipes you’ve tried but want to tweak, and recipes that you want to try. You should not save anything that you know you won’t be making again. After eating, if you know you’ll never make something again, get rid of the recipe immediately, otherwise you run the risk of making something again if you’ve forgotten that you hated it.
Make a note of how many times you try something and the changes you’ve made; after a few tries if it doesn’t turn out, get rid of it. Also, don’t let the recipes to try section get out of control. Only save recipes that you know you will eventually try; if you save every single thing that sounds good; you’ll have a fairly useless collection in no time and nothing for dinner!
From these sections, you can have subsections, such as types of dishes, or supermarket staple recipes, but you need a starting point first.
Keep Recipes But Get Rid of Cookbooks
There are millions of cookbooks available out there, but just because someone wrote it, doesn’t mean it’s good or that it will work for you. Be selective about the cookbooks you buy, and look them over before buying blindly. If you see a book in the bookstore that has a few recipes you like, try finding them online and testing them out before buying a whole book.
Go through cookbooks periodically and save the recipes that you know you like, as well as those that you want to try, but get rid of the physical book if you can. It can be easy to build up a huge collection of cookbooks that you don’t use if you don’t manage them well.
Make Them Easily Searchable
No matter how or where your recipes are stored, if you can’t find what you’re looking for when you need it, your system is flawed. Digital recipe cataloguing usually makes it easy to search; you simply type the ingredient or dish into a search bar and your program will find it.
A physical collection can be more difficult to search, but it can be done. It just means meticulous separating of recipes by ingredient, meal type, or cuisine. You can also use things like binder tabs or post it notes to easily find certain recipes, and marking favorites helps too. You have to be detailed to do this; putting a recipe in the wrong category will be maddening when you can’t find what you’re looking for.
Organizing your recipes will be difficult when you first get started, but once you get over the initial set up, having an efficient system in place will definitely help you get meals on the table faster, and with much less stress.
Whether you choose a physical collection or digital is up to you. Just make sure that your recipes are easy to find when you need them, and easy to use when you’re ready to cook. Having a huge database of recipes on your computer does you no good if you don’t have a way to access them in your kitchen. Be consistent and practical, and before you know it, your recipes will be organized like a pro.