Friday, January 14, 2011

Whip your recipes into Shape

Often when I'm hired to work with a client to design a kitchen or organize an existing one, recipe organization is often at the top of the list.

A number of years ago, I had some of the same issues. Piles of recipes torn from magazines and newspapers, recipe cards that sat in a stack awaiting for me to return them to the recipe box (which seldom happened), and lots of cookbooks.

I even lost the checkbook once because of my mess - one of my daughter's favorite stories! When she and I were checking out at the grocery store, I did not have my checkbook with me! We had to run home to get it, couldn't find it and grabbed another one in a panic. (This was long before debit or credit cards were accepted at grocery stores). A good six months later I finally discovered I had scooped it up in my recipe pile and shoved it the recipe file box by mistake!

This prompted me to get my act together. I called in an expert - my mom! But it turned out she didn't have a great system either. Together, over a long weekend, we designed one that would work for both of us.

Below are the steps we took to design an efficient recipe filing system:

• Sort. This takes time. Make piles (sorted by type) of the recipes you already use and want to refer to often, (these will go into your everyday binders). Another pile for recipes you want to try, (these will go into hanging files to refer to later). Toss others that have either lost their appeal or you know you'll probably never attempt. Be honest with yourself.

• Purchase at least two large (3-4") and one small (1-2"), three-ring binders, I like these. The two larger binders are for everyday recipes, (eventually you may need more binders). The smaller binder is for holiday or seasonal recipes. Also buy tabbed page dividers and clear acetate sheet protectors plus one or two desk-top file boxes and hanging files.

• Alphabetize the section dividers by types of recipes, (Appetizers, Beverages, Desserts, etc.) and insert into binders.

• Insert recipe tear-sheets and clippings into the clear sheet protectors -  often you can place two or three recipe clippings onto one side of the protector - I secure them to printer paper with these.

• Clearly label the spines of your binders - for example: Appetizers; Meats and Pasta; Vegetables.

• Now, tackle that pile of recipes you'd like to try. Label hanging files by types of foods/recipes. Mine go from A - Z. I use two desktop files for this purpose. Make it a habit to look through these once a week while making your weekly grocery list, select a new recipe or two and try it. If you'd make it again, file it in your binder. If not, toss it.

• Finally, I keep tried and true recipes cards in a metal file box, alphabetized from A-Z by type of food.

• I also have a vintage letter file box I keep on the desk in my kitchen. When I'm too busy to file the recipes, I'll toss them into this box. Honestly - it quickly becomes a stack rather than a small pile. I need to take my own advice and get to filing!

Getting organized is the first step towards becoming a good cook. Easily finding your family's favorite recipes, and trying new ones makes dinner together that much easier.

BTW, this tip, along with eleven more can be found in my 12 Months of Organizing - A Quarter at a Time 2011 desk calendar.

For more tips, ideas and information about how I can help you to get organized, contact me at or by phone: 425 765-2490.

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