I’ve been collecting recipes on bits of paper forever – well, since 1987, and that is before some of my readers were born! You would think I’d have a system, but I don’t. They sit in a manila file folder which grows thicker and thicker: 3″. The folder itself is getting softer and softer and starting to disintegrate. I can barely pull it off the cookbook shelf.
About ten years ago I laboriously typed out all the recipes into a document and saved it. I thought I would print them out onto recipe cards, or just read them on the computer as needed. That was a complete failure. I like having it as a backup, but for me, there is nothing like handling a recipe that someone hand-wrote or dictated to me. Or something I clipped from a homemaking magazine or photocopied from a library book. Looking at the piece of paper brings back memories of who I knew and what I did then. Just like a playlist!
This weekend I had a go at organizing the folder. The recipes were in no order except the most recently used were on top, and the never-used were at the bottom, with various strata in between! I pulled together a large assortment of stationery supplies that I already owned. (I have a serious trove of stationery supplies and even some scrapbooking stuff).
I wanted to be able to find recipes in a way that makes sense to me for the way I cook (or bake), so I developed the following categories:
- Chilis and Stews
- Curries and a Tagine
- Risottos and Pilafs (what are the actual plural forms of these?)
- Pasta Dishes and Sauces
- Oven Meals (casseroles, loaves)
- Other (omelettes, quiches, pancakes…)
- Reference pages on which foods are grown locally and at what time of year
- Quick Breads, Loaves and Muffins
- Desserts (crisps, cobblers and puddings)
- Cookies (I also have a few recipes for squares/slices)
- Candy (fudge, etc.)
and Misc (drinks, jams and jellies, granola…)
and I do have one section of meat and fish recipes I used to make. Maybe I can adapt some of them. Tofu à la King? More likely mushroom!
I now have two 3-ring binders, one for meals and one for all the rest. Each binder is tabbed into the categories, and all the recipes are put into plastic page protectors. If I need to see both sides, I put only one recipe in the sleeve. Otherwise they can go back to back. Since a lot of them are on small pieces of paper, they slide around in the sleeves. I have put sheets of paper or cardstock behind the recipes as needed. As a last resort, I will use photo corners to keep them in place. Definitely no glue, tape or paper clips! (And yes, the page protectors are archival!)
I’m thinking I can write notes on the backing paper about how I adjusted the recipe or when I made it.
The final stage, for next weekend, is to order the recipes in each category so my favourites are at the front, ones I’ve tried and liked are in the middle, and untested recipes are at the back of each section. They will get moved up if I try and like them. I have already turfed (recycled) all the recipes I’ve never tried and know I never will – mostly cut from magazines and food packages.
I have several cookbooks that I use often to make the same 2 or 3 recipes. I will copy those recipes into my binders so it is more of a complete reference. If I am not enamoured of the whole cookbook, it can go. I have already printed some recipes that I bookmarked online. A couple of my favourites were inexplicably taken down from their web sites! I can’t risk losing more of my favourites that way.
I am enjoying this project and it has inspired me to want to cook more. I’m wondering about my choices: I could have organized the meals into how long it takes to make them , or by season.
Although I do loads of modifications, I will never be someone who cooks without recipes. I think there is only one chili recipe I ever memorized! How about you?
And how do you organize your recipes?