You love to try new recipes and are always clipping them out of magazines and downloading them from the web. You have piles of these you want to try. You have a collection of recipe cards from your grandma, some of which you’ll never make, some of which are deteriorating.
1) Plan It Out
Get a notepad and do some brainstorming before you even touch your recipes. You can organize them effectively in several different ways. Two main categories you will use are “To Try” and “Keepers.” These should be kept separate, with recipes earning the right to move into the “Keepers” collection after you’ve tried them and decided they’re worth making again.
2) Contain Your Clips
Your To Try clippings need just a basic framework of the organization. Major categories such as “main dishes” and “desserts,” and even “miscellaneous” can suffice. Start by sorting your untried recipes into piles in your chosen categories. Weed out ones you’ll never really make. After you have them sorted, use what you have on hand to store them. Manila folders in a crate or box, page protectors or pocket dividers in a three-ring binder, hanging files in a file box—any of these will work. This collection is fluid and temporary. You’ll just be browsing in it to find a recipe that tickles your fancy at the moment. Weed through these every few months to not let your To Try recipes outgrow their storage container.
3) Your Permanent Collection
You will want to arrange your Keepers recipes with more precision. Experiment on your notepad with possible lists of categories. Standard ways to arrange things include by parts of the meal (appetizers, salads, soups, main dishes, desserts) or by major ingredient (meats, seafood, pasta, vegetarian).
Other possible systems might include organizing by season or by cooking method (crockpot, pressure cooker, oven). Check the table of contents in your favorite cookbooks to see how the recipes are arranged in them. Decide which scheme of divisions will work best for you based on the way you cook and your existing collection.
Now choose your storage system. Classic recipe boxes come in several sizes and are a tried and true organizational system. Spring for a new set of divider cards at your local office supply and use a label maker to print tidy labels for your categories.
You may prefer a binder that slides into a bookshelf instead of a box taking up counter space. Using a binder allows for continual refinement of your collection. Notebook divider pages take the place of divider cards and can be labeled however you like. If you like whole-page printouts of recipes (as they will often be when you download from cooking sites), use inexpensive page protector sleeves.
You can take one page out of the binder to use, then pop it back in when you’re done. If you decide the recipe should go in a different section, that’s easy to change, too. (You could stick a note down on one corner reminding you where the recipe goes in your binder.)
If you like standard 3-by-5 or 4-by-6 recipe cards, get photo album pages with pockets the right size. Recipes are easily pulled out for use and easily replaced in the empty pocket.
4) Heirloom Recipes
Consider keeping a section for the recipes you’ve had handed down to you. Even if you know you will never make these dishes; you’ll always be glad you preserved the cards bearing a beloved relative’s handwriting or quaint directions involving wood stoves and iceboxes.