gourmet file: a cook's guide to the web

How To Organize Your Recipes

accordian style recipe organizer

Recently I did some advanced spring cleaning and organized my recipes, an unwieldy mess of magazine and newspaper clippings, heirloom recipe cards, scribbled notes and internet printouts. I also spent time researching free recipe organizers on the web. Since I'm sure I'm not the only one drowning in a sea of recipes, I thought I'd share my findings.

How to Organize Your Recipes on Paper

I began my recipe organization project by reading this excellent article by Alice Henneman, aptly titled "Organizing Your Recipe Collection." One of the article's most useful suggestions is to separate recipes into two groups: "keepers" (recipes that you've tried and would make again) and "never tried."

recipe binders pages organizers books recipe binders pages organizers books

I stored my "keepers" in a 3-ring binder with tabbed page dividers and clear plastic sheet protectors to hold the recipes. I chose this organizing system because it can accommodate everything from letter-sized sheets to 3x5 recipe cards, which can fit into plastic photo protectors. In the future I can easily expand my recipe collection into additional notebooks.

accordian style recipe organizer

Then I sorted through the "never tried" recipes, tossing out quite a few, and placed those in an expandable tabbed accordion file. I found this beautiful plastic file at a Japanese bookstore here in New York called Books Kinokuniya.

Free Online Recipe Organizers:

There many free ways to store and organize your recipes online. Here are just a few options:

Recipe Thing is a free recipe sharing & organizing website where you can upload any recipes, your own or from the web. The site also features an interactive weekly meal planner which will generate a shopping list based on your recipes. What I like about Recipe Thing is its simplicity. Recipes are easy to upload, and with just a click you can email a recipe or print out a copy in printer-friendly format. And if you want to transfer your recipes from Recipe Thing to your computer, it's easy to export your recipes as a plain text file. This is a very useful function, one that other recipe sharing sites don't offer. This site has one feature that might bother some people: while your identity on Recipe Thing remains private--users only see your screen name-- all your recipes can be viewed by others. If you you're looking to safeguard your top secret recipes, this might not work for you.

All Recipes, the recipe sharing and online cooking community, offers a free online recipe box service. While it's a bit more complicated to use than Recipe Thing, it too allows you to organize recipes from any source. All Recipes also offers a shopping list generator and you can print out recipes in various formats, including recipe cards. You can also order a custom cookbook printed from your recipes and illustrated with your photos. For people who want to keep their recipes private, All Recipes lets you decide whether or not your recipes can be viewed by others. Unlike Recipe Thing, however, All Recipes doesn't offer any way to download your online recipes to your computer. Once you've uploaded your recipes to All Recipes, you can't easily move them.

Epicurious, the mega recipe site, allows you to create a free recipe box with recipes from the Epicurious site along with your own recipes. Here you can choose to make your recipes private or public, email recipes, print out recipes in various formats and order custom printed cookbooks. Similar to All Recipes, there is no obvious way to move your recipes from your Epicurious recipe box to your computer.

Google offers lots of free organizational tools. For instance, you can sign up for a free Gmail (email) account and use it as a simple online recipe storage system. The Parent Hacks website describes how to do this. Another option is Google Docs, Google's free document storage and sharing service. Google Docs allows you to create and store files online, organize them into folders and share them with others. This can be used to store your recipe files. Once you've uploaded your files, you can use Google's "Search Docs" feature, which functions like a mini search engine for your files, to locate specific recipes stored on Google Docs. While these Google methods don't offer the bells and whistles that the above websites provide, they are free, simple solutions for storing, viewing and downloading your recipes.

del.icio.us is one of many social bookmarking sites people use to organize and share weblinks about any topic, not just cooking. Elise at Simply Recipes writes here about how she uses del.icio.us to organize her online recipe links.