How I Organize My Recipes

posted by Andrea | 08/19/2011

Lately, I’ve gotten several requests to show how I organize my recipes. And I think it’s probably the perfect time of year to talk about organizing recipes since the busy back-to-school season is almost here… and then before you know it, you’ll be cooking and baking for the holidays!

In my opinion, it’s really important to have some sort of method to organize your recipes as it makes meal planning just that much easier. And I stress the “some sort of method” because, like any organizing project, there are always 101 ways to do it. You should choose the best method for you, your family, and your cooking needs.

Here’s how I organize my paper recipes:

First of all, let me just warn you that my method for organizing recipes is really NOT fancy!! I use the recipe box and dividers you see below {all of which I purchased for $1.00 from the Salvation Army thrift store when I was in college!}

The recipes in my recipe box are a mix of hand-written recipes from family and friends, recipes I’ve torn out of magazines or newspapers, and our favorite recipes that I’ve printed off the Internet {I only print online recipes after I try them and know that we like them}.

Also, I should mention that whenever I get a magazine {which is not that often} I quickly flip through it and rip out anything that looks interesting to me. The recipes go straight into my recipe box, house project and decorating ideas go into my “Ideas Book”, and any articles I want to read go on the coffee table. Then the rest of the magazine {about 90%} is recycled… right away!

OK, back to my recipe box…

Here’s a close-up look at the different categories. I obviously did not choose the categories since they came with the box; however, they seem to work pretty well {at least well enough that I haven’t felt the need to change them myself!}

Every few months, I take my recipe box over to the couch and flip through all the recipes while I’m watching TV. I’ll weed out any that I know I won’t make any more, pull out a few that I “forgot about” and would like to make, and just do a general decluttering and reorganizing of the box {believe me, it needs it!}

This method has worked wonderfully for me for the past 5 years and the box fits perfectly on a little shelf in my kitchen.

How I Organize my Online Recipes:

I do a HUGE amount of my recipes “shopping” online. I love using online recipes tools like,, and  a variety of food blogs to find and organize my online recipes. And now that I have a good amount of recipes right here on my own blog, I find myself searching my recipe archives to find the recipe I want to make!

When I find a recipe I want to try, I either email it to myself, pin it to my Pinterest account, or store it in my online recipe box at If we really loved the recipe, then I’ll print it off and put it in my paper recipe box.

I like to try new recipes all the time, so the Internet is by far my favorite “recipe box” because I can find hundreds of different recipes that match my search criteria within seconds… amazing!

I simply search for the recipes I want to make {either by type, by season, by ingredients, etc} brows through the different options, and then bring my laptop to the kitchen and start cooking. If you don’t have a laptop, you could print the recipes off — but I like to eliminate as much paper as possible so I just use my laptop.

Other methods to organize recipes:

1. A 3-ring Binder:

I know several people who put all the recipes in a 3-ring binder with clear plastic page protectors. This method is great because your recipes stay protected from food spills, but it’s also a little bulky for my taste. Plus, if I’m looking for a cookie recipe or a beef recipe, I like grabbing the entire category and flipping through it one by one — or doing an online search.

2. Recipe Books:

Recipe books are a valuable resource in the kitchen {I know people who have hundreds of recipe books} but for me, they simply take up too much space! I have a few school and church cookbooks with recipes for “normal” cooking, and every now and then I like to get a few fancier cookbooks from the library just to look at the pictures and drool over the delicious foods!

Recipe books are a great source of recipes, however, I personally think it’s much easier to look at one category of a recipe box {or online} than to page through book after book to find the recipe I want to make.

3. Online:

I mentioned that I find a large number of my recipes online — and I know there are tons of other people who do the same. Two of the websites I mentioned above — and — offer great ways to store and organize your recipes online. If you haven’t looked into either option before, I would highly recommend it!


I’m sure there are many, many different ways to store and organize recipes — and now that you know how I organize mine, I’d love to know…

How do YOU organized your recipes?


Filed under: FoodMeal PlanningTips and Tools

Leave a comment


  1. Mary


    What is the tab #15 in your recipe box?
    I can’t see it! 🙂


  2. Holly Q


    Thanks for all the ideas. One point I would like to make about online tools that keeps me from using them is that many of them will eventually go out of business leaving me stuck to probably print out everything I want to keep anyway. I’m sure I can forget about them providing some sort of export that another system can read. These things are generally so proprietary and it would take so much effort to build an ‘interface’ to that it just is very unlikely. When yahoo stopped supporting their bookmarking application, I was actually able to export to internet explorer but the export didn’t include my notes, which was a large part of the reason I used their system. And that was Yahoo! And I have seen so many online businesses go out, I just hate the idea of spending massive amounts of time and energy painstakingly creating my recipe empire only to have it basically be under someone elses control. No, for me, I will just bite the bullet and continue to organize my mountain of paper recipes into folders, and then transfer the keepers to my ‘master’ recipe box. Although, I really liked the photo album idea as well.

    Jenny makes a good point as well. I agree with you on that 😉


  3. Jenny


    My question/concern about evernote and/or computer or online storage is that we are soooo proud to own our mom’s signature dishes, or grandmother’s cookie recipes… but isn’t what we are doing in essence is killing our history by storing our creations online. What am I handing down to my grandkids, my evernote account password??? Really?
    Doesn’t keeping our legacies going mean anything anymore. When I found my great grandmother box of cards, I was proud, honored to have this history. I guess our history we are creating is hoping that our blogs are not destroyed and our grandkids get proud when they say, “I found my grandma’s old blog.”
    I agree evernote is a way to easily access, but are we really STORING our life this way?


  4. Holly


    You might find these kits for three ring binders of interest. Especially the ones for recipes.


    Holly Reply:

    Sorry – here is the link


  5. Allison


    I have a small folder of recipes that I use on a weekly basis – pancakes, muffins, flatbreads, biscuits. Then I have a recipe box similar to yours. As of late, I am finding that I really like using the iPad for my recipes. I copy them to the notes and then I can search if I want. It doesn’t take up much space on the counter when I am cooking and there is no paper clutter. I also don’t have to bend down to look at the screen, or find anywhere to plug it in… Hoping to put more of my paper ones on it! I also put copies in my email just in case…


  6. Debbie D.


    I’m curious as to what tab #15 is in your recipe box. I keep some recipes in my recipe box (especially the ones hand-written by my mom), some are saved on my computer, and I also use websites as reference, too. Thank you for making some of your recipes available here on your website. I do reference them often. 🙂


    NAN Reply:

    I think tab 15 is ‘breakfast’


  7. Michele Hoover


    I can read this recipes website. I like this website. Everyone has a computer to look at recipes.


  8. Joanna


    I’m working on paring my recipes down using the 30 meals method outlined at It’s hard to get rid of recipes, but realistically, I’m only going to make so many of them and I want to do different things besides make the really time-consuming ones. Why let them take up space on my counter?


  9. Mary


    Paprika–syncs between my iMac, iPhone, and iPad. I like it a lot!


  10. Amber


    I use to store all my recipes in a binder, but I have to admit it was a mess. I recently discovered and LOVE it! It is by far the best tool I have found for saving, editing, organizing, sharing, and even creating recipes!


  11. Scott Fadick


    I had several boxes of dog eared, marked up recipes on random bits of paper that I wanted to organize on my computer, but I couldn’t find any site or program that did exactly what I wanted. My solution was to put together web site that did. It lets you add text recipes, organize them and add notes without being too obnoxious with ads and hype. I’d appreciate it if you took a look, it’s at


  12. Deb @ HLS


    I use the binder system and am in the middle of writing all about it on my blog – whatever system people choose I just think organising your recipes and meal planning are the easiest ways to keep your sanity when it comes to feeding a family!


  13. Kristen @ Joyfullythriving


    I use a recipe box just like you, Andrea. It’s the way Mom did it and it works for me. I do periodically think about paring down my cookbooks, but they are just so pretty to look through! Taste of Home always has great inspiration, too. Still, I am working on simplifying to the ones I really use. I like your idea of paring out your recipe box periodically.


  14. Lyn


    I like your system! 🙂 I have a lot of printed recipes and honestly wish I didn’t have so many (hindsight). Might you have any ideas how to convert something like that into a box method like you have? Or should I just bite the bullet and write out/type recipes on cards instead? I need to be more efficient with dealing with recipes.


    Andrea Reply:

    Lyn, I’m not sure what you mean… if you have a bunch of “printed recipes” couldn’t you simply find a box, create dividers from construction paper, and file them like mine? Why would you have to write our/type them on cards if they are already printed?

    My recipes are all different shapes, sizes and I just fold them to fit in my box. It’s not gorgeous, but it’s organized and it works!


  15. Jill


    I also have a hodge podge of places to put recipes. I love to collect recipes but have a hard time organizing them. I have several different recipe boxes, to binders where I place recipes I have collected from the interent to cookbooks to magaizines to boxes where loose recipes sit . I feel so unorganized and cluttered with recipes that I don’t even make because I don’t know what I have. I aslo love to collect cookbooks and though I have given some away I still have too many. One of my goals is to not renew or order any more magazine subsriptions because i have boxes of recipe magaizines that I don’t use because I don’t have a system to use them with. It seams like a never ending cycle.


  16. Lisa Harrison


    Me? I have 3-ring binders with clear sheets. Has worked great. Not the prettiest method, but very efficient.


  17. Rivki Locker


    Thanks for the tips! Since I find more and more of my recipes online now, I use Evernote. I have it on my phone, iPad, and computer. No matter which device I find it on, I clip it to Evernote which means I have access from anywhere. (No, I’m not making a commission 🙂 I just think it’s a REALLY good tool.)


  18. Sonia Crawford


    I had been in the process of putting all of my recipes on the computer and then printing them out – a lot of recipes I get come from online – but I had no way to search for a recipe that way so I went looking for a program. I tried 20 different programs and finally chose “Home Cookin” by Mountain Software. I love it. My husband then bought me a little netbook for my birthday to use as my “cookbook” and everything goes in there. I can search, have pictures, make notes, resize, make a grocery list, etc. It had most everything I could want in a software and it’s all in one place that I can take anywhere I go. Love it.


  19. Frances


    I keep my own recipes in a photo album on 4 by 6 index cards. The pages are splatter free and fun to flip through. If I try a recipe in a cookbook I use a pencil to mark in my changes. My cookbooks are truly my own now! I sometimes forget how much the recipes are modified because I flip to that page and when someone asks where they can get the recipe I tell them what cookbook I got it from! Whoops!


  20. April Driggers


    I have a hodgepodge system that is currently in renovation mode. I have recipe accounts on every stinkin’ recipe site known to man — Kraft, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, etc. I am in the process of combining all of those to ONE place — bookmarked on I like this because I can add tags to the links so if the recipe is for The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, I can add tags like: breakfast, muffin, baking, chocolate-chip, banana. This way if I can’t remember where I filed it, I can just sort through the different labels and voila, I always find it. I thought about doing it on Pinterest but I like the categories broken down too much and would have to create too many boards.

    I also have been using MasterCook 11 software. I like this because I can meal plan with it, scale recipes up OR down, give credit where credit is due and create shopping lists, add notes and more. I try to do 10 recipes a day that way and then feel like I’m at least working on the problem.

    I also have a hanging file folder with dividers that I put recipes that I’ve printed or torn out of magazines in that are yet to be tried. I’m sick of this system and really would like to find another way to store these. Perhaps a 3 ring binder. The only problem with this for me is that it won’t fit in my kitchen shelves…and frankly binders — they’re just SO UGLY!

    If they’re tried n true, they’re on a card in a recipe box in the kitchen — but I would like something … foofier! I dunno…

    Eventually, I hope to have all my recipes in my Mastercook software so that I can print out my own cookbook of all my favorites.



  21. Rebekah


    LOVE that you wrote about this! One of my NUMBER ONE trials! =) Thx for the tips!


  22. Kirsten


    I use BigOven software. I can access them on my computer or my iPhone. The toughest part for me is not saving EVERY recipe!


  23. Jennifer


    I have been using Evernote to grab recipes from all over the place. I love the functionality of Plan to Eat, but like the grab function so well on Evernote. Would love a system that combines the two.