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Organize your Recipes for Easy Meal Planning

Cooking for your family everyday can become a little mundane, especially if you keep repeating the same meals over and over. Most creative cooks will agree that it’s fun to vary meals to include not only family favorites but also interesting finds that you may spot in a cookbook, magazine, newspaper, or online. 

While you no doubt cook many of your tried-and-true recipes from memory, trying something new usually demands you have the recipe in front of you. No problem, right? Well, if you’re a constant recipe clipper but not a terribly organized individual, chances are your recipes are scattered in various places, making it difficult to put your finger on the one for which you’re searching. 

Organizing your recipes in a logical system that’s easy for you to navigate makes cooking and planning a whole lot easier. There are various different methods for organizing recipes. Some will involve a little more work than others, but in the end, it’ll be a breeze to find the recipes you seek.

Marking cookbook recipes – If you have an endless supply of cookbooks, it’s time consuming to thumb through all of them for a particular recipe or type of recipe. Though this will take a lot of time initially, it’s best to go through each book and mark the recipes you like and the ones you’d like to try. Use color-coded sticky tabs to differentiate between old and new recipes or to distinguish categories: i.e. appetizers, entrees, desserts (or- more specifically – chicken, fish, cookies, cakes, etc.) Another way to organize cookbook recipes is to make an index for them. Write the name of each recipe, the cookbook, and page number on a 3x5 card and file it in a recipe box according to category.

Organizing your cookbooks – If you have a huge number of cookbooks, try putting them in some sort of logical order – i.e. dessert cookbooks or ethnic cookbooks should be kept together on the shelf. This will make it easy to find things in your already marked cookbooks. And if you’re really intent on getting organized, consider removing the recipes from the books, placing them with your clipped files, and throwing away some or all of your cookbooks, recognizing the fact that you’re likely only to use a few recipes from each book.

Sorting clipped recipes – For most cooks, keeping track of the recipes you’ve cut from magazines or other sources is the most difficult. Because these recipes come in all shapes and sizes, it’s difficult to put them in recipe box unless you’re willing to re-copy them. So, instead, make your own filing system. One of the best ways to do this is to use a three-ringed binder filled with plastic sheet protectors that have an opening at the top. This way, you can merely slip a few recipes into each protector. Use standard dividers to categorize the recipes. Many craft stores or kitchen specialty stores also sell ready-made recipe organizers that can be expanded as the need arises. They might cost a little more but will save time. Also, it’s not a bad idea to browse through this binder every once in a while and throw away recipes you’ve had for a while but are yet to try.

Organizing online recipes – These days, there are literally millions of recipes to be found online and a simple one-word search may yield dozens of recipes that you find interesting. You can print them out and utilize the clipped recipe method of choice or bookmark them and place them in different electronic folders. Also, there is software available that helps you sort your online recipes as well as your print recipes.

Once you choose a particular method of organization, stick with it and use it to catalog or mark any new recipes you might find so that you don’t fall behind in your organization.