Recipe for Organization

I’m pretty new to the world of cooking.  For many years, the only action in my kitchen was when I unpacked my sushi delivery.  But since leaving politics, I have more time, and I’ve realized that I like to cook.  So I’ve spent the last year collecting recipes and cramming them into a folder in my kitchen cabinet.  I know, not very organized for a Professional Organizer. 

So this month, I’m getting those recipes organized and sharing my tips with you.
Disclaimer:  This is an organizing strategy for those of you who want to keep hard copies of your recipes all in one place.  There is much to be written and said about digital recipes books or using an online application to keep them organized.  Perhaps we’ll get to that another day. 
Step 1:  Consolidate
The first step is to consolidate all your recipes. Give some thought to the various locations you might be hiding recipes so you don’t overlook any.  You likely have recipes in several places:  cookbooks, magazines, online (either saved in a file or bookmarked on websites), loose papers, and handwritten index cards.
Next, gather loose papers and index cards.  Then, go through your cookbooks (if you haven’t already) and place a Post-it note love theseon recipes you’ve tried (look for handwritten notes and dog-eared pages) or are very likely to try. Now grab the magazines and do the same thing.  Finally, hop on your computer and print out the recipes in your saved files and from bookmarked web pages.    
Step 2:  Copy
Your next step is to make copies of each page you’ve flagged in your cookbooks and magazines.  Pretty self-explanatory, right?  It’s okay to save time here and photocopy these recipes.  Who actually has time these days to handwrite every recipe onto an index card?  You’re still making a special recipe binder to keep and use for years to come. 
Step 3:  Sort
The key to sorting your recipes is to put them into categories that make sense to you.  That’s the beauty of this organized, customized recipe binder.  A logical option is to sort based on cuisine:  Appetizers, Beverages, Breads, Desserts, Eggs and Cheese, Meats, Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Rice, Grains and Beans, Pasta, Salads and Salad Dressings, Sauces, Stews and Soups, Sandwiches, and Vegetables.  You can also sort within each category based on tested recipes and not tested recipes.
Step 4:  Build
You’re now ready to build your recipe binder.  Grab these supplies:  a three ring binder, dividers, labels or label maker, printer paper, heavy-duty sheet protectors, and tape. 
Based on the categories you identified in Step 3, make dividers with labels.  For recipes pulled from magazines, trim the edges and tape the recipe to a piece of printer paper for easy filing.  Also tape recipes on index cards to a piece of paper (one per page).  Next, slip each recipe into a sheet protector.  The sheet protectors keep sauce and such things off the recipe, and you can quickly remove the recipe from the binder and return it when you’re done cooking.  File recipes in alphabetical order based on the categories you’ve created.  Don’t forget to separate tested recipes from not tested recipes.  Use a Post-it note to separate those two sections within each category. 
Wait – you’re not done yet!  Make a one-page Recipe Review to keep with each recipe, facing out so you can see it without removing the recipe from the binder.  Here is information to put on your review sheet:  “Recipe Name,” “From,” “Date(s) Used,” “Rating (1-5),” “Notes,” “Prep Time,” “Total Time,” “Servings,” and “Calories per Serving.”  Make extra copies and leave in the back of the binder to use as you add recipes.
This is also a great opportunity to get your children involved.  Ask them to decorate the outside of your binder with artwork or photos of you and your family in the kitchen.  Cooking is such a great family tradition that this is a special way to keep your children involved and introduce them to organizing. 

Step 5:  Maintain
Depending on how often you cook and clip recipes, you might want to set aside 15-30 minutes a week or month to add recipes to your binder.  Set aside time on your calendar and add it to your To Do list.  Since you’ve got the system in place, maintenance should be a breeze! 
Only serious foodies need more than one shelf of cookbooks and magazines. Make a decision about the number of books or space available and stick to it.  Cull your recipes once a year to get rid of ones you aren’t likely to use again.  This is where your notes on the Recipe Review are helpful.  And to keep the binder from growing out of control, remove a recipe you’re not likely to try every time you add a new one.
Finally, there will be some cookbooks you want to keep for sentimental reasons or because they are just that good.  Store all your cookbooks together on a kitchen shelf with limited exposure to humidity and grease.
Step 6:  Enjoy
Now flip through your beautiful new recipe binder and enjoy your time in the kitchen.  No more randomly searching through loose papers, cookbooks, and magazines for recipes – you’ve got everything you need in one place!