If you're anything like me, you've probably accumulated recipes from all sorts of events, restaurants, family members, websites, cookbooks, etc. I used to come straight home from a potluck and shove handfuls of loose print-outs and post-it note recipes in cabinets and drawers. Whenever I needed a particular chicken recipe or crockpot dish, I'd rifle through them and remind myself that at some point I was going to at least hole punch the grease-ridden pages and stick them in a binder. I also assured myself that the grease stains were like my personal coding system. That's how I knew which recipes were best.
Finally, a family member intervened. With this box. “Right,” I said, “because I have time to write out all my recipes and stick them in a box.” It's not like I hadn't tried to come up with a recipe organization system before. I emailed recipes to myself, bookmarked recipes, tagged them on de.li.ci.ous, entered them into a recipe database program…none of those things worked for me. How was a box going to help?
What it came down to was that I needed something organized and on paper. Don't get me wrong: I'm a tech junkie. I tweet, I facebook, and my iPhone is attached to my fingertips at all hours of the day and night. But when I sit down to read a book, I want to hold the manuscript in my hand. When I kick back on the couch with a magazine, I want to be able to pull out pages. And when I cook, I like to yank the individual recipe out and refer to it repeatedly. I want to scribble notes all over the recipe about what I loved or hated. I want the satisfaction of physically ripping the recipe into pieces and tossing it in the trash if it totally sucked. So the box worked for me. And it continues to work to this day. Here's the complete breakdown of how I organize my recipes:
Recipe boxes come with large placeholder cards that have tabs sticking up for each section: baked goods, meat, appetizers, etc. In between those section cards are slightly smaller loose cards to write your recipes on (I use regular index cards when I run out of cards that come with the box). The recipe box – since it requires time to manually write or print out cards – is reserved for only my tried-and-true favorite recipes. The recipe box is my go-to when I need a reliable meal that pleases.
For collected recipes that look good but I haven't personally had the chance to make yet, I have the recipe binder. It's really just a regular old binder from Staples with dividers for each type of recipe. It's my small way of clinging to a bit of disorganization.
Good old-fashioned cookbooks still take up a large amount of space on my kitchen shelves. It's really nice to thumb through a classic Fannie Farmer or Joy of Cooking book for inspiration now and again. And if I haven't had a chance to make something in one of the books that looks delicious, I'll use a post-it note on the page to remind myself to try it out later.