How to Organize Recipes

Are you looking for some great ways to organize recipes?

I have never been much of a cook, but I have owned a recipe box since I moved away from home. I kid you not that there is a recipe in there on how to hard boil an egg!

Now, being a wife and mother I am responsible for most of the cooking. The fact that we deal with special diets due to food allergies means that my reliance on recipes has increased greatly. I can no longer just throw together some Hamburger Helper or buy chocolate chip cookies off the grocery store shelves. I make pretty much everything from scratch these days. And I have a lot more recipes to keep track of too.

Ways to Organize Recipes

There is no right or wrong way and no best way to organize recipes. The best way is the way that works for YOU. Obviously, it’s easiest to start a new recipe filing method if you are only beginning to collect recipes. But from what I read on the internet, there are many of you with 1000’s of recipes to organize. Even more challenging is to decide to completely change your current filing system to something different. Therefore, start to organize recipes sooner than later, and search well to find the system of organization that’s going to work best for you over the long term. Here are some filing systems to consider…

First, you need to break your recipes into “To Try” and “Keepers”. We find recipes in magazines, online, from friends, cookbooks, wherever, and then we put them somewhere until we’re ready to try them. You need to make a special section of whatever filing method you’re using for your “To Try” recipes so they are all together. As for cookbooks, I put sticky notes in cookbooks on recipes I intend to try. Another option would be to make a copy of that page and file it with the rest of your “To Try” recipes.

Put your “Keeper” recipes into the official filing system… typed up, written up or however you do it and file them in the appropriate category so you can find it in the future.

And now onto the various ways to organize recipes…

File Box

I started to organize recipes using a card file box for 3x5 cards, just like so many others before me. Mine was just a plain plastic box and I bought recipe dividers and colored index cards. Woohoo! I still have a lot of empty cards and several recipes ripped out of magazines folded up that never quite made it onto an official index card. There is nothing wrong with this method. I would opt for a larger 4x6 file box with cards, something a little nicer to look at perhaps. And you need to be diligent about copying your keeper recipes onto your index cards. You will most likely need to find somewhere to put your “to try” recipes as I wouldn’t make a card for them. Perhaps keep a file folder in a kitchen drawer of recipes you’ve collected to try.


I switched from my file box to a 3 ring binder when I received a Pillsbury Dough Boy recipe keeper from my husband for Christmas a couple years ago. Little did I anticipate how much I would love it. It came with about 5 divider pages for appetizers, soups, main meals, desserts, etc. and some matching blank pages in which to write your recipes on. I have indeed copied a handful of my favorite recipes onto the pages that came with the notebook. I also keep a section of my binder for “to try” recipes as well.

Lately though, I’ve been typing them up or simply printing them off of the internet, punching holes in the page and sticking it right in my notebook. So much easier and faster and leaves plenty of space to write notes. And if I need to, I can always just reprint a recipe. No worries about messing up the one I so nicely wrote out with my own hand. Actually, this binder came with two clear pages to put over the pages you’re using to protect from getting messed up. But a common alternative is to use plastic sheet covers for your pages to keep them clean. Another bonus to using a binder to organize recipes is it allows for greater flexibility in that you can add or remove recipes, make new categories and re-file your recipes into whatever categories you deem fit.

To add a personal touch to your binder, find one that appeals to you, or decorate one yourself and buy special paper you enjoy just for printing your recipes on. It will be very special and unique.

If you’re switching from a card file system to a binder, perhaps you should think about buying plastic photo pages that hold 4x6 photos (cards)… you can simply slide an index card into the slots. If you prefer not to hand write your recipes, you can input them on your computer and print them on the index cards.

Basic Components of a Recipe Binder:

  • Personalized binder you like or decorate
  • Special paper to print your recipes onto
  • Plastic sheet protectors to slip your recipes into and keep them clean
  • Dividers for categories of recipes that work for you (main meals, side dishes, etc.)
  • Section for “to try” recipes
  • “Keeper” recipes get filed into appropriate categories

Photo Albums

This method to organize recipes is very similar to the binder idea. It may cost more for photo albums than binders unless you find some bargains. There would also be less flexibility in terms of moving recipes around if you need to. You would have to move all the cards around whereas with a binder, you can just pull out a page and place it where you like. As for putting categories into a photo album, your best bet would be with adhesive labels that you stick on to pages as you need. I guess I’m partial to the binders, but some people really love using photo albums for organizing recipes.

Computer Software

I have no first hand experiences with the recipe organizing software programs out there, other than the free Allrecipes website. I prefer paper and I don’t have a computer in my kitchen, so it doesn’t make sense to me how it would benefit me. I suppose if I had a huge library of recipes, it would be great for organizing, categorizing and finding recipes easily and some software programs even make your grocery shopping list for you based on the ingredients. I know there are several reviews out there regarding the various software programs to help you decide if this is the method you want to use to organize your recipes.

Computer and Internet

I don’t use recipe software, but I DO use the computer to help organize recipes. I keep a main folder in my documents called “Recipes”. Within that I have a folder called “To Try” and “Keepers”. When I find a recipe online I will typically copy the recipe into a word document and file it in the “To try” folder. For recipes I’ve tried and want to keep, I then move them to the “Keeper” folder. As for other recipes I’ve found (offline) and tried, once they’ve been deemed a keeper, I type them up and print them out for my binder. I usually include the link to the website in which I found them, or indicate where I found the recipe for future reference if needed. Doing it this way I always have my hard copy and my back-up on the computer and it’s easy to modify, share or reprint if needed. If you want to put everything on the computer, you may want to invest in a scanner to input all those recipes from magazines and cookbooks.


Unless you have an abundance of space in your kitchen for your cookbook library and you use them regularly, you may want to put your cookbooks in another area of your home. This will make yourself some extra counter space. You can pull your cookbooks out as you need them. I only use a handful of recipes out of most of my cookbooks. Those recipes I’ve typed up and put into the “keepers” section of my recipe binder. No need to pull out an entire book for that one recipe. Instead it’s handy with my other favorite recipes.

I hope this information helps get you started to organize recipes in a fashion that best suits your needs. Happy cooking!

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