Organize Your Recipes & Preserve Some Memories

This weekend we finally conquered a project we’ve been meaning to get to for months now. Organizing our recipes has been on our list since before the summer.  We believe in lists, even if something stays on it for a long time. We think if it’s not on a list it might never get done.  Plus, it makes it that much more gratifying to finally cross it off!!  We were able to get this done over the weekend by breaking it into a couple sessions & spreading it out over two days. This way it didn’t take up our whole weekend and by Monday our task was be complete.

Between the episodes of Extreme Clutter & our apartment getting smaller and smaller as our daughter gets more stuff, we’ve been feeling a little claustrophobic in our surroundings.  In an attempt to not get too overwhelmed, we decided to purge or organize one thing a weekend. Even if we only have time to purge our socks, at least it’s something. This weekend we finally got to our recipes.

Our recipes have gotten so out of control we have two “before” photos.  In our defense each photo was an attempt at containing the madness, but neither was successful.  This first one is a vintage recipe box we found at Brimfield one year that isn’t as functional as we had hoped.  It has a bar in the bottom to secure the recipe cards, but who has the time to write recipes on index cards theses days. Not us. The second is an ugly black three ring binder that is too big for our cookbook shelf.  We wanted to take both of these organizational failures and turn them into one organized and inspiring book.  After purging and sorting, we achieved our goal, and helped preserve some memories in the process.


Here’s how we did it…

We bought this cute recipe binder months ago when we saw it in the sale aisle at Michael’s. It’s got a great patchwork pattern and goes nicely with our hutch.

The first thing we did was sort through the recipes we had made copies of, ripped out of magazines, and printed from the computer. We kept only recipes we love to make, made for a special occasion (and want to make again), or seriously plan to make in the near future. We often fall into the trap of ripping things out of magazines for this life we dream we had…one where we bake homemade Mississippi Mud Pie and make pasta from scratch.  In an attempt to enjoy living the life we actually have, it’s crucial we aren’t overwhelmed with clutter.  So we put on our big girl pants and trashed them.  (Thanks, Peter Walsh).  We can always look them up online later, if we somehow find the time to make pudding that doesn’t start with a box of My*T*Fine. (doubtful)


We then used this super cute 8x8 scrapbook paper that was given to us as a gift.  It’s from the Nancy O’Dell Scrapbook line. It almost matches our binder perfectly.


Since we often get caught up in all the details of scrapbooking and never finish, we decided to treat this one more like a smash book.  We created it assembly line style.  Here’s what to do…

  1. Cut each recipe down, so that it will fit on the page.
  2. Glue each recipe on the paper. Use both the front & backs.
  3. Measure & punch three holes in each piece of paper.
  4. Have small photos of occasions we’ve made these meals printed. We like CVS’s mini-prints best.
  5. Add photos & short stories or notes to each page.



  1. Make sure you leave enough room for the holes, since we aren’t putting them in clear sleeves. Or better yet, punch holes in the paper first.  (clear sleeves are another option, especially if you are a neat freak and don’t want your recipes to get ruined. We embrace our messiness and think the strains give it character and add to the story.)
  2. It’s good to use a similar color scheme throughout the book.  This helps unify the magazine cut outs and random recipes.  We also used similar colored markers to write our comments.
  3. Don’t feel bad about leaving pages blank or not putting it in an exact order.  This will allow you to add more recipes, pictures, or stories later.
  4. Use sleeve pockets to keep extra stickers or cards, so it’s easy to add more recipes later. You can also insert recipes as you come across them that you eventually plan to glue on their own page, to control the clutter in the meantime.
  5. If you are printing out recipes, you often have the option of printing them out as note card size.  This will make it easier to fit in the 8x8 book. (we unfortunately had not done this. We will going forward)
  6. Make a pocket: This is easy (especially if you allow yourself not to be a perfectionist). We used a blank recipe card & a stapler (you can also use double sided tape – or if you want to put in the time, sew the pocket on). We simply stapled two sides of the card to the page.


Some of our favorite pages…


After we were married we had a “Break Out Our China Chinese Dinner Party”, where we cooked typical Chinese Take-Out Food.  We made a couple recipes we had mastered and experimented with some new ones.  It is such a great memory for us (that never made it into a scrapbook) and we are happy to have it archived here.


One of our favorite snacks, is our friend Marlana’s Mango Salsa!!  We’ve made it a million times, but can never remember everything we need to get from the grocery store.  In fact, when sorting through our recipe box, we found two print outs of the email she sent us.  When putting in into our new book, we made a pocket for one of the lists, so we could easily bring it to the grocery store with us.  We also included part of the email, as a sort of time capsule of that time in our life.


This recipe was ripped out of a magazine by Chad’s parents. They often send us recipes, articles, or comic strips they think we would enjoy.  It helps us feel a little more connected since they are all the way in North Carolina.  It also makes us feel like we have a personal assistant who combs the pages of every magazine and newspaper to make sure we stay up-to-date. Ok, we know it’s not like that, but one can dream.


When we celebrated Chad’s 6th Annual 29th Birthday, we made many picnic foods, we still eat on a weekly basis today! We made a pocket for the Mac Salad recipe because it also contains our complete shopping list, which is fun to look back at.


Pumpkin Pie is my brother’s favorite holiday dessert, or at least it was until we made what we like to call “Death by Pumpkin” for him a couple Thanksgivings ago.  Each year since then, we’ve been experimenting with other pumpkin dishes, but this one keeps getting requested! Yum-o!  Here's the recipe. I also make extra whipped cream so that the end product has a white layer too! 

We hope our new recipe binder has inspired you to add “Organize Recipes” to your to-do list! Get to it whenever you can.  Don’t try to make it perfect. Let its uniqueness & personality grow & change as your cooking does.  And most of all let it allow you to enjoy your now less cluttered kitchen and the experience of cooking in it!

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1 comment

your ideas are terrific!!! you motivate us to action!


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