Thursday, June 28, 2012

How to: Organize Recipes

I am testing out a new theme.   A "World According to Jules" theme, if you will.   You see, I have a lot of opinions about a lot of topics.    Michael calls it The Book of Jules.   My sister says I am bossy.   I do not deny any of it.   But!   When people know you have opinions they often come to you for advice.   They must think I know something, right?

I have gotten all sorts of questions from all sorts of people in all sorts of situations.   (General gift giving, how to pack a suitcase, when to send a thank you note, how to organize one's shoes, etc.)   Inquiries come from coworkers, friends, extended family, my mother in law, my sister, my husband, and my own mother!   Don't Moms know everything?!    I thought it would be kind of fun to share my thoughts on this here blog.  If anyone has a pressing question, please let me know.    This is an equal opportunity space and we aim to serve.   The other day I got an email from my mother, which is serving as the catalyst today.

Big surprise, I have waaay too many recipes that I've saved from magazines.  I am now
weeding through them, but have quite a few I'd like to keep.  Any organization/storage
suggestions?  I had given some thought to typing and/or scanning them into my computer
but that would be too labor intensive.

What's funny about this particular scenario is that my mom is a fairly prolific cook.  She doesn't even always need recipes.   She is one of those people who can look in the pantry/fridge and find a box of pasta, a can of beans, half a bag of cheese, and two bananas and make you a delicious dinner.   I don't even like bananas and I would probably like her creation.  It's miraculous and I did not inherit the cooking gene.   If all I had was beans and bananas, I would call for pizza.   Or invite Mom over to make dinner.

But, what I lack in cooking skills I make up for in organizing.   Of course I had storage suggestions!  Here is how I would approach the 'too many recipes' situation, and how I organize my stash
  • Go through all the magazine recipes.   If they are still in magazines, rip out the ones you want to try and make a big fat pile of recipes
  • Start weeding through the pile.   Ask yourself: 
    • Do I typically eat this type of food?
    • Do I like this type of food?
    • Would I like to try this new type of food?
    • Are the ingredients accessible to me?
    • Does it require too much prep/too many fancy tools/too much chopping?
    • Does it make enough for my family at this time?   (if it's just you and hubby, dishes that serve 8 are going to get old fast)
  • You will now have a hopefully smaller pile that you can sort into sub-groups.   Figure out what type of categories you need by thinking of how you cook
    • Do you decide what to make based on the main ingredient?
    • Do you decide what to make based on the amount of time you have on hand?
    • Do you decide what to make based on the type of cuisine (Italian, Mexican, Chinese)?
    • Do you decide what to make based on the type of meal you're thinking of (crock pot, sandwich, casserole, grill)?
  • Once you know how your brain thinks, you will have an idea of how to sort your recipes for easy access.   If you can't find it, you can't make it!
A quick note about the internet.   In order to keep things in check, I try not to print a recipe from the web until I am ready to make it.   I tape it to the cupboard door and if I like the recipe, I keep the recipe and file it.   If not, I toss it.

I keep my recipes in 3-ring binders.   It used to be one binder, it has grown to two because I keep ripping out dessert recipes.   I need to make dessert like I need a hole in the head.  I find magazine pages to be extremely flimsy and prone to tears.  I also spill a lot.  For these reasons, I slip each recipe into a protective sleeve.  I get recipes on both sides, don't have to 3-hold punch everything, and can wipe of food if it spills.   You can buy them by the ton at Staples or Wal-Mart or Target, etc.   I buy whatever is cheapest.  A plastic sleeve is a plastic sleeve in this case.

In addition to being easy to clean, with sleeve protectors I can also take out the one page I need and stick the binder back in its spot in my cupboard next to the stove with the COOKTOP CLEANER.  Can you tell I don't have little ones?

Who needs a big bulky binder on the counter?  Not me.  One page is easier to handle, and I can hang it on the fridge or even tape it to the cabinet so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle of bowls and knives and food stuffs on the counter.

My binders aren't pretty.   But they work!    I sort their contents in these general categories, but since the recipes are in sleeves, I can move them around as needed.   These work for me, they might not work for you.   For example, in my mind, breakfast includes quick breads, cinnamon rolls, fritatas, and quiche.   You might never eat quiche for breakfast or brunch.   If Wednesday = quiche for dinner in your house, by all means, put it in the dinner section.  Or the Main ingredient EGG section.  Or whatever.

BINDER 1 (orange)
  • General food info (serving and portion sizes, how long to freeze certain types of food, etc)
  • Appetizers, Dips & Party foods
  • Drinks - they are not all alcoholic!
  • Breakfast & Brunch
  • Soups & Salad, Sandwiches & packed lunch ideas
  • Pasta & Sides (we don't eat pasta as a main dish anymore so it made sense here in my mind)
  • Main Course
    • Chicken
    • Beef
    • Pork
    • Fish
  • Cook for a day / freezer meals (haven't tried these yet but since everything is listed on one page I couldn't put in one of the above categories, so I stuck them here)

BINDER 2 -aka heaven  (purple)

  • Pie & Cobbler 
  • Cheesecake & Tarts
  • Cakes (birthday, cup, and otherwise)
  • Brownies & Bars
  • Coooooookies
  • Holiday (Halloween spider cookies, the mint brownies you only make on Christmas Eve, etc
I do periodically try to look through my binders to see if there are recipes that have been in there awhile that I have not made yet.  Sometimes tastes change, or you get sick of a certain type of cuisine.  If you only add to the collection, it will become unmanageable.   Be sure to verify that what you are holding on to is a collection of recipes that you want to make, or regularly enjoy.    Don't keep a binder full of Martha Stewart dinner party ideas if you're more of a cheeseburger and corn on the cob person.  

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