I love trying new dishes and baking healthy treats, but unless I take the time to plan my meals, the creative stuff just doesn’t get done. I tend to get in a rut very easily and lean back on my “old reliables:” spaghetti, hamburgers and oven-baked fries, and when all else fails, eggs. Yes, I have experienced the panic one too many times when 5:00 PM rolls around, and I realize that nothing is small enough to thaw out in a short amount of time, and the family will be hoping for food soon.
The idea of meal planning sounded like the answer to all of my problems, but step one involved writing down all of my favorite recipes. Without a consolidated list from a variety of sources, I ended up just planning to make the same meals over and over again. I was stuck.
It’s not that I didn’t have the resources. I had plenty of cookbooks, recipes on cards, printed recipes from the Internet, and quite a few that I wrote myself on stickies, but they were scattered everywhere. I also had made many of the recipes once upon a time, but unless I looked through them, I’d forget all about them. And, of course, the thought of looking through them all, or finding one and not having a specific ingredient just plain overwhelmed me. So, I made spaghetti instead. And eggs.
I finally found a recipe binder I loved at a local boutique and began to make sense of all the madness. Here are the four steps I took to organizing my recipes for quicker meal planning and preparation and a kitchen full of creative yumminess.
1. Prepare a binder. I have found that having all of my recipes in one place has been key to actually using my recipes. I have plenty of recipe books, but pouring over them each and every time I want to prepare a meal is something that just doesn’t happen. I also find that I tend to forget about them pretty easily. By putting all of my favorites in one place, I am better able to refer to them during meal planning and preparation.
For me, a binder has been the perfect organization tool. I personally purchased this one from Cath Kidston, which I absolutely love! It has very cute dividers, measurements on the inside overs, and pretty pages for recording recipes and shopping lists.
If you have a white binder laying around, you can also put one together with some simple dividers or print out pretty printables like these for your recipe book. Determine how you want to categorize your recipes, and label the divider tabs accordingly. Some ideas are: Main Courses, Soups, Breakfasts, Side Dishes, Salads, Beverages, Appetizers, Healthy Snacks, Desserts, Freezer Meals, Crock Pot Meals, Vegetarian Dishes, etc.
2. Print your favorite recipes. Once your binder is set up, take a few minutes/hours to pour over your Pinterest recipe boards, favorite blog posts, eBooks, etc. and print out the recipes you can’t wait to try. Punch holes in each sheet and organize them in your binder by category.
If you have a few recipes on note cards, you might want to type them up or write them down on a sheet of paper to place in the binder. If you have too many to mess with, consider purchasing sheet protectors to put them into, one per category. (The binder I purchased has pockets in the divider pages, so I put mine in the pockets.)
3. Set up a recipe index. This next step has been SO very helpful for me to see all that I have “at a glance.” I began by numbering the bottom right hand corner of each page (including sheet protectors!) by category. I then printed out this sheet (DOWNLOAD HERE) for each specific category. On it, I recorded the title of the recipe, the page number (from the bottom right-hand corner), and a few notes I’d like to remember. Because I have some note cards in the pockets of my dividers, I also wrote “pocket” on my index page when appropriate.
In the notes column, I put a list of the ingredients I don’t always have in my kitchen so that I can make sure to add it to my grocery list when preparing that dish. I also make note of any specific allergy substitutions I will have to make if necessary. If I have plenty of recipes for a particular section, I print out extra index copies to cover each of the recipes.
4. Record cookbook recipes. Some may consider taking the time to write down or copy their favorite recipes from cookbooks and adding them to the recipe binder, and that probably would be the best way to do it. I personally, however, just don’t have the time for that. I also don’t have the time to look through each of my cookbooks every time I am preparing my meal plans or meals–especially when I may be lacking an ingredient or two. Instead, I spent about an hour flipping through each of my cookbooks in search of my favorite recipes and the ones I wanted to try. (If I have an eBook with tons of great recipes and don’t want to print out the whole thing, I also follow this process.)
I then recorded the name of the recipe on my index page by category, along with the name of the cookbook (abbreviated) and page number in the second column of the chart. I also added any additional notes as necessary. By doing this, I am able to keep track of all of my favorite recipes in one place and can easily access them as necessary.
Putting together my recipe binder took a bit of time up front, but it has really helped me plan my meals more efficiently. I can easily add recipes and take them out as needed, and it keeps my cookbooks from collecting dust on the shelf. All in all, I am looking forward to preparing lots of healthy dishes and treats in the year to come.
What are some of your favorite ways to organize your recipes?
Linking Up at Mommy Moments, Mom 2 Mom Monday, Mama Moments Monday, Motivation Monday, Monday Musings, Living Proverbs 31, Titus 2 Tuesday, Try a New Recipe Tuesday, Time to Sparkle, Turn It Up Tuesday, Buns in My Oven, Graced Simplicity, Thrifty Thursday