Seven tips for keeping recipes disorganized

A few weeks ago, I went a friend’s house for a surprise birthday party. The guests arrived before the hosts, so we took advantage of the extra time to prepare the appetizers we’d brought. While I was searching for spoons (I promise I wasn’t snooping), I found this incredibly organized notebook full of recipes:

I actually looked at those plastic sleeves in envy, with a little cloud bubble emerging from my head filled with the image of all the plastic sleeves I have stuffed in a drawer at home, unused. Sadly, the next time I searched for a recipe in my own collection (albeit one of the probably ten I have scattered around my office, living room and kitchen), here’s what it looked like:

Though I do believe recipe organization can be very helpful in the meal preparation process, I don’t think I was born with this particular gene.  As such, I am not someone who should be providing tips on how to keep them organized.

Therefore, I decided to write about my top 6 ways to stay disorganized, in hopes that you might learn from my many mistakes.

  1. Don’t use a filing system. After all, if you throw a huge stack of printed recipes into one folder, it will take much longer to find what you need next time, if you can actually find it at all. What’s a few extra minutes if you are looking for an appetizer and have to sift through every main dish and dessert recipe in the folder?
  2. Don’t distinguish between the good and the bad. Whether you use a recipe from the Internet, a magazine or cookbook, it’s best not to designate which ones are good or bad. That way, if something was bad, you can make it again and disappoint the family for a second time.
  3. Never throw a magazine away. I like to keep all my old copies of Cuisine at Home, Bon Appétit and Cook’s Illustrated. That way, if I want to re-make something I’ve made before, it will be nearly impossible to find the exact issue I need (because, after all, I have not marked the one(s) that I really liked in the first place. It’s highly likely I will have accidentally thrown away the one issue I really wanted anyway).
  4. If you alter a recipe, don’t make note of it. I rarely prepare a recipe exactly as the instructions suggest, generally because I am out of something and don’t feel like traipsing off to the Big A. But if I forget to write down how I actually made it, there’s no way I’ll ever remember what I did differently, and possibly better, than what someone else suggested. This is also true if you combine two recipes to make a hybrid.*
  5. Delete all emails from friends who have been kind enough to send a recipe. That way, you have a good excuse to ask that same person for that same recipe over and over again. (Poor Marti, I have asked for her the chocolate chip cheesecake recipe no less than 10 times.)
  6. Never bookmark a good recipe you found online. If you’re lucky, you’ll never be able to find it again.
  7. Never throw really old recipes away. Especially ones that you have had for twenty years and will probably never even think about it making again. This ensures you have an extra box or two to pack the next time you move.

For other organizing tips

In case you want advice from someone who has constructive organizational tips, check out these posts:

How Stuff Works has suggestions for organizing and storing printed recipes, organizing digital recipes and even recipes organizing software.

Good (& Cheap) Eats discusses the importance of organizing your pantry, recipes and kitchen.

*My hybrid recipes for lamb stew, in writing, so I don’t forget or lose it

I merged two lamb stew recipes last night for dinner. I found them both online, and chose the two based on what I thought might taste good. The hybrid was fabulous, so I’m including it below. This helps ensure I have a written record of my recipe in case I want to make it again.

2 ½ pounds lamb shank, chopped into bite sized pieces

¼ c. flour

Salt and pepper

Mix these ingredients together and sauté in olive oil until browned.

Then add:

1 glove garlic

2 leeks, cleaned and chopped

Sauté until the leeks are soft, about 5 minutes.

Then add:

3-4 carrots, chopped about ½” thick

3 stalks of celery, sliced thinly

2 cups of chicken broth

1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme

Simmer 1 ½ hours with in a covered pot.


¼ c. white wine

1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley

About 2 large potatoes, chopped into 1 inch squares

Simmer another 30 minutes, with the lid on.

The family loved it. Even Luke!

Melinda Hinson