How to Arrange Recipes

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Home Improvement

If you want to find your recipes quickly and easily, it’s important to organize them.
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It’s that time of year again when you need to make the pumpkin cheesecake that everyone in your family always asks about. You know it’s the yummiest and creamiest dessert you’ve ever made, and after seven Thanksgivings and countless rave reviews, you almost know it by heart.

However, there’s one little problem: You don’t quite remember it by heart. Did the ingredient list call for three eggs, or just three egg yolks? Was it 40 or 50 minutes in the oven? You decide to consult the recipe, so you pull your recipe box – the same one your grandmother used – down from the shelf and begin to search through its contents. Hundreds of recipe cards spill onto the counter, but that’s just the start of the mess. Some recipes are not even on cards. Instead, they’re folded printouts of recipes you found online and ones you cut out of magazines and off chocolate chip packages. You sigh and start to look through the pile of recipes for the one you need. One thing becomes very clear to you: You need a way to organize your recipes.

If this sounds all too familiar, you have come to the right place. In this article, you’ll learn about some new ways to organize recipes on your computer or online, as well as options for organizing your printed recipes [source: Resinger, Baldwin].

Before the era of online recipe filing, there were just good old written and printed recipes. Read on to learn more about different ways of organizing such recipes.

Ways to Organize Printed Recipes

Almost everyone has recipes on recipe or index cards, so start with those. First, make a list of categories that your recipes fall into. For example, you may use broad categories such as “breads,” “desserts,” “main dishes,” “vegetables,” “soups,” and “salads.” Then, sort your recipes into piles corresponding to those categories.

If you’re having trouble deciding on appropriate categories for your collection, start by sorting your recipes into piles of similar recipes. Look through all the recipes in a pile, and you’ll see that category names start to suggest themselves. Another idea is to consult a cookbook to see how it’s divided [source: Henneman].

If one pile gets too large, you can create subcategories to make finding what you need easier. For example, the category “main dishes” may then be divided into “vegetarian” and “non-vegetarian,” while the category “desserts” may include subcategories like “pies,” “cakes,” and “cookies.”

As you sort your recipes, you can also weed out those you’ll never use. It may be hard, but there are sure to be some recipes that you know you’ll never make. As you look at each one, ask yourself “Is there any chance I’ll ever make this dish?” If the answer is “no,” then toss it in the trash [source: Grace].

Now that you’ve sorted through your printed recipes, it’s time to think about what to store them in. Your old recipe box may need to be replaced with something more modern. Read on for some ideas.

Starting from the Beginning

If you have accumulated a large number of recipes over the years, sorting them may seem like a daunting task. However, it’s important to remember that if you don’t begin, you’ll never finish. So, go ahead and dive into the task at hand [source: Henneman].

Storing Printed Recipes

Once you have sorted all of your recipes into categories, it’s time to think about how to store them. One budget option is to reuse your old recipe box. If you have discarded enough recipes, you may be able to fit the remaining ones back into the box. Although this option is inexpensive and the materials are already in your home, recipe boxes are often small and not able to accommodate irregularly sized recipes.

If the recipe box is too small but you like the basic idea, an accordion-style file may be a better option. These can be found at any office supply store and can be used just like a recipe box, except they can hold recipes of different sizes [source: Resinger].

Another option is to purchase a cheap photo album to store your recipes. You can use a type with sticky pages or plastic pockets, or you can use a combination of different page types if you buy a variety of photo pages that will fit into the same album [source: Resinger].

A three-ring binder is another versatile option. You can punch holes in recipes printed on computer paper and even add whole pages from magazines. You can also buy refill pages for scrapbooking or photo albums. However, you may need to visit a craft store for some of the supplies [source: Resinger].

The final option is to attach your recipes to the pages of a notebook or scrapbook. The advantage of this method is that you can write comments and alterations on the page next to the recipe [source: Henneman].

Once you have chosen your storage option, make sure to use tabs or markers to divide the sections according to your categories. Then, have fun loading your recipes!

Tried and True

While organizing, it may be helpful to separate the “tried and true” recipes from the ones you have never made. This can make it easier to find recipes quickly. If you want a recipe you know you have made many times before, look in the “tried and true” section. If you want new ideas, you can visit your “never tried” section. Some of the “never tried” recipes may become the “tried and true” recipes of tomorrow [source: Henneman].

Methods for Organizing Digital Recipes

Like printed recipes, organizing your digital recipes into categories can make them easier to locate. It is also a good idea to get rid of the recipes you know you will never try. However, your digitally stored recipes do not need to be quite as organized as your printed collection.

Storing recipes on your computer has the advantage of being able to find them quickly through a search function, even if they are not organized. Alternatively, you can upload them to Google Docs for easy access. For those who prefer organization, creating named folders on your computer or using online options like Google Docs are free options to consider. There are also software and online options available, each with their own benefits such as generating menus and shopping lists. When deciding where to store your recipes, consider if you want them stored on your computer or online for accessibility. Emailing yourself recipes with a clear subject line or using an online recipe box are other options to consider. Both software and online options offer features like shopping-list generation, menu-planning, and custom-made cookbooks. Storing recipes both online and on your computer can give you unlimited access to them.

To find out more about recipe-organizing software programs and their features, keep reading.

If you use multiple food and recipe websites as your “cookbooks,” social bookmarking sites like can help you organize your digital recipes. These sites save your favorite bookmarks, allowing you to access them from any computer.

Recipe Organizing Software

While some people may find that simple folders and files work for them, others may prefer to explore the various software options available. Many software providers have an online presence that enables you to find new recipes, search for specific recipes, or manage grocery lists. There are numerous software options available, but here are a few to get you started:

  • BigOven – BigOven (Windows, iPhone, Palm OS) has both software and an online presence. The software helps you manage and organize your own recipes, and you can log in to save and share recipes, make grocery lists, and create meal plans.
  • TheRecipeManager – TheRecipeManager (Windows, Mac) offers similar features to other programs, such as recipe sharing and meal planning, as well as a way to track your blood sugar, blood pressure, weight, and exercise.
  • Cook’n – Cook’n (Windows) is a software product that can assist with basic recipe organization, meal planning by adjusting the serving size of recipes, finding the nutritional value of recipes, and creating shopping lists.

To learn more about how to organize your recipes, whether in print or digital form, see the links on the next page.

If you don’t want to purchase software, there are several online-only options, such as One tsp (, Recipe Thing (, All Recipes (, and Epicurious ( These sites are free to use and allow you to keep a virtual “recipe box.” Some sites also let you upload and add your own recipes to your virtual recipe box.

Lots More Information

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  • Baldwin, Deborah. “Organize Your Recipes on Your Computer.” Real Simple. (Accessed 1/10/10)
  • Cook’n. (Accessed 1/10/10)
  • Delicious. “Learn More about Delicious.” (Accessed 1/10/10)
  • Epicurious. (Accessed 1/11/10)
  • Gourmet File. “How to Organize Your Recipes.” (Accessed 1/10/10)
  • Henneman, Alice. “Organizing Your Recipe Collection.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cook It Quick! (Accessed 1/09/10)
  • One tsp. (Accessed 1/10/10)
  • Parent Hacks. “Gmail as a recipe organizer.” Accessed 1/10/10)
  • RecipeThing. (Accessed 1/10/10)
  • Resinger, Monica. “Get Your Recipes Together.” Menus For Moms. (Accessed 1/10/10)
  • The Recipe Manager. (Accessed 1/10/10)


1. What’s the best way to organize recipes?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best way to organize recipes depends on your personal preferences and lifestyle. Some people prefer to keep a physical recipe binder or box, while others prefer to organize their recipes digitally using apps or websites. Consider what works best for you and your cooking habits.

2. How should I categorize my recipes?

Again, this depends on your personal preferences. Some common categories include appetizers, main dishes, desserts, and drinks. You may also want to consider categories based on dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free or vegetarian recipes. It’s important to choose categories that make sense to you and are easy to navigate.

3. Should I write notes on my recipes?

If you frequently cook a certain recipe, it can be helpful to write notes on the recipe card or in the app. This can include any modifications you made, cooking times that worked best for you, or any other tips you want to remember. This can help you perfect the recipe over time and make it your own.

4. Should I keep physical or digital copies of recipes?

Both options have their advantages. Physical recipe cards or books can be helpful if you prefer to cook without using your phone or computer. Digital copies can be easier to search and organize, and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Consider which option works best for your lifestyle and preferences.

5. How can I declutter my recipe collection?

If you find yourself with a large collection of recipes, it may be time to declutter. Start by going through your recipes and getting rid of any duplicates or recipes you know you won’t make. Consider scanning physical copies of recipes you want to keep and storing them digitally to save space.

6. Should I use a recipe app or website?

There are a variety of recipe apps and websites available, each with their own pros and cons. Some popular options include Pinterest, Yummly, and Paprika Recipe Manager. Consider your own needs and preferences when choosing an app or website to use.

7. How can I make my recipe organization system more efficient?

One way to make your system more efficient is to use consistent naming conventions and tags. This can make it easier to search for recipes and find what you’re looking for quickly. You may also want to consider setting up a system for meal planning and grocery list-making to streamline your cooking process.

8. What should I do if I can’t find a recipe I’m looking for?

If you can’t find a recipe you’re looking for, try searching online or asking friends and family for recommendations. You may also want to consider creating your own recipe based on similar recipes you’ve found. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make the recipe your own.

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