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Recipe Organizing & Storage Idea

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How to Declutter your Recipe Box.

I have been decluttering lately. I have tackled all the hidden areas around my home where most clutter lurks… basement, garage, and attic, but I felt it was time to take on a space that is the most seen and lived in… my kitchen.

White kitchen cookware in pull-out cabinet shelves.

On my path to simplify and declutter, I also want to eat better…to get back to eating whole foods and less processed junk.  This is hard to do since eating healthy takes a lot of meal planning and preparation in advance.

Most everything has to be made from scratch.  This takes time out of an already busy schedule, but I want to focus on making it part of our lifestyle so organization is a must!

To make food prep and cooking a more enjoyable pastime, a good glass of wine helps as you chop. :-)  Jest aside, although this helps you feel like you are living in a Williams Sonoma catalog as you prepare a meal.

Preparation is the real key to making meal prep feel less daunting for someone who is not a “foodie” and also for sticking with it over a lifetime. Just like any DIY project, preparation leads to success.

Recipe-box-organizing process on kitchen table.

So I have been going through my kitchen and prepping it for whole food eating success.  I am organizing it to be 100% efficient.

Tossing out junk food, and condiments with a ton of unwanted additives. Sharp knives in easy reach, easy to find cookware, and tried-and-true recipes all in one place so when I am asked, “What’s for Dinner?”, I have a healthy answer or can find one in an instant.

Cook book and recipe box organizing marathon with big coffee mug on table.

One of the biggest parts of the job comes down to meal planning. I can’t just pull a frozen meal out of the freezer for dinner anymore.  I will have to make it.

One of my projects was to makeover my recipe box. I set up my kitchen table for the task. I have a lot of family recipes as well as ones that I have clipped from magazines or have gotten online.  Ed asked me why I was not making my new recipe file on my computer?

My answer…  I need a visual, something I can see and hold in my hand when looking for meal inspiration. As I went through my recipe box, I decided to not only organize it for healthy eating success, but to revive it, to make it the best recipe box ever.

My recipe box.  It is now my go-to box when I need to plan out for the week what I will make each night as well as make a weekly shopping list. I can then put them in this recipe frame for the week so I know what I am making.

How-to-keep-recipes-organized on a counter.

As you can see it is not filled.

Recipe box organizing into two sections

I added a foam core divider to the box so I can place newly clipped recipes I want to try in the back. If I make it and we like it, it is a winner and I will make a card for it. Otherwise the clipping will go into the trash. As I add more “winner” recipe cards, the divider will be pushed back to make room for the new recipe cards.

How I Made Over My Recipe Box

To help keep all of our favorite recipes in one handy place, I also added cards to the box as a cross-reference to recipes we enjoy in the cookbooks I have.

Cross referencing recipe card and cookbook.

TIP: I have a lot of cookbooks and have favorite recipes in each.  Instead of bookmarking or trying to remember what book the “Apple Crisp” recipe is in. I made up a card with the name of recipe, the category of food it belongs in, the cookbook name, and page number it is on in the cookbook. This way I only have to look in my recipe box to find the cross-reference to the cookbook. This will save me a lot of time in the kitchen. 

cookbook-and-recipe-card organizing supplies on table

I also cut down every magazine and printed out recipe I had and then taped the recipes to an index card.

Recipe cards on table

Since I am such a visual girl, I like to include the photo from the clipped recipe if there is one.

On some cards the printed recipe and photo didn’t fit. On these cards, I taped the photo on the card first, then taped the top of the recipe section so it becomes a flap and just needs to be lifted to see the photo. This helps keep the box nice and orderly.

white cardboard recipe box on table with white category tabs

I bought notebook divider tabs at the office supply store and cut them down to fit into the box to separate the categories. I also only had a few index cards that were made to fit in a box this size.

I looked everywhere to find more, but couldn’t find them. I ended up buying larger index cards and cut them to fit in the box using my paper cutter.

I am hoping this new way of organizing my recipes will make meal planning and prep easier as the weeks go by. Eventually using it will become habit and the joy of meal planning and prep should become less daunting.

How to do you organize your recipes?

Recipe cards and box on wood table. Graphic overlay that says Recipe Box Redux.

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36 Comments

  1. Hi Diane,
    I do everything you’ve just done! Have done this for years, and it works for me. I’m a visual person, too. I also have listed on my laptop, all our favourite meals, under headings (chicken, beef, etc), although rarely am near my computer when I work out my meals.

    I sit down every second Thursday and do a fortnight meal plan/menu, then work out the grocery list from that. The menu is put up inside my pantry door. Each night, after dinner, I check to see what we’re having the next night, so I can defrost earlier if it’ll need marinading, or if it needs to be slow-cooked. I buy green groceries weekly.

    My next ‘great’ idea (chuckle) is to make a photo book of all my family’s favourite recipes, and give a copy to each of our 6 children. I’ve been taking photos for about 6 months, as I prepare meals. Hmmm….. must work harder on that!

    Cheers, Liz ( Australia).

    1. I created a cookbook of favorite family recipes and gave a copy to each of my daughters as well as other family members. Underneath the name of each recipe I put a little story or notation of holidays/beach vacations/special occasions when I made it, and what it means to our family…lots of memories here! When my grandson began his Junior year of college I gave him a copy – this was his first year in an apartment and he did a lot of the cooking for his roommates – he said one day his buddies sat down and picked up the cookbook and had so much fun reading all of the family memories and notes about the recipes….which of course thrilled this grandma! We add to the book as we find new favorites, and I also have a section in the back for recipes I want to try; if it turns out to be a “keeper” we move it to the proper category. This is all in a 3-ring 3-inch binder with plastic page protectors. So much fun to make, and this makes my meal planning super easy!

  2. Took me a long time (50+years) to come up with this same idea, but must admit it is quite efficient . Most of my food preparation is now from experience so recipes are most often used for ingredient quantities . It’s a much easier place!

    1. I’m envious Carmen! Sadly, some of our regular family meals, I’ve been making since the 1980s and STILL look at the recipe!

  3. I’m probably not the only one who would be in trouble if Pinterest goes away, am I? My old recipe box is languishing under lots of clutter behind the bottom doors of the kitchen hutch, and I’ve been hearing it call my name.

  4. I love your idea to make cards to cross reference to your cookbooks. Then the recipe box can really be a go-to spot when trying to figure out what’s for dinner. I also have a drawer full of clipped recipes that stay in a state of disarray because I just dread copying them over onto my ‘cute’ recipe cards. I’m going to follow your lead and just go with index cards and tape on my clippings.

    Can’t wait to declutter my recipe drawer! Thanks much.

  5. I have moved to a binder, well binders really, using those plastic sheet protector, with tabbed dividers for categories. And I started my blog to keep track of what I’ve made so I often reference the recipes I’ve written up online.

    You might consider adding the main ingredients to your cards for cookbook recipes. That way you could make your grocery list without having to get out the cookbook. I don’t list stuff I always have on hand, just the main ingredients or some odd ingredient I might not have on hand.