You will love this inexpensive Vegan Recipe Organizer. It's very simple to make. And your recipes are always ready to go. And just wipe away food splatters. Your recipes will last for years! Makes cooking fun and stress-free.
If you find yourself leafing through a pile of loose recipes, wasting time trying to find the one you need, then you will love this little project.
Back in 2003, when I started my Vegan Personal Chef service Whirled Peas, my recipes were completely disorganized.
Recipes I had clipped from various magazines and newspapers over the years were sticking out of cookbooks, I had pieces of paper with handwritten notes of recipes that I created or that I had found on the internet, some were recipes friends handed off to me on a recipe card, and there were old recipe cards from before I went vegan that I wanted to veganize in an old plastic box.
Let's just say organizing recipes was not high on my priority list. It was SUCH a mess.
One of the most amazing things I learned from my wonderful peeps over at the fabulous (and former) Personal Chef Network was how to organize recipes so I would be prepared when it came time to do the most important part of the job: Cooking!
Don't worry if you are one of those people your friends laugh at because you have so many recipes that you could never cook them all -- once you get your recipe system set up and running, you will be so organized your friends will want you to make them one of these handy-dandy contraptions too; which you can do, of course...for a small fee. :)
There are actually two main steps to organizing recipes that I'm going to teach you.
Step 1 involves purchasing some very inexpensive supplies from your local office store and putting them together to create your very own super-deluxe handy dandy completely-low-tech recipe organizer.
Step 2 involves purchasing an inexpensive computer program called Mastercook that you will enter your recipes into. Once in the program, your recipes can easily be edited, scaled, and printed. And perhaps most important, it gives you the nutrition information for each recipe, which is incredibly handy especially if you need to reference that information (such as to tweak ingredients to lower sodium content).
While you CAN use only Step 1 all by itself, I recommend you utilize Step 2 as well because it will make your life so much easier in the long run. The choice is completely yours. But be sure to read through both this page and the next page before making your decision. Believe me, you don't want to get all the way through Step 1, and then realize later you want to use Step 2 as well because you will have to start allll overrrr againnnn! :-/
This is a fun project. It might take you a little while to get everything into place, but all the steps are very easy.
If you have ever worked in an office, or visited a store like Office Max, you have likely seen the binders that will be the KEY to organizing your recipes. These 3-ring binders are not necessarily called "recipe binders", but that's the purpose they will serve for you from now on. Three-ring binders are slightly larger than paper size, and come in various "ring" sizes depending on how much room you need inside of them (basically, how many recipes you have).
So your first assignment is to pick up 3-ring binders -- make sure they are the kind with the locking mechanism on either end (VERY IMPORTANT!). Also, buy a box of clear (preferably non-glossy) 3-hole plastic sheet protectors which open along the top, and also colorful dividers to separate your recipe categories within your binder(s).
The first step to organizing your recipes is to put them all into categories. Depending on how many recipes you have, you might have to take a day off from work to finish this task. ;)
Now, some of your recipes are likely cut from a magazine, some might be an entire page ripped from a magazine, you might have printed your recipe on a sheet of paper. Regardless of the form your recipe is in, you likely have many papers of varying sizes to deal with. So be sure you do not sit in a breezy spot, and that you have enough room to spread everything out in piles in front of you. Sitting on the floor works best, in my opinion.
The categories I use for my own recipes are...
As you organize recipes into categories, take a moment to give them a once-over because you might want to toss some of them into the garbage. Keep only those recipes for your recipe organizer that sound appealing and fit into your life right now. For instance, if your recipe calls for more than 4 eggs and you are vegan now, there is no way you will be able to replicate that recipe to fit in with your vegan diet. So pare your piles of recipes down so they are as manageable as possible.
Now, as you may note, some of your recipes might be printed on a regular 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. And that is actually ideal. But if you have zounds of clippings of various sizes, don't worry because I'll show you how to work with them too.
Keeping your recipes separated into categories, alphabetize all the recipes in each category. I know, this could be a huuuuge pain in the butt right now, but trust me it will pay off later.
Once all the recipes in each category are alphabetized, it's time to start placing the recipes into the plastic sheets. I recommend you place ONE recipe in each plastic sheet, so the other side is blank.
Because it is quite the nightmare to have your recipes in alphabetical order, and then have to add a new recipe to the mix; and you will ALWAYS want to add new recipes, or take old recipes out if they prove to be less than yummy. So one recipe per sheet is the best plan.
The exception is if you have a bunch of smaller clippings, then you will place a sheet of paper into the plastic sheet which will help to hold the clippings in place. You can decide how many clippings you want to place into each sheet, and if you want to place the clippings on both sides of the paper or not. There is no need to tape the clippings to the paper -- they should hold fairly well.
I hope you are starting to get an idea of what your organizer will look like when it is completed. Each binder will have one or more categories of recipes, and each page (plastic sheet) will hold at least one recipe. Use the colorful dividers to separate out the categories.
Now, whenever you need a recipe, turn to the desired recipe, unlock and open the rings, and pull out the recipe.
The plastic sheet will ensure that all spills can be wiped clean with a wet washcloth or paper towel. (Be sure your sheet is completely dry before placing back into the binder.) And since you chose "non-glossy" plastic sheets, it will deflect kitchen lighting (and sunlight) so you can easily read your recipe.
When I first started using this system, I had three or four fairly skinny 3-ring binders which each contained a few categories. Over the years, my recipe collection grew, and my binders (ring size) grew larger too. But I caution you against buying binders with rings which are too awfully large because they can hold a LOT of recipes which can get verrrry heavy and nearly sprain your wrist when you pull it out of the cupboard. ;)
So one of the most important parts of this project is figuring out how many binders you need, which sizes work best for you, and how many categories you want in each binder. So you can choose to have one category per binder. Or you can do what I do which is smoosh 2 or more categories into a larger book. Either way works!
So now you are set up with this very low-tech, simple, and relatively inexpensive way to organize recipes.
Fortunately, Step 2 is inexpensive as well. But it is a little more "techie" since it utilizes a computer program. I HIGHLY recommend you purchase this program before you get started on this project -- or at least read the next page before deciding if you want to buy it -- because it will help you get even MORE organized with your recipes.