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An important part of menu planning (and cooking in itself) is to have some way to organize your recipes. If you are like me, someone who enjoys cooking and is always looking for the "perfect recipe," you probably cut recipes out of magazines, bookmark recipes on the internet, and collect cookbooks that you only use for one or two recipes.
So how do you organize those recipes? I'll tell you how I do it, if you tell me how you do. Sound fair?
The first thing is cookbooks. I have lots of cookbooks. Too many cookbooks. Well, too many for some people (my husband, for instance), but not too many for me! I collect cookbooks the way some people collect shoes. Having that many can cause problems, though. Some books get over looked, some get lost in the shuffle, and sometimes I know I have seen a recipe for that rice cheese casserole somewhere - but with that many books how can I find it?! What I try to do is keep the books in topical order - baking books together, vegetarian books together, dessert books together, all purpose books together, etc.
Here is what one of my cookbook shelves looks like:You can see part of my not-so-organized pantry above it (try to ignore that part). This isn't the whole shelf, it continues for another 6-8 inches to the right. There is another shelf but it is way too messy to take pictures of!! The other shelf has much less cookbooks on it, trust me on this.
The other part to organize is the recipes that are not in books. I've tried lots of different systems but they all failed. The most notable failure was the "shove the recipes in a drawer and hope you can find them" system. Can't figure out why that one failed!
What I have finally settled on is a binder system. I used to have one really big one but I split it up recently into three smaller ones. They are three-ring binders that I have filled with tab dividers (titled "appetizers," "main dishes," "breads," "desserts," etc). Here's what they look like:If I was rich, or cared about those things, I'd have matching binders. How ever I'm not and I don't. I just used whatever was hanging out in the house, hence the mix-match.
In between the dividers I have plastic sleeves - some are full sheet protectors, some are baseball card size and some are 4x6 size. I got them at Office Depot or Staples or where ever. I put pages I ripped out of magazines in the full sheet protectors:You can tell this page didn't get put into a page protector soon enough!!
I put the recipes on recipe cards in the baseball pages or 4x6's.
Those weird sized ones (one recipe cut out of a magazine, the recipe Aunt Linda gave me written on a piece of scrap paper, etc) go where ever they fit best. These plastic sheet protectors can be taken out and carried to the counter where I'm cooking (they are protected with plastic) or I can leave them in the book.
I talked about my master list of meals and noted that if I was more organized I would put on my master list where each recipe came from, but I'm not that organized.
I do print recipes out from the internet but only after I've tried them and know they are keepers. I have a laptop with wireless internet so I just bookmark the ones I think I'd like (in a folder in my bookmarks labels "recipes", go figure!), when I want to try one, I just pull it up and take the whole laptop into the kitchen. If it's a keeper, I print it out and put it in the recipe binder.
Recipes that I pull out of magazines, or whatever, that I want to try, I put in page protectors and put them in the front of my binder. When I'm in the mood for something new, I know right where to go.
So, having said all that, here is my menu for this week - and where I'd find each recipe.
- Baked oatmeal - recipe binder under "Breads"
- toast with jam - in my head!
- One-eyed egyptians - in my head
- Wagon Wheel Chili - recipe binder under "main dishes"
- Ham and Noodle Toss - recipe binder under "main dishes"
- Easy Bean and Cheese Rounds - cookbook "Homebaking"
- Hoppin' John with Ham - recipe binder under "main dishes"
- Fondue with bread and fruit and veggies - cookbook "Good Housekeeping"
- Meatloaf (a vegetarian version) - a recipe from a friend in the "try" section
- Green Chili-Rice Casserole - cookbook "Spoonful of Love"
- Chinese Chicken Salad - recipe binder under "main dishes"