Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Recipe System

Since I love to cook, my friends always ask me where I get my I decide what to I organize my recipes. So I thought I'd share my "system" here. I have lots of cookbooks that I love to peruse...and a recipe book (one of the binders where you copy down your favorite recipes, etc.) but this is the system that best works FOR ME. And I am thankful to my mother-in-law for giving it to me.

As a gift for one of our wedding showers, Brent's mom "Kammy" (what our kiddos call her) gave me a copy of The Joy of Cooking accompanied by this lovingly made little system that she uses. I have to be honest...I was a little overwhelmed when I saw it (and she assured me that if it wasn't something that worked for me, her feelings would not be hurt if I abandoned it.) I didn't use it for the first few years of our marriage, mostly because I didn't have a place to store it.

But enough about its origins, here's the deal:

The system is made up of 3x5 inch index cards, divider cards, and is contained in a Rubbermaid drawer divider that is 6" x 15" wide (and about 2 inches deep). (You can find these things at any office supply store and/or Target or WalMart.) One day, I'm hoping Brent will build me a wooden box (with a lid) for safer transport during moves...but for now the plastic divider works perfectly.

At the beginning of the file, I have blue dividers for five weeks. When I actually do my meal-planning weeks at a time (which is rare, I promise you), I browse through my file, selecting recipes for each day. I use another index card and write each day of the week, followed by the recipe(s) for that day and then file them behind the particular week.

Each day, I move the recipe(s) for that day to the front of the file box, as indicated above, for easy reference during the day. As you can see above, tonight we're having Sweet and Tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin. (This also makes it easy to let Brent know where the recipe is for the days when he offers to cook!)

(Kammy originally set this up using seven dividers, one for each day of the week. But I find that I often only have one recipe a day...and I just steam veggies or slice fruit or make rice, etc. So it was more helpful to me to do weekly dividers for "meal planning in advance" purposes.)

The most used part of my system are the actual food categories:

My categories consist of: Appetizers, Beverages, Breakfasts, Breads, Candies, Cakes, Casseroles, Cereals, Cookies, Crock-Pot, Desserts, Eggs/Cheese, Fondue, Foreign Food, Frostings, Frozen, Fruits, Marinades, Meats, Pancakes, Pasta, Pastries, Pizzas, Pies, Poultry, Preserves, Rice, Salads & Dressings, Sandwiches, Sauces/Syrups, Seafood, Non-Food Recipes, Soups, Special Mixes, Vegetables.

Most all of these are the ones that Kammy set up for me. I've added a few that I needed. When I copy down a recipe, I file it in the appropriate category. Some of the categories overlap (like breakfast and pancakes...poultry and casseroles) but I just go with whatever category I would most likely look in.

After the food categories are several different "event-style" categories. I have to be honest, I haven't really used these much. But if you're are a big hostess (like both my Mom and my mother-in-law), these categories can be helpful.

They include (as seen above in the yellow tabs): Teas, Big Group Meals, Brunch, Picnics, Celebrations, Cold Light Meals, Hot Light Meals, Company Meals. (Brent's parents were missionaries when he was younger and they always had lots of company coming and going, so I know these categories were very helpful to her.)

Behind the yellow dividers, you'll see red dividers. These include some miscellaneous categories: Pantry List, Helpful Info. (tips), Freezer, and Tablescapes.

After those last dividers, I keep a bunch of notecards (some filed behind the dividers and some laying down flat. The flat ones helps keep all the categoried cards from sliding down. I also keep some "pretty" recipe cards for when I share recipes with friends, as well as my trusty pen. In the very back of the picture above, you'll see a white ribbon--it holds a bunch of rolled of plastic sleeves. Their original intent was to protect cards from splatter while cooking, but I use mine to contain multiple cards for recipes that are too long to fit on one notecard. I have NO idea where to find them...I'm still enjoying the ones Kammy gave me originally.
So, that's the system. Here's what my process looks like:
When I get a new magazine that contains recipes I want to try, I tear them out. If I find a recipe online that looks good, I print it. Then I place them in the middle of an ordinary folder with pockets.
Whenever I make a recipe from the folder, I stick that recipe in one of the pockets if I like it and want to add it to my file. When I get a chance, I take a stack of notecards, my pen, and my folder, and I begin to copy the recipes in the pocket. I discard the original copy and then add the recipe card to the appropriate category.

You can see a glimpse of my blue-grey folder under the Southern Living magazine in the picture above. It has WAY too many recipes in it. Every so often, I go through all the recipes in the folder. I throw out any that no longer appeal to me, any that are duplicates of recipes I already have, etc.
If I find a need a monotonous project to work on (like on a long car trip, etc.), I'll just take along my folder and notecards and copy down any of the recipes that I think I will really try or really like. (If you know me or have read my blog for awhile, you know that all the "sweet" categories are the most full!)
And that's it--except for finding a convenient location to store the file! I've really enjoyed having a perfectly sized drawer in our kitchen to house my recipe file!
And if you've made it this far--I'm extremely impressed!


Wendy said...

I love your system. I wrote it down I think when we were in TX. I have yet had the space to put it, but I can't wait until I do. Thanks for a much more detail explanation of the system. Hope all is well with you and your family!

Close To Home said...

boy that is one awesome system! i should get some pointers from you!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this system! I love to organize and this is one I will be working on. I love it!

Mary Jo said...

Really love your system!
And I was so sorry to read about your friend Kristi.
It's hard to lose someone to cancer :(
Mary Jo - from Studio Calico

Anonymous said...

I am totally overwhelmed.
Love, dot

Stephanie said...

it has taken me a while to catch up on blogs recently, but i did make it to the end of your entry! i am always wanting to organize my recipes and have a better way to find recipes when i need some cooking ideas. i might just have to try it...but since i only have 2 drawers in my kitchen, i might need to start with a smaller box w/ a lid (i know i do not have as many recipes as you!) i miss you friend! can't wait to see you later this month!

HeyItsRobin said...

thank you so much for sharing your recipe system! I am totally impressed and can hardly wait to put this together. I'm just finishing up a class at Simplify 101, and if you don't mind, I'd like to point some classmates over to your post. It's awesome!
Robin in Oklahoma

Shawna said...

Brilliant! I love it. I love you.

sarah corbin said...

wow. that's impressive. do you get sad that you throw away the pretty pictures in the magazines, though?

casey boyd said...

I'm not even sure where to start with how impressed I am! I might have to give that system a try because mine sure isn't working:)


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