Organize Your Recipes With A Simple System – Part I

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Bring order out of chaos.

You need a system – nothing fancy, but it does have to be something you would use. There are a few ways to go about this here are the basic types, to consider.

4 Basic Systems You Can Set Up

  • Digital Online or Web-based
  • Paper Based System
  • Digital
  • Digital and Paper Combination

All of these systems can work, but one of them will work better for you than others.


Which One Is Best For You?

If you’re into tech and software, digital will be the way to go. If you’re more comfortable with paper or prefer the feel of hard copy in your hands, a paper based or digital and paper combination will be a better fit.

If you like quick access on a computer, but don’t want to rely on having online access or wifi, a digital offline system is likely to be the best for your needs.

The important thing is not the system type, but how well it suits you and how likely you are to keep on using it once you set it up. Choose one that suits you best.

Digital Online Or Web-Based

One simple approach that is digital and online is to use an online program such as Evernote or Nixnote.

Evernote is a personal information manager with several levels of access.

The basic level is free and does give you some cloud storage. If it’s not enough for your needs there are premium levels with more storage and more capabilities. It’s web-based, so you can access your data from any device via an internet connection.

It allows you to scan in recipes and take a picture with your cell phone and upload. You can then put that image into a note, in one of your notebooks. In Evernote, you set up notebooks and then set up notes inside them. You can easily set up each recipe as an individual note inside a notebook.

Here’s one way to make this work for your recipe collection

First, consider how you would like to organize your recipes and come up with categories that make most sense for you. I like to arrange them by type of meal.

To do this, I set up a notebook for each of the following categories: breakfast, pack lunches, lunch, dinner, snacks and special occasion.

Then for each recipe, I first decide which notebook it belongs in and create note for it in that notebook. Then enter your recipes, each as a note. You can type them in, scan them, upload photos, add pdfs, or even link to your favorite recipes directly online.

Evernote has the capability to convert images to text so image documents can be searched for specific words. Once you’ve entered a note, remember to tag it using the tag feature at the bottom of the note window. So….


What’s a Tag?

A tag is a single word you can use to find recipes very quickly. For veggie box, C.S.A. subscribers and anyone who desires to eat fresh produce in season this is a powerful feature.

For tags, enter the vegetables that are the main ingredients in the recipe. You can also tag according to prep time such as tagging with the word “quick”. Each recipe can have several tags, so you can tag by more than one criteria.

However, Evernote can only search on one tag word at a time so you can either search on the vegetable name and then on “quick” to find recipes that come up for both. As you can see, tags are a powerful search tool.

In Evernote this search is especially powerful because it converts images to text. This means that even scanned documents can be searched via tags. Most digital solutions don’t have this capability built-in.

You can also print directly from Evernote so you can work from a printed copy of a recipe rather than exposing your electronic device to the hazards of the kitchen.

To aid in weekly meal planning simply choose the weekly template in Evernote. You can then set links to the recipes for each meal. From there it’s easy to prepare your shopping list.

One draw-back to using Evernote, is that you’re likely to need more storage than the basic free level provides, so… you’ll either need to upgrade to premium or consider a different option.



All you need is a recipe box or binder with a card or sheet of paper for each recipe. Decide on the categories you want to use. I like to organize by meal type… breakfast, pack lunches, lunch, dinner, snacks and special occasion.

Create an index card or index page for each category. Here you list each recipes by name in the category it belongs in.

For each recipe, identify the main ingredient and file alphabetically by main ingredient or ingredient group. For example carrots, potatoes, roots for a mix of roots, lettuce, spinach, etc.

Set up sections in your card box for each main ingredient or ingredient group and lay them out alphabetically.

When adding recipes to your index, indicate the main ingredient or ingredient group you are filing the card or sheet under.

Within each ingredient section put your recipes in alphabetical order by name so they’re easy to find by name.

You can also add colour coding.

Set this index in the front of your binder or recipe box.

Now you have a system that allows you to locate recipes based on meal type and main ingredients without having to flip through a lot of cards or pages.

Prepare a table for the week’s meals, with the recipes you plan to use.

Look over the recipes for the meals you’ve planned and prepare your list of items you’ll need to order.

Next time we’ll discuss how to set up a free offline digital system.



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