Mom keeps her recipes in a metal box. It is a tan-ivory color with a green scroll design on it. It screams “1970,” which is pretty accurate, as it was a wedding gift when my parents got married in the ’70s.
Once, a family friend visiting from out of town asked whether she could borrow it. She took it to her hotel, copied recipes on index cards, and brought my mom back the little tan and green container. The friend keeps her index cards in photo album-style plastic inserts.
Me, all my recipes are printed out from food websites and piled on a shelf in the kitchen.
And that’s no good.
It can be difficult to tame all those delicious-sounding recipes when the randomly formed piles can include pot luck desserts found on Pinterest, soups your co-worker fed to her husband and that awesome sounding Bellini from Rachael Ray’s magazine.
Because when it’s time to dig out those Oreo cream cheese cupcakes again next winter, if there is no filing system to speak of, you’re probably not going to remember which shelf, drawer or cabinet the recipe has called home for the past 11 months.
Local home cooks name a variety of ways they organize their recipes. It’s not simply a binder or shelf of cookbooks – it’s any of a mixture of collections to keep those hundreds of recipes organized.
Meredith Palmison, 31, of Fort Wayne calls her technique for organizing her recipes “one part old-school and one part kind of modern.”
The “old school” portion is the three-ring binder she has used for about four years. It is full of recipes printed from the Internet and others she has torn from magazines.
She hole-punches the sheets and organizes them by dish type: main dishes, desserts, dips, salads.
“I would say these were solutions to the problem of, I just kind of had stacks of printouts, and I kept shoving them in a junk drawer in the kitchen,” Palmison says.
“And I think, ‘I want that healthy oven crunchy chicken recipe. I guess that’s gonna be 30 minutes while I hunt through this stack of stuff.’ ”
She took the idea from her mother, an avid cook, who used binders to help keep everything in one place.
Nancy Schuman, 67, of Columbia City stores recipes she pulls from newspapers and prints online in manila folders. She doesn’t quite keep up with the system, however; about twice a year, she goes through her new piles of recipes, tosses the ones she won’t use and files the good ones into the folders.
She uses binders for this, too – she bakes for the Indiana State Fair, and she keeps her cookie, cake and bread recipes separated into binders.
“For so long, I just threw recipes in a drawer,” she says. “When I tried to find something, it was impossible. It finally hit me that I need to get organized. That’s why – I started accumulating so much.”
Gayle Cooper, 56, of Fort Wayne also uses a variety of ways to organize her recipes. A few years ago, her husband bought her a hardback recipe organizer divided into categories.
Each page is a pocket where she keeps her go-to recipes and has a place where she can make notes. She pulls it out a few times a week and estimates there are maybe 50 recipes she uses often in there.
Cooper also uses recipe boxes, the kind that includes index cards. She has recipes handwritten on the cards.
Within the past year, Palmison has discovered Dropbox. The website serves as an online filing system. It offers 2 megabytes of free storage, and Palmison can access it on any device connected to the Internet, including a Dropbox app on her iPhone.
“I can be at the grocery store and say, ‘I wonder (what was in that) Asian Chicken Salad recipe?’ and I can get it,” she says.
Baking entries at the state fair need to be printed out and turned in, Schuman says, so she keeps her baking recipes as documents stored and backed up on her computer.
In addition to the recipe organizer and binders she uses, and the expanding file wallets and recipe boxes, Cooper has “boxes upon boxes of recipes that I have in folders that are not organized yet.”
She tries to tackle them on wintry days.
“I’ll go back and get my big pile of folders, and I try to sit there while I’m watching TV and I kind of do the preliminary organizing (so recipes can) make their way into that binder some day,” Cooper says.