The Recipe: On Organising Recipes

It all happened when I was sitting on my bed over a year ago and peeked over the side of it to see yet another magazine holder which had fallen over. I couldn’t endure tripping over my 8 magazine holders on the way to bed for another night. And so it began. My mission to eliminate my bulky and quite useless magazine holders. Over the course of a week or so, I’d come home from work and take apart every single recipe magazine I own so I could get it into some efficient order.

Ingredients (aside from your many recipe magazines):

1. (2-3) Lever arch folders depending on how many magazines you have (to give an indication, I had about 2 and a half years worth of magazines – one or two a month, and I filled 3 folders).


2. Coloured plastic dividers; one pack per folder so three sets of dividers at least (depending of course on how many folders you have). They come in packs of 5, 10, 12, 20, 31, A-Z, monthly etc. I used a mixture of 5-divider packs and 10-divider packs. The reason for this is that one folder might be filled with smaller categories so it can fill up to 10 categories in the one folder. Another folder that has my poultry recipes can only fit about 5 categories, so that folder only has 5 tabs. I love these Marbig ones.

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3. Sheet protectors. I use these silver edged ones as I find them much more durable (which is necessary when you’re constantly removing, moving around and cooking with these recipes).


4. Durable post-its. The reason you need these is that once you have all the sleeves in the folder, the post-its act as a finger guide to guide you to the correct category. You’ll see exactly what I mean later on. I use these ones and find them absolutely perfect for the job. A wider post-it may do but I find it difficult to work with if the words on the tabs overlap each other.


5. Thin black marker, for labeling.


6. Regular post-its. This will be used for ‘book-marking’ your recipes. You’ll see more of this below.


7. Blade cutter. Completely optional (recommended for those with OCD). For trimming the pages. Looks incredibly neater.


8. Labeller (you can definitely get away with just your $2 marker), but I found this to be a great little tool and it’s fun and incredibly easy to use. You can pick it up for around $19 online. It’s also mechanically built so you don’t need batteries or chargers or any of those frustrating little aids. This works purely by itself with the embossing tape (It comes with one or two black rolls of the tape).


My Method:

1. Tear out the recipes and trim. This step is for the OCD people who will actually bother trimming. I did this step after tearing the pages from each magazine. I would rip out about 5-10 pages at a time, and because the stack of paper was already held together because I’d ripped straight from the magazine, I’d trim it right away. If I left this to the end, I would be inefficiently trying to gather piles of paper and then trim them. I can assure you that is nothing less than frustrating. But trimming itself leaves the pages much more pleasant to look at and less prone to ripping or looking uneven.

2. Categorise into your food category piles. By pile I mean a poultry recipes pile (chicken, turkey and quail), a dessert and drinks recipes pile, a steak recipes pile, a breakfast recipes pile and so on. The beauty of this is that you choose exactly how you wish to categories your dishes. I had a ‘potato dishes’ pile and a ‘side dishes’ pile for example, but I knew when serving fries I would go for the side dishes section of my folder, whereas baked potato would go under potato dishes because it can very well be served as dinner as opposed to a side. You categorise the recipes based on how you will access them. Some people prefer to keep every recipe in every magazine ‘just incase I cook it one day’, but I am of a different school. If I know I won’t cook it, or it isn’t something my husband or I enjoy eating, out it would go into the recycling box (even after all that throwing, I still ended up with several folders.

3. Print any extra recipes you’ve saved online. I actually had quite a few recipes saved online as well, so I printed these (mostly from Pinterest or amazing blogs) and added them to my categories (without needing to trim). You don’t need to print if you access them from an iPad while you’re cooking. 

4. Sleeve away! At this stage I had all my categories divided into their respective piles. I would pick a category, then place each recipe into a sheet protector (if pages were 56 continuing to 57 from a magazine I would try and keep this in the same order to save confusion later). If it’s a single page recipe, that’s excellent and you can add another single recipe on the other side of the sheet protector. If it’s a double sided recipe on a magazine or printout, obviously don’t crowd the sleeve as this will be a massive headache when you’re reading a recipe during cooking time. These are much older issues of recipes+ and I used those disastrous flimsy white edged sleeves. Oh, the naivety.


5. Get your dividers and put them in your folders but do NOT label them yet. You won’t know what is going to fit perfectly just yet.

6. Now pick up your  first folder and put the category in after the first divider that comes first in alphabetical order. For example; Asian Cuisine pile goes after the first divider, then Breakfast goes in after the second divider and so on. This is one step I will need to redo myself in the future. I want my categories alphabetically organised in my folders (do it yourself and say nyah-nyah to me, I’ll humbly accept).  I have changed my categories around so often to make room in folders that they are in no order, and I have simply learned which folder to pick up for a lamb recipe. But alphabetical rules this out so do your categories alphabetically. Try to leave extra room in each folder. In the first image, for example, I have BBQ, Asian, Beef, Chicken & Turkey, Breakfast, Salads, Rice Dishes and Spanish Cuisine.

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7. Once you’ve fit the categories, begin labelling your dividers. Label the front content page and each divider.

8. Take out your durable post its and write out the categories and stick each post it on top of its respective divider. It is MUCH easier to access your categories after this. As you can see the categories are much clearer as soon as you open the folder.

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8. Take out your mini post its and stick them on the inside front of each folder. I find this extremely helpful when I’m menu planning or taking out more than one recipe. Use the post it to bookmark where the recipe goes before you remove it (to take the recipe(s) into the kitchen for cooking). You’ll know exactly where it goes and it avoids constant changing of where the recipes are positioned within the category.


9. Close the folder and begin labelling the spines, either with your labeller or permanent marker. I can promise you if you have more than one folder it will be a much easier task to pick the folder out if you know what’s inside it (obviously). This really helps solve my non-alphabetical order problem. As you can see, the winning category is desserts. So many dessert recipes. Ah, recipes+, that croquembouche…

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10. The Foodie Folder. My favourite step. Which is extra and optional but definitely a favourite of mine. I am very much into food styling, researching produce and suppliers, markets, farms and restaurants. That is what this folder is for.

I store suppliers of gourmet products, restaurants I have been to and keep on my favourites list or want to visit in the future, farms, orchards (mother says orchards, I pronounce ork-ards. Yes, laugh.), hospitality products (we use this for parties and big events), and miscellaneous.

The fourth picture is tabs A-Z, where all the markets I will be visiting are listed in order by suburb (Albury, Manly, Pyrmont, Sydney etc).

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And that, I do believe, is all there is to it. I know there are many sophisticated ways to save recipes online, and I am all for using the best that technology and media have to offer, but there’s nothing like looking at a good old glossy magazine page with a beautifully styled dish. And I am sure my future children will gaze in wonder at this beast of many folders and wonder about the era they were born in.

Hope it was helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions. Happy cooking! Xx