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How to Organize Recipes and Cookbooks

Go Gingham Organized recipesI received this desperate email from a reader recently about organizing recipes and cookbooks:

I have collected recipes for over 40 years and have quite a few!! Also cookbooks!! They are overwhelming my kitchen and book cases!! Help!! Please before my hubby starts to burn them!!

Oh my do I feel your pain! I share your love of exclamation points, too!! I had to do this several years ago and it was hard. A major purge is in order.

How to Organize Recipes and Cookbooks

Before beginning this project, make yourself a nice drink like a cup of coffee or tea. And, make sure to wear clothing that can get dirty! After 40-years of collecting, you’re going to need a refreshment and once your bookshelves are empty, you’ll likely want to clean them, too.

Let’s start with the books…

First, clear them ALL off your bookshelves and put them in the middle of the room. Next, make 2 piles:

  • Keep
  • Giveaway

How many to keep? Pick out 7-10 of your favorite cookbooks and then plan to give the rest away. Tell your husband there is no need to burn books. The cookbooks can go to your local second-hand store that accepts donations. Make sure to ask for a receipt so you can use the donation on next year’s taxes. You could also invite friends and relatives over for a “cookbook giveaway” party and send the books home with new owners. Another option is to pass them along yourself, giving them to those who you think might enjoy them.

Now, onto the recipes themselves…

Get all of your clippings and printed recipes and sort by food type (main dish, side, vegetarian, etc.) and recycle all duplicates and similar ones. Once you have an idea of how many recipes you want to keep, check HERE for tips on setting on binders for your recipes.

If all of this sorting seems too overwhelming, consider recycling the whole lot of them. With the internet and so many excellent food blogging sites, it might be very freeing for you to start completely over. I give you permission to do this if you promise to recycle them! 40+ years of collecting is a long time. If you have the urge to purge, go for it! (My apologies for the rhyming but I couldn’t resist.)

One thing that has really helped me when I find a recipe that sounds good, I put on the brakes and do the following:

I read the recipe again and ask myself the following:

  • Is this similar to something I already have?
  • Am I really going to make this?
  • How many recipes and cookbooks do I really need?

Be strong. You can do it!! Good luck.

What do you collect that needs sorting or purging? Are you a clipper of recipes? Or a collector of cookbooks?

Go Gingham related links:

National Match-Up Day: A step-by-step on how to clean and organize your food storage containers!
I love to collect chairs! Yes, chairs!!
A free chair – that was rejected!
Wrapping presents with free maps makes for pretty gifts
Green and frugal living – the sweet spot where green and frugal meet

5 thoughts on “How to Organize Recipes and Cookbooks

  1. I have about five hardcover cookbooks left, after purging to conserve storage space. All but one of the excess went to the local Friends of the Library, for their semi-annual book sale. One of the books went to Freecycle; someone was looking for a 5-ring binder to fit a cookbook. I had never used that particular book and was glad to give it a good home.

    I have one binder for clipped and printed recipes. I set it up in categories similar to the way a commercial cookbook is set up. I used plastic sheet protectors; it is faster to get a completed page, and the plastic protects the paper recipes from getting cooking spatters.


  2. I recently went through and worked on my cookbooks and binders. (I was using folders but it was a pain so I switched to binders). I keep all of my cookbooks/binders on my bakers rack and I put a basket on the undershelf to house all my recipes I’ve printed/cut out/wrote myself in that basket until I get another chunk of time to put them where they need to go.

    One suggestion if you decide to give away/get rid of your cookbooks is to go through them and copy any of the recipes that might look good so you will have those. I know I have a couple of books that I only use a few recipes out of and won’t use any of the others so that’s what I’d do.


  3. I purged some of my cookbooks a few years ago, and it’s getting time to do it again. One thing my husband did for me as a Christmas gift a while back was to take all of the recipes I had printed out, clipped, whatever, and create a binder for me. He sorted through all of them, created categories and tabs, and just put them all into a simple binder. I also keep all of my holiday recipes in there. I have sections for each major holiday for each year, and have included the recipes I’ve used, my shopping list, and my “how to tackle this” list. Our 16 year old cooked Thanksgiving dinner last year for the family, and was able to go back and look at what I’d done in the past, and create her own section from that.


  4. I often see a trend on the recipes I have printed or pulled out of magazines – they are all some sort of PB/chocolate combo. Lol. Then I have to really assess how many choc/PB bar recipes I really need. I also throw out recipes that have ingredients I don’t normally purchase. No sense in wasting money on something I may not even like.


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