Ask the Organizer: What’s the best way to organize recipes?

It’s been awhile, but “Ask the Organizer” is back!

organize recipes

This time our question comes from Lisa, who wants to know the best way to organize recipes:

“I have tons of cookbooks, magazines, and index cards filled with recipes.  I enjoy using different recipe ideas when cooking, but I can never find the one I want and I get frustrated! What do you think is the best way to organize recipes?”

Great question, Lisa!  While cooking is not my forte, I do enjoy organizing recipes.  Depending on your personal preference, there are many ways you can organize your favorite recipes so you can do what you love most – cooking!

Pre-organization steps

While it might be tempting to jump in and start organizing your recipes right away, there are a few steps you’ll want to take first:

1. Purge. Before you organize your recipes, you might want to start by purging –

  • Remove any recipes you’ve tried and didn’t like
  • Take out any recipes that have ingredients, processes, or time restrictions you may not want to follow or use
  • Remove any duplicate recipes
  • Discard any recipes you thought you might like to try but have since changed your mind
  • Let go of any cookbooks that no longer interest you
  • Tear or cut out any recipes from magazines that you do want and recycle the magazine itself.

2. Sort. The next step is to sort them into like groups or categories – appetizers, main dishes, casseroles, side dishes, desserts, etc.  While this may seem like a tedious process, it will help you know how many of each type of recipe you have so you can know the best way to store and organize them. Plus it will make finding a particular recipe much easier!

* You can reverse steps 1 & 2 if you prefer to sort then purge.  The important thing is that you do steps 1 & 2!

Options for organizing recipes

After you’ve sorted and purged your recipes, then you are ready to move into the next phase – determining the best way to organize and store them.  Honestly, this is a personal preference, so think about what would work best for you when considering these organizing options:


Growing in popularity, digital recipe organization is one option.  The benefits of using a digital recipe organizer include: having recipes and ingredients on hand wherever you are,  the ability to “clip” recipes from the Internet and add them to your collection, a variety of menu planning tools and help making grocery lists.  Not only that but freeing up cabinet space by not physically storing cookbooks or recipe holders is a plus!

Apps make digital recipe organization a breeze. Here are the more popular ones:

To add your recipe to one of these digital options you simply take a picture from your phone, or scan your recipe (from your phone or desktop), and add it to the app. You can also download recipes from their site or other popular cooking sites, such as Epicurious or AllRecipes, with the tap of a button.  While most of these apps are free, some do offer upgrade plans for more storage and versatility.


If technology scares you and you’d rather store and organize your recipes the traditional way, then you have options as well.

1. Binders. One popular way to organize all your recipes is to store each recipe category (appetizers, main dishes, desserts) its own 3-ring binder.  You can use sheet protectors to hold each individual recipe or add tabbed dividers to organize even more.  Here’s an example of a collection of recipe binders from

Recipe binder organization from

2. Photo albums.  While this is not as common an option, it is one that my grandmother did for me when I got married.  She purchased a simple photo album that holds 3 x 5 pictures and inserted 3 x 5 recipe index cards instead. It is something I still treasure to this day! You can find albums, similar to 3-ring binders, that hold 3 x 5, 4 x 6, or 5 x 7 cards/pieces of paper and that have space for refillable pages to be added.

recipe book
Grandma’s recipe album

As with most things organizing-related, there isn’t just one way to organize recipes! Hopefully, Lisa, I’ve given you a few options to consider so that you can find the recipes you need and want without the frustration.  Happy cooking!

How do you organize recipes? Have you tried any of these options?

Do you have another ideas or suggestions to add?

Leave a comment and let me know!

10 responses on “Ask the Organizer: What’s the best way to organize recipes?

  1. Sabrina Quairoli

    First, I sorted the recipe in binders by meals, like dinner, lunch, meats, desserts, etc… it also helped when I decided to go digital because it was already organized. 🙂

  2. Linda Samuels

    This is so funny because just last week I helped a client refine her cookbook and recipe collection. We discussed going digital, but she opted to stay with paper. We did a pretty simple sorting method because she didn’t want too many categories. So much of this IS personal … so finding what works is the most important.

  3. Janet Barclay

    I use Pepperplate. You can just click to add recipes from most websites, copy and paste from others, or manually enter recipes from cookbooks or that you create. And it’s free, which is always nice. 🙂

  4. Diane Quintana

    I use one very big binder with different sections for the categories. I put the recipes in clear plastic sleeves. This method works for me. I toss recipes that I were too much work or that I didn’t like. This way I can stick to just one binder.

  5. Liana George Post author

    Yes, I’ve heard great things about Pepperplate, Janet! Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂

  6. Liana George Post author

    That’s a great idea Diane! Yes, multiple binders can be cumbersome to keep up with for some people and having just one binder with different categories is another great solution for recipe organization! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. Liana George Post author

    I couldn’t agree more Linda! You have to find the organizing system that works best for you, otherwise, you won’t use and find the organizing success you are looking for. Glad you were able to find a solution for your client!

  8. Liana George Post author

    I bet that was a smooth transition, Sabrina! What did you do to go digital?

  9. Liana George Post author

    I don’t Seana, sorry! I’m not a big cooking fan so recipes aren’t really my thing. I just enjoy organizing other people’s 🙂

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