Let's Eat Workshop- Week 4 of 5

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Week Four: Organizing, Saving Your Recipes & Putting it all Together

When it comes to menu planning, the hardest part for me is come up with a variety of meals for the week. Because of this, I organize my nights into themes, as we discussed last week, but the actual organization and storage of my recipes goes even a step further to help ease this often painful process. 
Here is what I do:
First, I have 2 3-ring notebooks- one is labeled "Recipes to Try" and the other notebook is labeled "Favorite Recipes." Each notebook has tabbed dividers in each of them that are labeled with the names of the themes I use for each night of the week. I have a "Mexican" tab for "Mexican Monday" a "Take Out" tab for takeout Tuesday and so forth. I also have a tab for "Drinks" Party Foods" and "Misc."
As I read my magazines and find new recipes or print recipes from other blogs I see, I file the new recipes in the "Recipes to Try" notebook under the best tabbed section. A new pizza recipe would go under the "Take Out" divider, a new enchilada recipe would go under the "Mexican" divider.
 All these recipes stay here in this notebook until I get around to trying them for myself. This eliminates piles of magazine clippings of random recipes that get lost or damaged before you can try them! And there is no sense of making any of these magazine pages look pretty yet- you don't know if the recipe is a keeper or not, so just leave it in the folder. We will discuss making your recipes prettier in one minute.
When I get around to trying a new recipe, I pull one out of the "Recipes to Try" notebook. If my family loved it, I will then transfer the recipe to the "Favorite Recipes" notebook. This means that I am only keeping the recipes I know my family will eat. That doesn't mean they all have to rate it a perfect 10, it just has to be good enough for me to save and want to make again. If it doesn't turn out, I toss the recipe into the trash! No sense in saving a recipe it you didn't like it, right?
So my "Favorite Recipes" notebook will sit how it is until I get ambitious or find some extra time on my hand. If that ever happens (ahem.) I like to "Make my recipe cards pretty" and file it into my recipe box.
 Making it pretty is a completely individual preference- some people just hand write it on note card, others will type it. I do this:
I like to have a picture with my recipes, so I type the recipe directly on top of the picture. Then, I print the pictures at my local printer (WalMart, Walgreens, Costco etc.) and they go into my recipe box.
(Actually, I now go one step further and mount them to card stock then laminate them because I discovered the hard way how messy I am in the kitchen and all my pretty cards were getting ruined!) Here is what they look like all pretty and protected just waiting to be filed in my box:

My recipe box also has tabbed dividers of the themed days of the week- which makes it easy to flip through while planning my menu.

So planning my menu for the week goes something like this:
1. Grab paper and pencil, 2 black notebooks and recipe box.
2. Find a recipe for Mexican Monday by looking in the file box or the "Favorite Recipes" notebook under the tab "Mexican". Continue in this fashion finding a meal for every day of the week. Use the "Recipes to Try" notebook to find a meal for "What's New Wednesday".
3. Make a grocery list.
4. Go shopping.
5. Eat dinner.
6. Live happily ever after.

Again, because my days have a theme, the guesswork is almost done for me. And because my recipes are organized by theme, I can easily flip to the meal ideas for that theme and choose among tons of options!

Ta-Da! Easy, yummy meals in a wide variety! Meal planning is only going to get easier for you, I promise!

Come up with your own way to organize recipes and commit to doing so! Get started on the process so you won't give up on it.

A Giveaway! (You won't want to miss it!!!)


Nancy H. said...

I love this idea. I plan my menus weekly, but I have not found a way to organize my recipes. I am definitely going to use your "2 notebook system." Thanks for the great tip!


kpmattingly said...

I love that you put a picture with each recipe. I am always leary of trying recipes I find that don't have pictures! Not that mine ever turns out like the picture but I'd still like to have an idea!

Stacia said...

I love the idea of having 2 notebooks! I have been wanting to do something about my chaotic collection of recipes and this is the perfect solution!
My little addition to the situation is to make notes on the recipe- changes and the like. For recipes in cookbooks that I don't want to scribble in, I write on a sticky note and put that on the page instead.
Thanks for the great tips!

Amy said...

I love this! I just bought a big, pink binder for recipe organization, but can see myself gearing it a little more towards your method.
Thanks for the wonderful post!

PDCScarbroughpage said...

I love all these ideas- but I would add one more that I use. Before picking the meals out of the binder- look through your coupons or store ads and find whats on sale- then go through the binder, and if, say, tomatoes and ground beef are on sale- Mexican Monday is now tacos!

J. said...

Wow, this is just such a great way to organize your recipes, I got really inspired reading this!

Rachel@MyPinkFlipFlops said...

Ok, going to get a to try notebook. Far too many recipes scattered through out my house that I never remember are there!

Thanks for the tips!