16 January 2014

Next Big Project

In addition to getting my shit together in the visible parts of my life (exercise, diet, writing), I am also working on getting it together behind the scenes.  Hence, the organizing the pantry, refrigerator, and other cabinets.  I still haven't gone through my old makeup or the cabinet under the sink, but it's happening soon.  I swear!  Another part of the behind the scenes is my recipe collection.

Hi, my name is Lori and I am addicted to printing recipes from the internet and tearing them out of magazines.

(Hi, Lori!)

Honestly, I subscribe to way too many magazines.  At least I did until recently.  I've been having my mom not renew various ones because I just don't have time to read them all and some of them really aren't useful to me any longer.  Occasionally, I'll sit down with a huge stack of magazines and spend the day going through them.  I wouldn't say I give them all the attention they deserve for their price, but at least they are not creating more clutter.  While I go through these magazines, I tear out pages of recipes that sound interesting, workouts I'll never actually do, and other life tips that seem like they might be helpful.

I also get regular emails from several food blogs.  Sometimes I will look through the recipe, evaluate whether it would be useful to me or not, print it or not, and delete it.  Other times I'll just set it aside and plan to go back to it later.  Which means that in a few months, I'll have hundreds of recipes to wade through.  And I'll happily spend a couple of days going through them and printing out what looks good.  But I'd really rather not make it a regular thing.

At the end of all of this, I have a pile or two or more that resembles this:

Source:  Google Image Search

A shit ton of recipes that I've never tried.

Here's the thing--I really like chicken.  And I really like pasta.  Zach gets tired of those two.  So I look for new and different ways of making them.  I also collect recipes that use beef or pork, that makes breakfasts, appetizers, side dishes, and so on.  However, it's all a jumbled mess.  I can't find anything when I want to use it (if I even remember that I have it).  So I either give up hope or print off another copy if I got it online (and then 10 minutes later I find the original copy, but that's another issue).  At this point, I have some recipes in sheet protectors in a binder and I have some recipes that are semi-sorted in an accordion folder (and many that are just shoved into the front to be sorted).

I don't know what I have.

I don't know what I've tried.

I want to organize my recipes.

I've done a fair bit of poking around the internet this week on how to organize recipes.  The most popular option seems to be to use three-ring binders, tabbed dividers, and sheet protectors.  Love it!  All of it.  Three ring binder--I can pull out the recipe that I am using; I can add to or remove easily.  Dividers--I can organize things by type.  Sheet protectors--This saves recipes from splatter.

Here's my plan:

First off, I need to go through my recipes.  I need to evaluate which ones I will actually make based on the amount of effort, the techniques, the ingredients, and the equipment involved.  Here's the thing--I love to cook, but I live in the sticks, so we don't have a lot of ingredients available to us.  And I'm not driving an hour in order to acquire a single ingredient, especially if it's a jar of something that will likely be used for just this one recipe.  I'm also not going to buy a gadget just to make one recipe--that's a waste of money and storage space, both of which are at a premium right now.  The thought of working with yeast really intimidates me, I don't like very many vegetables, and I just don't like cooked carrots at all--so why have recipes that involve them?  Right now--and probably always--I'm just not that interested in making a labor-intensive recipe.  Some recipes take upwards of four hours to make, but you don't have to be standing over the pot to make them--I love it!  Others require you to be right there the entire time--no, thank you.  Cheap, quick, and easy--that's how I like my recipes, otherwise I am tempted to just grab something because that's quicker and has no clean up.  I am totally willing to make some things from scratch, but not everything.  Call me lazy if you want, but I view it as giving myself more time to read.  I'm also pretty sure I have some duplicates.

Any-who, after that, I'll organize my recipes by type.  I envision seven sections--Appetizers, Soup & Salad, Main Dishes (sub-divided into Beef, Poultry, Pasta, and Other), Side Dishes, Breakfasts, Desserts, and Miscellaneous (for drinks, kitchen helps, etc).  I will probably alphabetize them to make it even easier to find the ones I want.

Then I'll hit the store.  Wal-Mart sells really cute three-ring binders and they aren't super expensive.  So I'll purchase two.  Why two binders?  I want to separate out the recipes I've actually tried from those I haven't.  Because of the sheer volume, I don't want to have to wade through hundreds of recipes just to find that one that I know I like.  I'll also buy some tabs and some more sheet protectors.

Next it's time to assemble the binders...

For the recipes I've tried and know that I/we like, I will type them up, print them out, and put them in their sheet protector.  I don't know when exactly I will type them up, but I will eventually.  Promise!  I also want to be able to write notes and suggestions, so I need to leave space for that.  I saw a post that talked about giving their recipe binders an old-fashioned feeling (naturally, I cannot find that post again to see how they did it).  I love that idea!  I'd like to do something like that instead of having my recipes just printed out on a plain old sheet of white paper.  I could type and print the recipe, cut it out, and matte it onto some scrapbook paper.  I went through a scrapbooking phase a while back and still have a ton of leftover paper.  I could totally use that for the tried recipes!  It will make them pretty and it will provide a use for materials I've already paid money for.  And I could use those decorative scissors to kind of help mask how hopelessly bad I am at cutting things out.

For the recipes I haven't tried, well...I'll weed through them so that there aren't as many, which is a plus.  They'll be organized into their appropriate type, so I can easily look through and finally try them.  Honestly, I don't want to put a whole lot of effort or money into the ones I haven't tried.  I don't want to buy a ton of sheet protectors for them because I'm poor and I'd rather spend my money on books.  Besides, some of my recipes are already hole punched and/or are too big to fit into a sheet protector.  Plus if I'm just going to type them up and make them pretty or toss them--why go through a ton of effort to save the original?  Again, call me lazy, but that's more time to read.  Obviously, the goal is to try these recipes and move them over to the tried and true binder or toss them, thus eventually eliminating the need for an un-tried recipe binder.

In the future, I'll hopefully get better about adding recipes.  I don't want to feel the need to save every single recipe that looks good.  Maybe I can start a list of recipes I see on the internet--what it was, where I saw it, maybe a date--which I can peruse whenever I'm wanting something different.  That way it won't be lost forever and it won't be taking up space until I actually get around to trying it.

Anyway, that's the plan.  The big question is--with this three-day weekend coming up--do I work on the recipe books or do I relax and read?


  1. A couple of years ago I went through this process and put together my recipe binder (originally given to me by my mother-in-law). And, surprisingly, I've kept up with it since then-updating as I find new recipes. Here's my post if you want to take a look: http://aliteraryodyssey.blogspot.com/2012/03/weekend-cooking-march-4-2012-my-recipe.html

    Good luck!

  2. I have two binders - one is recipes that we use or I've gotten from people and we know we like them. The other is for all of those recipes I've printed or clipped. They are all sorted into the same categories. Sadly, though, I hardly ever pull that binder out. I really need to get better about that part!