When we think of our recipe collections, “organisation” may well be a word that we don’t immediately think of to describe how we keep our recipes. Words like messy, cluttered, chaotic and random might be a better description of how we keep and store our recipes that we have collected over a number of years, and even perhaps since our childhood. They may contain notes our mothers or fathers have written out, scrapbooks that we started in high school, folders or original recipe cards inherited from grandparents, display books with newspaper or magazine cuttings, worn out recipe books or hand collated notebooks handed down, glamorous new recipe books hardly touched that looked good at the time, and recipe books that represented “that” phase in our lives that has long since passed.
Our recipe collections are part of us, part of our relationships, our childhoods, our experiences in different places, our memories of travels, of people and events. We take them with us when we move and start again somewhere new. They form a key part of our self expression and demonstrate our values, priorities and what is important to us in so many ways.
Ultimately, recipes are stored not just on our shelves, but in our heads, hearts and hands, and for some, this means that recipes are unnecessary and irrelevant. My mother in law learnt this way as she learnt to cook purely by sight and experience. Even when she writes a recipe out for me, I can only learn the recipe by watching how she does it, because there will inevitably be ingredients or a step that won’t make it onto the page. But recipes can also be stories and roadmaps in themselves, they can be our teacher, and can represent relationships, memories and moments that we just never want to forget. So there is value in recording, ordering, organising and preserving our recipes. We can view this as a way of expressing part of our own food story, as the recipes we have, or in fact don’t have, will express something very fundamental about ourselves.
In the first instance, the benefit of organising our recipes may be that we can
- Sort our recipes into collections or categories and then find them easily when we need to refer to them
- Rediscover old and much loved recipes that we had forgotten about
- Increase the variety of dishes we make as we have easy reference to them
- Decrease clutter on our shelves if we have limited space
- Easily share them with other friends and family, as someone is always asking for a recipe
- Easily store and organise new recipes that are added into your range of regular favourites
There are many different ways that we can go about recording, ordering/decluttering, organising and preserving recipes, and the approach that will be right for you will depend on what’s most important to you. But here are some tips to get your started:
1. If your aim is to declutter and order:
- Pick the top 5 cookbooks that you cook with, and store the rest somewhere else.
- Take photos or scan the recipes that you want to keep from the cookbooks that only contain one or two recipes that you use and either store them elsewhere, or give them away.
- Store your recipes on a recipe keeping app like Fareloom so you have them with you all the time.
- Download recipe card printables through Canva or Pinterest, print them up and place them in a binder.
2. If your priority is to record and preserve:
- Sort through the books that you really want to keep and are important to you, and give away the rest, or store them elsewhere
- Sort through the hand written notes, cookbooks and copies, work out which ones you will keep, and slot them into a folder. Ideally they should be sorted according to category or type of recipe. You could look at Kikki K or other make your own, leaving enough space for new recipes to add, as you go
- You may also wish to create a family heritage cookbook once you have sorted through the recipes you wish to keep and preserve, which can be handed down or shared with family and friends.
- Consider an electronic way to preserve you recipes so they are easy to share with others and will never get lost, such as using the Fareloom app.
Recipe organisation may seem a chore at first, and yes, it takes time, but just start with the easy things first. This might be attacking the recipe book collection first, or might be sorting out all the magazine rip-outs or cuttings before anything else. Or it might be recording all of nanna’s “off-by-heart” recipes into a special note book. This may be a project that you work on over a period of time. Once it’s done and a system is set up, it will make the rest so much easier. And you will feel much more clarity and appreciation for all those recipes that form part of your identity and who you are. And as Marie Kondo advocates, when we order and tidy, there’s more space for gratitude and joy.