How to Organize Loose Recipes - The Happy Housewife™ :: Home Management

How to Organize Loose Recipes


The following is a post from contributing writer Angie.

Before Pinterest was my favorite place to keep track of recipes, I had a habit of ripping recipes out of magazines, printing recipes from blogs, and making the occasional copy out of a library book.  (Unless I loved a bunch of recipes, then I just “had” to buy the book and add it to my extensive cookbook collection.)

All of these loose papers with recipes on them started to be an issue, especially since it seemed like every time you picked up an item, there was a paper with a recipe on it underneath.

Having recipes all over your house adds to your clutter, but even more so it takes away from your original intention when you printed it out or pulled it out of a magazine.  When that recipe is sitting under a chess board somewhere, it is most definitely not being made.  And wasn’t trying it your intention when you saved it?

While there are many ways to organize your loose recipes, here is my favorite way that I’ve done it:

Find a Binder

Purchase (or find in your home) a three ring binder.  If you have a lot of recipes or you know you’ll want to add more as time goes on, consider getting a large binder.  Because I knew I had a lot of recipes and I knew that I wanted to use page protectors, I picked a 3-inch binder.

You’ll either need a three hole punch or you’ll need page protectors.  I like page protectors because they protect my recipes when I’m cooking and easily wipe off when they get messy.  They did, however, add an extra expense to this project.

Track Down All of Your Recipes

Gather all of your loose recipes in one spot.  It is best to find a spot where you will be able to spread out, if needed.  If you are like I was, you might have recipes all over your house — on counter tops, under chess boards (yes, I really had recipes under our chess board), in a variety of drawers, with stacks of magazines, and more.

Sort Through The Recipes and Categorize Them

Look through each and every recipe that you have that you think you’re going to organize.  Before doing any organizing, decide if there are some of the recipes that you aren’t actually ever going to make.  Perhaps someone in your home has different dietary needs than when you first saved the recipe or maybe you just know you will never, ever make it.  If that’s the case, then just do yourself a favor and don’t keep it.

For recipes that you want to keep, however, start sorting them into piles based on whatever categories you would like to make in your binder.  For me, I have the following sections: Food Tips and Tricks, Main Dishes, Breakfasts, Side Dishes and Salads, Breads and Muffins, Desserts/Sweets, and Copies of Family Recipes (from an album my Mom has, which I scanned and printed one year).

Assemble Your Binder

Once you have your recipes organized, either three hole punch them or put them into page protectors and start adding them to your binder.  It is best to have dividers between sections, of course.  For mine, I have my sections labeled and each tab is a different color.  That way, I can skip around in the binder just by flipping to the right color.  (In interest of full disclosure, I will admit that after a few years, the only one I can remember is that purple is the section with sweets and desserts.)

Maintain Your Binder

Stick in some extra page protectors or keep your three hole punch handy.  This will help you to be better prepared when new recipes come into your life that need a home.

Another way to help keep your recipes organized is to remember that if you try a new recipe from your binder and feel that you will never make it again (maybe it sounded great but tasted terrible), take it out of your binder and get rid of it.  That way, you’ll never forget and make it again, and you’ll also be making room for new favorites to be added.

How do you organize your recipes that aren’t stored online or in cookbooks?

Angie is a homeschooling mom to three children and writes about the adventures of her life as a domestically challenged nerd-type turned stay at home Mom at Many Little Blessings. She is also the founder of The Homeschool Classroom, Catholic Mothers Online, Tiny Owl Designs, and Just a Tiny Owl {Etsy shop}.

This post is part of the Organized in 365 series. If you have a great organizing tip you can submit it here

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.


  1. I have recipes taped onto index cards or written on index cards and put into small photo albums. Since we live overseas, it helps to have these in a smaller book, and I have one that I bring back to the US, so I always have all my favorite recipes with me!

    • I use a small photo album as well and most of my recipes are on 4×6 cards. If it is a full sheet, I just fold it up and slide it into the slot. I then have to pull it out and unfold it to use it, but it isn’t a big deal.

  2. Tracy Compaan says:

    I love using my binders! Except I have three, each about 2 inches I guess? One for Desserts and Breads, One for all main entrees, and one for scratch cooking recipes and tips and tricks. I just reorganized them this week, and threw out a bunch I never use because I needed to make room for a bunch of new ones. But I do like using my online recipes from Happy Housewife, and other blogs and pinterest as well. I also agree with Karen, because I brought those overseas as well, for the same convenience!

    • That’s a great idea having them all in separate binders. My binder is pretty large, so I could see the benefit of having smaller ones.

  3. veronica dasta says:

    I do this and I use pocket ones for index card recipes. Love how it keeps me organized

  4. We’re trying to sort/purge our recipe drawer right now and we’re going electronic … Paprika is a pretty cool iPhone application that allows me to store recipes (albeit I have to type in some), menu plan AND grocery shop.

    LOVE IT!

  5. This is exactly what I’m doing right now and it’s long overdue! I have recipes everywhere–both printed AND digital. It’s been driving me crazy. It’ll take me a while since I have a newborn & a 16 month old to care for, but it’s good to know I’m on the right track! ^_^

  6. I also use a binder, but I’ve found that many of my recipes are less than a full page in size. So I cut them out and glue them to colored construction paper. I color-code my sections (red for main dishes, blue for dessert, etc.) so it’s easy to see where I want to flip to.

    You can see my binder on my blog, here:

  7. This is a great system and I do something similar (although it’s gotten away from me again lately and needs an afternoon to review and purge).

    The only thing I would add is that I have a second, smaller one that I’ve labeled “family favorites” that stays right out by my counter in hands reach. That one I only sort into Sweets/Snacks, Breakfast/Brunch, Other Meals, and Special. That’s my go-to binder if I don’t have a meal plan, or need something quick and easy, or have company unexpected, or need something for the office or church ASAP. My bigger one is really just yet another giant cookbook. 🙂

  8. Good idea. Thanx for sharing.

  9. I absolutely LOVE having my recipes in a binder! Whenever I try out a new recipe from a website, I print it out…then if it’s a keeper, I add it to a page protector in my notebook. One of the things I love most is that when I pull out a recipe, even if I have it sitting on the counter next to what I’m cooking, it doesn’t get ruined if I splash a little on it or whatever because it’s in the sheet protector. Some of my favorite recipes have all sorts of smudges of batter and whatnot all over them, but at least I can still read the recipe! 😉 I also keep recipes that I’ve collected and am waiting to try stuck in the front pocket of the binder.

  10. Jennifer E says:

    I have wanted to do this for a long time. I have boxes full of loose recipes and stacks of them all over. My problem has always been that I just don’t have a place for a binder. We recently had a microwave installed over our oven, and the cabinet above had to be cut down. Binders won’t fit now. (I do have one that I have had for years with hand-written recipes in it, and it no longer fits either.) I will probably still do this and just “one of these days” when I have a bigger kitchen, I will be able to use it regularly. I suppose I can get a pretty enough binder that it could sit out on the bookshelf in the living room.

  11. I love an organized recipe binder. Another great solution is a Recipe Nest – holds all of your loose recipes without punching holes or buying sheet protectors. Just another way to enjoy your time in the kitchen! Thanks for a great post.

  12. Thanks for the reminder that we CAN organize our recipes. I have a binder like this but it needs to be sorted again. I have a ton of papers stuffed into the front of all the recipes I have been trying or want to try soon. Time to purge!

  13. I did something similar a few years ago and reading this post made me realize I’m overdue for a little purging and organizing of the pile of recipes that did not make it into my binders yet! Instead of buying a lot of page protectors, I used a three hole punch on plain white paper and double-sided tape (or a glue stick) to attach recipes and their photos to the blank sheets. Blog/online recipes I just print, hole-punch and put right in. Then, I just keep a few sheet protectors in each binder, so I can slip a recipe page into one when I’m cooking. This way the recipes stay clean, but I also don’t need to buy so many sheets! (Because, trust me, I have A LOT of recipes)

    As for organizing recipes, I use Eat Your Books ( This site is so excellent for helping you actually find & use recipes in your collection. The site indexes popular cookbooks, magazines, & blogs. Once you set up your “Bookshelf, ” you can use the site as a search engine for you specific collection! (Members also have the opportunity to request to index less popular books themselves, index recipes from the internet, and index their own personal recipes. This takes a bit more time since you need to learn how to index properly first, but even if you did not want to do any indexing, this site is still extremely useful.)

    If you are a cookbook & recipe collector, I definitely recommend checking this website out – you can add 5 books to your shelf for free to see how it works.

    P.S. I am not affiliated with them in any way, just an extremely happy customer!

  14. I have a portable file box that has hanging file folders divided into Main Category tabs (Appetisers, Beef, Breakfast, Chicken, Desserts, Resources) and then I have seperate file folders labeled to further narrow down the recipes. For instance, I have seperate folders for the type of beef the recipe suggests in the Beef hanging file folder like chuck, stew meat, round steak, etc., and the Chicken is subdivided by bone-in, boneless, whole, etc. This way when there is a certain cut of meat on sale I can go to that folder and look up what recipe I want to try using it. I then put the recipe in a plastic 8″x11″ sign stand on my counter or hang it from a binderclip from my kitchen cabinet. Of course, I have a pile that I need to file into the box, so it sounds like I’m way more organized than I am!

  15. love it what a great idea i do this with scrap booking and card making things i like never thought about recipes for it ! thanks for the great idea time to get mine together in one book place will be much easier than going through them all to find something i wanted to make ..

  16. I started organizing my recipes with Dish Dish, an online cookbook tool, where you can enter your recipes, keep them private or share them, add photos or notes, edit them any time, search them when at work or shopping, create a shopping list or menu, share with friends or family with the click of a button, and find easily with the iPad / iPhone app – Dish Dish Online Cookbook. It’s free to set up an account and enter as many recipes as you want.


  1. […] Anyway, the recipe binder really is one of the organized areas in my life, so go check it out. […]

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