Storage Tips

The Best Recipe Organizer is Tech-Free and Under $5

September 15, 2016

In an increasingly digital age, it’s no surprise that many of us rely on virtual recipe boxes, with favorite recipes housed in recipe collections, on Pinterest boards, or on one of many websites and apps devoted to organizing recipes from across the web—all of which afford us the ability to pull them up later on any device.​

Recently though, Picholine reminded us of the power of paper when she turned to the Hotline with this query: “I have a series of often-used recipes that I need at my fingertips (rather than drag out my iPad and search). I have an envelope taped to the inside door of my cabinet and recipe cards placed there such as pancakes, quick rolls, stock, pesto, and other basics. What do you do? I'd love other ideas.”

For the times you don’t want to keep swiping your smartphone with flour-covered fingers to access your go-to recipes, an overwhelming majority of you use the same solution: a 3-ring binder. Here’s how you make them work for you:

Photo by James Ransom
  • Nancy keeps printed copies of recipes she uses often in a 3-ring binder, then pulls one out and hangs it with a magnet on the fridge while she works, explaining, “So the recipe is visible, but I don't need to handle it (muck it up with dough, etc.) while I'm cooking.”

  • MMH says, “I have a 3-ring binder that zips shut all the way around so I can stick all kinds of things in it. I use clear plastic sleeves also. I experimented with storing them online, but found that what's most valuable to me are the notes I'd written—to document tweaks I'd made or things I'd do differently next time.”

  • Stephanie G notes that the ones she uses often are "pretty much memorized," but she still uses a 3-ring binder for her favorites and ones she wants to make in the future.

  • Cranberry uses a 3-ring binder with clear pockets to hold printouts​, saying, “I have it organized by day-to-day favorites and then my favorites for various holidays.”

  • SKK says, “I too use the 3-ring binder technique with printed recipes and clear pocket covers. I have a separate binder for all my canning, dehydrating, and preserving recipes."

How do you organize the recipes you want to access quickly? Are you on the 3-ring binder bandwagon? Continue the conversation on the Hotline post or tell us in the comments below!

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Kaleb February 23, 2019
I have loved! It was very easy to convert my recipe book over to, and is safe, inexpensive, and great to use!
okmosa September 24, 2016
I have a three-ring binder system that goes back to college days (30 years...) so it started in the dark ages (as my kids call it). We call them 'the black binders' because there are now 2 large black binders, tabbed by at least a couple dozen themes: breakfast, beverages, salads, pies - savory, pies - sweet, veg main dishes, starch sides, pork, seafood, lamb, thanksgiving, jams, pickles, frozen, and many more! The black binders are the tested and saved recipes to be used over and over, stained and notated, often with dates the recipe was first made and who liked it and how much they liked it. Then I have six narrower non-black binders with copies or magazine-pages clipped recipes to try - these were also started in the dark ages as well - and they are organized with the same tabs. I still add to this analog collection as I voraciously read cookbooks and magazine back issues (piles of them!) and copy recipes. And then the digital age entered. I've scanned clipped recipes store on my computer (with the same tabs as folders), but find I go to the binders first. Although I have scanned all of my 'black binder' recipes because I can search through them on my phone with my computer back-up service app (Mozy) when I am at the grocery store. I also save online recipes to Pocket, which is searchable as well. But I think I will always have my black binders!
bellw67 September 16, 2016
I have a three ring binder with my absolute faves, things I have made or really want to try. I also have a copy on my computer, as well as hundreds of recipes I have collected. I have sorted them into categories and folders so they are easy to find and can access them on my iPad. But I was looking for a Pesto recipe and I'll be darned, couldn't find it. I had to download one from the Internet.
Nancy September 19, 2016
Suzybel63... I should have mentioned that I do the same - not total troglodyte. Keep digital files where I download recipes and modify the ones I make with notes about what worked & what didn't. Also, as other say, periodically I cull the ones I don't use anymore or won't be making no matter previous good intentions.
Kay D. September 15, 2016
Another three ring binder user. I have one for just sweets and a huge one for everything else. I keep the recipes in plastic sleeves. I go through it every now and then and discard ones that I'll never make, or that I suddenly no longer find interesting. For cut out recipes, there are still a few, I have a cute little wooden box,
Emily September 15, 2016
I also use a binder with printed recipes in plastic sleeves! I have a "to try" binder and a "keeper recipes" binder. If I try one and it's good, it goes in the keeper binder, and if it's bad, it goes in the trash!
sarah September 15, 2016
I also use a binder, but only for quick notes. For everyday cooking I don't use recipes, and when I do something different I look it up from the web. I memorize the method and scribble down the ingredients as keywords. When I decide to make the same thing later, I can recreate it from the ingredients I wrote. It saves time, since I rarely bake something twice.
Brenda J. September 15, 2016
I've got a plastic accordion folder I use for paper recipes, but I've moved more and more to apps. Pepperplate works best for me.
Bella September 15, 2016
Love all the ideas!! I have found that using photo albums work best for me. Colorfull front covers and in different shapes and sizes. (Clear sleeves, pictures in front, flip page, recipes on other side). Some I cut out of magazines, some I write from grandma's favorites albums on index cards and slide them right in the sleeves. Using a book stand on the counter while viewing my recipes. It Keeps it in place and is sturdy (leaving my dirty hands free of having to touch it.) I use my label maker and involve my kids for making each book for the different types of foods /desserts.
Thanks for letting me share :)
Cathy R. September 15, 2016
I used a binder for years but just found it too cumbersome. Now I use the ChefTap App and it is amazing.