A Recipe for Organizing Cookbooks
Sure there are lots of great recipes online, like the ones here at Whats Cooking America, but who does not love holding a cookbook filled with delicious titles of recipes and mouthwatering pictures? Cookbooks become both a resource and an old friend.
If you have a cookbook collection, as I do, you probably find yourself staring at the shelf occasionally in bewilderment. You can taste the lemon ice-box pie you made. You can picture how the recipe appears on the page. You just cannot figure out which book it was in!
Or, you turn to a recipe you made for a dinner party in the past and now you can’t remember if it really did feed eight or were the portions more suitable for six. Dagnabit!
One of the best organizing tips I learned was in direct contradiction to how I was raised. As a child, I learned to respect books by not bending the corners and not writing in them. Forget that with cookbooks! The cookbook belongs to you, not the library, so get liberal with your pen and your remarks.
Organizing tips for really enjoying your cookbook collection:
Taking Notes: After trying a recipe, take the time to make some notes on that page in the cookbook. Note any variation from the recipe such as that it made less servings that you thought, it needed to cook ten minutes longer, or that you left out the capers and still liked it. Sometimes, if I had a great combination of things going, I might say “Great when served with orzo and roasted asparagus.”
Dating Recipes Used: Not necessary, but fun, is to add a date and who you first made it for. It is fun for me to turn to a favorite cookbook and see when I first tried something and for whom (especially since I have changed towns a few times).
Using Sticky Notes: Flagging recipes with sticky notes is also helpful. When I find myself going back to the same recipe fairly often, such as our favorite piquant mini-meat loaves, I will add a sticky note to jut out of the book.
Grouping or Sorting Cookbooks: Grouping your cookbooks by genre can really help you with meal and party planning. It is great when having in a group to be able to reach into one section of the bookshelf and find the appetizer cookbooks and ones that are geared toward parties. Sort your cookbooks into like kinds. Some of your divisions might be desserts, entertaining, family favorites, ethnic cookbooks, and seasonal recipes. My seasonal cookbooks include topics such as soups/stews, holiday recipes, summer fresh salads, outdoor grilling, and so on. You may also find you have a particular collection on a singular topic. Being in the South, I have a dozen or so Southern cookbooks. I also have a stack of books that are on a single topic, all polenta recipes or all chicken recipes.
Magazine Recipes: Merging cooking magazines with your cookbooks in an attractive manner is easy with the addition of a few magazine holders. A very simple and easy way to organize recipes would be to use a three-ring binder and separator sheets to sort and file recipes
Rotating Cookbooks: As an organizer, I advocate keeping only the things you love, use and need. A great way to make sure you use your cookbooks is to rotate in a different one to focus on every so often. This past winter, I was trying to try a new soup/stew recipe each week from a big, fat book of those. Now that it is spring, I have pulled out a shiny and rather new, but unused, cookbook featuring fresh from the garden recipes. I will use that for a month or two, sampling a recipe each week.
Purging Cookbooks: Purge your cookbooks without guilt. Sometimes, a cookbook was a gift or looked like a great cover but the inside leaves you wanting. You flip through it multiple times and just can’t find anything you really want to make. When that happens, just let it go. It might not match your cooking tastes but may match someone else’s. Offer to a friend, trade it in at a bookstore, donate it to the library or thrift store, and move on. Enjoy the cookbooks you really love!
Go ahead and organize your cookbook collection and make menu planning and cooking even more fun.
Author Lea Schneider, a columnist for What’s Cooking America, is a freelance writer and organizational expert whose organizing ideas have been published in many magazines including Woman’s Day, Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas, Family Circle, Parents Magazine, as well as numerous newspapers and websites. She is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.
Getting organized is all about living simpler and making things easier. The bonus is it often leads to saving money. Lea Schneider’s kitchen organizing columns tell you how to organize the many things that relate to kitchens, menus, meals, and special food events.
Check out all of Lea Schneider’s helpful home and kitchen columns at Organizing Kitchens, Pantries, Menus and Meals.