How to make a recipe binder

22 May 2020

Happy Friday, friends! I’m thrilled to share a tour of my recipe binder with you today! Getting it organized a few weeks ago was a huge step forward in my 2020 goal of streamlining meal planning. It’s made meal planning and cooking simpler, easier, and more joyful – what more could a gal want?! If you’ve been considering making a recipe binder of your own, I think you’ll love today’s tour!

As promised, I filmed a video of myself flipping through every page, explaining what I included and giving you a little commentary on each recipe. It’s about 20 minutes long, and it might be incredibly boring or just what you’re looking for – ha!

A time-stamped guide:
:28 | Meal planning archive
1:05 | Grocery shopping list
1:34 | Non-recipe cheat sheet
2:18 | Main dish
16:44 | Sides
18:28 | Desserts
19:55 | Breakfasts

Supplies needed for your recipe binder:
— A 3-ring binder! Mine is 1″, nothing fancy, but I’m considering upgrading to 1.5″ or 2″ because it’s currently bursting at the seams.
Tabs to divide your binder into sections. I kept mine simple and have sections for main dish, sides, dessert, breakfast, and my meal planning archive. I might divide them into more specific categories in the future, but for now, this is working well!
Page protecters. These make it easy to slip in magazine clippings or recipe cards. Of course, you can also just three-hole-punch most things, but it’s nice to be able to wipe off splatters :) I actually got my page protectors for free from my neighborhood Facebook group, so it’s worth asking around!

What I put in my recipe binder:
— At the front, I keep extra copies of my custom Publix grocery list, organized by aisle at my local store. This has been SO helpful for staying organized and moving through the store quickly! Download a copy here, though be warned it is unique to my family’s favorites and some of my vernacular and abbreviations! :)
— In the first tab’s pocket, I keep a cheat sheet of non-recipe meals – things like spaghetti and meatballs, chicken caesar wraps, or buffalo chicken pizza. It’s helpful to have this list handy when I’m meal planning so I remember to consider them as options, even though they’re not otherwise in the binder!
— The bulk of the binder is obviously the recipes! You can see all of the ones that are available on the internet in this Pinterest board, though of course my binder also includes recipes from friends and family and magazine clippings gathered over the years.
— The last tabbed section is my meal planning archive. Each sheet (download yours here, if you’d like) holds 12 weeks of meals, and having this record is great for jogging ideas when I sit down to plan our meals each week. More to come on this subject soon!

How I use my recipe binder:
I meal plan once a week. As I consider our meals for the next few days, I flip through my binder for ideas. I also look through this Pinterest board, where I collect recipes I haven’t made but want to try. If I make a new recipe that we love, I’ll print it out and add it to the binder (and then move it on Pinterest, too).

Why I really love my recipe binder:
My absolute favorite thing about this meal planning development is that cooking is now an analog experience. There’s no more navigating my laptop with sticky fingers, impatiently waking up a sleeping screen, or dodging pop-up ads. It’s just nice to be looking at a page after staring at a screen all day, most days!

Also, I’m really grateful to have all of my favorite recipes in one place that’s under my control. I had the alarming experience recently of pulling up one of our favorite recipes and seeing that the blogger had gone back and altered it – yikes!! Thankfully I had the old version memorized, but it was a good reminder that any blog could go offline at any time, taking a prized family meal with it. Plus, I just love having all of my favorites in one place that feels more permanent than the internet cloud! :)

I think that’s it, friends! I’m planning a comprehensive post walking through how I meal plan in detail next week, but I wanted to get this tour to you first. If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in next week’s post, or about my recipe binder, please ask away in the comments!

I’d love to hear: how do you organize your recipes? Any tips to pass along to the group? :)

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May 22, 2020 4:31 pm

This is amazing, thank you for sharing! Loved the walk through of all the recipes. Earlier this week I made your chickpea kale sausage pasta recipe – my husband is the chef in our family so me doing any cooking at all, much less successfully, was VERY out of the norm. It was a huge hit! Excited to try some of these other recipes (maybe having him cook them and me just enjoy the end results).

Laurien Cartwright
May 22, 2020 4:53 pm

This is awesome!! I tend to cook out of my head and chuck things together so the meal planning/prep part is more handy for me. Loving your lists and templates though :D So thanks for sharing!

May 22, 2020 7:21 pm

I got Simplified’s Recipe Binder for a goal this year. This reminds me to put this on my June tending list to get started on organizing! Thanks for sharing!

May 23, 2020 1:49 pm

I love this post, Emily! My aunt set up a recipe binder for me several years ago, and while there are definitely recipes in there, I need to go in and update it so that I can use it more regularly! Thanks for the inspiration!

Zoe T
May 24, 2020 12:44 pm

Loved hearing your favourite recipes! I am a cook from memory / instinct person and do an online shop, so my system is to have a rough idea of meals for the week when I do the shop and then firm up a comprehensive meal once the food arrives and I know expiry dates etc. I LOVE meal planning but doing all 3 meals a day with our pre-schooler at home full-time and a newborn baby has created a unique challenge. Am all about meals that can be prepped ahead in nap time at the moment!

May 24, 2020 1:12 pm

This is so helpful! I love the idea of making my dinner preparation more screen-free :) Thank you for sharing your process!

May 25, 2020 9:44 am

I’ve had a recipe binder for years and it is my go-to place for all of our favorites. Thanks for the recommendation on new favorites and your weekly meal planning list and grocery list! I may have to make one for my store… I am not one of those people who loves grocery shopping, so I bet that would decrease the time by a lot. :)

May 26, 2020 10:51 am

I am a forever digital recipe gal, but I think this video just may have converted me to the recipe binder life! Thanks for breaking down your process for us. Also, June’s commentary throughout made me smile :)

May 26, 2020 12:37 pm

Looking forward to using the 12 week meal plan document! I’ve been wanting a way to keep the dinners organized, but didn’t want to add it to my daily planner. thanks!

May 26, 2020 12:49 pm

Thanks for this. I also have a binder (well two, one for savory and one for sweet) which iare currently a mix of recipes to try and also ones I’ve liked but I love the idea of just keeping the ones I’ve tried and enjoyed all together in one place to make things so,oler. It looks so nice with the plastic sheets too. I can currently tell which recipes I’ve actually tried by the amount of splashes on them! Look forward to separating my recipes out Into favorites and to try soon and hopefully it will be less overwhelming.

May 26, 2020 1:12 pm

This is so helpful! After you posted your custom grocery list on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I made my own for Trader Joe’s. After two grocery trips of using it, I can say it has been a total game changer for me (especially during this time when I’m trying to get in and out of the grocery store as quick as possible!).

Overall, I’ve tried a few digital systems for planning meals/cataloging recipes over the past few years, but I still find meal planning so stressful. However, I’m going to try expanding my own binder (which only includes a few favorite recipes currently) to include more of our favorites and my own “cheat sheets” for non-recipe meals, side ideas, and salad topping ideas. I’m also very tired of constantly cooking from my phone/computer. Thank you for the inspiration!

Meghan H.
June 15, 2020 11:36 am

Inspired by this post, I completed my own recipe binder this week and it was such a satisfying project! I’m really looking forward to putting it into practice and streamling meal-planning, especially this summer when motivation for cooking and planning feels like it’s at an all-time low. Thanks for sharing your step-by-step process!

December 31, 2020 10:01 pm

[…] the blog, I shared a pair of posts about meal planning: my recipe binder and my […]

September 2, 2021 11:25 am

Em: Thank you for sharing! I’m inspired to customize my own shopping list. Which program did you use to create yours? There are so many templates out there, but I like how simple and streamlined your version is! Please share! :)