Thursday, April 30, 2020

My DIY Recipe Binder

Everybody has their own way of storing recipes. Once upon a time, people used recipe boxes. Then people had fill-in-the-blank recipe books. Then I think everybody either switched to some kind of app or stopped cooking altogether. None of those options were going to work for me, so I decided I needed to create my own recipe storage solution.

My Criteria

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a wee bit opinionated about things. (See: Brand Wars.) Given that I may have a stick up my butt from time to time, when I decided to invent my own, unique, absolutely perfect recipe book, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted and how it would work. These were my criteria:

  1. It had to look nice. I wanted my recipe book to make me happy and be something I felt proud sharing with other people--such as all you citizens of the Internet and also anybody who sat in my kitchen long enough for me to wave a pile of recipes in their face.
  2. It had to have enough space to actually write recipes. 3x5 cards were not going to cut it.
  3. It had to help me preserve my recipes--so those little binders with notched cards were a no-go because I would lose that shit in a millisecond.
  4. It had to be flexible so that I could add, remove, and rearrange as needed. I may be opinionated, but I reserve the right to change my opinion.

My Solution

I decided that a binder was the best solution for me. As an added bonus--which I discovered by accident--individual pages can be taken out and dragged all over the kitchen without having to find space for the entire binder on the counter. Also, the plastic page protectors mean that I can spill flour/olive oil/cupcake batter on it. Which I do. Every time. But no worries; it wipes right off!

Originally, I poured a lot of time into perfectly preserving each of my recipes. Over time, though, this binder has become a collection of Post-it notes and printed recipes and photocopies of things from books. But it's all in one place, it's easy to find, and right now, that's all that matters.

How to Create Your Own

If you think a recipe binder would suit your needs too, here are my top tips for setting it up:

1. Buy the binder of your dreams

I am usually a total cheapskate. I buy the cheapest possible version of whatever works. In this case though, the cheap version does not work. Trust me. Here's what I recommend:
  • Buy one in a color you love, or in a neutral that will let you switch up the design when you get bored. Mine is chocolate brown.
  • Get a durable one. Heck, get an extra heavy-duty one. Reinforce that thing with platinum if you have to. A broken binder is not a good time.
  • Go extra-wide. No, I don't mean a 3-inch binder, I mean one with extra wide covers so it actually covers your sheet protectors and tabs and whatnot.
  • Get one of the easy-open ones with the button thingy so you don't decapitate yourself in the rings. 
  • If you want to make it pretty, make sure it's a "view" binder with the clear plastic so you can slide your own covers in.
I know, spending $12 on a binder when there's a shitty $2 one right next to it seems stupid. It's not. For reals, I could have paid double for mine and still not regretted it.

2. Make it pretty.
My secret to an awesome-looking recipe binder was scrapbook paper. I cut down 12x12 sheets to fit the binder covers and spine (in a color that coordinated with my binder and that matched my coffee mug, because I'm classy like that). Originally, I hand wrote each of my recipes on a 5x8 sheet of paper and pasted it to the middle of a coordinating piece of pretty 8.5x11 scrapbook paper.

If you're super crafty, you could probably bling it out with washi tape and stickers and whatever else you have at your disposal. I am too lazy to maintain a system that elaborate, but more power to you.

3. Get good tabs.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Normal binder tabs DO NOT work with sheet protectors. For your tabs to stick out past the edge of the sheet protectors, you gotta buy extra-wide tabs. Not big tabs, mind you. Extra wide. They're cheap. They're usually customizable. You just gotta find them. I usually end up ordering mine online, but you may be able to find them in stores around back-to-school season.

4. Use thin sheet protectors.
Not only are thin sheet protectors typically cheaper than the heavy duty kind, but they don't bulk up your binder as much, so you can squeeze more recipes into the book without making it bulge. If you want stiffer pages for some of your go-to recipes, you can use cardstock to beef them up.

5. Make it work for you.
The great things about a DIY, modular-style recipe storage system is that you can customize it and change it however you want so that it works for you. If you want a tab for cocktail recipes, go for it. If you want a tab for things made with chocolate, I commend you. If you need a separate section to store all your kale recipes...well, maybe you should find a different blog. But in any case, you can switch this up until it's perfect for what you need.

I would love to hear how you organize your recipes, and whether your current system is working for you. Comment below!

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