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Recipe Organization

As I've mentioned in many blog posts recently, I've been going through magazines, bookmarking recipes I want to try, and getting rid of the magazine. So, I thought I'd share my recipe organization technique.

I started ripping pages out with the recipes I wanted to save. This posed two problems: 1) sometimes recipes spanned two pages, which often ended up separated from each other, 2) where do I store all this paper?!? Then I tried a filing box, but it quickly became overstuffed. And my foster kittens gnawed it to death.

I tried re-typing them into a Word document. LABOR INTENSIVE. And I never saved the original source of the recipe. Darn my past self for not foreseeing that I'd get into food blogging and need that information!

I tried scanning. Also somewhat labor intensive. I'd scan in batches at work, then separate the pages out into separate files and name each file with the name of the recipe. Then sort into a system of folders and subfolders. Wasn't a fan of that either. Took up a lot of space on my hard drive.

Then someone on a message board briefly mentioned her recipe collection that she organized in a Google Docs spreadsheet. I asked to elaborate, which she kindly did. And I immediately set off to make my own spreadsheet.

It's not perfect. I need to scroll sideways to see all the information. But I can easily see the recipe title, easily access the original source, and easily identify the healthy recipes, the special occasion recipes, the main courses, the appetizers, the desserts, etc. I can easily sort, and re-sort based on how I want to search. I can easily make notes. I can easily add and delete tags as needed.

Here's what I did.

1) Went to Google Docs ( and created a new spreadsheet. I named it recipes. It's private, viewable only to me.

2) I created a header row. These are my column headers:

  • Recipe name
  • Recipe source (name of site, blog, book or magazine)
  • Recipe location (URL or page number)
  • Course (breakfast, appetizer, main dish, dessert, beverage, etc.)
  • Type (alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, type of dessert, etc. — not filled in for every recipe)
  • Cuisine (if applicable, Mexican, Italian, French, etc.)
  • Method (if applicable, grilled, fried, baked, etc.)
  • Main protein (if applicable)
  • Main vegetable (if applicable)
  • Main carbohydrate (if applicable)
  • Main dessert flavor (if applicable - is it a fruit dessert, chocolate dessert, etc.)
  • Is it healthy? 
  • Is it fast (ready from start to finish in 30 minutes or less)? 
  • Is it freezer-friendly? 
  • Is it a special-occasion dish? (roast turkey, surf and turf, etc.)
  • Notes (substitutions I plan to make, etc.)
I "froze" the row of column headers (select row of column headers, then go to View > Freeze Rows > Freeze 1 row), so that no matter how long my list gets, as I scroll down, the column headers are always in view. 

3) I created a second sheet for recipes I've cooked, with the same headings, except the notes are a bit different. Did we like it? What would I do differently next time? 

Click to see larger, legible image
The "tags" (course, main ingredients, etc.) make it easy to sort and re-sort my recipes depending on how I want to search through them. If I want to find an appetizer, I sort by course, so all of the appetizers are grouped together. 

If I want to make something with carrots, I sort by "Main vegetable" so all the recipes with carrot as a main ingredient are grouped together. 

It's not a perfect system, but it's the least labor intensive, takes up the least space, is accessible from anywhere I have Internet access, and it's free. 

Tell me, readers, how do you organize your recipes? 

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Meal Planning

Monday 7th of January 2013

[...] Google Docs spreadsheet of links to digital versions of recipes I’ve bookmarked in [...]

Eva @ Eva Bakes

Monday 27th of August 2012

Great idea - I need to do this but haven't found the time to start this yet. Have you found a place to store your magazines, or were you able to find online links to the recipes?


Monday 27th of August 2012

For the ones I want to keep, I have a dedicated book shelf. Then I have a stack of about 64 magazines that I have yet to go through, and they keep getting moved from a side table next to my sofa, to a bookshelf, to the bedroom. I'm slowly making a dent in that pile, going through 2 to 3 magazines a week.

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