The Cookbook Sagas, part 3

I’m at the next step in my process to clean out my recipe collection, so that no one turns me in as a guest on “Hoarders”. You can catch up and read about the first two steps of this process in these posts:

  • Part 1: Where I look at the whole problem and admit I must change
  • Part 2: How I clean out and re-format the bulk of my loose recipes

Today, I’m showing you how I’m going to store my re-prioritized recipes. I chose an upgraded 3-ring binder format because my husband and I like:

  • Keeping the recipe pages clean and splatter protected
  • Keeping the recipes printed large enough to be legible
  • Keeping the recipes tidy on one shelf in our kitchen
  • Keeping the recipes easy to find within their storage
Hmmm. Are you noticing a theme here?
Well, I also want my recipes to look happy. “Happy” might not be the first word you think of when you think of cookbooks, but I like to look forward to cooking. I figure if the recipes themselves are clean, organized and aesthetically pleasing, it makes it more inspirational to drag out those heavy pots on evenings you feel less inclined to fire up the stove. (You’ve been there. You know what I mean.)

So, I’m making some pretty, custom and oh-so-affordable binders to store my recipes nicely. This is an easy project and I took pictures as I worked on it this past weekend to show the steps. Just keeping it real for you, friends. This project can be done in very little time and is quite satisfying when you are done.

To start the process, I bought a set of clean, 3-ring binders. I chose binders with those clear pockets on the exterior so I can decorate the covers inexpensively, while still keeping them highly wipeable. I also chose binders that were all variations on the color blue, because I like blue and it looks nice in my kitchen. I already know these binders are all going to sit next to each other on a shelf, so why not make a personal choice of a happy color?

In full disclosure, I did grab these binders from several different stores. I noticed that most stores only carried one or two versions of any color. I wanted more variety, especially knowing each binder would have a different topic. So, as I ran my regular errands around town, I used Target, Staples and Wal-mart to find my colors and stay within my budget.

Next, I popped into several art supply stores to pick up some pretty scrapbook papers to use in the binder cover pocket. Again, I just built this into my errands and grabbed what I like. I am not a scrapbook creator, but I am happy to reap the rewards of the many cheerful and bright papers that are now available for scrapbooking fans. I chose kitchen-themed papers, to keep the binders looking united and fun. Of course, you can choose whatever you like for your home and personalize it for just a couple of bucks. I caught a sale and the papers I chose were under $5 total. Very budget friendly!

I’m matching my fancy-schmancy papers to each binder to make a collection of related-looking finished books. I may switch these papers around with the binders as I make each one. I’m not sure about that aqua binder on the far right in the picture below. A little too bright next to the others, I think.

As for subject titles, each binder will have its own general topic. For example, I’ll make a binder called “Appetizers and Beverages”. This binder will hold the few remaining cut-and-pasted recipes, so I know the look I’m going for with each finished dish. (I was discussing this dilemma in this post.) I’ll probably sort the recipes further, somewhat, inside the binder, but not too much. I really want the freedom to just put the recipes in and know that they are there without creating a time-consuming index or page number system.

Back to the work: To cut the papers to fit each binder cover, I measured the cover pockets individually. You may question why I would go to the effort to do this when I regular 8.5×11 sheet of paper fits easily. However, I want my binder covers to use as much of the pretty scrapbook paper that I can fit into each pocket, while also keeping it reasonable to get the paper down in those pockets with a snug fit.

You can see above that I didn’t measure the entire pocket width, I cheated in about 1/8th of an inch on each side to give myself some paper sliding room. Again, these are all different binders made by different companies, so each measurement was a little different. I also measured the binder spines for paper inserts, so I can have a nicely finished edge facing out of my kitchen cookbook shelf. But, first things first, cutting the paper to fit:

I used my trusty little Fiskars paper trimmer to make even cuts. I bought this paper trimmer years ago, for a wedding stationery project. It has been so handy over the years since, for such a myriad of projects, I can’t remember how I lived without it before. It’s not big or flashy, and every now and then I need to replace the little cutting blade slide (which is very affordable to do), but it gets the job done and it stores very easily. I’m not plugging this product for profit or perks, by the way, just sharing what I actually find useful in real life.

Now that my papers are all cut, I’m typing up little cover labels for each binder. I’m just using plain old Microsoft word to choose an interesting font and then adjust the ink color to go with the related scrapbook paper. Because I have my binder spine measurements, I’m also making a little spine label for each cookbook binder. These may seem small to fit down into the binder, but it is worth it when it’s all done. Cut and glue the labels to the cut scrapbook paper…

….then slide the paper covers into place.

I also like to put a little roll of tape behind the cover binder, just to keep the paper from shifting around as it get used.

To get those narrow binder spines down into the covers, I have two tips for you:

1. Lay your binder open flat, cover side up, before you try to put the spine paper. This allows the plastic spine pocket to have as much “give” as possible as you slide the paper further down.

2. Use a chopstick to act as a guide when you slide the spine paper in place. You’ll never get your finger down where you need it to be in that little pocket, so don’t kill yourself trying. Take a deep breath and just work slowly, little by little, to ease that paper down where you need it to be. It may get a little wrinkled as you go, mine did, but you can work it all out with patience.

Oh, and for those binders that do need some internal sorting, I’m just going to use an extra sheet of colored card stock in a sheet protector to provide a guide. Nothing fancy or expensive and still very practical to keep clean. Here’s an example:

Here’s how great the end result of a bunch of new binders can look:

Nice, huh? I said I was gonna seriously downsize those recipes and I meant it. There are now only four small binders, instead of eight very over-stuffed ones, and all of these new, clean binders are just reasonably full. This means I have plenty of recipes (no need to go looking for more), but that I have a small amount of room if we do find a few new favorites to add to our lives. Progress! These final topics for my binders and why I chose them:

  • Favorite Recipes: All of our favorites entrees and any not-so-common special side dishes we love, just tossed together in one place (at last!)
  • Vegetables: We love to try new ways to mix up our vegetable varieties at meals, we also strive to have a decent amount of vegetarian entree recipes to mix into our diet for better health
  • Sweets: Desserts in every form, including smoothies, cakes, pies, cookies, breads, candy and some interesting fruit recipes
  • Appetizers & Beverages: This is mainly party fare/special occasion food with great pictures and suggestions for serving

All in all, I like the way these binders turned out and it made the cleaning out, sorting and typing parts of this saga seem more attainable. I can see where the truly loved recipes will go and as I get there, the paper organization is in place for immediate use. I can’t say that all the typing will get done as fast as these binders were put together, but I’ll get there eventually. The typing is happening and I think I am now ready to address another aspect of this project….

…all of the loose recipes I still have stashed for “later”. But that is a part of this saga for another day.

Gift Idea

Can you see how this custom binder cover would make a great gift idea? You could use it to build a cookbook of favorite recipes for almost any occasion. You could also use it to build a custom recipe book as a group-sourced gift for an individual, such as a bride or new graduate. Each contributor simply completes a typed up recipe page and all of the pages are combined into the binder as a group gift. The customized cover would just make the cookbook all the more special. It’s an affordable gift, but very personal. Just a thought!

Now tell me what you think of this project. I really want to hear your opinions. Am I a little too obsessive in my organization? Do you like the way the binders turned out? What would you do differently? Any tips for the next part of this recipe saga (all those loose recipes)? Blogs are for conversation, so leave a comment!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy the posts I have written about creating my All-Year Holiday Cookbook and my Magic Cookbook. Feel free to check them out!

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Posted on June 12, 2012, in Food, Gift Ideas, Organization, Other. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I admire your organization. I can see making this a fun, creative project with the kids. We can go to the store and pick the papers together or even make our own covers, like we used to do when we covered our textbooks with brown paper in elementary school. It’s something that your kids can do to be more involved in making meals.

  2. This would be a good gift idea. I’m always looking for new ideas for my friends. I suppose I could share some of my recipes, but don’t you want to keep the best ones for yourself? I suppose more people will know how great it is if you share it with others.

    • Cheryl, I know some people like to keep recipes up their sleeves and I have a few of those “family secret” recipes myself. In general, though, I like to share recipes, because a great recipe shared can be a great meal shared over long distances. Maybe that’s the military brat in me talking, but that’s why I welcome all recipe requests.

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