Organizing Your Recipes and Menus
February 12th, 2013 posted by Kelly Huckaby
“I know I have a recipe for that casserole somewhere. Where did I put it?” “Honey, I’ve invited the Jacksons for supper tonight.” “Mom! What’s for supper?” Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? Wouldn’t it be nice to live like the Jetsons, or the crew of the Starship, Enterprise? Then all you would have to do is tell the computer what you want and presto! you’d have an instant meal for one, ten, or however many you needed to feed! Modern technology really has come a long way – we have microwaves, juicers, bread machines and countless other gadgets and doo-dads to make life easier for us in the kitchen – but, we still have to know what we’re going to cook and we still have to purchase the ingredients. Unless, of course, you’re going to the local fast-food drive-thru, in which case you come pretty close to speaking into a box and getting what you want! Recipes can be found everywhere. Today’s media is saturated with them: recipes for snacking, for entertaining, for desserts, and for quick meals; recipes that take all day in the crock pot, or ten minutes in the microwave. You can find them in magazines, newspapers, cookbooks, sales flyers and coupons. You can find them on television in half-hour shows, on cooking channels, and in special segments of news programs. Recipes can even be found on the Internet at web sites, on bulletin boards and in mailing lists. These days, the problem is not in finding recipes, it’s in deciding which ones to use, and where to keep them all. I’d like to discuss the latter first. File boxes and file folders can be assets in your kitchen: small ones that hold index cards, big ones that hold manila folders, and cabinets that hold legal-size papers. And let’s not forget 3-ring binders! These items are not just for the office or school anymore. They are invaluable tools in our homes as well. A trip to the local office supply store with $20 in your hand should get you everything necessary to organize your meals. Start with an expanding file. The plastic kind is a bit more expensive, but it holds up well in the kitchen. Purchase a dozen file folders and label them in any way that works best for you. An example would be “chicken,” “beef,” “pork,” “fish,” “vegetable,” “dessert,” “snack,” etc. Set up a 3-ring binder like this also, with plenty of paper in each section. As you acquire recipes, file them immediately in the expanding file under the appropriate heading. When you try a new recipe, if your family likes it, tape it onto a sheet of paper in the binder under the appropriate heading. If your family doesn’t like the recipe, throw it away. I was eager to start my own personalized collection, so I began clipping and saving recipes as soon as I left my mother’s home. I clip recipes from the two women’s magazines I subscribe to, and also from the magazines my grandmother gives me. The Sunday paper has a food section, and a coupon section, where I find recipes as well. Even the grocery store has recipes, like the beef marinade recipe I picked up one week. Give me a minute of Graham Kerr or Emeril Lagasse and I’m scribbling recipes on the backs of old envelopes. My collection of clipped recipes is growing faster than my family, so it’s now kept in an expanding folder. As I stated earlier, the problem is not in finding a recipe, it’s in deciding which ones to use, and where to keep them all. Now that you know where to keep your recipes, let’s discuss how to organize them for use. For this, a six-week rotating menu comes in handy. One weekend I sat down and listed all the meals that my family eats. I then cut index cards into fourths and listed a main dish on each piece. These cards were then sorted into categories such as “ground beef,” “chicken,” “beef” and “other.” Then I made six rows and put one “chicken” dish into each row, one “ground beef” dish into each row, etc. After everything was laid out I rearranged them once more, repeating favorite meals two or three times during the six-week period, and balancing the menus for each week. (For example, I put home-made Sloppy Joes in the same week as Southern Style Spare Ribs. I would buy a double portion of ribs and use the leftovers for the Sloppy Joes.) I then wrote them in pen on sheets of paper, one week per page, and placed them in a binder that I keep in the kitchen. You could also use a computer spreadsheet program to do this. Now when I make my grocery list I know just what I need to buy. Whenever something is on sale at the store I go ahead and buy it. I then either freeze it or work it into the menu. This is a very flexible menu. I only list six meals each week allowing for one night of leftovers or a night out at a local fast food place. I also use a pencil to change meals occasionally to accommodate visitors or to try a new recipe.