Making meal planning easier for me!

I have always loved recipes and collecting them, which is funny because I probably only cook a limited set of recipes 80% of the time. Capture methods  have varied from an envelope on a shelf to a proper scrapbook courtesy of my Mum years ago, but I like having the recipes I use most easily available. My first married kitchen notebook was just that, a notebook, but the lack of flexibility....!!!

My Mother's Day gift a good few years ago was a file, from Paperchase (when Borders was still my Happy Place) with dividers for starters, fish, meat, vegetables, baking and desserts. The binder was a convenient A5 size, three holes and quite useful since new recipes could be added and subtracted. I really enjoyed it, and used it for several years, but a binder is only thin and the amount I collect and catalogue meant that it was getting full.

Every section had an index, but no numerical system
so no easy way to find a recipe!

Recipes fitted very nicely on one side of a page;
the down side was that one sheet would have two recipes.

I recorded where the recipes came from using initials.
This is from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course 
Roll on to another Mother's day. Very often my Mother's day presents are cook books or something to do with the house. I can't decide if this is foolish or not?
And W H Smiths photo album. Apt, with the cupcakes on. It takes 6 by 4 index cards, and holds lots and lots and lots.

This box is still full of recipes from magazines. I tend now
to use it as a capture space for things I hope to use.
 I set up essentially the same system I use now in the box; index card recipes, handwritten, one to a card, and catalogued in various ways.

The lid is attached so I could never lose it.
 But it was pink, well, pink with cupcakes. It was cute, but ceci n'est pas moi... not absolutely me.
 Enter the photo box. Again, it fits 6 by 4 index cards, so all I needed to do was transfer my collection over.
 I set up the dividers in a way that suits me.  If you look below you can see the dividers are way more specific than the file had space for. Starters, Main meals divided by main ingredient, baking and celebration meals.

 A recipe is written on a card, titled and numbered. Main meals are all M something, and then filed behind the main ingredient divider. For example, the slow roasted marmalade pork is catalogued as M92 on the main list at the start of the section but sits (numerically) behind the Pork divider.

 The end of the recipe has the name of the cook and/or book that it comes from. If I can copy every recipe I like out of a book then I can get rid of the book, either sell or donate as a charitable contribution. There are books I like too much to get rid of but for example, Tana Ramsey had a few good recipes (and a decent quote) but I wasn't desperate to see her book take up shelf space. So I copied and filed and passed on.
 Menu planning is even easier because every recipe has a mini shopping list next to it on my menu planning cards. I have these both here in my cookery box and in my Filofax Home File (still a work in progress) and I use them when planning the month's meals and writing the weekly shopping list on a Saturday.

Finally, the week's plans get written in my Filofax with the number next to it if I need the recipe. Easy or often used recipes need no number, like my bolognese sauce that I know off by heart.

I've used this system for about 18 years now, 10 in box form. I'm glad to use it. It is organised, adaptable, and can be set up very easily with just a box and recipe cards. I like handwriting the recipes, purely because I love the Nigella episode where she shows her mother's and grandmother's notebooks. The idea that in 40 years time my grandchildren will be looking at my slow roast chicken with garlic, or my Delia's carbonara and laughing at the things we used to make appeals to me. My daughter (arbiter of all things culinary) loves it and wants her own. Indeed, when my children move out or marry this may well be the way I mark their passing; by giving them a recipe box of their own. But, technology moves on and I am looking for another, perhaps better way to save the recipes I like. Pinterest? Google Drive? My own blog? I'm not sure. And I don't want to go all digital. I don't do all digital planning( Filofax, anyone?) and I think even if I begin a virtual recipe collection I will still want to record some (the best only, perhaps?) by hand, just to preserve the gentle art of recipe writing.


  1. My recipes are all in that same folder you used from Paperchase - I miss Borders! When it started overflowing, I ordered another one through Amazon.

    I really need to go through all my recipes and sort them out but there's always something else I'd rather be doing! :oD

  2. love your ideas . I just today bought an unused paperchase file like yours for £1, a real bargain looking forward to using it


Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! I love reading your comments.

Popular posts from this blog

Wouldn't a collaboration between Filofax and Cath Kidston be great....

I'm beginning to get very excited about Christmas... is this normal?

A letter to Brocante Home; To Alison, whose work I have read for years.