Thinking Inside the Box: Recipe Box

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Recipes are an important part of our lives.  For many they are passed from friend to friend or through the generations as a reminder of those who went before us.  Keeping them safe and organized is important, too.  Poking them inside a cookbook and hoping for the best seldom works.  Today we cover where to keep them and how to organize them.

I remember quite clearly that back in the 70’s my mom subscribed to a recipe club by mail.  Her subscription began with a green, plastic, flip-top box and about a dozen cards.  Then each month an envelope would arrive with a handful of easy recipes for the everyday housewife.  The recipes were printed on laminated cards and always included a glossy photo of the finished product.  Perhaps that is when my love for food photography began.

Decades later I find myself with my own box full of recipes I have collected over the years.  I have tried to keep other methods, but I prefer a box for a couple of reasons.  First, the recipes are small enough to prop up somewhere out of the way.  Full sheets sometimes take up valuable counter space.  Also, I don’t care to have my computer near the food prep area.  I bookmark plenty of recipes,   but only print those that interest me.  I try to print them on index cards whenever that is an easy option.  Lastly, I want to have something I can physically pass down through my family.  I still have recipes that were handwritten nearly 100 years ago.

savour... hard copies

Get the rest after the jump...

Recipe Box

Before you start:

Your box can be as simple or elaborate as you wish.  Keep it plain or decorate to suit your taste.

Consider uncommon boxes to hold your cards such as a cigar box.  Take a card with you on your visit to your local tobacconist.  They often sell the wooden boxes for very little.  Some vendors even give them away. 

Visit a nearby used office furniture store.  Many businesses have discarded their old file boxes in exchange for digital storage.  These boxes are typically steel, very strong, and long enough to hold many recipes.  If you are lucky you will get one with an adjustable bracket to hold your cards tightly together.

Some folks laminate their favorite recipes to preserve them.  Do this only if you feel it is necessary.  I like to be able to jot notes on mine and don’t mind a spot of butter or two.  I think it adds character.

What you will need:

  • Recipe cards
  • A box to match the size of the card
  • Index card dividers – no less than four, but perhaps more

Things to consider:

At the very least your box should be separated into these four groups:

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert

You might break them down even further into sub-groups like:

  • Frequently Prepared or Favorites
  • Beverages
  • Cookies, Cakes, Pies behind the Dessert tab
  • Special Occasion Dinners behind the Dinner tab
  • Chicken, Fish, Vegetarian behind the Dinner tab
  • Soups, Pastas, Salads behind the Lunch tab

In an effort to move the cause along we will begin offering our recipes in a printable format.  We will have them in standard letter size and 4x6 index cards.  Our recipe card may look a little unusual to you at first, but I hope you will enjoy its more scientific approach to cooking.  To begin here is the full page version, index card front, and back of last week's Treat of the Week, Strawberry Meringue Mango Pie.  

We have placed all of the ingredients in boxes according to the process they will undergo.  The processes are in boxes perpendicular to the ingredients and should be performed on whatever ingredients fall within its span.  Additional facts and a photo of the finished product are on the opposite side.

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Here's how it works:

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To complete a recipe simply turn the card in the portrait orientation and begin at the top of the ingredient list (to the far right) Work your way down the list and through the steps.  Complete each step before moving on to the next box.

Please let us know what you think of the new recipe cards.  We would also love to see your recipe box.  Send us your photos and comments of how you sort and save your treasured recipes.