Most of us could use a little help when it comes to tackling the endless task of putting together daily meals, but since the vast majority of us can’t afford a personal chef, and going out for dinner every night is pretty rough on the wallet, meal planning and prep might be your best bet.
To make the meal prep process easier, I decided to try making a DIY recipe binder (I got the idea from Living Well Mom).
“A DIY recipe binder is a convenient way to sort the recipes many of us print from online,” the site says. Using a binder means you can also pop in any cookbook photocopies or handwritten recipes that have been passed down to you on little worn-out, food-stained cards (surely I’m not the only one who has those lying around).
The website also says, “A recipe binder is perfect because you easily add/remove recipes whenever you want.
You can also change or move categories around too.” Since my current monthly menu has gotten a bit repetitive, and my family is eating tacos, spaghetti, and chicken tenders far more often than we probably should be (although honestly, who doesn’t love tacos, spaghetti, and chicken tenders?), I liked the idea of being able to add and remove recipes as I came across new ones that I wanted to try and — if they were a success — permanently include in the binder.
To make the process incredibly easy, Living Well Mom provides free recipe binder sheets that you can simply print off (seven sheets in total: the cover page, three category pages, one tabs page, and two design-only pages to add a little pizzazz to the side of your binder). These are an easy way to record your favorite recipes and keep them in the same format.
Take a look below to find out how my own DIY recipe binder turned out and how it helped (if it helped at all) my meal planning.
- Binder (preferably with a clear pockets on the cover)
- Clear protective binder sheets
- Living Well Mom’s free printable recipe binder sheets
- Printer (and ink)
- Pen or marker
1. Print Binder Sheets
I began by downloading the free printable recipe binder sheets. The recipe tabs have an appealing border and leave lots of room for writing. The colors and design of the sheets are muted and classic and would be at home in any kitchen.
2. Add Recipe Tabs and Category Pages
The download was super easy and fast.
Full disclosure: My handwriting is a little sloppy, so to save myself some embarrassment, I checked to see if you could fill in the categories right in the PDF. Luckily, you can simply go to the right-hand sidebar, click “Fill & Sign,” and do a little resizing. Then you’ll be ready to create your own categories.
Of course, if you are a flawless calligrapher, you can just go hit print and be as creative as you like. Living Well Mom also provides JPG files of the recipe tabs and category pages if you’d rather add text that way.
3. Put Binder Together
Once all of the recipe pages were printed, I started to put it all together. The printouts included two design pages, which was a great bonus. I decided to use part of a design page for the slip on the side of the binder (so it would look a little nicer than a plain binder staring back at me from the shelf of my kitchen). I went with the darker-gray sheet because I thought it complemented the color of the binder a little better. I did a quick measurement, cut off the strip, and then carefully slid it into the side cover of the binder.
4. Create Cover
I took the “Favorite Recipes” cover page and inserted it into the pocket on the front of my binder. I liked how the colors of the cover page matched well with the binder I chose.
5. Laminate Category Pages
When I’m cooking, my kitchen turns into a splash zone. Nothing is safe, so I used plastic slip-in sheets to place the category pages and my recipes in. This way, all it takes is a simple wipe with a damp cloth to get rid of the splatters that are sure to happen. Living Well Mom recommends laminating the cover and category pages not only for extra safeguarding against spills but also to help make those pages stand out from all your recipes.
6. Create Recipe Tabs
I moved on to the recipe tabs, which I already had filled in with some subcategories (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and favorite recipes. You can laminate the tabs if you have a laminator, or you can spring for your own binder tabs, which work just as well.
I cut out the recipe tabs and folded them along the suggested line. Next, I used a glue stick to affix the tabs to the sides of the plastic sheet protectors.
7. Insert Category Pages
I then took all of the category pages and snapped them into the recipe binder. I placed the categories I use more often closer to the front of the binder so that I could easily flip to them when needed.
8. Sort Recipes
Now it was time to decide what recipes to use. Eventually, I will locate all of the recipes that are currently in various spots around my kitchen and add them to the binder. But for now, I gathered a few of my previous printouts and various recipe cards and started the satisfying task of separating them into their proper categories.
9. Insert Recipes
Once I had my recipes sorted, they were ready to be placed into my splash-shielded sheets. You can use a three-hole punch for any recipe printouts you might have, but I opted to slip them into the protected plastic instead. Then I placed the sheets into the binder under the proper categories.
Finally, the recipe binder was complete!
I love the overall classic look of the binder and am super thankful to have my recipes in one convenient spot. Plus, I feel like this binder may actually stand the test of time.
Using the Binder
Once all the work was done, I thought baking some cookies would be a great reward.
Using the binder was awesome! All it took was a simple flip through the pages to the dessert category, and right there was my recipe for lemon shortbread cookies. No more trying to remember where I last left my recipe and losing ones shared by my friends. Instead, they’re all here and ready to go.
The recipe binder was a quick project to do, and thanks to the fact that I can easily grab it off the shelf to pick out a recipe whenever needed, it’s already having a positive impact on my cooking and my prep. Now meal planning is not only straightforward and simple, it’s also (dare I say!) fun — I get to flip through my own personalized cookbook anytime I want to whip something up or plan my monthly menu ahead of time.
If you want to make things a little easier for yourself when it comes to meal planning and cooking, then I definitely suggest putting together your own DIY recipe binder.