Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting Organized

I'm not a very organized person. My organizational system usually consists of piles of paper all over the place and a basket to shove it all in when it gets to be too much. I have a hard time throwing things away. I keep almost all my magazines - though I do tear out and recycle all the ads so the magazines take up less space! I enjoy cooking and have tons of recipes - torn out of magazines, free cards that come in the mail, printed off the internet, given to me by family members, etc. I have a recipe book with slots to fill with 3x5 or 4x6 cards and I use it a lot. It's special to me so I only put recipes in it that I love and make regularly. But I almost never recopy a recipe onto a card so that it will fit in the book.

All of this means that my cookbook shelf was being overrun with dozens (hundreds?) of torn-out, unorganized recipes of all different genres, sizes, paper types, as well as about a dozen different magazines I had saved. It's been like this the whole time we've lived here. I've wasted a ton of time looking through the stack trying to find a particular recipe, usually without much luck.

One day recently, inspiration struck. I decided to take a plastic file-folder box I wasn't using and create file folders for categories of recipes. I knew I wanted to file them mostly by food type (chicken, beef, pork, veggies, pasta, etc. I even have one for "Cooking Info," which is filled with how-to articles, ingredient substitution lists, and things of that nature). So I made the folders and finally went through that giant stack of recipes. I filed each one in the right folder and came up with this:

I've been so excited because this system is totally working for me! Because I created it, I was able to make categories that make sense to me and fit the way I cook. The folders are large so they hold any recipe, regardless of its size. If I know I want to cook chicken I just pull out the folder and page through it. If I have some broccoli that needs to be cooked I look for a recipe under "Vegetables." And since I'm someone who likes to alter recipes and combine two or three to suit my purposes, this system works great for that too. I can quickly see several similar recipes that might complement one another. I've completely organized that ginormous pile of recipes and have recycled at least a dozen magazines since starting this system. I love it and wanted to share it in case anyone out there might want to try something similar. (I have a goal of going through and recycling most of the other dozens of magazines I have stashed in various places throughout the house before we move this summer. Think I can do it?)

The other thing I'm excited about lately (though it's not quite at the same caliber as the recipes) is I came up with a way for us to keep track of leftovers and things we have in the fridge so hopefully we'll waste less food. I printed up a blank calendar page and posted it on the fridge. Any time I put leftovers in there or half a can of peaches or whatever, I write it on the calendar. And when we've finished something we're supposed to cross it off the calendar. This way I can quickly see what I have, how long it's been in there and what I need to either toss or eat soon. Here are pictures:

Like I said, this one isn't nearly as exciting as the recipes (for me), but it works for us and has already helped us make use of food we would have thrown away.

Thanks for reading and sticking with me as I celebrate this small victory. I wanted to share my excitement and maybe help someone else out along the way. Blessings!

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