How to Get Cooking with a Custom DIY Recipe Binder

Between prepping, cooking, cleaning and eating, American spend anywhere from 2-8 hours a day on food – and this doesn’t even include the time that most people need every week to shop for groceries. A huge chunk of every day is devoted to feeding ourselves and our families, which is why more people have turned to meal prepping and planning in advance to make their daily lives a little easier. Make it simpler by creating a DIY recipe binder.

Why Create a DIY Recipe Binder?

Why create your own recipe binder rather than just use an app on your phone or buy a series of cookbooks?

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Better at-home meal prep: Having a go-to source of recipes and meal ideas makes it much easier to pull together a weekly shopping and meal prep list. Having one that is on your counter or on a visible bookshelf – as opposed to only on an app – can help you stay mindful of your meal prep mission.

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Holiday, graduation, or housewarming gifts: Creating a DIY recipe binder is also an excellent idea for a gift. Homemade gifts are a hit at holidays and a cookbook from a friend or family member is a sincere, genuine, and caring gesture. Designing a cookbook binder is also a sweet sendoff for a kid going off to college or a new homeowner. Making meals that have been passed down by a loved one can keep families connected even when they’re apart.

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Organizing recipes from everywhere: For many home cooks, Pinterest is a go-to source for finding and organizing recipes. While a hugely helpful tool, it has some limitations, including some difficulties adding recipes to a Pinterest board that aren’t from a “pinnable” source, like a website or blog. It can also be hard to navigate the app while cooking if you’re also using your device for something – it becomes a lot to toggle, even on a smart device.

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Saving money and time: A printable cookbook binder is the solution to the problem of “what’s for dinner?” phone calls on the commute home. A recipe binder keeps the answer within reach, saving families time at every meal. It’s also a way to save more money – you not only are eating out less, you’re shopping smarter based on your meal prep list and go-to recipes.

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Eating healthier: Cooking at home is healthier in almost every way.  While everyone deserves a break from cooking sometimes, having a custom recipe binder with meals you know your family loves will decrease the likelihood of hitting the drive through as frequently.



    How to Organize Recipes in a Binder

    There are three main things you’ll probably want to include in your recipe binder. The first is a cover page – your custom binder cover sheet that makes your recipe book unique or gives your custom cookbook gift a unique design. (Check out our templates below to create your perfect cookbook cover.)

    You’ll also want to have blank recipe cards to fill out with your favorite meal ideas. A DIY binder – complete with pocket dividers – gives cooks the ability to pluck recipes from magazines or print them from the internet or even tuck in old family recipe cards. But having go-to recipe cards to fill out can help you assemble a more consistent look and feel to your recipe binder. (Again, check out our templates for some recipe card creation inspiration.)

    Finally, you’ll want to make sure you have some sections to organize and separate your recipes. Using clear dividers and section labels can help you easily find the recipes you need when it’s time to get cooking.

    There are dozens of ways to organize your DIY cookbook binder. The best part of building your own binder is being able to find the perfect setup that works for you and your family.



      Want to keep it simple and classic? Try sorting your cookbook categories into meal sections such as breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. You could also try to sort it by type of dish, such as soup, salad, casserole, etc.


      Cuisine style

      You can also try organizing your cookbook by your types of cuisine such, as French, Italian, Mediterranean, Asian, barbecue, Tex-Mex, and comfort foods.


      Main ingredient

      Many cookbooks organize recipes according to the ingredient the recipe is built around, such as chicken, fish, pork, eggs, veggies, or other main ingredients. If you know that you can build your cookbook around ingredients – great for families who shop in bulk – this might be the best format for you.

      main ingredient filing


      Holiday or theme

      You can easily create a mini recipe binder that’s full of holiday-only recipes or create a full-sized binder that has sections for every major holiday that your family celebrates, such as birthday, Thanksgiving, New Years’, and more.

      holiday filing



      Maybe your family wants to try meat-free Mondays; maybe you need a quick reference for keto-friendly foods for your brother and sister-in-law. No matter what diet you’re catering to, it’s easy to section your DIY recipe binder into specific dietary needs, such as vegetarian, low-salt, low-calorie, low-carb, and maybe even a kid-tested and approved category.

      diet filing



      If you’re trying to be more budget-conscious, create a cookbook that works with your wallet. This requires a little bit more work on the front end of your design but can save you both time and money as a reference going forward.

        cost filing



        This method allows you to organize recipes by how long it takes to prep and cook them, which is helpful for families who need flexibility in their meal planning. If it’s the busy season at the office and play rehearsal season at school, you can create your meal list straight from the “30 minutes and under” section. During festive seasons, like holidays and school breaks, you can take a page from the section that requires more prep time and prepare a more elaborate meal.

        time filing


        Cooking method

        Try creating sections based on how each meal is prepared with sections like slow cooking, pressure cooking, baking and grilling.


        cooking method filing


          What else should you include besides recipes and their categories? In addition to recipes, you’ll want to make sure you include sheets that help you list out your meal prep plans for the week, shopping lists, and folders with pockets in each section to easily fold and store recipes that you find on the go.



          Where to Get Recipe Binder Ideas for your Printable Recipe Book

          A custom DIY recipe book means you can keep all your favorite recipes in one place without the clutter of many cookbooks and recipes you don’t need.  You can also always add recipes from just about another source to keep your recipe binder fresh.

          Some places to search to keep your creative cooking juices flowing?

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          Type in a keyword or ingredient and enjoy tested recipes from cooks from all corners of the internet.


          Family cookbooks

          If you’re creating your own recipe binder, feel free to include some tried and true recipes from family members, whether it’s grandma’s handwritten recipe cards or an email from your sister-in-law. Your cookbook is yours, so fill it with the recipes that make you the happiest.

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          Ingredient packaging

          Businesses, like Kraft, have been putting recipes on the packaging of ingredients for decades and some of the most delicious, comforting, and simple meals have been created from these recipes. Keep your eyes open for tasty recipes on the sides of boxes or backs of bags to include your growing recipe collection.


          Meal prep is meant to take the hassle out of cooking, but for some people, it can become overwhelming trying to fill out a weekly meal plan, shop, cook, and organize recipes. Creating a recipe binder helps to reduce the stress and streamline cooking and eating for the whole family. There’s no right way to design, fill, and organize your recipe binder. The most important thing is that it works for you and meets your family’s needs. The best binder is the one that you’ll actually use to help make your life easier.


          Free Recipe Binder Printables

          If you’re looking to get started on your own custom meal prep binder, try our free printable recipe binder templates to organize your meal and recipe ideas.

          *The downloads offered here will fit a standard 3-ring binder using letter size paper. Looking for a mini binder version? Click here to find them!

          downloadable binder pages

          Click here to download our free DIY recipes binder printables!


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          Marianne Chrisos is a professional content and research writer. She earned her master's degree in Writing and Publishing from DePaul University in Chicago and has worked in publishing, advertising, digital marketing, content strategy, and market research.

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