DIY Family Cookbook: Stage 1

After many years of entertaining for Thanksgiving, baking thousands of Christmas cookies, tons of family birthdays, and impromptu gatherings, the family cookbook needs an update.  Cooking is a huge event in my family, and we often gather ’round the cookbook to plan shopping and prepare meals together. The intention of this organizational project is to create a simple and functional system that is easy to maintain and evolve as it is passed down for generations to come.   I’ve created a list of criteria that you can apply to your own DIY family cookbook project.

Type of Binding

Size of Paper



Type of Binding There are many types of binding that you can do yourself or outsource to web-based or physical store locations.  Some types of bindings include spiraled, sewn, glued, or binder ringed.  Index card holders, photo albums, and other containers designed to hold recipe cards work nicely, as well.  Questions to ask yourself when choosing a type of binding are whether or not you would like the book to be fixed or adjustable and how you would like to view the cookbook.  I am choosing a standard 3-ring binder because our recipes will inevitably change over time by quantity, ingredient or method.

Size of Paper Choose a size that compliments the way you want to view the recipe while you are cooking.  Your method of viewing will correlate with the type of binding.  You may want to remove the recipe from its container to lay it on the counter or use a magnetic clip to hang it on the fridge.  Recipe book holders are also available for which a bound book would be perfect.  Flip photo albums stand on the counter top and can fit index card-sized paper.  Websites, such as, offer printable versions of recipes to fit paper sizes 8 1/2″ x 11″, 3″ x 5″ and 4″ x 6″.

Aesthetics You may decorate any container to suit your particular style.  Add photos or artwork to further personalize your heirloom.  Make your cookbook into a crafty scrapbook.  Does technology rock your world?  Create a contemporary cookbook on your computer and let an on-line service, such as, publish it in a clean-lined culinary portfolio.  For the 2011 edition of my family’s cookbook, I plan to keep it simple with a view binder in which I can insert sheets of art paper and a label for both the cover and the spine of the binder.

Content Collect all the recipes in one place.  Sort the recipes by category, and recycle the ones that are no longer in your family’s repertoire.  I will use dividers with index tabs to label each category.  Sheet protectors for each recipe will make the book more durable as it will be prone to spills and frequent handling in and out of the binder.  (Index card guides and recipe card  protectors are available at office supply stores and on-line.)  To make each recipe consistent and so we have a digital version of the recipes, I will use a recipe template made with a spreadsheet.  Magazine clippings, hand-written recipes, computer print-outs – these all thread together to create a personal quilt of recipes.  You may also draw a storyboard to plan your cookbook layout.

I welcome your questions and comments and look forward to hearing your family cookbook stories.  And Vær så god! Vel bekomme!


The Family Cookbook Master Copy

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