Monday, October 16, 2006

More binders! The Kitchen Binder story, Part 1

I have to tell you all - I have become positively obssessed with binders! I started with my school binders (see my posts here and here), and now I have begun a "Kitchen Binder".

One thing that I repeatedly find is that the only way to survive, make progress, and be happy about it all while homeschooling 4 young boys is to be very, very organized, with a clear plan. This not only means organized about our schoolwork, but also, I'm finding, about every aspect of our homelife. Given that I live with 5 males who are all big (dh is 6'1", while my oldest, at not quite 10 years old, is already almost 5'2" with feet bigger than mine! All his brothers are pretty proportional, so I have a lot of Big Boys, lol!) and all pretty much ravenous every waking moment, the logical place to begin organizing my home is in the kitchen!

Now, you have to know that I just love to cook. I love experimenting with different recipes, trying to balance taste and nutrition and economy. Quite often I'll try a new recipe and everyone will agree "It's a keeper", that they want me to put that meal in as part of our regular rotation. But I can't tell you how many times I end up forgetting about it, and then when I remember, I can't find the recipe anymore. Something definitely needed to change. I've tried various ideas before in the past, including an attempt to use a very nice program for keeping my recipes on my computer and my Pocket PC. Unfortunately, the process of entering recipes is so tedious and time consuming I just couldn't use it. While I was making up my homeschooling binders, and calling to mind various posts I've read out there on the web about "household management binders", I had the idea (probably not original, lol!) of creating my own kitchen binder. And, after just one week, it's working out really well.

Here is what I do. I have a binder (2" works best so far, though it might very well end up really large!), with 6 dividers (so far!). In order, front to back, these dividers say, "Menu - this week", "Recipes - this week", "Recipes", "Old Menus", "Blank forms" and "Reference". I use forms from Donna Young's website, where I print out a menu plan and a shopping list. I write down my menu plan into Donna Young's form and put it into a page protector right behind the "Menu - this week" divider. I print out a shopping list and hang it on my fridge, so that during the week when I think of something I need I can write it down immediately. Next, I print out all the recipes that I will be using this week. I use my word processing program and type out any recipe from a book or my own head so that I have a hard copy of it. Any recipes that I find on-line, I find it easiest to copy and paste the recipe into my word processing program. On the bottom of the recipe, I try to put a reference line that indicates where I got the recipe (ie, what book or website it comes from). I save each recipe to a folder called "My recipes" in my computer. That way I can easily re-print the recipe if it gets damaged or dirty. Each recipe gets its own page protector, so it is less likely to get soiled while I cook. I put all the recipes I'm going to use that week, in the order in which I will use them, behind the "recipes - this week" divider.

Behind that, I have a simple "recipes" divider. After each week is completed, I will take the recipes I used that week and transfer them from the "recipes - this week" section to the "recipes" divider. Right now I simply put them into alphabetical order, but eventually as my collection grows I might have to divide it up by meal or by type or some such thing. I figure after a month or two there will be enough recipes in my binder that I'll have it pretty complete, and I'll no longer have to type, save, and print out recipes each week, I'll just have to flip through my binder and find ones that sound good, or match that week's sales at the grocery store, etc.

Following my "recipes" divider, I have a divider for keeping my "old menu plans". I also put that weeks' shopping list in the page protector with the menu plan. I might eventually re-use entire menu plans and shopping lists - more time savings, horray! Behind that divider, I have one called "forms", and directly behind it I have a pocket filled with blank menu plans and grocery lists.

Finally, I have a divider called "references". I'm forever wondering, "How many cups in a quart?" or "I'm out of Italian Seasoning, what can I use instead?". Right now my reference file has measurement equivalents, and Herb and Seasoning substitutions. I might discover other things that would be useful to me. Much better to have that information handy than to have to stop in the middle of my cooking and search for it on-line (and whatever did we do before the internet??)

This has worked out so well for me! It's so much easier than trying to implement a cool computer program. It's like my own cookbook, but more than that. My kids know, if they're curious about what's for lunch or dinner, they just pull the binder off my desk and open it up. I no longer have to search for my recipes each evening. It's all right there, planned out and organized for the week, in an easy to use and re-use format. Yet more evidence that organization contributes to my homeschool happiness!

Eventually, I'll post pictures of my Kitchen Binder, but it needs a little polishing! I am considering adding a freezer and pantry inventory section - if I could organize it properly, it would be an incredible time saver as I make my grocery list each week. Have to think more about that idea, though. I also want to get a nice pretty cover for my binder, and I think I may come up with a couple more dividers that need to be added. In another few weeks I'll post again about my kitchen binder, this time with pictures! It's definitely a work in progress - but already so useful for me!

1 comment:

Spinneretta said...

Some great ideas there :) I started the recipe thing myself ages ago... isn't it nice to just reprint if, ahem, certain nameless peoples throw away your recipes or spill their drinks on them? ;)
I liked your school binders too... but I dont think I could do that to a book... at least not yet :D
I am definitely digging out my binder for a dusting :)