If chef Alison Cooper ever contemplates what she would save from her home in a fire, the answer is easy.

“Assuming people and pets are safe, one thing would be my recipe binder,” says Cooper, 52, author of The Sticky Kitchen food blog.

The Binder is a collection of the greatest hits from her cooking repertoire that have been endorsed not only by Cooper but also by her husband and their three children. Inside, she says, are printed recipes (and some clipped from magazines) complete with notes in the margins, all stuffed into protective plastic sheets. “I guess one day my kids want copies of the binder for their homes,” says Cooper.

Chances are you also have some favorite recipes lying around, perhaps crumpled in a kitchen drawer, stuffed into a cookbook or somewhere on the internet waiting for you to search for them whenever you want them.

Without an organized system, it can be a waste of time to go hunting for that family recipe handed down for generations, or the online recipe for the perfect chili from a few months ago. Here are some ways to keep those cooking instructions more organized.

1. Create a recipe binder or family cookbook

When it comes to keeping physical copies of your favorite recipes in order, it’s hard to beat the ease of making a recipe binder.

The two-inch binders hold around 350 sheets of paper, while the 4-inch binders can hold up to 800, so choose your size accordingly. So start collecting.

“I usually use a three-ring hole punch and add the sheet of paper directly into the bindings,” says Kelsey Riley, founder of plant-based food blog Planted in the Kitchen. For smaller sheets of paper with recipes or recipe cards, he suggests purchasing clear plastic protective sheets and scrolling through the recipes before adding them to the binder.

It’s a good idea to use plastic sheet protectors on all of your binder recipes so they can be easily erased if Grandma’s spaghetti sauce splatters or that vanilla bottle spills.

Cards, with a table of contents to remember what each section contains, are useful for keeping recipes organized within different sections of the binder. And you can consider organizing your recipes by entrees (appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts, party dishes, for example) or by seasons, suggests passionate home cook Ashley Schuering, who blogs Confessions of a Grocery Store Addict.

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