The Just One Cookbook Project

Would you start something if you didn’t know how it would turn out? Would you start something before you had all the instructions? Will you start something with me, even though I don’t know how it will turn out and don’t have all the instructions?

You are probably already mad or nervous because you think I am going to ask you to give up all of your cookbooks, (and I am) but stay with me here.

I’ve been thinking about my cookbooks. I love good food and I really enjoy cooking. After years of collecting cookbooks and clipping recipes, I am finally ready to admit the following:

  • I make my favorite recipes over and over again.
  • When I try something new and love it, it goes into my favorites and I make it over and over again.
  • If I create something new in the kitchen and the results are underwhelming, I never go back to that recipe.
  • I have 24 cookbooks left, even after I let go of most of my books.
  • I haven’t made one thing from at least half of them and only regularly make 1-3 items from any one of the others.

Why dedicate space to hundreds of pages when you only use one?

Before I got started, I thought about my family and how they use our cookbooks. 99% of the time, my husband finds recipes he likes online. After seeing the nature of this post, my daughter said was concerned that I would get rid of her favorites. I asked her which ones she liked and she picked one and said, “This one has the best crepe recipe.” So I promised not to get rid of her favorite crepe recipe. Enter …

The Just One Cookbook Project

I am going to make one cookbook and let go of the rest. With the accessibility and affordability of on-demand printing, it can even be updated every few years to include new additions and accommodate dietary changes. It will include the recipes I actually use and treasure.

Let’s face it, with awesome blogs like Foodiecrush, Smitten Kitchen, and Stone Soup, you can find any recipe you’ve ever dreamed of online. You can search by diet preference, ingredients or specific recipes. I’ll still continue to cook from the www, but I want a printed cookbook too, because marinara sauce on a computer monitor is no bueno. I want a cookbook built for the kitchen trenches. (and my creative tendencies)

Overview and Instructions

I think we will be ready to create our Just One by the Fall of 2013. I’ll be doing research on the best way to create the book and how to share it while protecting copyrights of our favorite cooks behind the books. We will be doing this project in bits and pieces. I’ll do a few more posts on it here and keep you updated with new ideas and information on the Be More with Less Facebook page.

As we move forward, I hope to share a great customizable cover design and book layout, along with other ways to make this a book you will really use.

Get started … 

  1. Put all of your cookbooks in one place, like on the kitchen table.
  2. Separate them into 2 piles. Pile one: I have made a recipe from this book in the past 12 months. Pile two: I haven’t opened this book in the past 12 months (or ever)
  3. Box up the the books in Pile two and donate them or put them out of sight.
  4. Go through your recipe clippings and trash any that you haven’t made yet or know you won’t make again. Don’t worry, you’ll collect more. You know you.
  5. If you save entire magazines because you want to try a recipe, clip the recipe and toss the magazine.
  6. For your virtual recipes, make a list of your favorite food blogs on workflowy.com (or something similar) and another list of links to recipes that you’ve made or are really looking forward to trying. Trust yourself, and only save the recipe if you know you will make it, not because you think it would impress people or because it comes with a pretty picture.

There will be further instructions and they will be awesome. Remember this doesn’t mean you have to eat the same food every day or that you can never buy a new cookbook again. For today, just focus on steps 1-6 above.

If you are still shaking your head in disbelief that I even suggested you live with just one cookbook, make sure you aren’t using one of these excuses.

Common must keep cookbook excuses

  • Cookbooks provide inspiration, stories and beautiful photography. Cookbooks are often beautiful stories and I will continue to read them, but you rarely re-read a cookbook. You can extract the useful information and pass it on.
  • I might make that one day. You won’t.
  • If I eat like that, I’ll be really healthy. That could be true, but recipes and inspiration that is never put to good use won’t help your current health status. And, you can eat like that without the book.
  • With the right cookbooks, I can serve a beautiful dinner every night. If only! The fact is that the majority of us rely on our individual recipe rotation. Sure, we get adventurous from time to time, but we tend to gravitate towards what we know and like. For me that includes simple recipes with fewer ingredients that create healthy, tasty meals.

I’ve used each of these excuses and then some. It’s time for a change. Remember, that less is not none. I am going to lead you a beautiful collection of YOUR favorite recipes and to a book that will add goodness to your life instead of distracting you from it.

Are you in? I’d love your questions and suggestions.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Cyndi L says

    I have done this. I use a program called Cookin’ where i enter all my favorites. Then i print them and put in a binder. The binder is where I also store all my “to try” recipes. When I make something new, the recipe either makes it into the database or is tossed. I love this system because I never have to remember what book that one recipe is in!

  2. says

    This is a great idea, Courtney. especially if you have 24 cookbooks!!! I have narrowed my collection down to 6, and of them, I only use 2 regularly, so the rest are on their way out. The two we use have got lots of post-it flags in them to indicate which recipes I’ve made, and there are more than I’ve ever made from a cookbook before.

    The ones with just one recipe, I will scan and print out, and put in a binder or similar. Best of luck with this! :)

    • Courtney Carver says

      Hi Linda,

      I’m down to 12 after going through the steps above and excited to get to 1. This will be a challenge not only in letting go, but also to explore some of the other recipes in my favorite books.

  3. Thera says

    I did the purge last year, but I wrote all of my favourites on index cards and put them in a small recipe box.
    As I get most new recipes from the net, I bookmark them (I have a folder just for recipes), try them and if they turn out well, copy it onto a card.

  4. says

    My wife and I are food fanatics. We once owned over 100 cookbooks. We currently have about 12 and you are correct – with all of the recipes available on the internet, we rarely use most of them. A few of them are food science type books and we use for reference.

    —“but you rarely re-read a cookbook.”

    Ah, one exception – If you are passionate about food then you will read “Cooking by Hand’ ~ Paul Bertolli, again and again. It is a love story. It is mindfulness on food preparation.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  5. Pat says

    I just did the purge after my holiday cooking was over. I got rid of all cookbooks and my recipe card file. To start with I have just put everything I have actually made before in sheet protectors in a binder. I added some empty sheet protectors to the binder for new recipes I find and make. I like to write notes on changes right on the printed recipes.

    Hopefully someday I will get them all typed up, with all of my notes added in, so I can make books or binders for my daughters.

  6. LJayne says

    I had a purge a couple of years ago but it is time for another. My problem is that when we redid our kitchen, my DH made me a couple of beautiful curved shelves to fit a small space between cupboard and window and they house my collection perfectly. So I don’t see them as clutter even though I know they really are and could do with sorting.

  7. Chantal says

    I use Pinterest for my recipes. They are separated onto individual boards (breakfast, lunch, desserts, etc) and I only pin items I have checked the ingredients and have the intent to make. I even go back and write the date I made them in my notes with comments.

    I like this challenge for the books I have left though. I’m planning on making family recipe books to pass onto my daughters and this will definitely help in creating a book for each of them with true ‘family’ recipes.

    I’m on board!

    • Courtney Carver says

      What’s great about making a digital file before the printed book is that when you give it to family members, they can add their favorites before printing a book for themselves. That’s a gift that says I want you to enjoy what I like AND what you like.

  8. Bianca says

    I’m a bit flinching by the thought of giving up my beautiful cookbooks! BUT – the thought of just ONE cookbook that I really use sounds intriguing.
    I will follow this and see where it leads. I have definitely too many cookbooks.
    And while giving up 2/3 of all my other books, I haven’t touched those cookbooks yet.
    We’ll see!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Especially if the cookbook could be updated every few years to include new favorites. ;)

  9. KarenV says

    We reduced our cookbook stash down a while back and now mainly use a single A4 folder of recipes, plus what I pin on Pinterest. We have about half a dozen cookbooks left and to be honest, could probably get that amount down to 1 or 2 max. Thanks for the inspiration, I think it might be time to revisit the cookbook cupboard…

  10. says

    We got rid of our cookbooks when we got rid of everything else to travel, but we still love cooking all over the world. We started a new “notebook” in Evernote for recipes, and we have them sorted by country. We simply type them up or “clip” them from a website using the Evernote clipper for Chrome. We always have our recipes on hand and can easily share them with others…and if you have a smart phone with the Evernote app you could even access your recipes anytime so you could do your shopping on the fly.

    Last year for Christmas we made our moms cookbooks from our travels and we used the recipes from Evernote and our own pictures to easily create a book they loved.

    Oh, and Evernote is free. How about that!?

    • Joyce says

      That’s what I do now also. My young adult kids LOVE it! They call me randomly and ask for a family favorite recipe and I can text or email them the recipe instantly. Also great to set the iPad up on my kitchen shelf and pull up the recipe by name or tag. No more books for me. — LOVE Evernote for many, many things :).

  11. Dee says

    Although I often find recipes online, I love reading cookbooks. Every time I hear of a new one that sounds good, I request it at my library. I have fun reading the book and try to make at least one recipe. If it’s good, I write down the recipe for the future. Then I have the library store the book, until I want to browse through it again. This satisfies my cookbook needs without owning them.

  12. Nin says

    Long time since I’ve commented but I still follow you :)

    We have just one cookbook in our home. We have one of those moleskine journals that you can write your recipes in and when we make something that really, really works for us we write it in there.

    Everything else gets saved in a temporary folder on our computer and if we don’t try it within a reasonable amount of time (unless it’s holiday related or something) we usually just delete it.

    This has worked very well for us and since we’re moving in not too long I’m sure happy we don’t have lots of cookbooks to pack too :)

  13. says

    I’m getting rid of a big stack of cookbooks right now to make room for children’s books. They’re mostly vintage books which I found interesting, but don’t really have much to do with the way I cook now.

  14. says

    I’m with you! I think… My husband convinced me to purge most of mine already – I’m down to Joy of Cooking, How to Boil Water, Better Homes & Gardens, and Think Like A Chef, plus a notebook of family recipes my mother in law compiled for our wedding. I add my favorites to that, and will let it be my one. I love collecting recipes, but they are usually too complicated or turn out bland, so these days I just rely on top rated ones from AllRecipes.com if I’m in the mood for something new :)

  15. says

    This is going to be a challenge, I have 13 cookbooks (mostly vegan, whole foods) and I love food & cooking. I like cookbooks organized by season so that we eat as much as possible with fresh local food. I’ve started writing a master list of recipes by season, and I am going to use your idea to use workflowy as a memory for the list. A master list of recipes works great for planning ahead a week of meals & the grocery list. It saves time & $. I have about 21 meals on the list for winter meals, but find I have favorites I keep going back to. I think your idea will help us get real about what we actually make in the kitchen and will help us rely on what is fresh and in season at the stores & farmers markets. This has got to be a healthy move.

  16. Sharon says

    I have been wanting to do this for awhile and am excited to follow along with you. I’ve already added steps one to six to week’s goal list! Thanks for the inspiration.

  17. Keisha says

    I am so happy to see this post – I recently redid my entire kitchen…And I did this. I set up a binder with my favorite magazine clippings, and I admit, I kept two cookbooks I cook from regularly (A vegetarian one that I have had for 15 years, and the betty crocker cookbook I have had to have rebound twice that I’ve had for 30) and ditched everything else. It was so liberating and amazing. I already use epicurious anyway or other sites for everything, and have a plastic sleeve for my kindle so I can cook directly from it in the kitchen – this is a brilliant plan. :) I look forward to your unique implimentation.

  18. Melissa M. says

    Tis is a wonderful idea and one that I have been thinking of for sometime! Thank you for providing the motivaion and steps to get started!

  19. says

    We initially pared down to just one cookbook — The New Best Recipe, Cook’s Illustrated — and then donated that as well once we discovered that we can find just about anything and everything online, with beautiful photographs, to boot.

  20. Sarah says

    I’m in. I dislike cooking (with the passion of a thousand white-hot fiery suns) but I keep a variety of cookbooks around to inspire/motivate/guilt myself into trying new things for my family’s sake. However, like yourself, I always return to those recipes that are simple to make and have reliable results. Having just one cookbook would allow me to own my genuine disinterest in cooking without all the guilt, while also giving me a great resource to turn to when I need to plan meals. Thank you for a wonderful project idea!

  21. says

    This is such a good idea, my shelf is groaning under the weight of books and like you just use one or two of them regularly. I will join you too, thank you for the motivation.

  22. Melissa says

    I LOVE this idea. I use Ziplist to save recipes I find on the web (and Pinterest sometimes, too), but I still like the idea of “a cookbook for the trenches” as you said. Project!!!

  23. Jen says

    I’m excited to see where this new project leads. I actually am one step ahead but I’m always interested in new ideas. About a year ago I got fed up with cookbook clutter on my counter and noticed there was only one I used often. I had a ton of clippings all smashed into it. Honestly it was a headache and made me anxious every time I opened it because little clippings of paper would fall out every where. So I decided to minimalize my cookbook situation. I found a cute notebook with lined paper and used that as my homemade cookbook.. Then I went through all the clippings and asked myself, are you really going to make this or not? Then glued the ones I kept into my book. I wrote down all the recipes I love and just have memorized or favorite online recipes in it. I also printed out some favorite online recipes, some from this blog actually :). As far as the other cookbooks I cut the recipes I wanted to hang onto out of the ones that were not donation material and copied or hand printed the other ones. I had fun and got creative with it and made letter tabs to alphabetize the pages so I can find what Im looking for quickly and used pictures I liked of food or herbs to decorate it. Im no Martha Stewart and this did not take me very long at all and was a creative project I enjoyed. It’s not perfect but I look forward to using it and I don’t feel like it clutters my counter but is a useful part of it. That’s what worked for me. Can’t wait to see what you have next for the rest of project :)

  24. says

    I haven’t purged my cookbooks yet, but I could. I use a program called Master Cook to store recipes. I can also search by ingredient or type of recipe, so it’s really handy. Favorite recipes gets printed out and put in a notebook so that the entire family can access them.

    Also, having the recipes stored this way allows me to make a cookbook for each of the kids as they leave home with all their favorite recipes in it.

    (The program includes fields for source and copyright information.)

  25. says

    A couple years ago I did this. I typed up all my favorite recipes and made a master binder of them all. But just last week I finished transferring all my recipes onto our ipad. Now I have NOTHING and it feels great!

  26. Jamie says

    I do the cookbook purge every year between printed sheets and gifted items as well as those fundraiser reunion type books I accumulate them really fast. I made a cooking scrapbook and I love it the pages are protected by plastic and my grandma’s recipes are in her hand writing which means so much more than any book I could buy. I do the card thing and add the ones I love and toss the rest. I do keep a Betty Crocker book on hand as well seem to never go wrong with Betty.

    Jamie

  27. Sandy says

    LOVE this idea… been meaning to do it for a while, too but have never gotten around to it. But I think this year I will and give my family an “Our Favroites” cookbook for Christmas! Thanks for the inspiration!

  28. says

    Hmmm… that’s an interesting idea. My cookbooks could use some serious culling as many of them have not been opened in years. I have an old 2 pocket folder that keeps most of my tried and true recipes (at least the ones not committed to memory.)

    But for me, there are two actual cook books I will NEVER part with – The Joy of Cooking and Laurel’s Kitchen. The thing is – I rarely use either of these for recipes, it’s more the general information sections that I find so very useful.

  29. Rose says

    While I’ve been purging so much in so many other areas, the onset of my father’s diabetes early last year “inspired” me to look for diabetic recipes for his meals. That has led to an accumulation of a new class of cookbooks. Yikes! But I’ve become more aware of this new addiction and, thankfully, have tapered off my spending and collecting. But what about the ease with which we can purchase digital cookbooks? I have more of them now than I’ll ever use.

    Digital clutter. It’s the next big challenge for me.

  30. Candice says

    I’ve been thinking about how to gather all my tried and true recipes in an easy format for my two grown kids, so I’m very interested. Is there a way to participate and get information without Facebook?

  31. becky says

    Uncanny this subject comes us today as last night I was thinking I’d throw out my two grimy worn-out basic cookbooks given to me as a bride and try the crockpot cooking starting with the site below. With kids gone now, it’s almost as cheap to eat out; but the downside of course is added weight gain. Been looking for a solution that doesn’t require a lot of time on my feet or in the kitchen. Maybe a little extreme, but most any recipe from the past can be gotten again faster than you can say ‘google’ :-)

    http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

  32. Mara Miller says

    I seem to keep everything on the tablet I’m typing on right now. My printer is now rarely used and there’s nothing you can’t photograph and keep digitally, especially recipes and the beautiful photos they often come with. You can get quite elegant stands for tablets in the kitchen which protect them from the odd splatter.

  33. frank says

    I have only two cookbooks, both I got in the late 1970s or early 80s — my first cookbook was “The Deaf Smith Country Cookbook”, a vegetarian cookbook which I have used a lot, and the “More With Less Cookbook”, which is based on principles and recipes of Mennonite cooking and down-to-earth simple nutritious food.

  34. frank says

    For self-publishing, have a look at lulu.com. My mother wrote a family history and used them. Quite a simple process.

  35. Anika says

    Hi Court,

    We gave up everything when we went traveling 3 years ago and the only real ‘stuff’ I kept was my cookbooks. In fact half of them are still sitting in my friends garage in California which is not much help since I’ve been living in Australia for the last 18 months! The thing is, I love them for all the reasons you’ve outlined above (and rebutted very well) and more. I have some true affiliation to them, even the ones that aren’t with me. It’s like I gave nearly everything up but those books were the one part I had to keep as part of me.

    Soooo, when I read the begining of your post I thought you were going to ask everyone to contribute to a collective cookbook and I thought, yeh, I’ll give recipes and I’ll buy that! Ha! Totally opposite of The Be More With Less concept, right? Ha.

    I love what your suggesting, and in practice I’ve already started collecting and organising the actual recipes I cook into a folder in my email (which means they’re super easy to search), but I just don’t know if I can give up the hard copies. It just feels like the only thing I have left of me, and it’s the only ‘stuff’ I truly love having in my life.

    Love your work always.

  36. Julia says

    I’m impressed with everyone’s commitment to reducing their cookbooks. However much I declutter in other areas of my life I’m afraid I really love my cookbooks too much to part with them. I currently have around 150 (that’s post culling!) and I love nothing better than to sit down with a coffee, breakfast and a cookbook to read. Yes I re-read them several times over and find so much inspiration in them. One of my best friends gave away over 200 cookbooks when she moved thus editing her collection down to around 600 cookbooks! In fairness I should add I trained as a chef and she is a freelance cookbook editor :-) However if I did ever have to edit my collection I would keep my handwritten cookbook with old family recipes and ones I’ve created and my training textbook – Leiths Cookery Bible.

  37. says

    Hi Courtney,

    I’ve been a silent reader for a while but your cookbook idea made me want to comment this time.
    I have given up on printed cookbooks a few months ago when I moved into a one bedroom 25m2 appartment in Paris. I realized, like you, that I was using only a couple of recipes each over and over again.

    My technique was to make my own, but not by having it printed, by creating it like a scrapbook of sorts. Here in France, they sell a lot of empty notebooks for recipes, with a summary page and sections for each type of recipe (appetizers, meat, desserts…). I copied my favourite cookbook recipes before giving them away, and keep the notebook alive by adding the recipes I find on the internet and try successfully. I even take a picture of my dish to insert it in my notebook.

    That way, I feel a “personal” connection to my notebook, with my handwriting and pictures, even if there is only one, it makes it more meaningful (although I wouldn’t panic if I lost it). I dream of passing it on to my daughter one day, when I have one.

    I hope this helps! Thanks for your thoughtful blog :)

  38. Annika says

    Courtney, there couldn’t have been a more timely post as I am currently trying to pair down my cookbooks – I’m in!

    I followed all steps so far – easy, I only had 12 books to start with and they easily divided into the two piles (why did I not do that earlier ;-)) and now I am at step 4.

    I would also recommend (as another option to donating) to try to re-sell the books. We have several services in Germany (and I am sure there are similar in the US) that will buy your books back for some bucks, so you don’t have all the hassel with amazon etc. yourself. I used them several times already when purging my bookshelves.

    Looking forward to your next thoughts on the project :-)

  39. Chelsea G says

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Like a lot of your other readers, I do feel some sort of attachment to my cookbooks, but I also sometimes feel they are sort of akin to a nagging to-do list. Whenever I pass by them in my kitchen I am reminded of all the recipes I need to try… someday. If I were being really courageous and honest, I would admit that they’re a mental burden.

    I’m trying to move toward a zero-waste lifestyle in our household out of respect for our beautiful earth, so I’m going to see if I can make this a digital project utilizing my ipad. I’ve heard of folks having success keeping their device clean by reusing ziplock bag. I’ve got a cheapy hotel shower cap that I keep in the kitchen (for covering bowls in the fridge). I bet I can use that!

    Next step is scan in the fav recipes, figure out a program that allows easy access and tagging — type of recipe, season, maybe even ingredients and special diets like vegan or gluten-free — then let the books and the paper cut-outs go.

    I love that I’ll be able to access the recipes when I’m away from home and I love that it’s a move toward greater simplification and, ultimately, freedom. Excellent!

    Looking forward to reading about your progress in this arena!

  40. says

    I haven’t read all the previous comments so I apologies for any potential redundancies. I actually didn’t like the idea of owning cookbooks for the reason that most of them usually only have a handful of recipes I actually like. So what I do is check them out from the library, write down the ones I want to try on notecards, and then stick them in a recipe box. I’ve done this for several years. The box is not even full — which goes to show you how few recipes I really need! I like having a little wooden box on the counter instead of a whole shelf of cookbooks.

    However, I DID purchase two cookbooks last year (both are in your photo above). Even with THOSE cookbooks, I don’t use all the recipes. Yet, I’m holding onto them because they have great tips. Once I’ve gone through them, I’ll write the down and pass them onto someone else. I’m considering just making my OWN cookbook through self-publishing websites.

    Great post! Thanks for the reminder to get my recipe box more organized. :)

    • says

      Oh! And! You’re so right — the internet has more recipes than we ever need. I have let my iPad on the kitchen counter and referred to a recipe on a website very often.

  41. GeoHolly says

    I was hoping you would write about this :) I just recently found your blog and love it! I got rid of all my cookbooks except Betty Crocker and may break up with her this year, too. I’m excited to join you in this new endeavor.

  42. Janine says

    What a great challenge! I’ve pared down several times, but then get myself in this predicament. I end up getting most of my recipes online anymore. With just two people at home and the occasional need to use an odd ingredient, keeping cookbooks just doesn’t make sense. There are so many excellent websites and the reviews are helpful.

    I’ll definitely keep “The Joy of Cooking”, a couple of my Lynn Rosetto Kaspar cookbooks (educational – and fun to read), and one “America’s Test Kitchen” book. I can’t get down to one, but I am going to cut my shelf by a third. Our public library also has an excellent selection.

  43. says

    I started decluttering last year and I know it is going to be a long journey as I am a hoarder, the same as the rest of my family.

    Only a few days ago was I thinking that I really should sort out my cookbooks. There are a few that I always turn to when I want something easy and reliable but different from the norm, but most of them have never been used. Thank you so much for starting this as I think it’s come at just the right time for me.

  44. Toni says

    Great project! It’s something I really need to do. When my MIL passed away years ago, my FIL gave us a bunch of her cookbooks and handwritten recipe cards and newspaper clippings. When my FIL passed away, we got even more. I love them, because they remind me of my in-laws. A lot of them are community or church cookbooks, which is really neat. I think I’m going to have my daughter, son, and husband pick out one to save and give the others to my BIL or my nephews. My problem is that I hold onto the ones we inherited, as well as the ones I’ve purchased, thinking I will get inspired and creative. It never happens. Plus, I find a lot of recipes online and bookmark them or put them on pinterest. My husband likes searching for recipes online and then printing out what we need. Thanks for the starting this project and encouraging us to join you!

  45. Sarah T. says

    My grand total is 9. One just came with the Blendtec, 4 are hand-me-downs from mom/grandma, 1 kids’ cookbook, Betty Crocker, Taste of Home, and a Gooseberry. I pared down years ago, and find myself going to the recipe box anyway, since I have all my tried-and-true written there. But they don’t really bother me since they’re housed the the cabinet above the microwave I have a hard time reaching anyway. Plus, after going through all my other kitchen stuff, I find I have more cabinets than stuff to fill them. I just wish I had more silverware drawer-type cabs rather than side-hinged.

  46. MelD says

    Funny – Flylady did this at least 10 years ago & shocked everyone…!

    In our house, the kids and my husband use the cookbooks, a motivation which means I’m keeping mine!! ( tho I did get rid of a lot! maybe 20 remain…)

  47. MelD says

    re. training cookbook: my daughters have grown up in Switzerland, where kids still learn cookery at school – each has the standard, well-stocked school cookbook to refer to when they leave home and all are well-thumbed and used regularly. If they want something exotic or English, they consult my cookbooks… over a nice cup of tea ;)

  48. Drake says

    I’ve been working on a sort of variation on this for a while. A lot of my recipes come from Cooking Light Magazine, though at the moment we are eating a lot more vegetarian, so I’m trying out a lot of new recipes from cookbooks from the library. What I’ve done is I print out the recipes I want to try. I’ve been meaning to get these into a binder (and just bought one to do this with, from your inspiration). After I’ve tried the recipe, decided I liked it, and made whatever modifications that I want to make for my version, I make recipe cards for them. I use Microsoft word to make the cards, with the recipe and a photo if I have one of the dish. I then take the file to the office store and print the recipe cards out on their color laser printer. After that I cut the cards apart and then have them laminated. That way, I can have my recipe cards out while I’m cooking and it doesn’t matter if I splatter them with anything, because I can just wipe them off.

    I’ve got a couple that I need to remake, because the lamination has started to separate, but overall, they work really well.

  49. Christina Neumann says

    I just gave to the library 3 cooks illustrated hard back cook books. They were nice, but I cn just google the recipes, and I have their binder cookbook which I do use. So my total is now at 26. Still too many…. But at least it’s 3 less.

  50. Michelle says

    Thank you so much for posting this, Courtney. I have been looking at my cookbook, bookshelf for YEARS and telling myself that I should get rid of all of them. There is one that I look at, but I only look at it to remind myself how long to boil corn on the cob and eggs, or how long to grill porkchops. It is pathetic. I go to the internet for ALL of my recipes, yet this beautiful, enclosed bookshelf is taking up room in my kitchen, full of books I never use. This article has inspired me. I am so excited to start working on this project tonight. Can’t wait to read more from you about this as well. THANKS!

  51. says

    I haven’t narrowed down my cookbooks, but I so need to. Such a great idea and yet this one may be painful. I think narrowing cookbooks is just as hard for me as pairing down the boots I own. I did recently find a great app for iphone and ipad called paprika that allows you to store all your recipes on your phone or ipad. It allows you to download ingredients and directions directly from most websites. You can then use the meal planner tool or grocery tool. It’s pretty awesome and I think will help me move in the direction of less cookbooks.

  52. Nancy says

    I have been using Pepperplate.com to store my recipes – it sounds a lot like Paprika.com where you can import recipes from websites, change them up a bit or just add in your own recipes. There is also the feature for meal planning and grocery shopping lists. I use my iPad for just about everything and there is an app for this website as well. This has revolutionized my meal planning! I highly recommend.

  53. Dana says

    Love it. I did this a while ago and have never looked back. I had about a dozen cookbooks plus a binder full of recipes from various sources around the internet and my mum. I went through each cookbook and photocopied the recipes that I actually used (usually somewhere between 1 – 10 in each book) and put them in the binder. I’ve got it divided up by main dishes (and subdivided by meat type), sides, desserts, and I have a separate section for stuff I only need when I’m entertaining. Now I just pull a recipe from the binder and magnet it to the fridge (which is right next to my prep area). I use plastic sleeves so that if I splash on the recipe, it wipes off.

    I do love cooking magazines, so I’m continually pulling new recipes to try. I keep these in the front of the binder, and when I’ve tried them, they either go in a sleeve (if they’re good and I want to make them again) or in the trash. Every couple months or so, I go through the binder, organizing and evaluating recipes. We’ve gotten rid of all our cookbooks this way :)

  54. Sharon says

    One strategy to help narrow things down is to use Eat Your Books website(It provides an index to 100s of cookbooks) with the 5 cookbooks that you think would be the most useful to you. Then use the EatYourBooks site to search for recipes from those 5 books simultaneously. See what you wind up making. Over time do some cookbooks get used a lot more than the others? If some are rarely used just copy out the few recipes you use and pass the books along. Then take those (2) off the EYB list and sub in the next (2) you think might be the most useful.

    If you have more than 5 books/magazines/blogs you want to have on your index searches at the same time, you need a subscription. This may make it faster to reduce the collection or it may make it harder to focus enough to figure out what’s not getting used.

    When weeding out books also consider the if some cookbooks are used more in certain seasons. For example you may make more soups and hearty pasta dishes in the winter and more salads or grilled dishes in the summer.

    Sharon

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  56. says

    I love this idea and have been thinking about doing it for a while. I’ve recently started making a reference list with our favorites so I know what cookbook they are located in. That will be a help in starting. I haven’t counted my cookbooks but there’s probably 20 or so. Would love to pair it down but ONE. That’s going to be a challenge.

  57. Lisa says

    I love this idea! I have gotten rid of so many cookbooks over the last few years (maybe 60 of them?). For some reason, I never thought of parting with them when I pared down my other books, but it’s so nice to only have cookbooks that I actually use. I have a couple that I may never get rid of because they are oldies passed down from my grandmothers (and just fun to look through!), but I use the Internet for most of my cooking now. It’s more adaptable to my changing tastes. Someone once told me I should have hard copies on hand in case the power goes out, but hello, if it does, my stove won’t work, anyway. ;)

    Like others, I’ve also started a cookbook of family favorites to pass on to my kids someday. I like the idea of passing along not only the recipes, but also the memories we are creating as we share those dishes on a regular basis.

  58. says

    I don’t know how I missed this! I started doing this (without realizing what I was doing) a few years ago as I wanted ONE place to find all the recipes that I made time and time again. I was making it my reference cookbook. Without realizing it over the years my cookbook collection has dwindled down to 3 plus my two reference cookbooks (One is savory and one is sweet – they are smaller books that hold 2 4X6 index cards per page. It used to be one but I found that I needed more room. Two small books is still better than the shelf!)

    I have held on to one cookbook for myself. It is Picnic by DeeDee Stovel and I am another one who just loves reading it. But it is also sentimental – I remember hearing an interview with the author while traveling to my father’s a long time ago and it brought back that I wanted to be “lighter and funner(?)” with cooking. And I found the actual book on one of the first fun trips my husband and I took in years when we were starting to make the “lighter and funner” changes in our life (it is the only cookbook I’ve ever paid full price for and bought in an unconventional place – which also helps it’s “value” for me.)

    The other two cookbooks were bought by my husband and he cooks out of from time to time. For that benefit, they stay on the shelf.

    I even go through my Pinterest board ruthlessly – if I don’t make a new recipe after a few months, out it goes! And though I keep pins of the one’s I’ve made successfully, if it is a keeper, it gets printed on an index card to go to the reference book. I thought I would go digital completely but laying out and printing the card is enough. I like “re-typing” the recipe and making the recipe work for me. I also seem to remember it that way and then can just use the cards as a reference instead of absolutely NEEDING it. (Though my memory is going so I can’t imagine that benefit will last much longer!)

    I keep a main file of all of them. It does help being able to send someone a recipe instantly. I’ve found the best of both worlds for me. I am excited to see what else you share with us about this project. I’m always looking for new ways to simplify it!

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