Categories / Subdivisions for...

Joined Jan 14, 2010
...organizing recipes.  I am trying to compile a list before I place each recipe in it's respective place, but I am having a difficult time finding the right categories.  How in-depth should I go?  Or should I be quite vague / broad?  So far, I had a list like this, but it still seemed wrong (not in alphabetical order):
- Cake
- Cookies
- Pie
- Pastas & Rice
- Frozen Desserts
- Cupcakes
- Muffins
- Casseroles
- Brownies / Bars
- Rolls
- Candies
- Tarts
- Pastries
- Bread
- Meat
- Fish
- Salads
- Soups
- Breakfast (wasn't sure were stuff like French Toast would go)
- Preserves & Jams
- Vegetables
- Fruits...

...the list goes on I suppose.  Anyone have any fool-proof answer to this?  =)   It would put my troubled mind at ease.   
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I don't reckon there is a one-size-fits-all system. You have to go with categories that are most meaningful for you. And keep in mind that you will more than likely change your organization system more than once through the years.

Right now, bread might make it as a useful category. But as your recipe collection and inclinations expand you might later break that down further

For instance, you have meat listed as one category. For me that wouldn't work, and I subdivide into the various meat proteins, i.e., beef, lamb, pork, poultry, veal, game. The game category is itself broken down into types of game. Similarly, I break your fish category into various fish and seafood categories.

On the other hand, you have a lot of baked goods broken down into sub-groups. But I don't do all that much baking, so can make do with sweet-pastry and savory-pastry. But I do have bread broken into yeast breads and quick breads. Thus, for me, four categories work, whereas for you the ten you have listed might really be important.

I think if I were just starting out to organize my recipes I would go with rather gross categories. Then, as circumstances warrent, fine-tune the groups. It's comparatively simple to go from the larger to the smaller.

For me the difficult part is cross-referencing. F'rinstance, I just grabbed a recipe card at random for samosas. I have it filed under lamb. But it could also fit in the savory pastry category. Sometimes there are recipes that easily fit three, or four, or more categories. Using your current list, for example, a rice salad could easily fit under salads, under pasta/rice, even under fruit, depending on the actual ingredients. Or use your french toast example. It could go under breakfast. But also under bread, under eggs, etc.

What I currently do is just pick what I think is the major category for such dishes and leave it go at that. Which means that sometimes I go looking for a recipe I know I have, but can't find the card. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/frown.gif

Maybe if I entered the 21st century and started tracking things electronically it would be easier? But with hard-copy recipe cards it's not so easy.
Joined Jan 14, 2010
 I was contemplating going the Electronic Route, but something about hard copies makes it seem much more... I don't know, authentic? I would, at some point, like to add photographs along with the dishes, so I might go digital now.  

As for why I have baked goods split up so much..... I love baking.  =) Currently, though, I am just looking for something to cover the majority of all topics.  Then, as you said, split them up further upon need.  I am confused.  =P
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I love baking.

That's exactly my point. For you, baking is an important part of your cooking. So it makes sense to divide that category into component parts.

Currently, though, I am just looking for something to cover the majority of all topics.

What I'm suggesting is that that may not be necessary. For instance, let's say that the majority of your cooking involves beef and chicken. It may be that  "meat" and "poultry" are all you need. Otherwise you might find your card files cluttered up with a lot of categories each of which only has one or two recipes. So, for right now, you start just with "poultry," knowing that the majority of recipes there will be for chicken. As things progress, if it turns out you've collected a bunch of recipes for, say, quail, then you can always segregate them out when it proves necessary. Same with the "meat" category. If you find that lamb or pork recipes are building, then just break them out.

I'll tell you another way it gets hairy; if you start dividing by type of food other than ingredient. For instance: vegetarian; ethnic; regional; healthy (whatever that means), etc. Just think of the cross-referencing that could entail. Example: a recipe for a chicken tagine could be filed under: chicken, Moroccan, North African, Mediterranean, clay pot cookery, etc. The question, again, is are these cross-references important to the kind of cooking you do? If not, you just ignore them.

I'm at that point, myself. It's getting time that I break down the poultry category into it's component parts----chicken, turkey, guinea hens, etc.---cuz it's getting to be a bit much finding what I want.

What should be obvious is that there's no right nor wrong. The best system is the one that works for you. And what works best for most people is to keep it as simple as possible.

I'll say this, too. Based on previous threads about this subject, people like you and me, who keep hard copies, are in the distinct minority. But even if I should change to electronic record keeping (unlikely), I'd still maintain the card files because for me that's the easiest way to use them. I can't begin to fathom keeping a laptop in the kitchen and refer to it while I cook. But apparently it works for others. So for them that's the best way.
Joined Aug 18, 2007
Hi, Just wanted to share my own method. I find doing it the same way as most recipe books works best. ie.Soups/appetisers/snacks/main meals...Fish/seafood/ protiens then deserts and then drinks etc. then sub-divide into vege/ favourites etc.I use post-its to mark other sub divisions,cos they're are always plenty more.

Works for me. My recipe books are also covered in post-its
Joined Sep 18, 2008
Sounds like the McBee Keysort Card system would be a great help, unfortunately, I don't believe they still exist. Basically, index cards with small holes punched around all four sides, each hole represents a "category" that, if it applies to a specific card, is "notched out". To find one or more cards, run a needle, like a thin knitting needle, through the stack of cards, those with a notch will fall out.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Ahh, Pete. So you're also part of the "do not fold, spindle, or mutilate" generation. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
I do all mine in text files on the PC. I organize by file folder at the cuisine level. At the next folder level I have a uniform major "ingredient" folder list like chicken, vegetables, soups. That list of folders is the same under every cuisine with some exceptions as under the vegetarian folder.  Then I apply meta tags to the text files. for running searches on other ways I might want to filter the recipe info.
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