Over the decades my cookbook preferences have made large shifts that showed growth and change in our eating habits. Early on when I was learning to cook I relied heavily on Company’s Coming series of cookbooks. About 15 years ago I shifted to much healthier options as I discovered detoxing and raw vegan diets. Although, in our winter season, I found that way of eating not sustainable, so it shifted to an overall more healthy diet with a focus on vegetables. All that to say, over time, I’ve had a lot of cookbooks.

If you look at your cookbook collection, what do you see?

  • Do you see your current eating habits?
  • Do you see eating habits of the past?
  • Hopeful eating routines of the future?
  • Do you use your cookbooks at all?
  • Maybe just have one favourite cookbook?

Our first step today is to bring all of your cookbooks to an open space where you can see them. This could be the dining room table. Create your keep and donate piles. Go through your cookbooks one-by-one and remove all the cookbooks you never use, never look at, have no interest in, bought with best intentions for the future. These all go to your donate box. Minimize your collection down to just the cookbooks you currently use, which will go to your keep pile.

Looking to the cookbooks you kept. I’m wondering if you’re like me? Does this sound familiar?

I would get a new cookbook, flip through it all motivated, and see all the recipes I’d like to try. And then the book goes on the shelf, and I’d make one or two recipes from it, but forget the rest. On grocery shopping day, I’d pick one or two books off the shelf and flip through looking for inspiration, I’d jot down a few ingredients (along with recipe book and page number.) However, this was really time consuming. So, I’d often skip the recipe book and just make up my own dinner ideas, which often lacked variety.

Here’s how I remedied that:

I took on a larger project, but it has paid off in saved time many times over.

First, I organized a scribbler with stick-on divider tabs and various themes such as “Pasta,” “East Indian,” “Buddha Bowls,” “Junk Night,” “Salads,” “Soup & Sandwich/Salad,” etc.

I sat down with each cookbook and flipped through it page-by-page and looked at each recipe to assess if it fit my criteria:

  • Is this something I would make?
  • Is this something everyone in my house would eat?
  • Are the ingredients basic and accessible?
  • Is it fairly simple and quick?

If the recipe ticked all the boxes, I wrote down the recipe, book, and page number in the scribbler under the appropriate themed heading.

I went through all of my recipe books in this way and wrote the vetted recipes under the themes.

I also planned complete meals in my scribbler listings, such as I would list a soup and then also put either a salad or a sandwich that would compliment that soup. These recipes might be from a different cookbook, so I listed them with their book and page number. Do that pairing-together thinking in the beginning, saves time later.

I didn’t do this all at once. I sat down with one recipe book at a time, over a few weeks. Once I was finished, I could easily meal plan by going through the scribbler and picking a theme first, and then picking a recipe from that theme. The best thing is, I already know this is a recipe that I will make, my family will eat, contains ingredients I can readily get, and so on, because I already checked my criteria boxes when I added it to the scribbler.

Once I plan my menu, then I open the recipe book(s) to the recipe(s) to check what I need for ingredients and make a grocery list. I keep my menu list handy so I can readily see what meals I planned and have the information I need to find the recipes right at my fingertips.

I am loving this system. It saves me time and brain energy, and reduces stress around meal planning.

Note: If I only noted a very few recipes from a cookbook that fit my criteria, then I would scan and print those recipes and put them in a binder (also sorted by theme) and donate the cookbook. This can further reduce your “keep” recipe books.

This project can seem a bit daunting because it takes a time commitment at the front end to appreciate the benefits later. If this is a project you’d like to discuss further with me to brainstorm ideas on how it could work for you, feel free to reach out.

I welcome your ideas, thoughts, and questions in the comments below.

Remember you can share your journey with me and others by using hashtag #MarchMicroMinimizing, and tag me on Facebook or Instagram using handle @suzannegouldenILC.

Here’s me talking about minimizing our cookbooks!

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