3 Ideas to Help You Organize and Preserve Your Favorite Holiday Recipes

“Once you have mastered a technique, you hardly need look at a recipe again and can take off on your own.” Julia Child

That may have been true for Julia Child, but when it comes to our once-a-year, holiday family favorites, I need the recipe! And it’s not just about how to make the food, but also remembering the people and the stories behind each dish.

If you’re like me, you like to have all of your holiday recipes organized in one place, so it’s easy to find them.

By organizing and safekeeping our recipes, we can make sure future generations will be able to enjoy all our family favorites. As our families grow and begin to add new favorites that turn into holiday food traditions, we want to be sure and keep those recipes handy as well.

Some of our holiday recipes are handwritten on cards or paper. Others are on a dog-eared page inside an inherited cookbook. Nowadays, we also grab recipes from websites and receive them via texts on our phones. It can be challenging to keep everything centralized.

Here are some ways to document, preserve, and easily locate those important holiday recipes we want to make year after year.

1. Gather All of Your Family’s Holiday Favorites into One Place

To minimize some of your culinary holiday stress, I recommend storing all of your holiday recipes in one easy-to-find location. Maintaining one central repository reduces the time you spend searching through cookbooks, binders, recipe boxes, and past photos of recipes on your phone.

Start by making a list of all the dishes you make every holiday. Get family members’ input by asking them to vote on their favorite categories (e.g, appetizers, entrees, side dishes, snacks, desserts, and beverages).

Be sure to include any new traditions you may have adopted recently, and any dishes you bring to holiday parties each year

Do you have recipes in your head? Write them down! You never know when one of your adult children will text to ask, “How do we make that Reindeer Chex Mix? I can’t remember the ingredients!”

Once you’ve gathered all our holiday recipes, it’s time to decide how you want to file, store, and preserve them.

2. Document Recipes with Photos and Videos

To save space and for peace of mind, we encourage you to make a digital copy of each holiday recipe. These organized images create space-saving storage, and give your family a backup copy of everything in case the originals are lost to fading print, loss, fire, or flood.

Take a Photo or Scan Recipe Cards and Handwritten Notes
After you create a digital image of a recipe, you might want to open the file and add notes with an editing tool. Try to include details such as family sayings, stories behind the dish, and photos (if you have them).

To get more ideas or learn how to create a Family Recipe Book, check out this previous post.

If you prefer to reference your physical recipes each year, we recommend placing all of your holiday recipes in a separate folder, binder, or box. You could also add a “Holiday” folder to the back of a family cookbook.

If you added notes or re-wrote parts of a recipe that were hard to read, print and file them in your newly created sections.

Create a Video of the Cook Creating the Recipe
Recipes can be kind of “two-dimensional.” The information on a recipe doesn’t give quite enough guidance on exactly how to make a dish.

Taking a video is a great way to document the actual preparation and nuances needed to get the same result.

If the cook is a reluctant video subject, then take pictures of the process and finished product. Or if the original cook is no longer with you, then take a video of a family member who knows how to make the dish.

Along the way, be sure to ask questions in order to capture details that might not occur to the cook who is creating a masterpiece from memory. Add those notes to a written or digital copy of the recipe.

3. Consider Using a Recipe Management App to Digitally Organize Your Holiday Recipes

Once you create electronic versions of all of your favorite holiday recipes, it’s time to organize them in a digital filing system. You can do this on a home computer, tablet, or phone. Depending on the system you choose, you might be able to sync your digital recipe box across several devices.

Here are some of my favorite tools to help you with this process:


Evernote is a powerful, free application that can store notes, photos and videos. There is an upgraded version that allows you to upload emails and sync across multiple devices.

Once you create your recipe within a “note” in Evernote, you can upload and annotate photos.

Evernote also has a ”Web Clip” feature that allows you to add a recipe from a website, not just the link, so you can view the entire web page within the note itself.

As you create recipes, you can add tags to them, and/or organize your recipes into Notebooks.

Paprika and Copy Me That are two popular recipe manager apps. Both are available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. Both of these apps also include a shopping list feature.

Copy Me That has a free version with unlimited recipes and syncs across your devices. The upgraded version allows you to share with others. Paprika is a paid app and costs vary depending on the version you buy (i.e. $2.99 for iPhone app; $14.99 for the Mac version)

If you don’t want to use one of these apps, we still encourage you to create a Holiday Recipes folder on your computer to store and reference those you may only create at once a year. And be sure to back up your folder using one of the methods we describe in this previous post.

Don’t Let Your Favorite Holiday Recipes Slip Away

Families tend to connect over food when we gather together at the holidays. The smells, sounds, and stories behind our favorite dishes are meant to be preserved and passed down.

Spending time searching for those recipes can add stress to the busy holiday season. If we lose them all together, then we lose pieces of our family traditions as well.

Devoting an afternoon organizing and backing up all of your family’s favorite holiday recipes will ease your stress and give you piece of mind that you’ve preserved a precious part of history to hand down to the future cooks in your family.

Let us know how we can help you organize and catalog these and other family memories.


2 thoughts on “3 Ideas to Help You Organize and Preserve Your Favorite Holiday Recipes

  1. This is such great information, thank you for the article. Now maybe in 2019 I can organize my over 1000 saved recipes. I publish small recipe books w 100 – 200 recipes and am thinking this might be the best way to manage them, one book per recipe category.

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