You have an overloaded bookshelf of cookbooks. You’ve torn hundreds of recipes out of magazines. You spend hours bookmarking and pinning recipes online. Yet when it comes to meal time, you don’t know what to cook. Are you a master recipe collector, but find yourself falling flat when it comes to execution in the kitchen? Stop collecting recipes you’ll never cook and turn the ones you love into heart healthy favorites. Use this 5-step process to turn your recipe collection into a personalized healthy cookbook you’ll actually use and can build upon for years to come!
1. Become Aware of your Dining Habits
The perfect recipe collection should be tailored to your lifestyle. Track your cooking and dining habits for one week to find out what types of recipes your collection needs. It’s important to track what you actually do, not what you aspire to do. Self-awareness is key here. Your eating pattern is unique to you – why you eat the way you do reflects years of habits and preferences. Recognizing your personal eating pattern is an important first step in making healthy change.
Take the What Kind of Eater Are You? quiz below to help you determine the total number of recipes you should have in your personal recipe collection, and what percentage of those recipes should come from each category. For example, you shouldn’t have 20 Thanksgiving Day dinner recipes in your collection if you never cook for Thanksgiving…
Here’s an example:
|Cook Breakfast at Home?||2 days/week||I make hot breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings only|
|Take Homemade Breakfast to Work?||5 days/week||I take a smoothie to work M-F|
|Eat Out for Breakfast?||0 days/week||Almost never, unless a friend wants to meet for brunch|
|Cook Lunch at Home?||0 days/week||I never cook lunch at home|
|Take Lunch to Work?||5 days/week||I take lunch to work M-F|
|Eat Out for Lunch?||2 days/week||Only on Saturday and Sunday|
|Cook Dinner at Home?||5 days/week||I typically cook quick weeknight meals Sunday through Thursday|
|Eat Out for Dinner?||2 days/week||Always on Friday and Saturday nights|
Snacks and Desserts
|Make a Homemade Snack?||1 day/week||Rarely, but sometimes a hummus or snack mix recipe will inspire me|
|Eat Pre-Packaged Snacks?||5 days/week||I take pre-packaged snacks to work with me M-F|
|Cook Dessert?||0 days/week||I’m not a big baker, so homemade dessert is pretty rare|
|Cook a Holiday Recipe?||12 days/year||I can usually find a special occasion to celebrate with food once a month|
|Cook for a Cocktail Party?||0 days/year||Love the idea of hosting parties, but it doesn’t happen too often|
|Cook a Group Meal?||0 days/week||I don’t regularly have big groups of family or friends over for a meal|
Tally it Up
Tally up all of the meals in each category (EXCEPT the days you are dining out – you aren’t cooking those days):
|Category||Add & Multiply||Notes|
|Breakfast||2 + 5 = 7, and|
7 x 4 = 28
|I need 28 breakfast recipes; mostly smoothies, some hot weekend breakfasts|
|Lunch||0 + 5 = 5, and|
5 x 4 = 20
|I need 20 lunch recipes; things I can take to work|
|Dinner||5 x 4 = 20||I need 20 dinner recipes; specifically quick weeknight meal ideas|
|Snacks and Desserts||1 + 0 = 1, and|
1 x 4 = 4
|I only need 4 recipes here; all for homemade snacks|
|Special Occasions||12 + 0 + 0 = 12, and|
12 x 1 = 12
|I need 12 recipes for special occasions; specially those that reflect a variety of holidays throughout the year|
|GRAND TOTAL||84||This is the total number of recipes I should have in my recipe collection to start|
Analyze the Results
Take the information you collected above and further analyze the results to get a clear picture of what percentage of your grand total should be coming from each category.
2. Identify Heart Healthy Recipes
Now that you know which recipe categories to focus on and how many recipes in each category you need to match your lifestyle, it’s time to start adding recipes. But don’t just start adding your old pile of recipes. Use these heart healthy eating guidelines and the following questionnaire to analyze each recipe before adding it to your collection.
Grab a favorite recipe and ask yourself the following questions:
3. Build a Recipe Binder
Create one or several recipe binders with defined sections that reflect the categories identified in Step 1. Make notes on each recipe with any important substitutions identified in Step 2. Put each recipe in its own sheet protector before adding to the binder (this will protect them while you’re cooking). You can even number each recipe for easy reference (label the sheet protector, not the recipe, so you can rearrange easily – I like these sticker labels) and include a folder pocket at the beginning of each section to store recipes you want try in the future before making them a permanent part to your collection.
4. Add to Your Collection
Each category should have at least the number of recipes identified in Step 1. For categories that don’t have enough recipes, find new recipes that fit the criteria in Step 2. Where should you look for new healthy recipes?
- Cookbooks: Check out this list or revisit your old books for inspiration. When you find a recipe, scan, print and add it to your binder. Donate the cookbook once you’ve copied everything you need from it.
- Online sources: Visit online recipe blogs and Pinterest boards for new ideas. Print recipes that interest you and add them to your binder.
- Magazines: Page through your favorite healthy cooking magazine and tear out pages with recipes that interest you.
- Friends/Family: Ask your friends and family for their favorite healthy recipes.
5. Get Cooking
Keep your recipe binder within arm’s reach in the kitchen. Use the page numbers to help you meal plan each week (identifying what you want to make and creating a detailed grocery list based on the ingredients needed). Experiment with new recipes, making healthy substitutions where possible, to create a well-rounded collection of recipes that you love.