How to Easily Make a Family Cookbook From Scratch


Mary is a food fanatic, hailing from from a family where feeding one another well is an ultimate expression of love

Making a cookbook is a fun and relatively easy process. Read on to learn more.

Making a cookbook is a fun and relatively easy process. Read on to learn more.

Four Steps to an Amazing, Personalized Gift

I'm proud to say that my family can cook. My brothers are all skilled and inventive in the kitchen, my dad has many specialties, and Mom's been turning out great meals for decades. (I won't say how many, or she'll stop cooking for me!) Creating a family cookbook has been on my to-do list because I want to be able to tap into all that talent on a daily basis rather than calling at the last minute to pester people with "Now, how did you make those apple pancakes?" It occurred to me that other family members might feel the same way. Creating a family cookbook could be an awesome personal, budget-friendly holiday gift for everyone. It doesn't seem all that difficult...

Four Steps to Make a Cookbook

  1. Collecting the recipes
  2. Printing and formatting the recipes
  3. Protecting the pages (optional)
  4. Binding the pages

1. Collect Recipes

Decide on the scope for your effort (will you include recipes from just your parents and siblings? or go broader and ask aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.?). Then call or email everyone to request their favorite recipes. Be sure to give them a deadline—a couple weeks should be enough time for most to respond—and some specifics on what you're looking for.

Here's a sample email request:

Hi, everybody—

I'm collecting recipes from our family and would love to include one or more of your favorites. Please email me back your recipe(s) by November 15, and include this info for each one:

  • List of ingredients
  • Step-by-step cooking instructions with any special tips (e.g., "cake may look underdone at first but will firm up as it sits"; "you don't have to thaw the peas first"; etc.)
  • How many people the dish serves
  • Roughly how long the dish takes to make: prep time and cook time

Thanks so much!

Note: You can ask them to include an "allergy alert" line, too, if your family includes food allergy sufferers.

Then sit back and wait for the responses to—fingers crossed—roll in. If nobody responds, threaten to fill the book yourself with nothing but lima bean recipes!

A must for my family recipe collection in progress: the tender, crusty no-knead bread method I've finally nailed!

A must for my family recipe collection in progress: the tender, crusty no-knead bread method I've finally nailed!

2. Print and Format the Recipe Pages

You can cut and paste the recipe text from folks' emails into a new document using Word or another word-processing program.

Or just print the email as is. (The recipes will be no less tasty with to, from, date, and email addresses on the top... and if they're bad, people will know how to reach the contributors and complain! Just kidding.)

When your pages are printed, punch each on the left margin with a three-hole punch.

family recipe book template

family recipe book template

Putting this tutorial together, I searched online for an 8-1/2-by-11-sized recipe template that would pair well with binder-style family cookbooks. I found some card templates but very few full-page designs. So I asked Kristen of Domestifluff, a fabulous blog on home cooking & crafting that also includes some topnotch graphic design, if she might take on the challenge. She agreed, and the result (above) is absolutely adorable! It's perfect not only for holiday projects but all year round. You can access the pdf for personal, non-commercial use. And thanks, Kristen!

Optional: Nutrition

Is yours a health-conscious family? Consider using a websites like verywellfit.com to calculate nutrition instantly for a recipe, like my "world's simplest PB cookies" -- and then including this info at the bottom, or on the back, of your recipe page

Is yours a health-conscious family? Consider using a websites like verywellfit.com to calculate nutrition instantly for a recipe, like my "world's simplest PB cookies" -- and then including this info at the bottom, or on the back, of your recipe page

3. Protect the Pages (Optional)

You could take the recipe pages to your local copy shop and laminate them before three-hole-punching. Or you could just buy some standard-size, prepunched plastic sleeves. This step isn't really necessary—some of the best recipes are splattered with chocolate, after all—but it's a nice touch if you have the time and budget.

Another "nice but not necessary" touch is tabs to separate recipe categories, such as:

  • Appetizers
  • Salads
  • Soups
  • Main Courses
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts

Note: Because some family members will be messier—that's me!—than others in their mise en place (essentially, French for "tidying up as you go"), it might be best to forego simple card-stock dividers in favor of tougher plastic ones that can withstand years of colorful food splatters.

Oops! Clear page protectors allow for quick, easy spill cleanup

Oops! Clear page protectors allow for quick, easy spill cleanup

4. Bind the Pages

You could have the local copy shop bind your family cookbook, but a three-ring binder allows you to add recipes easily over time. (Your teenage niece or nephew may have no use for the kitchen right now, but in 10 years, who knows? She or he may stumble on—or create—the best five-alarm chili recipe this side of the Pecos.)

Probably the cheapest way to decorate binders for holiday gifts is to choose colorful ones off the shelf and customize at home with colored or metallic permanent markers. Looking to keep the kids busy over winter break? Newspaper-up a space in your home and set them loose with markers and binders. No two will come out alike, but that's part of the charm!

Got a shoestring gift budget? Set the kids (or yourself ;) loose with metallic markers and an off-the-shelf binder, or even one re-purposed from the school supplies drawer

Got a shoestring gift budget? Set the kids (or yourself ;) loose with metallic markers and an off-the-shelf binder, or even one re-purposed from the school supplies drawer

More Recipe Binder Options

For a more polished approach, many colorful custom binders are offered through print-on-demand site Zazzle, which is a treasure trove of personalized gift options at all budget levels.

Our family has for years had a small shop there, with 50% of design proceeds (more than $4,000 so far!) going to Save the Children. And with help from my kids' original artwork, I designed several binders for family cookbooks--all of which can be personalized on the back, spine, etc. We've purchased these repeatedly as holiday gifts and been pleased with the print quality.

Although I've gifted these binders as gifts to non-relatives, I'm still working on the recipe collection process for my own family! But a flurry, recently, of Eastern European recipe exchanges with one of my siblings has re-lit the fire underneath me.

Polls are fun, so I'd love to get your help deciding which binder design to use. My gift-giving target is Christmas 2018, but I'm open to an all-seasons look as well.

Number 1—the "Season's Eatings" design below has a festive look, with nontraditional colors. I personalized this for several of the kids' teachers. Besides being happy and fun, this design sidesteps the sometimes sticky issue of not being sure which winter holidays a teacher, or other gift recipient, celebrates. Of course with my own family, I don't have that issue, but I still think this design could fit the bill.

Customize a candy-colored binder for treasured recipes. For source info, see next design.

Customize a candy-colored binder for treasured recipes. For source info, see next design.

Number 2 (below) is more traditional, but still fun and playful with the child's snowflake cutout.


Number 3 is for the family that doesn't mind making a bit of a statement. The holidays are an especially poignant time to express the hope for peace, but this design is a great option for year-round giving.


Number 4 is for an all-desserts cookbook (mmmmmm). Even families not crazy about cooking generally have favorite sweets recipes to share.


Finally, number 5 makes a great gift for the non-cook! This is a related but different gift idea, perhaps for the overwhelmed new parent or newly liberated "the kitchen is closed!" empty nester in your family. Simply collect local takeout menus, or print them out from restaurant websites, and three-hole-punch them for this binder. It's way better than a junk drawer overflowing with crumpled menus. (Not that I have any, uh, personal experience with that...)


Help me decide?

Share Your Family's Experience, Please!

How about it? Have I inspired you to put together a family cookbook? Or nudge someone else in the family to do it? Please share your tips in the comments below, to pave the way for early birds already looking to the 2018 holiday season!


© 2009 Mary


MintySea on August 28, 2012:

I should make a family cookbook what a cool idea

seajay on July 11, 2012:

Great subject, cooking is one of my favourite things to do. I have heaps of recipes, perhaps I should try something like this! And some handed down from my grandmother and mother.

joannalynn lm on July 10, 2012:

I've been involved in several cookbook projects, and illustrated one, but we've never done a family cookbook. You should see my recipes! I have dozens of cookbooks, recipe cards, and copies of recipes slipped in cookbooks. It all needs to be organised! I bought large photo books one year to place my recipe cards in the sleeves, but I'm notorious for not putting them back! My older son's senior ag-business class did a cookbook. They each picked a main course, and prepared it in class. Class was right before lunch, so they served it to their class. Then the recipes were bound. The idea was the kids would have a cookbook to take to university. My son served homemade pizza and blueberry crisp. He made the dough at home, then showed the class how to make the dough and let it rise in class while preparing the pizza. They cooked it in the school kitchen. His senior class had 27 kids, and not all were in this class, so it was do-able. It was all done like a cooking show. I thought it was a really neat idea. My boys are good and creative cooks.....I attribute to the Italian genes, but I know it's not necessarily that!

fullofshoes on June 17, 2012:

Great lens.... great idea... ~blessed~

shellyart lm on May 05, 2012:

What a fantastic idea, great lens!

Pam Irie from Land of Aloha on March 17, 2012:

This is a great suggestion....to make a family cookbook. :)

RecordLady on March 09, 2012:

What a great idea. Thank you.

queenofduvetcover on February 15, 2012:

Very creative, thanks! =)

anonymous on February 14, 2012:

Thanks so much for the free template. It's exactly what I was looking for. I have 3 grown daughters that I plan to compile by recipes for, in a binder unique to each of them. Thanks again!

Mary (author) from Chicago area on January 09, 2012:

@Countryluthier: free ideas for ... ?

thx for the visit & comment!

E L Seaton from Virginia on January 07, 2012:

Very creative ideas, throw in a hundred or so free ideas and you have a deal! Great lens for all of us.

agoofyidea on August 20, 2011:

Great gift idea! Nice lens.

irenemaria from Sweden on August 12, 2011:

Very nice idea! I have something like it but not so fancy...

braidhairextensions on June 29, 2011:

Personalized gifts are always liked because they are unique to the receiver. Nice lens..

Remy Hair Extensions

anonymous on May 31, 2011:

i love this lens! keep it up!


get the perfect DIY conservatory to improve the look and feel of your home!

writywrite on March 18, 2011:

Well done, very interesting, love it..

kimbesa from USA on January 28, 2011:

Yummy...simple and sweet...and **angel blessed**! Thanks!

youngward on January 28, 2011:

well written. nice and detailed


Cash Cookbook

ZazzleEnchante on December 01, 2010:

Interesting lens and yep every family should've their own cookbook. Blessed by a SquidAngel.

anonymous on October 01, 2010:

What a wonderful lens. So often recipes disappear with the generation, a family cookbook is the perfect way to preserve the memories and the recipes.

5 Minute Brownie in a Mug...yum!

KokoTravel on October 01, 2010:

Awesome lens... thanks... great recipes too!

howtocurecancer on September 26, 2010:

It's not easy, but I think to create a family cookbook with all the vegan and natural foods meals. thanks.

Joan4 on June 18, 2010:

Wonderful! We do love our family cookbook. Lensrolling to my family cookbook lens!

Treasures By Brenda from Canada on March 04, 2010:

Nice idea for a job many of us need to put in order.

Beth Webster-Duerr from Henrietta, New York on February 17, 2010:

What a great idea. My daughters wold love the recipes they grew up eating from our kitchen. Lensrolled to all my recipe lenses.

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on February 02, 2010:

This is a great idea! And, I agree with Sylvestermouse, it would make a nice wedding gift for the new member of the family.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on February 01, 2010:

This is a wonderful idea! What a fabulous gift idea too! I can just imagine what a treasure and keepsake this would be for a new bride. Most Excellent!!! Angel Blessed and added to my Squid Angel Mouse Tracks lens.

HorseAndPony LM on January 29, 2010:

Love this. Thanks for the great idea.

JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on November 20, 2009:

I really like this idea, it sounds like so much fun. :D

Jellyrolldesigns on November 15, 2009:

Very Nice and imformative lens!

postage_freak on November 15, 2009:

5 stars! Nicely done - great gift ideas!

eclecticeducati1 on November 11, 2009:

I've been wanting to do this! Great lens.

Lee Hansen from Vermont on October 31, 2009:

Love your binders and tips for saving and sharing recipes. Putting it all together in a cool customized family binder is a great idea for a holiday or wedding gift. Gonna get started on some for our family this year.

Bemused in Tasm on October 29, 2009:

Terrific Lens! My sister did a family cookbook for my family a few years ago, but I'm thinking of doing one for my in-laws family. Or just for the fun of it! There are actually a lot of possibilities. Thanks so much,

WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on October 27, 2009:

Very Creative! The recipe binders look awesome. :)

hlkljgk from Western Mass on October 27, 2009:

wonderful, personalized, thoughtful gift idea.

pussycat lm on October 20, 2009:

Our daughter in law grew up with her grandparents which were overprotective and never let her cook - so I handmade her a book with all of our family recipes, especially our son´s favourites, three years ago. Wish Zazzle had had those great binders then - would have saved me a lot of work :-)

Great lens - 5* and faved/lensrolled.

Hilly aka felidae52

dustytoes on October 20, 2009:

I love the new Zazzle binders...yours are awesome! Nice idea for Christmas...

momto4 lm on October 16, 2009:

I really need to have a family recipe book. Great ideas and a great lens! 5 *'s

Sketchart26 on October 10, 2009:

Very enjoyable lens nice work. Love the designs,

squid-janices7 on October 10, 2009:

Everyone should have a family recipe book....I made one when my friend's Mom past away suddenly. I realized at that point that none of us had picked our Mom's brain or gotten her recipe box and organized a book. Gave one to my Mom and all my siblings for xmas one year. They loved it and she loved that her recipes were organized all in one spot. 5* and fav'd.

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on October 08, 2009:

I fave'd and lensrolled it too.

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on October 08, 2009:

Darling, darling, darling.

I live the "Make Food Not War" the best! Too cute! 5*

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