How to Easily Make a Family Cookbook From Scratch

Updated on January 14, 2020
verymary profile image

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. | Source

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! | Source

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 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 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 | Source

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.

Avery Economy Clear Sheet Protectors, 8.5" x 11", Acid-Free, Archival Safe, Top Loading, 50ct (74090)
Avery Economy Clear Sheet Protectors, 8.5" x 11", Acid-Free, Archival Safe, Top Loading, 50ct (74090)
We've used these to protect our recipe pages from rips and wrinkles as well as the aforementioned rainbow of food splatters. A great choice if you'd rather not go to the extra hassle and expense of laminating them.
Oops! Clear page protectors allow for quick, easy spill cleanup
Oops! Clear page protectors allow for quick, easy spill cleanup | Source

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 | Source

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?

Which of the above binders should I pick for my family this Christmas?

See results

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


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I should make a family cookbook what a cool idea

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      joannalynn lm 

      8 years ago

      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!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

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

    • profile image

      shellyart lm 

      8 years ago

      What a fantastic idea, great lens!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      8 years ago from Land of Aloha

      This is a great make a family cookbook. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What a great idea. Thank you.

    • queenofduvetcover profile image


      8 years ago

      Very creative, thanks! =)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      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!

    • verymary profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Chicago area

      @Countryluthier: free ideas for ... ?

      thx for the visit & comment!

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 

      8 years ago from Virginia

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

    • agoofyidea profile image


      8 years ago

      Great gift idea! Nice lens.

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      8 years ago from Sweden

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

    • profile image


      9 years ago

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

      Remy Hair Extensions

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i love this lens! keep it up!


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

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Well done, very interesting, love it..

    • kimbesa2 profile image


      9 years ago from USA

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

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      well written. nice and detailed


      Cash Cookbook

    • profile image


      9 years ago

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

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      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!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

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

    • howtocurecancer profile image


      9 years ago

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

    • profile image


      10 years ago

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

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      10 years ago from Canada

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

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      Beth Webster-Duerr 

      10 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      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 profile image

      Faye Rutledge 

      10 years ago from Concord VA

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

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      10 years ago from United States

      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 profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 

      10 years ago

      Love this. Thanks for the great idea.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image


      10 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

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

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very Nice and imformative lens!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      5 stars! Nicely done - great gift ideas!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

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

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      10 years ago from Vermont

      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.

    • profile image

      Bemused in Tasm 

      10 years ago

      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 profile image


      10 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Very Creative! The recipe binders look awesome. :)

    • hlkljgk profile image


      10 years ago from Western Mass

      wonderful, personalized, thoughtful gift idea.

    • profile image

      pussycat lm 

      10 years ago

      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 profile image


      10 years ago

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

    • profile image

      momto4 lm 

      10 years ago

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

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Very enjoyable lens nice work. Love the designs,

    • squid-janices7 profile image


      10 years ago

      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.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      10 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I fave'd and lensrolled it too.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 

      10 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Darling, darling, darling.

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


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