How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (2024)

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (1)

Savor might be an all-inclusive custom cookbook service (we handle everything from typing recipes to photography to design and printing) but our main mission is to make sure everyone has the tools they need to document their family recipes. Whether they will be handbound in an heirloom-quality book, or three-hole-punched and organized in a binder, we’ve put together this list of tips for making your own cookbook.

Don’t get us wrong, making a custom cookbook is a big project. But if you have a plan and know where to look for help, you’ll be able to make your own cookbook with ease and preserve your recipes for years to come.

This post is meant for individuals and families wanting to make a DIY family cookbook. If you are a food professional or someone who wants to publish a cookbook, check out our cookbook services page.

And if you are interested in learning about making a custom cookbook with Savor, having a professional photographer come to your home, and preserving your recipes in a high-end book, request our pricing guide below!

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Leave your email (your info will never be shared with a third party) to receive the Savor Info Guide packed with details about how the custom cookbook process works so you can design the perfect experience for your family.

How to Make Your Own Cookbook:
Tips & Tricks for Making a Custom Cookbook for Your Recipes

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (2)

The first step in making your own cookbook is picturing what you want it to look like. Would you prefer a lay-flat book with a linen or leather cover? Do you want a simple hardback cookbook with just a photo on the cover? Or are you looking to make a cookbook that’s more simple, with a spiral bound cover or event just a three-ring binder?

Some common DIY cookbook options:

  • A three-ring binder with laminated recipe pages or recipes in plastic sleeves.

  • A spiral-bound cookbook with a thin plastic cover.

  • A blank cookbook that allows you to write recipes directly in it.

  • A softcover cookbook that is economical, but might not lay flat.

  • A magazine cookbook that is stapled in the middle to hold everything together.

  • A hardcover, full color cookbook that is case bound (all the pages are glued together).

  • A hardcover cookbook with thick pages (like a family album) and high-end cover materials.

When you have an idea of what format the cookbook you make will be, you can dive into researching printing companies (more on that later).

Something to consider: cost & number of copies.

Cost is usually the biggest factor when people consider making their own recipe book. A hardcover cookbook that is section sewn (a durable binding technique that allows the book to lay flat—it’s how all Savor books are bound) will cost much more than a softcover book or a spiral-bound cookbook. The cost of your DIY cookbook depends on a lot of factors, like length and size. A 11x14 hardcover cookbook with 70 recipes could cost hundreds of dollars, and a 8x10 spiral-bound book that has no photos and only 20 recipes will cost far less. While it will be much lower quality, a simple DIY cookbook might be the best option if you are on a strict budget.

Gathering your recipes together is arguably the most time consuming part of making a cookbook. First things first: where are the recipes you want to include in your cookbook located? Here are a few options to keep in mind.

  • On recipe cards in a recipe box

  • In random kitchen drawers, or stuffed in other books or binders

  • With other family members

  • They aren’t written down at all! (If this is the case, get in touch. We can help you out).

If all your recipes are written down and you want to preserve the originals in a recipe binder, really all you need to do is (carefully) sort through them. Categorize each recipe and organize them into your book. You can order plastic sleeves for your cookbook online or at office supply stores. If you have recipes on 3x5 cards, search for 3x5 plastic sleeves. They come in sheets that can hold four or six cards at a time.

If you are planning to make a cookbook that is printed in a book, gathering your recipes is a little tougher. You will need to get your recipes into digital format, and that usually means typing them up (fun fact: We do this for you at Savor!). This can feel like a very daunting task, but if you can get your family members on board, have everyone tackle a different set of recipes. Or make a deadline for yourself. Commit to typing up one or two recipes every weekend. If you don’t commit to making your cookbook, it will never get done.

Tips & Tricks:
Throw a cookbook party!

Invite your family to a fun potluck or party and have them bring their recipes. Gather them all together and go through them to really kick off your cookbook making process. Making a family cookbook is a fun thing, so you don’t have to treat it like a chore. If your family is scattered in far off places, have a digital party.

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (5)

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (6)

Food is more than just food. We all have fond memories and stories surrounding the foods we love and the people who make them. So when you make a DIY cookbook, be sure to gather stories and notes about your recipes. Call up your family members and ask them about the recipes and if any memories come up when talking about these foods. When you make a cookbook, it doesn’t just have to be a cookbook, it can be a family story.

Tips & Tricks
Check out our recipe guide!

We love telling stories around food with our clients, and we want you to be able to do that as well when you make your own cookbook. Our free guide has 31 questions you can ask about your family recipes, including writing down stories and memories. This is also a great guide for anyone who is writing their recipes down for the first time. Grab a copy of 31 Questions to Ask About Your Family Recipes below.

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (7)

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (8)

This is another task that is seemingly daunting, but if you’ve made it this far in the process of creating your own cookbook, I believe you can do this with ease. It is super important to organize your recipes and other content when you make your own cookbook. You don’t want anything to get left out! If you’ve typed up your recipes, you can now decide how to organize them within your cookbook. Here are a few ideas:

  • Alphabetically

  • By cook/author

  • By meal type

  • By main ingredient

  • Group them into holidays or special occasions

  • By season

Get your family’s opinion on how to organize your cookbook as well. Savor clients have organized their books in many various ways. One client grouped her recipes into a large section that her mom made, then a section of favorite random recipes the rest of the family enjoys. Another family organized their cookbook by the Jewish calendar. My husband’s grandparents are known for their cookie recipes. So when we created a cookbook for them, we put dessert first and everything else after.

Tips & Tricks:
Use Google Drive and tags

I love Google Drive to make a cookbook. I can organize all the recipes in separate folders with photos and other content. Plus, I can easily invite my family members to contribute. All they have to do is upload their recipes to the corresponding folders from wherever they are in the world. It really helps make creating a cookbook easy. And whether your recipes are in the cloud or on your computer, I heavily recommend using tags and keywords. Adding these can help you search for a certain recipe without having to manually scroll through every single one. Here area few ideas for keywords you can add to each document (every word processor and cloud system has a different way of adding keywords and tags. Search how to add keywords in whatever system you are using to get instructions on how to do this.

  • Main ingredients

  • Food type

  • Holiday or special occasion

  • Cook/author

Don’t go too crazy with tags when making your recipe book. If you tag things like “butter” or “salt” it won’t help you at all when you search for those terms in your recipe archive because a ton of recipes will come up.

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (9)

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (10)

When was the last time you walked down the cookbook aisle at a bookstore? Do you recall seeing any cookbooks without photos? Probably not. Photos can add so much beauty and depth to a cookbook. So when you make your own recipe book, I highly recommend making sure you have a selection of images to include. They can be:

  • Old family photos

  • Food photos

  • Photos of meaningful kitchen details

  • Recent family photos (we provide family photo sessions! See details here).

  • Illustrations (have the kids or grandkids help!)

Tips & Tricks:
Quality matters

When scanning old photos or including photos in your DIY cookbook that are from old digital cameras, keep in mind that they might not be high enough quality to print smoothly. When scanning images, make sure you scan them in JPEG mode at 300 dpi or ppi. This will be high enough quality to print in a cookbook. (If you are making a large cookbook, say 11x14 or larger, consider scanning them at 600 dpi).

Quality food photos matter too. Smartphones can take incredible images these days, so I’m not saying you need to hire a photographer when you make your cookbook (although, if you’d like to … hint, hint). You might be able to fill your DIY recipe book with family photos, but if you really want to include food photos you take yourself, consider the following:

  • Use as much natural light as possible. Photograph your dish near a window or outside. Avoid using the overhead lights in your kitchen. They create harsh colors and strange shadows on your food.

  • Don’t use your phone’s flash or the pop-up flash on a DSLR. The direct harsh light will blow out the food and make it look terrible.

  • Don’t get too close (or stay too far). A mid-range picture where your food fills 3/4 of the frame is usually good.

  • Add details! Have some fun with it. Throw in a colorful napkin or silverware.

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (11)

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (12)

The time has come! Your DIY cookbook is ready to come together. There are a number of ways to tackle this step depending on your skillset and patience level. If you’d rather just skip this step and hire a designer to do it for you, let us know. But if you are willing to put your cookbook together yourself, read on.

Design your DIY cookbook yourself. If you are familiar with programs like InDesign or Canva, you’re pretty much all set. If you aren’t familiar with Canva, but have some tech savvy, I highly recommend checking it out (it’s free!). When using these design programs, you can plug in the measurements from your chosen cookbook printer and start putting your recipes and photos into a layout.

If you are not a designer and prefer a more drag-and-drop method, you can try places like Shutterfly. Though their book quality might not be the very best, they are easy to use.

Tips & Tricks: Try a DIY cookbook website

There are many cookbook specific websites that will help you make your own cookbook. We’ve compiled a list of DIY cookbook makers on our blog, and you can view that post here: Comparing DIY Cookbook Websites.

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (13)

How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (14)

Again, if you’d like to design and print your cookbook via a website that is dedicated to cookbooks, check out our post on the best DIY Cookbook Websites.

Book printers are far and wide these days. There are seemingly hundreds of options to print your cookbook, and finding the right printer can be difficult. When I started Savor, I researched 75 printing companies to find the right fit (and I’m sorry, but I cannot share them here because they are only accessible for professional photographers). It was exhausting, but you don’t have to do that research now because I’ve done it for you!

First, consider what you envisioned in Step 1. What kind of quality do you want for your DIY cookbook? Here are some options for where to print your cookbook with varying quality and cost.

  • Zno makes a variety of hardcover books with thick board pages. They will be more expensive depending on the size and length of your book, though they run sales all the time.

  • Artifact Uprising is another popular place for album-like books. They make a range of books at a slightly higher price point.

  • I also like MPix for their hardcover books. They have a variety of cover options.

  • Blurb makes a range of hardcover and softcover books. I am not a huge fan of the cover quality of their photo books, but they lay flat and the pages are very nice.

  • Chatbooks is another company that makes both hardcover and softcover books. I cannot personally vouch for their quality, but I have friends who love them.

  • Shutterfly and Costco are probably the two most common places to print hardcover books. These are definitely budget options, but many people love them.

  • Try Smartpress for a magazine cookbook that is stapled down the center. They are good quality and have many options for paper type and finishing. The only drawback is that the minimum order is 10 copies.

  • Both Printivity and Printvie make softcover, magazine, and spiral bound books. There are a range of options for quality and price, though Printivity’s minimum order is 5 copies.

  • You can also search on Etsy for custom cookbooks that have fun covers made of wood or other materials. These cookbooks will be blank and you can write in your recipes and glue in photos.

In general, stay away from your run-of-the-mill office supply store (Staples, Office Depot, etc.) printing or pharmacy/Walmart printing. I find these places charge way too much for the quality you get.

Tips & Tricks:
Order a sample

You don’t have to commit to ordering your custom cookbook on sight alone. For most places that don’t have an order minimum, upload a few pictures and make a mini sample to print. For higher-priced album companies, you might be able to order paper and cover swatches and decide what you like. Also, ask around your friend groups to see if anyone has ever ordered a book from the company you are looking at. You can get some great intel on where to print a cookbook based on what others have experienced.

There you have it! I hope this was a helpful guide on how to make your own cookbook. It’s a big projcet, but don’t let that slow you down! Getting your recipes into a custom cookbook is something that will be cherished for years to come. Have questions or want more details on the Savor Custom Cookbook experience? Fill out the form below for our pricing and info guide.

Get the savor pricing guide

Savor provides a full-service custom cookbook experience. We send a professional photographer to your home to document your family cooking together. Send us your recipes, and we design a one-of-a-kind heirloom cookbook.

Sarah Yeoman

The Family Cookbook

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How to Make a Custom Cookbook: Best tips to Make Your Own Cookbook — Savor Custom Cookbooks (2024)


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