Produce a Family Cookbook

Family Cookbook recipe card for Moms Great Gift for Mom

Think of preserving your family recipes as an everlasting family reunion with an endless banquet table filled with yummy dishes. Each time you open the pages of a family cookbook or leaf through shared recipe cards, you’re reconnecting to a family bond established years ago.

Now that you’ve discussed preserving recipes with family members and begun organizing the process, it’s time to look at finished products. What type of family cookbook project do you want to create?

This week, decide how you want to preserve family recipes by comparing your printing and duplication options. Whether you lean toward creating do-it-yourself projects that will trend on Pinterest, making a coffee table photo book, or launching an heirloom cookbook project with a professional cookbook publisher, its worth the investment of time to decide the best option for your family. You may pleasantly decide to create more than one type of project. Your only limits are time and budget.

“Behind every recipe you love is a story you want to share,” said Chip Lowell, co-publisher of Family Cookbook Project. “That is exactly the reason people want to preserve their family food.”

Let’s look at your choices.

Scan and Share

If your goal is simply to downsize your cookbook collection and reduce the black hole of recipe card files filled with tasty memories and great ideas, perhaps a simple scan-and-share project is what you need. Use your Flip-Pal mobile scanner to digitize your favorite dishes and share with other family members. Back up your scans to a flash drive such as the Picture Keeper PK8 and duplicate for other family members.

This is the easy first step of any cookbook project for Flip-Pal users, who love fresh ideas on how to use their equipment. We discussed organizing tips in last week’s blog post.

Here’s how to take a family cookbook to the next level.


Let your creative juices simmer with do-it-yourself family cookbook projects. Take at look at what other families have done on Pinterest or search the topic of DIY cookbooks to see what other crafty bloggers have done. This is a good option for families that don’t have a large enough collection of recipes to warrant a published book. It also gives you leverage to roll with some fun ideas. Imagine family craft night. You could reproduce recipes into a three-ringed binder, like the ones we found on Zazzle; hand write a few recipes into blank journals; make family recipe gifts or small photo albums; scrapbook a cookbook; or try to produce something on your computer. There are no limits here. As a precaution, DIY projects can get costly depending on the materials you use and the number of reproductions needed. This is why weighing your options is critical.

Recipe 4Recipe 5Family Cookbook Moms Recipe CardsAmong the possessions lost when Hurricane Sandy punched the New Jersey coastline in October 2012 and destroyed Jeannette VanHouten’s home were decades of recipes collected by a family members in their travels. While recipes can be duplicated with research, it is the history surrounding those old recipe cards and the handwriting of family members no longer here that she misses the most.

The recipes are a collection that some came from all over the world as my family traveled to America or they became friends with people. They have come from all over the world and right into our own homes,” VanHouten said. “Some of those are the hand written cards from my grandmothers and aunts. I have some digital copies, but I miss the old tattered pieces of paper and note cards.”

“Family recipes are the ones that you often have no idea how it became the meal you prepare for the ones you love, but it is always being made when you need comfort. Now, when I want to share the recipe (maybe not all the special ingredients) I hand write the recipe. Too often technology removes the personal connection and special trust you have in the person you are sharing recipes with. In the future with technology moving so quickly, where will the written word of love of family traditions be.”

Quick Copy Center

If you like the idea of a DIY project, but really just want to tackle writing and designing a cookbook with creative software you already have on your computer, consider the printing options offered at your local quick copy centers. This is especially pertinent if you’re considering a short run: a few copies. Quick copy centers offer booklets and presentation books in 5 x 8 inch and 8.5 x 11 inches sizes with a variety of bindings, including coil, booklet, cover bind or stapled. You can print your cookbook on archival grade paper or card stock and even laminate it all. They will also support the production of your DIY project. Create a sample for proof reading before ordering your copies.

Carol Lendle was fortunate enough to inherit the family recipes from her mother, grandmother and aunts, who were all gifted cooks. In creating a family cookbook, she wanted something that was small, portable, easy to use and mixed with photos and bits of family history. She chose to make a small flip-over photo album that would stand by itself on a tabletop.

Family Cookbook dover ideasDIY2


“One year for Christmas, I made a Stranathan family cookbook as a way of sharing favorite family recipes with my extended family. It went to all of my siblings and their children,” Lendle explained. “I looked through the recipes and picked the ones that were our favorites. I wanted to include family history and pictures. I would share a recipe from a family member and then write a few lines about them or the recipe and sometimes included a picture. In them I included any notes my grandmother made, such as ‘1957 very good.’ When finished I brought the cookbook to a printer and had 20 copies made.”

“It is a very functional cookbook and I have noted that it’s an easy way for my siblings and I to find a recipe if we can’t find it in our recipe book. The recipes definitely extend family traditions for us.”

Tip: How to create a family cookbook in Word

Print on Demand


Many companies that specialize in producing photo books have tapped into the creative side of users by offering one-of-a-kind family cookbooks that allow you to mix bits of content and photos, including digital scans of old recipes, with modernized recipes. If you love your photo books and want to get something finished this week, grab 100 images and your recipes and start designing. This is a good option if you have fewer than 50 recipes. The advantage to using print-on-demand books is that most companies give you some control over your layout and design. You could have a recipe on one page and an entire collage of family photos on another. You can create the book and order as little as one or as many as you’d like. The disadvantage is that most photo book companies do not specialize in having large amounts of content. So if you wanted to include a 10,000 word life story about your grandmother, along with her 37 favorite dishes, this may not be a good fit. Carefully edit all your content and captions. This industry is always changing, however. So, compare accordingly. Another disadvantage is that the cost per book is typically hefty, starting at $40 for a 20-page four-color hardcover book. Take a peak at what one family created.

Resource List

Click image to download a printable Resource List

Photo books

Who doesn’t love pretty pictures of great food? If your family cooks have compiled a well-documented collection of recipe cards going back generations and you really want to preserve them as is, consider producing a coffee table cookbook. With photos, captions and scans of your recipes, you can preserve the family history in a member’s original handwriting. Enlist the help of the family photographers to add new photos of finished dishes.

Download our resource list of companies specializing in photo books that may have as good option for your family cookbook.

Heirloom Cookbooks

If you are looking for that special one-of-a-kind family cookbook – the piece that will be shared for generations and considered part of the family inheritance. Consider creating an heirloom cookbook with a professional cookbook publisher. Heirloom cookbooks allow you to blend a dedicated amount of content with family photos and dozens of recipes to preserve the heritage of food and family. These are elegantly designed reproductions of family history, folded into a professionally printed volume of family recipes. It’s a gift, really, for the next generation.

Most cookbook publishers have a minimum number of copies you must order, but they can start as few as 20. Pricing varies depending on the amount of recipes, number of pages, content, and photos, and types of binding and cover designs. Most offer a variety of flexible design templates. Some even allow you to custom design each section divider.
Family Cookbook ideas by Flip-Pal mobile scanner

One of the benefits of working with a professional cookbook publisher is how they manage too many cooks in the kitchen. Your grandmother may have had a simple list of ingredients written onto a single piece of paper without a formal explanation of the steps in cooking a dish. The recipes may not have been properly written out, suggesting a pinch here and a handful there. Now you have several people writing a cookbook together online in varying styles. These publishing houses have systems to simplify the process of numerous people working online on a single cookbook. The software allows you to reproduce recipes into a modern script, update ingredient measurements and adjust cooking times for more energy efficient appliances.

People write cookbooks for different reasons,” said Tamara Omtvedt, Marketing Director for Morris Cookbooks, the oldest family cookbook publishing company in the United States. “Most community cookbook projects are done as a fundraiser. The family cookbook, however, is a special venture. Most families are going into it purely to preserve family recipes and share them among members of the next generation.”

There is a delicate balance, Omtvedt suggested, between producing a family cookbook and writing a family history project that includes recipes. Most offer the opportunity to include photos and some family history into the content pages of the cookbooks.

Family Cookbook Scan in Mom's Old Recipes to save Digiitally

Life Story Books

Sometimes great storytellers are also great cooks. If the stories behind the food in your family can wax poetic for hours, consider creating a life story book or memoir that blends stories of family members with their favorite recipes. This is the type of family cookbook that has more content and photo than recipes. Still, the recipes will be preserved. You may need to consult with a personal historian or memoir writer to help get your project organized and written. Like an heirloom cookbook, this is also considered the real family inheritance. Imagine your great, great grandchildren opening a book on the shelf someday and finding stories of you talking about cooking with your ancestors. Mixed in it are recipes. Suddenly they’re rolling back in time and imagining sitting with you in the kitchen. With life story books you can preserve the image of a relatives handwriting by including scans of their hand written recipes.

These recipes are love. They are compassion. They are feeding the soul and creating the moments that are supposed to be lasting,” VanHouten said. “Helping the next generation understand tradition and linking them back to why we eat. Food helps us bond.”

Tip – For rewriting family recipes into modern measurements, check out The Recipe Writer’s Handbook.

Tip – Check out this example of one family searching for options in how to downsize and clean up Mom’s recipe card files to create a family cookbook.

How will you use your Flip-Pal mobile scanner in your family cookbook project? Let us know.


By Mary V. Danielsen of Documented Legacy

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10 Responses to Produce a Family Cookbook

  1. kathy leist November 13, 2018 at 7:38 pm #

    I have a spiral notebook of my mother-in-laws favorite recipes that she gave to me and I would like to
    have copies made somehow for the others in the family. How could I go about coping and creating such

  2. Cheryl alexander March 27, 2018 at 3:35 pm #

    I want to get a copy of my mother’s cookbook I want it laminated and bind how much would it cost with her picture on the front

  3. Luis Algarin January 11, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

    Hi my wife has a vast collection of recipes. Most are hand written while others are not. I have been looking for several years a easy way to manage all the hand written recipes. Can you help me please I know my wife of 30 years will Love to have her recipes organized and easy to have access to them. Thank you

    • Gordon Nuttall January 11, 2018 at 4:03 pm #

      The starting point is to scan your wife’s hand-written recipes with the Flip-Pal mobile scanner. Then, I suggest you shop on Amazon for a recipe organizing program that fits her needs. Some things to look for are: online shared access by others, ability to print the recipe book, supported on Windows/Mac and iOS/Android, and ease of use. Several have trial versions so you can try them out ahead of time.

  4. Bonnie L November 7, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Good ideas. Also, the link to the Recipe Writers Handbook is broken.


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