How to Make an Inexpensive, DIY Family Cookbook: Step-By-Step

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A meal is one of the most special, yet simple ways to spend time with those you love. And, family and food are concepts that have gone together since the beginning of time. It’s likely that you and your family passed down tons of unique recipes for generations.

And, yes, that includes even the obscure ones that require strange amalgamations of store-bought ingredients. 

Jump ahead to these sections: 

Creating a cookbook is a great way to capture part of your family’s history or even serve as a way to recognize how your family has grown over the years. You may also wish to do so to honor or remember a family member who has died.

If you’re hoping to create and share your family's cookbook online, or, perhaps make a more intimate scrapbook instead, we cover just about every step you should keep in mind below.  

And if you're interested in other unique ways to honor a loved one's legacy, you can consider a custom urn from a store like Foreverence or even have a memorial diamond made from ashes with a company like Eterneva.

How to Make a Family Cookbook Online

You can easily create a polished, personalized cookbook that you and your family will cherish for generations entirely online. The best part is an online cookbook will make it easy to share and almost impossible to misplace. And, furthermore, it can likely be done for free.

Step 1: Get the OK from your family

It’s pretty difficult to create a cookbook of family recipes without the OK from your family. Though you’re more than welcome to publish family secrets, it may make the holidays a bit more tense. 

Asking for their permission will likely get them more into the project too, and will further provide you with elements to make your cookbook really shine. Plus, having your family collaborating on this project will also leave room to add in family stories and more unique details.

Step 2: Find the right platform

When it comes to drafting, creating, and publishing this cookbook, it’s important to pick the right platform. We discuss publishing and sharing options in a later section, but it may make sense to start thinking of this now. 

For example, crafting an entire cookbook in a word processor only to transfer the entire thing to a blogging platform will create twice as much work for you, if not more. If you’re unfamiliar with free website hosts, it may benefit you to do some research.

That being said, you’re also more than welcome to create each recipe, chapter, and so forth as its own unique page or set of pages in a word processor or InDesign, if you’re savvy.  

Step 3: Gather recipes

Gathering recipes, of course, will also require a bit of input from your family. If you already have sloppy copies of every recipe you could ever want, that’s a great start! 

However, you should also ask your family members all the same if they’d like to include anything else. Yes, that may mean including that funky dessert you’re not fond of that your aunt always makes as a holiday tradition. But it’s these “quirks” that’ll make your cookbook all the more special.  

Step 4: Create an organized outline

Once you have a good grasp of the scope of recipes you’re planning to include, you can break them up into respective chapters or sections. Once you start creating an outline, you can determine if there’s a need for any more types of recipes to balance everything out. 

It may seem irritating to put a ton of work into an outline versus just getting right down to the dirty work of actually copying and transcribing recipes into the format you want. However, this outline can also serve as a table of contents and help you organize your workload.

The more work you put into it from the get-go, the easier time you’ll have with the rest of the project.  

Step 5: Spice it up with other elements

Once you’ve made progress and have a solid collection of recipes together, you can start on the fun stuff. Add in relevant photographs, sidebars, graphics, general cooking tips, anecdotes, and more to make it unique to your tastes and your family’s. 

You may also wish to include a section that talks about why these recipes are special to your family and expand on any other family traditions

Step 6: Bring it all together

Now that you have every (or just about every) recipe uploaded, revised, proofed, and looking sharp, you can start thinking about the presentation of your cookbook.

Perhaps you were keeping typefaces, colors, and other aesthetic choices in mind throughout this entire process. However, making any sort of design changes or decisions is easiest to do once all of your other content is complete. 

This will also depend on where you’re drafting your cookbook and where you plan to share it. Many websites offer tons of user-friendly, high-design themes and elements that can really make your final product indistinguishable from “professional” versions.

Step 7: Share the final product with your family (and then whoever else)

As proud and excited as you may be to share your cookbook with the entire world, you owe it to your family to have them see the final draft first. 

Before publishing or sharing, your family can give feedback and ask for any additional changes. It may not be such a bad thing, too, to have a few other sets of eyes look for any errors or inaccuracies. 

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How to Make a Family Recipe Scrapbook

Some of the steps below may seem similar to the steps for creating an online cookbook. After all, scrapbooking and digital publishing may be polar opposites when it comes to technicalities — but you’ll likely be using clips of writing or photographs in the same ways.

Step 1: Gather as much material as you can

Though this is very similar to a few steps above, creating a tangible book versus an online version differs slightly.

Perhaps you were already planning to gather a lot of physical recipes, photographs, and other small elements to scan and upload to an online copy. The same goes for a scrapbook, you have a bit more freedom in that you can include real-life objects and tactile things — like fabrics or even utensils. 

Keep in mind, of course, creating a family recipe scrapbook with these elements (that is, if they’re not bought from the craft aisle) means that there will only be one true copy.

This makes the book even more prized, yet some of your family may feel as though they’re missing out. You can resolve this situation by using your materials sparingly or by letting each of your family members “rent” the book for a bit at a time. 

Step 2: Ask for your family’s input

As with creating an online version, you also need your family’s input and support.

In addition to recipes, your family can contribute elements discussed above, photographs of them in the kitchen, and even small anecdotes or notable stories that these recipes bring to mind. 

Step 3: Lay it all out

Once you’ve gathered enough material, you should do your best to draft some sort of plan or outline as you organize your scrapbook. You may be able to find the perfect book as a foundation and tuck each element into the respective page. If you have a lot going into it, however, you may have to dedicate some counter- or table-space to make the process go a little more smoothly and ensure things don’t get lost or jumbled. 

Then, complete steps 6-7 above. Of course, doing so with tangible pages, glue, and whatever else you’re incorporating into your scrapbook will make these processes slightly different, the ideas behind them are very similar. It’s about putting those final touches, tweaking or editing whatever needs it, as well as putting the entire package together. 

It’s also important to share the final product with your family. What’s different about a scrapbook, of course, is it’s not like the entire world will have access to it. You owe it to your family members to share it with them first and in an intentional way. 

6 Options for Publishing and Sharing Your Family Cookbook

Cookbooks give you a bit of flexibility when it comes to sharing them. Comparatively speaking, cookbooks have less content than other written works, so it makes them easier to publish in different spaces. 

After all, even a simple cookbook can make a statement and serve as a lasting keepsake for your family and friends. You’re more than welcome to make your family cookbook long, elaborate, and intricate, too. 

1. In a social media series

Depending on your social media savvy and which platforms you like best, you can easily post your full cookbook as a series on social media. You may choose to create an account just for the sake of sharing your and your family’s recipes.

This would also be a fun way to post the finished product and share any variations that your fans come up with. This is also a great way to turn your family’s cookbook into something modern, interactive, and something you can always look back on since it’ll be shared in a digital space. 

For example, you can post a meal each week as well as short how-to videos or provide shopping tips. Or, you may choose to share the recipes outright. Keep in mind that your family may be a bit protective of some of their recipes. You can fix this by making it a private profile or only allowing followers within your circle. 

2. With an accompanying video

Similar to the idea above, you can also turn the “publishing” phase of your family’s cookbook into video content. Creating a YouTube channel or posting videos via IGTV is incredibly easy.

You can do your best Julia Child impression and truly engage your friends and family in a creative way. You can also have them featured in guest appearances or show them off in quick videos with recipe tips or with their finished products. 

3. On a platform or website

Like we’ve mentioned prior, the (most likely) smaller depth of recipes allows you some more freedom for how you publish or share them. Every receipt can likely fit on a page or two or with an accompanying photograph. This allows you the freedom to use social media platforms mentioned prior or post them on a Pinterest board — if you’re into that — for example. 

However, dedicating a website or a few pages on your current site to your family’s cookbook will be pretty simple, too. Tweaking and creating websites on your own gets easier every day. And, just about everything you’d need to do is likely available to you completely free.

If you already have a website or blog, that’s great. All it may need is a few tweaks and some dedicated space for this project to shine. You’ve likely heard of sites like WordPress or Wix, or perhaps you use another service.

When it comes to actually publishing your recipes on your site, you may brainstorm the best way to do so or how open you’d like it to be. 

Think about the following:

  • Will visitors simply scroll through recipes freely on the site? Will there be dedicated sections?
  • Or, will you have a complete PDF for visitors to download or view?
  • Should you require visitors to enter their email to keep up with more recipes or other updates?

4. “Traditionally” online

Of course, you can always share a digital copy of your family’s cookbook in traditional ways online.

Email, text, direct message, and other options are always available to you if you don’t want to simply post your work. 

5. Print or create your cookbook at home

Before you hit that print button, you should give your printer a good checkup. Familiarize yourself with your printer’s capabilities. If your printer is already on its last leg or seems to struggle to print out a simple coupon, printing your cookbook at home may not make sense. You can easily send for prints instead from a professional printer, discussed below. 

That being said, you can always upgrade your printer for the occasion. However, you should probably still try to print a few trial-runs in black and white or low-quality before hitting full send with an entire cookbook’s worth of recipes. Printing at home is a worthwhile option if the majority of recipes are short and sweet. 

After all, you want this to be a fun activity, not a headache. If your cookbook turns into something that takes up hundreds of pages — that’s amazing! But, however, you don’t want all of the printing, binding, and packaging responsibilities to fall on you and your little printer. It’s quite a bit to handle, and it can easily get expensive or time-consuming.

6. Coordinate with a professional printer

No, we don’t necessarily mean approaching a professional publishing house — that’s beyond the scope of this article. However, you never know, your cookbook could cause such a buzz that a publishing house approaches you! What we do mean, however, is there are relatively affordable book printing services available.

You may choose from common options like FedEx or Shutterfly or find a more niche printer via some searching. Keep in mind that these services can get expensive the more embellishments you add. But, if you think your family cookbook could benefit from full-color, embossed, gold leaf foiled cardstock, then go for it! 

Get Cooking

Now that you have a better idea of what it takes to put together a family cookbook, you can get back to the fun part — actually cooking! With some time, collaboration, and care, you can likely create something wonderful that you and your family and friends can enjoy for generations. 

Here are some other ideas for legacy projects that you and your family can create together. Be sure to check out the rest of Cake’s resources for end-of-life planning and more. 

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