DIY Family Cookbook for College Kids

  • 01 of 03

    How to Make a DIY Family Cookbook for Your College Kid

    DIY family cookbook
    A DIY family cookbook is one of the loveliest housewarming gifts you can give your favorite new apartment dweller. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    The perfect housewarming gift for your child's first apartment is a family cookbook filled with their favorite childhood recipes. Whether you go techno-fabulous or decidedly old school, a DIY family cookbook is a perfect project. 

    Handing Down Family Recipes

    Your college kid or 20-something may be a whiz with a whisk or adept at flipping fried eggs. Quite often, there comes a point when they start craving Aunt Sylvia's triple chocolate cookies or your macaroni and cheese (that one with...MORE buttery, crumbly bits on top and diced ham inside). This is the perfect opportunity to share your family's special recipes. 

    On the following pages, you will find tips on how to put together a custom cookbook. There are recipe layout suggestions and types of dishes to consider as well as printing options.

    If your child is a complete kitchen novice, you might want to pair your family recipes with a good basic cookbook written for the college crowd. A cute apron - like this DIY ruffled version - makes a fun addition to any kitchen-themed gift as well.

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  • 02 of 03

    Tips to Start that DIY Family Cookbook

    family recipes
    Sorting and choosing recipes for your child's favorite dishes is the first step in creating a family cookbook. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    A DIY family cookbook makes a great housewarming gift but it does take some time to put one together.

    Here is what you will need to do to get started...


    A cookbook consists of recipes, of course, so the first thing you need to do is start gathering your family's favorites.

    Ask your child's favorite relatives to share their go-to dishes and quick meals that got them through their younger years. Any chance to save a few dollars while preparing a good homecooked meal is a welcomed treat...MORE for young adults!

    This is a lovely way to get everyone involved, but you will need to allow extra time. Be sure to give Aunty Sally a month or two to collect her favorite recipes and send them to you.


    It is rare that a cookbook is published without photos. Get out the camera or start sifting through family albums for old images to add to your cookbook.

    Glossy cookbooks have beautifully styled images of the food itself and you can do that too. It is also fun to sprinkle in birthday party shots with recipes for a cake and frosting or photos from swim team pasta feeds alongside the lasagna how-tos.

    In other words, just because it is a cookbook does not mean you can't go all scrapbook-y too. It is the personal touch that makes it special.

    Prepare the Material

    Start typing, uploading and scanning all of that wonderful material.

    Bear in mind that the easiest way to read a recipe is to list the ingredients first (in the order they will be used) then the instructions.

    Recipe Assortment and Organization

    Include a good assortment of dishes. Choose a selection of appetizers and snacks, main courses, salads, and desserts. Sorting the recipes into categories as you go will make things easier in the end.

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Printing and Binding a DIY Family Cookbook

    A professional printing job can turn any collection of recipes into a polished, glossy cookbook. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    It is the printing and binding that gives a do-it-yourself cookbook its WOW factor. There are plenty of ways to do that today.

    Here are a few approaches to printing your cookbook. The ideas range from old-school DIY layouts to high-tech, glossy volumes...

    The Reinvented Scrapbook

    The easiest and most low-tech way to turn recipes into a nice little cookbook is to repurpose a photo album (like the 9-by-10-inch green cookbook on the preceding pages).

    1. Print each recipe on a sheet of matte photo paper,...MORE inserting photos and any decorative elements you wish.
    2. Trim it to fit and slide it into one of the album's plastic sleeves.

    Messy splatters in the kitchen won't harm these protected pages and the book lies flat when open. This option also looks substantial with as few as 20 recipes.

    Copy Shop Creations

    If you like the idea of a spiffy spiral-bound cookbook, your local copy shop can bind any number of pages into a finished, polished book.

    There are a few caveats with this approach that can easily be remedied:

    • Regular copy paper is too flimsy for a cookbook, which gets significant wear and tear. Make sure to print on matte photo paper or a good quality and heavy cardstock.
    • Spend time designing the front and back covers and have these printed on the heaviest weight stock the copy shop offers. The cover is what makes this a "book," rather than a bunch of copies!

    Online Print-On-Demand Cookbooks

    There are a number of companies that cater to the one-of-a-kind cookbook market. These print-on-demand services allow you to print one copy or as many as you like.

    Their websites include all of the tools needed to design a stunning cookbook quickly and the printing quality is often top-notch.


    The Tastebook website offers glossy, professionally published cookbooks that look terrific. 

    You can include up to 100 recipes. This may be more than you need for your kid's childhood favorites  unless you made this an extended-family project and asked every auntie and grandparent to contribute 10 of their favorite recipes. 

    You can augment your own recipe stash by diving into TasteBook's massive recipe database.

    TasteBook also offers:

    • The site automatically builds a table of contents with recipe titles.
    • The finished, hardcover book lies flat, which is really important for use in the kitchen.
    • Imagine a three-ring binder - this is more like a 20-ring binder and you can add additional pages.
    • The cost is right around $40 plus shipping and tax.

    Blurb Books

    The cookbook above was made using Blurb and its free downloadable software.

    On the plus side, it feels like a real book. There is no binder feature with Blurb and the pages are heavy and glossy, so photos really pop and the softcover has perfect binding. On the downside, it doesn't lie flat unless you mangle the book.

    Pricing starts at right around $15 for a very small book with 20 or fewer pages. A big volume with 80-100 pages will cost around $40.

    The big issue with Blurb, though, is that the huge, glossy images used in the examples on the website make the books look fabulous. Whether your book ends up looking anything like that will depend on your photography and food styling skills and the quality of your camera.

    Photo Storage Websites with Printing Options

    The same online services like Shutterfly and Apple Books that store your photos often offer photo books as well. Their layouts can easily be adapted for cookbooks and some (like Shutterfly) offer a cookbook specific option.