After creating baking content on her blog for five years and publishing The Sweetapolita Bakebook, Rosie Alyea realized she felt a connection to sprinkles. She launched her first collection of Sprinkle Medleys on Etsy, and continued to develop her product catalog from there.
Rosie took her passion for cakes and her entrepreneurial drive and built an entire business out of her food blog. And she’s only one of many success stories. People across the world have found the right ingredients to monetize their food blogs. From ebooks to cookbooks, meal plans to streamed cooking classes, we’ll explore the many ways to monetize a food blog as a business opportunity below.
How to set up a food blog
If you’re new to blogging in general, you’ll first need to select a platform and a domain for your blog.
Choose a blogging platform
Shopify is the best choice for ecommerce tie-ins, however, as it comes pre-baked with ecommerce functionality. If you decide to sell an ebook, seats to cooking classes, or a physical cookbook, for example, Shopify provides a simple and clean experience for your customers.
The Sweetapolita blog is an example of what a food-centric blog can look like on Shopify.
Decide on a name
If you’re still searching for a name for your blog, Shopify’s business name generator can be a helpful resource to spark some extra creativity. Just input a word that describes your brand and the name generator will pop out some suggestions. For example, input “kitchen” or “table” or “meals” and see what results you get!
Select and host your domain
Some blog platforms (also known as content management systems, or CMS) will help you purchase and host your new domain, which can be a slightly painful task. Shopify, Squarespace, and WordPress all have this feature. Your domain should be as close as possible to your actual name for branding recognition. If it’s not available, add a filler word like “get” or “shop” to the beginning.
Design a logo
Shopify also offers a free professional-quality logo maker, called Hatchful, that will create a logo for you to choose from in a matter of seconds. Just select your business category (food and drink), add your business name, and select where you’ll use your logo, and Hatchful will generate a selection of logos you can edit and personalize to your taste.
Pick a theme and a design
These platforms have a large selection of themes to choose from, so pick the one that best suits your brand.
📚 Read more: How to Start a Blog in 2022: A Beginner’s Guide
Phase 1: Starting up 🌱
It’s possible to monetize a blog before you even have a dedicated group of fans or a solid amount of website traffic. As for how soon you’ll start making money, it’s always going to be case by case. But for some bloggers, it doesn’t take long. Lily Ugbaja, founder of FindingBalance.mom, saw income two weeks after starting her blog.
At the beginning, unless you’re a professional photographer and a professionally trained chef, your content might not be as polished as other more established food bloggers. Don’t be discouraged! Everyone needs to start somewhere. For those new to the game, display ads can be a great income source as your business gains steam.
1. Make money from display ads
Many food bloggers get their biggest income stream by hosting display ads on their blogs. In one blog post, the blogger behind Tiffy Cooks claims that 40% of her blog’s revenue comes from display ads. Perhaps the best part of using display ads on your blog is that they’re low effort and can be high yield. Both beginner bloggers and food blogging pros like Half Baked Harvest use display ads because they can be so lucrative. But the caveat is that they disrupt reader viewing, and usually you won’t have control over what kinds of ads they see.
Google AdSense is perhaps the most well-known ad provider out there, and it’s a trusted network for millions of bloggers. If you're curious about how much money you can make from Google AdSense, scroll to the bottom of the homepage, where you can input a few details about your blog to get a revenue estimate for the year.
In order to make the most amount of money from display ads, you'll have to drive traffic to your website.
Here are a couple ways to do this early on:
- Create a profile for your food blog on Pinterest. Pinterest has become home to the best food recipes, and for good reason. Its visual interface and save functionality lets users create virtual cookbooks they can view from anywhere. Popular food blogs like Sally’s Baking Recipes and Half Baked Harvest have nearly one million followers on Pinterest and more than 10 million monthly views. On Pinterest readers have to click through to your blog to see the full recipe, so uploading your recipes and photos to the site is a great way to send traffic to your blog and bring in the bucks. Instagram and TikTok are great additions to your social media suite too.
- Hone your photography skills. Amazing photography will get people hooked on your recipes because they’ll want to recreate each dish as you have it pictured. Food blogs demand great food photography, and these photos will help you gain traction on social media sites like Pinterest, which will help you generate website traffic overall. As you begin your food blogging journey, take some time to learn the ins and outs of great food photography.
- Optimize your website for SEO. It sounds complicated but it doesn’t have to be! Our beginner’s guide to ecommerce SEO is full of helpful tips for optimizing your food blog to show up at the top on Google for different search terms.
- Develop unique recipes that readers can find only on your blog. If you have recipes home chefs can’t find anywhere else, they’ll have to visit your blog to get them. Do you have any favorites you’ve honed over the years, or family specialties you’d like to share?
2. Get started with affiliate links
Affiliate links are another low-effort way to earn income from your food blog. Here’s how affiliate programs work: you link to a product on a blog post. It might be something you use often and recommend for a given recipe, like a KitchenAid mixer, silicone baking mat, or food processor. Any time one of your readers clicks that link, it’s tracked by the store. If the customer makes a purchase, the shop records that purchase, and you receive a commission.
Some affiliate marketplaces (like ShareASale) can help you find brands to work with. Others (like Target) make it easy to pick and choose the individual cooking utensils you love. Here are a couple to get you started:
For example, Just One Cookbook and Lisa Kitahara created curated lists on Amazon so that readers could purchase the spices they keep in their pantries or the essential cooking tools they use daily. When someone purchases an item from these lists, the bloggers earn an affiliate commission.
Any time you’re earning money from affiliate links, you need to clearly disclose that to your audience in order to comply with FTC guidelines. If you’re not sure or have questions about these guidelines, consult a lawyer.
📚 Get all of the details: Affiliate Marketing For Beginners
3. Leverage email marketing
Email marketing is always a great way to keep your audience engaged and drive traffic to your website. The more traffic you drive, the more money you can make from display ads. Create a newsletter that shares a weekly roundup of your newest recipes, or spotlight a favorite recipe that’s on your mind for any given week.
You can start building an email list by offering an email signup module on your blog. For example, Dan Pelosi of food blog GrossyPelosi surfaces a pop-up that entices visitors to sign up for “new recipes and merch drops” so they’re in the know before anyone else.
Aside from sending out a weekly read, consider creating a packaged series of emails around one central topic that your readers can sign up for. For example, Sally’s Baking Recipes offers three in-depth email tutorials. One focuses on baking breads with yeast, one on baking cakes, and the other on baking for beginners. This way, readers get condensed, easy-to-follow information about something they’d like to learn. The bonus is that once someone signs up for a course and opts into all emails, Sally can grab those emails for her main email list.
Another way to leverage email marketing is through a paid newsletter. Websites like Substack let writers charge subscribers a paid subscription fee as little as $5 per month. Even if you offer a collection of free recipes on your food blog, you could send out exclusive, members-only content like week-long meal prep plans or your newest recipe creations via a paid email.
📩 Learn more: How to Create a Newsletter That Grows Your Business
4. Write sponsored posts
Work with brands to write up a review of a product on your blog in exchange for some cash or free products. The caveat here is to only promote items you really care about, believe in, and would use in your own kitchen. Sponsoring the best or your favorite items can build trust between you and your audience, as they’ll see you as a trusted source. Similar to affiliate links, you’ll need to let readers know if you’re getting paid to promote anything in order to comply with FTC guidelines. Questions or concerns? Chat with a lawyer to make sure you’re covering your bases.
You’ll likely see sponsored requests start to come through your inbox as your blog picks up traction. But before that time comes, connect with brands by reaching out via email or social media.
5. Set up brand deals
While individual pieces of sponsored content might be one-offs, brand deals are ongoing partnerships and relationships you have with a brand. For example, you might become a brand ambassador for your favorite spatula company and agree on a cadence for which you’ll feature that spatula on your blog. You’ll also agree on how much you’ll get paid.
Keep in mind that the brands you choose to work with also reflect the values of your blog and your own brand. We recommend sticking with the products you truly love and use in your own kitchen.
Phase 2: Steady growth 🌿
If you have a favorite food blog, think back to the moment you first discovered it. Was it through a mouth-watering image of a sprinkle-covered cupcake on Pinterest? Or were you searching for the perfect warming soup for the transition between winter and spring? What about that blog in particular kept you coming back for more? Was it the recipes? The photography? The easy-to-follow photos that outlined each step?
You’ll know your blog is growing when website traffic picks up, when people start actively searching for your blog, and when the content you share on Pinterest starts getting saved or surfaced in search results and suggested posts. You might have a significant Pinterest, TikTok, or Instagram following at this point.
For Half Baked Harvest, that growth started in September of 2019.
Tieghan Gerard has catapulted to success, and is now a New York Times bestselling cookbook author of delectable reads like Half Baked Harvest Super Simple and Half Baked Harvest Every Day, with almost a million followers on Pinterest. This rise in readership comes with 10 years of hard work.
At this point, you likely have some traction and a solid collection of recipes, and you’re ready to take the next step. You’re making money from display ads, you have solid website traffic, and you’ve gained some steady readership. This is the moment where developing an ebook or even a physical cookbook could make sense for you.
The following suggestions require ecommerce functionality on your website. If you’re already on Shopify, this will be an easy transition. If not, now’s a great time to start a free trial.
If you’re on Squarespace or WordPress, you’ll have to add ecommerce features to your site, which can be done by upgrading your plan or by adding a plug-in.
6. Sell an ebook or meal plan
If you’re interested in selling a physical cookbook, starting with an ebook can be a low cost way to stress-test your idea. You also won’t have to worry about distribution, because you can offer a digital download directly from your own website or on a marketplace like Amazon. For example, Sally McKenney of Sally’s Baking Recipes created a shorter version of her print cookie cookbook as an ebook that sells for 99¢. While the print cookie cookbook features more than 75 cookie recipes, this one offers eight.
Similarly, Lauren Fit Foodie sells monthly recipe and meal guides on her online store, in addition to virtual cookbooks. She links her online store on her Instagram profile through Linkpop. If readers prefer a hardcopy, there’s also an option to bundle the ebook and physical version so customers can have one in the cupboard and one on the go!
One of the great things about ebooks is that, if you’d like to save a collection of recipes for a physical book, there are tons of other content options. It’s also more easily scalable. The amount of resources involved in selling one ebook is the same as the amount of resources involved in selling a thousand ebooks.
You might be talented at food photography and want to compile tips for better food photos. Or, you could be an expert food styler and specialize in creative plating. Your ebook could cover plating and styling techniques. You could even publish an ebook that teaches other food bloggers how to monetize their blog, like the team behind Pinch of Yum, who built an additional business around the same topic.
7. Sell a physical cookbook online
When most food bloggers decide to release a cookbook, they work with a publisher and distribute it through more traditional bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Amazon. You can go this route, but you can also self-publish a physical cookbook and sell it on your own online store.
You’ll be responsible for marketing the book on your own, but you won’t have to shop for a publisher, you’ll be able to capture all of the sales yourself, and won’t need to worry about housing and shipping inventory. When a cookbook sells, the print-on-demand company prints and ships a copy to your customers.
Garrah Carter, founder of health and wellness brand BirdFoodie, developed and sells her cookbook, The Power of the Plant, on her own website’s ecommerce store.
If you’d rather go this route, there are many print-on-demand book services you can choose from.
8. Offer memberships
Consider offering certain recipes or meal plans to members only. This might include access to your newest recipes, a collection of recipes you don’t normally share (like desserts), or weekly meal plans. You can charge a small monthly fee for membership access, or offer paid tiers based on the type of content.
- Tier 1 at $5 per month: Access to curated weekly meal plans.
- Tier 2 at $7 per month: Access to curated weekly meal plans and one weekly video to improve cooking skills (past videos have taught knife skills, how to make marinara sauce, and how to make hot sauce from scratch).
- Tier 3 at $15 per month: Access to everything from Tier 1 and 2, plus a monthly group video chat where you’ll teach members how to cook a specific dish or improve a skill.
9. Create courses
Creating video courses is another way to make some extra income off of your food blog, and the sky really is the limit for the types of courses you can create and charge money for. The caveat? Be sure that your customers will get real, tangible value from your course, because there’s so much content available online for free on YouTube these days.
You might develop video courses that:
- Take beginner cooks to the next level
- Teach people how to make specific types of food, like soups, sauces, or spreads
- Teach cooks kitchen skills like chopping, frying, or baking
- Help aspiring entrepreneurs monetize their food blogs
- Teach food photography or styling skills
✨ Learn more: 10 Steps to Create an Online Course That Sells
10. Stream live cooking classes
From a kitchen in Palombara Sabina, a small town 40 minutes outside of Rome, Italy, Nonna Nerina and her granddaughter Chiara Nicolanti teach viewers how to make pasta. Their business, Nonna Live, sells live virtual cooking experiences. Customers pay per class to learn how to make dishes like gnocchi alla sorrentina or lasagna al pesto.
You can do something similar. Open classes up to individuals or work with companies to provide cooking classes for teams.
🍝 Read Nonna Nerina’s story: This 84-Year-Old Grandmother Serves Comfort and Community Through Livestreamed Cooking Classes
Phase 3: Take it to the next level 🌲
Your food blogging business is booming: you have a big following, a lengthy email list, maybe even a cookbook or two. But you’re still looking for what’s next. There are a couple of other things you can do to keep your business growing, like selling branded kitchenwares, like tools, aprons, or even table settings. If there’s a particular food item you’d like to develop, such as a marinara sauce you’d like to bottle and sell, you can go that route, too.
11. Sell products online
Do you always recommend the same mixing bowls or love a particular apron that was handmade by your grandmother? Consider creating actual items you know your readers would love and sell them on your website. If you’d rather not develop your own products, you can always sell a selection of curated items directly from your shop too.
For example, Kim’C Market sells premium, natural food products and cookware from Korea. The brand runs a blog that talks about the meaning and history behind popular Korean dishes.
12. Sell packaged goods
Another option is to develop food items to sell on your website. This might be a seasoning mix you invented, a flavored oil, or perhaps the perfect hot sauce pairing for your mac and cheese.
Get creative and cook what you love
Food blogging is challenging work that requires a lot of time, trial and error, and a commitment to your craft. You’ll need to get inspired, keep being creative, learn new skills, and try many different things to see steady growth over time.
Like the old saying “write what you know,” as you get started, cook the dishes you come back to again and again every week—the ones that you’ve been making forever that everyone loves. Those recipes will create a sturdy foundation off of which you can start building a following and bring in the funds that will help you grow your business. And that’s truly *chef’s kiss.*
How to monetize a food blog FAQ
How do you monetize a food blog?
Here are 12 ways to make money from your food blog:
- Host display ads on your site
- Use affiliate links
- Leverage email marketing
- Write sponsored posts
- Set up brand deals
- Sell an ebook
- Sell a physical cookbook online
- Offer memberships
- Create courses
- Stream live cooking classes
- Sell products online
- Sell packaged goods
Can you earn enough money from a food blog to do it full time?
You absolutely can—it just takes time, energy, and lots of trial and error.