Wanted: A woman who loves food. But we mean really loves food—not just eating it and Instagramming the prettiest of plates. We’re talking about passionate foodies who love to cook and create recipes and whose happiest moments are watching others enjoy their food. If you love to prepare meals and get creative in the kitchen, or if you have a unique take on healthy eating, wouldn’t it be nice to share your wisdom with others in a cooking blog or recipe blog? The world of food blogging is a veritable buffet, with a style and design for every palate. But what separates the creme de la creme of food blogs from the ones that get lost in the shuffle? We’ve spoken to the minds behind some of the best food blogs to get the scoop on their recipes for success and have rounded up their top food blogging tips for starting a successful food blog and building a brand around it.
The Decision to Start a Food Blog
Making the decision to start a food blog, nutrition blog, or cooking blog (or a combo of all three) is the first step. And there is no template for who is the perfect fit. The common denominator among the best food blogs, however, tends to be a passion for creativity and health-conscious recipes. “My husband gifted the blog to me as a creative outlet from a job I was really enjoying,” says Sara Forte, creator of Sprouted Kitchen. “I taught myself how to cook, and the blog was a means of sharing that process.” Sprouted Kitchen is the love project between Forte and her husband, Hugh. Sara’s passion for food stems from her experience working in grocery stores and on farms, which taught her the valuable lesson of eating seasonably. Her aim is to make “healthy-ish” foods more accessible and easy to fit into everyday life by promoting produce, whole grains, healthy fats, and natural sugar alternatives. She and Hugh, who handles the photography, have taken on the blogosphere together, and they also released a cookbook, Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods. Brittany Mullins, health coach, personal trainer, and creator of eating bird food, considers herself to be more of a promoter of healthy living. Her food blog tackles not just recipes but also provides workouts and practical life advice, which has helped her create a health-focused website and community as well. For Eve Fox, creator of The Garden of Eating, food blogging became a healthy outlet during a particularly difficult time in her life. “I was struggling with infertility,” she says. “I’d just lost my third pregnancy and felt tired, sad, and hopeless—in hindsight, I was depressed.” She was lucky enough to have had a sympathetic boss who let her take a month off. Being at home with all this time on her hands led her to begin cooking and canning. “I decided I should write about what I was up to in case others found it useful or interesting.” Today the blog is focused around good food from start to finish: growing, producing, procuring, cooking, and, of course, eating. Jaime Hausler’s blog, Balanced Bella, came to life after she was inspired on Instagram by all the delicious food pictures that filled up her feed. “I remember thinking, ‘This looks fun and I’d love to do something like this,'” she says. “The more I started reading other people’s blogs, the more I realized I could do something like this.” When Hausler started the blog, she was newly vegan and was falling in love fast with the wonders of plant-based eating. For her, this went so much further than salads. From making caramels out of dates to frosting out of avocado, the flexibility and creativity in the world of plant-based food never ceased to amaze her. The more she created, the more her imagination grew and inspired her to test the boundaries of plant-based foods to make vegan eating more approachable.
How to Start a Food Blog People Won’t Forget
More than just having a great idea, the actual execution of the food blog itself contributes to the success. The first piece of advice is to find your voice and get personal. “There are so many food blogs now. I only read the ones where I am invested in the blogger’s perspective or point of view,” says Forte. There is no shortage of recipes online, so adding a bit about who you are will set you apart. “We try to add pieces of our family, life experience, travel, etc.” Keeping consistency is another secret to success. Once your readers get to know you and like you, they are going to want to hear from you regularly. “Posting regularly—once a week or more—is crucial,” says Fox.
Creating Food Blog Content
Voice and consistency are extremely important, but it goes without saying that the content needs to be top quality. For many food bloggers who focus on nutrition, this involves reinventing classics to give them a healthy spin or, in many cases, coming up with innovative and unique recipes. [pullquote align=”center”]“My hope has always been to share healthy-ish recipes than anyone could make. Sure, I want them to be beautiful, but first, useful and approachable.” —Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen[/pullquote] “My hope has always been to share healthy-ish recipes than anyone could make,” says Forte. “Sure, I want them to be beautiful, but first, useful and approachable.” And for those of you who are worried you need to be professionally trained to be a food blogger, rest easy. “I am not a trained cook. Nothing I make is complicated or takes specific skills,” adds Forte. “I like to deconstruct dishes I’ve had at a restaurant or read on a menu.” Mullins takes her childhood favorites and revamps them to put a healthy spin on them. “I love creating copycat recipes of meals I enjoy, or store-bought items,” she says. For example, she loves a healthy sweet potato casserole recipe because it’s a revamped version of her mother’s classic. For Hausler, inspiration comes from all over the map. “One time I was riding the subway in New York and saw a picture of food,” she says. “The subway was moving so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to see what the picture was. Nonetheless, I let my imagination and hungry stomach fill in the blanks and I created my potato cakes with onion and kale recipe.” She also says her reinventions of classics are fun to work with, such as her raw snickers and black bean brownies or her gluten-free pancakes and vegan meatballs.
Food blogs are built on beautiful photographs.
The food world today is about feasting with all the senses, as so much of eating is about visualizing. People eat with their eyes first, so any successful food blog ranks beautiful photographs as almost equivalent to the recipes themselves. [pullquote align=”center”]“You might be the most tech-savvy person, but if your writing is boring and your photographs are subpar, nobody will stick around to read the next post.” —Jaime Hausler of Balanced Bella[/pullquote] “Visuals and good writing are the two most important components,” says Hausler. “You might be the most tech-savvy person, but if your writing is boring and your photographs are subpar, nobody will stick around to read the next post.” This is true both on the blog itself and on the social media platforms that promote your blog, like Facebook and Instagram. “Visuals are key to food blogging,” says Fox. “In many respects the photos are far more important than the recipes and the text that accompany them these days.” Fox takes her own photographs and recommends shooting food in a spot in the house that offers the best light. “Sometimes that’s in one part of my dining room and sometimes it’s outside,” she says. “If it’s dark out, I use a great tabletop light for digital photography that mimics sunlight.” She recommends using a macro lens on the camera, which allows you to get close to the subject. “I have specific days where I’m in the kitchen creating the recipes and taking photos of them,” says Mullins. “I have a big shelf in my office with props, and our coat closet is full of photography boards. When it’s time for a photoshoot, I bring out all the materials and transform my kitchen into a food photography studio.” Hausler says the photography portion can be quite a process, as the scene has to be set just right. “No greasy fingerprints on the bowl, the distance between the fork and the plate makes a difference, the crumbs need to be strategically placed in order to make it look effortless, and so on and so on,” she says. “I have a cabinet where I keep certain dishes and silverware that I use solely for my photography.”
Is food blogging a sustainable career?
Is food blogging something you can quit your day job for? Can it be a full-time career instead of just a beloved hobby? Of course! Hard work, passion, and consistency can bring impressive and lucrative results. But the drive has to be there. And it will likely take a while to build yourself up to that point. Fox consults with progressive non-profits and small businesses on digital advocacy, fundraising, and marketing. Mullins is a health coach and personal trainer with a background in digital marketing, though she was lucky enough to turn blogging into her full-time career within the last four years. Hausler is a teacher but is leaving that job shortly to expand and pursue her blogging. And Forte was fortunate enough to have the rest of her side hustles stem from Sprouted Kitchen. She says her career is a collection of things, all based around food in some capacity.
Balancing Food Blogging With “Real Life”
Bloggers tend to be very busy people. It’s part of the creative mindset and not being able to sit still. As such, they tend to have incredibly full lives. But for someone to have a successful food blog, they have to treat it as its own full-time job. That includes the promotion, marketing, social media, research, and actual content creation. Add to that having a social life, a second (or third) career, and in many cases, marriage and children, and it’s easy to see why successful food blogs are driven by the truly passionate. “I want to soak up this time while my kids are young and obsessed with me, but I also really love working,” says Forte. “I have a strong pull to be both a worker and a mother, but I will say it is really tough to feel like you are doing both, or either, well. Both jobs require a lot. But I love what we get to do—work together and also have time with our kids.” “Blogging is my full-time job,” says Mullins, “so I treat it as such. I work a traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule and try to be done with work when my husband gets home so we can hang out with our dog and have some quality time together.” Hausler urges setting aside a certain number of hours each week to dedicate solely to the blog. “I’m in a transition myself, trying to get back into the blogosphere after being out of touch the past 10 months,” she says. “Once school ends, I will be sticking to a strict schedule for which everyone is on board.” For example, mornings are for her husband and son and the afternoons will be reserved for working on the blog.
Instagram and Food Blogs
Media—and the way we take it in—has changed dramatically in the wake of the widespread dominance of social media. And food blogging is no different. To have a successful food blog, it’s crucial to have a successful Instagram account as well. “Blogs are still relevant as a resource, but I don’t think they are being consumed the same way at all,” says Forte. “I don’t have nearly the engagement there that I do on Instagram. That’s fine with me. I’m enjoying that platform, too, and in some ways it’s less work.”
Any leftovers for food blogs?
With such an oversaturation of food blogs, it’s difficult to imagine a niche yet to be filled. Fortunately, the creative minds don’t see it that way. And chances are if you’re thinking of starting a food blog, it’s because you have something unique to say about food. “There is always, in my opinion, a niche that has yet to be filled,” says Hausler. “Kale, chia, and açaí are just some of the many superfoods which have saturated the market over the past decade. I think there will always be a new superfood that bloggers and readers aren’t able to get enough of. Being at the forefront of this is what makes a blogger good at their job.”