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How to Start a Home Cooking Business

Sales from cottage food businesses in the United States topped $200 million in 2019, with more and more individuals selling home cooked food to the public each month. It's easy to see the attraction. Who doesn't want to be their own boss?

Perhaps you've thought about entering the exciting and dynamic cottage food industry, but hesitated because you were unsure what licenses you needed and how you should proceed. Selling food online is permitted in many states. If your state isn't one of them, you can still sell cottage food items easily at venues like festivals, farmers markets and road side stands.

What is a cottage food business?

Each state defines cottage foods somewhat differently, but, in general, cottage foods are those that don't require refrigeration and that don't have to be processed in a pressurized cooker. This includes things like cookies, jellies and jams, most pies, brownies, breads and candy. Some states also include pickles, dry mixes and dry pasta. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some type of cottage food law. Many states offer classes about how to set up your home cooking business.

The benefit of a cottage food business is that you can get started easily in your own kitchen without having to meet the more stringent full commercial kitchen set-up and licensing requirements. In most states, you are limited in the amount you can sell each year and are prohibited from selling in commercial venues like coffee shops and grocery stores.

How to start a small food business at home

It's not difficult to start a cottage food business from home. In fact, a cottage food business is one of the best food business ideas with small capital around. It gives you an opportunity to see if you enjoy the business before you invest a lot of time and money into equipping yourself for a full commercial food business. Or, you can use your cottage food business as a side gig, to add a little extra income to your family's budget.

One of the first things you need to do is investigate whether you need a permit to sell food from home in your area. If so, you'll want to get this permit and take any necessary classes, if any. Every state is different and some counties and townships add additional rules, so it's important to do your research carefully.

Next, you'll want to decide what you are going to sell and where you're going to sell it. Are you going to concentrate on one category of food, such as bread or cookies, or are you going to feature an entire line of baked or other goods? Are you going to sell at craft fairs or farmers markets (or both) or are you going to sell your food online or directly from your home?

How to sell food from home legally

To sell food legally from your home cooking business, you'll need to research the cottage food laws and home cooking laws in your state, county and municipality. In most cases, but not all, you'll need a general business license and a cottage food license or permit. If you intend to sell food outside of the cottage food categories, you'll need to follow the commercial kitchen requirements from your local health department as well as get a food license and have your kitchen inspected.

Selling homemade food online

One of the best ways to sell food from home is to market your goods online. This has the advantage of not having to drag your inventory to farmers markets or craft shows and possibly not selling everything that you've made. One of the best online food business ideas to set up your own home-based food website. You can do this very inexpensively using a number of sources. You can also start selling baked goods, pasta and bread on Facebook and other social media sites.

Some best practices for cooking from home to sell include making sure that you attach a list of ingredients to the packaging (some states require this) and including that information in your online ad, finding a reputable and dependable supplier for your product ingredients, designing and creating packaging that is attractive, easy-to-use and affordable and designing an attractive website that's easy for customers to use.

To learn more about how to sell food online (and offline) and how our food business software can help you track your cottage food business sales and be profitable, visit

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