Does your tummy start jumping for joy when you see a perfectly frosted cupcake? Do you love the taste of a mouthwatering strawberry jam? Or does your sense of fine food turn more to the savory side, giving you just a little thrill when you see a beautiful jar of home-canned salsa?
If the answers to any of these questions is yes, then you need to know how to make money selling food from home. The cottage food industry, selling food from home, earns enterprising home cooks across the USA a collective $20 billion a year. People who sell food they make at home can achieve financial freedom while doing something they love.
You may be wondering "Do I need a license to sell food from my home? If I can get a license to sell food from home, what can I sell?"
Every state except New Jersey allows home cooks to make and market safe foods with a low risk of foodborne diseases. These safe foods include all kinds of baked goods, jellies, jams, and other foods that do not require temperature control for safe storage. Utah, Wyoming, Maine, and North Dakota take home cooking rights a step further and exempt home food makers from the food safety rules they apply to restaurants, grocery stores, supermarkets, and other food establishments.
And if you were to Google "selling food from home California 2020" and then "selling food from home California 2021," you would find one huge difference. The State of California now allows home cooks to sell entire meals. Thousands of home food entrepreneurs in California now have the legal right to compete with restaurants.
With the growth of food freedom, consumers can make more of their own choices about what they want to eat. And you can make a good living providing them with delicious, nutritious, safe homemade food. So, let's get started!
There's good news for people looking for ways how to start a takeaway business from home and even for people looking for what they need to know about how to start a food business with no money. Here's your starting a food business checklist:
Think like a foodie. Millions of people want to know exactly what is in their food, exactly how their food was made, and meet the person who made it. Then think of the one food (to start) that is the very best way for people to know you as the chef they want to visit again and again.
Google "how to get license to sell food" for your city, county, and state. Be aware that some local jurisdictions have stricter requirements that the states they are in. Maricopa County (Phoenix), for instance, regulates home food businesses more strictly than the State of Arizona.
Or when you are learning about how to start a food business in Washington State, you may find that the state allows you to sell food online but not to ship it. When you search "selling food from home in Texas," you will discover that Texas allows you to have a website but not to sell any food on it.
Sure, you probably can sell a few hundred dollars worth of food without a license without getting caught. But you can't create the next Wicked Good Cupcakes or SnarkyTea without getting noticed!
Getting noticed for making food also applies to city and county ordinances, condo homeowner association rules, and leases. Make sure that your lease, homeowner's association, or city/county are OK with using your home for running a business, and check with your city whether you will need a business license.
An essential step in your "how to start food business" thinking has to be profit. Know what your ingredients cost. Know what you are spending on jars, wrappers, bottles, ribbon, and anything else you use to present your food. Know how much you are spending on advertising.
Make sure you make more money than you spend, and start making profit on the very first sale!
Know you love to cook for people but not sure where to start? Follow this simple advice:
Start with easy food to make money.
It's not just about finding cheap food to sell for profit (although it's pretty hard to beat popcorn). You should always look for healthy foods to sell. After all, you want to keep your customers happy and coming back for more. But the best place to start for most home food entrepreneurs to look for the best snacks to sell for profit. They're easy, they are shareable, they don't take a lot of time to make, and you can make a lot of snacks without spending a lot of money on your ingredients.
Homemade snacks to sell include:
Establishing an online presence with the help of Castiron software is a great way to start your business. A website is a great way to let even your neighbors know you are in business. You can use your Castiron site to attract bulk sales and gift sales—especially around Christmas.
People love to give food gifts. If you get even a hundred customers in the habit of giving your snacks as holiday gifts to everyone they know every year, you can build a great seasonal business that gives you enough income to go through the whole year. You can also expand your repertoire of products to include jams, jellies, pickles, pasta, spices, cake mixes, cookie mixes, you name it, as long as it does not need to be kept under temperature control. You can even get your products listed in an app for selling home cooked food (something highly recommended for people selling home-cooked meals in California).
Just keep in mind that your first search under "how to start online food business from home" has to be "can I sell homemade food online." Sometimes, you can't. Some states, like Texas, which we mentioned above, allow you to advertise on your site but not to sell from your site. And selling outside your state requires federal inspections and licenses that can be very hard to get.
Now, let's take a look at state by state requirements.
Here are some important notes on how to sell food from home legally, with rules for selling food from home for every state.
Alabama will require you to take a food safety course.
Alaska allows many foods that aren't permitted in other states. If it doesn't have to be refrigerated, Alaska will probably allow it.
Arizona has special rules for Maricopa County (Phoenix).
Arkansas allows sales from your home and at special events, like a farmer's market. A roadside stand is OK if it is adjacent to your home.
Do I need a license to sell homemade food in California? Actually, there are two. California has a Class A permit for selling to the public and a Class B permit for selling to resellers. Their new permissions for home-cooked meals went into effect in 2021.
Colorado specifies a pH level for pickles: 4.6 or lower. Sales of up to $10,000 per item, with no limit on total sales, are permitted.
Connecticut allows only farmers to sell products to the public. Their cottage food laws are being clarified.
Delaware also allows only farmers to sell food products directly to the public.
The District of Columbia requires registration before you can sell.
Do I need a license to sell food from my home in Florida? Not exactly. Florida allows sales at flea markets, farmers markets, and roadside stands, but not directly from your kitchen.
Georgia requires a training course and a home inspection.
Hawaii doesn't currently have a cottage food law.
Idaho is in the process of rewriting its cottage food laws.
Illinois requires a food service sanitation management certificate and registration with the state. There is a $36,000 per year limit on sales.
Indiana has very strict rules about what constitutes a hazardous food.
Iowa has a permit that allows you to sell foods that need refrigeration. No permits are needed to sell non-hazardous foods.
Kansas has no cottage food laws, although it specifically permits sale of homemade food at farmer's markets.
Kentucky requires the primary ingredient to have been grown in Kentucky.
Louisiana specifically allows online and from-home sales.
Maine requires certification, a license, and kitchen inspection.
Maryland permits sales at farmers markets and special events but not directly from your home.
Massachusetts requires a permit and kitchen inspection. Some towns in Massachusetts also require food safety training.
Michigan requires no training and no license.
Minnesota requires registration and a food safety course.
Mississippi, Missouri, and Montana do not require registration to sell food from your home.
Nebraska requires a Home Food Establishment Vendor license to sell at farmer's markets, but this license will allow you to sell anywhere.
Nevada requires you to register with your local health department.
New Hampshire doesn't require any registrations if you sell less than $20,000 worth of food every year.
Do I need a license to sell homemade food in New Jersey? No. New Jersey does not permit home food sales.
New Mexico requires a detailed application, a training course, and home inspection. The City of Albuquerque does not permit food sales from home.
New York requires you to register, and can inspect your kitchen at any time. For additional rules for selling food from your home in New York City, Google "selling food from home NYC."
North Carolina allows no pets in your home, not even temporarily. There is also an extensive application process.
North Dakota has different rules in each county.
Ohio requires home bakeries to be certified.
Oklahoma allows home baked goods that don't contain meat or fruit.
Oregon requires a food handler's license.
Pennsylvania requires a license you must renew annually, and tests certain kinds of products.
Rhode Island only allows farmers who sell at least $2,500 worth of crops every year to sell to the public.
South Carolina requires a business license for tax purposes.
South Dakota requires testing of most foods and display of a health department certificate.
Tennessee encourages but does not require a kitchen inspection and a license.
Texas requires a food safety course.
Utah requires a business license, food safety training, and a kitchen inspection. You also must submit recipes and samples for all of your products.
Vermont requires a Home Bakery License if you sell more than $125 per week.
Virginia has a lengthy registration and licensing process.
Do you need a license to sell baked goods from home in Washington State? Absolutely! Washington State requires a training course, a business license, approval of your recipes and samples, and a home kitchen inspection. For complete information, Google "selling food from home Washington State" "cottage food permit Washington State," "commercial kitchen requirements Washington State," "permit to sell food in Washington State," "home bakery license Washington State,"and "how to sell food in Washington State."
West Virginia has different regulations for every county.
Wisconsin encourages training but does not require it.
Wyoming has a quirk in its law that says home-cooked goods must be eaten in a home.
My business would not be the same without my Castiron website! It is an easy setup with lots of customization and tons of support! I am so glad I set up my shop last year before the holidays — it really helped increase my sales!
The Whimsical Cookie
Castiron provides me a professional site to my customers increasing my credibility and value while giving me the tools to effectively market and manage my business in an easy, user-friendly manner.
Wesley's Treats Hallie's Sweets
Castiron has made my cottage bakery shine, and my business easy to manage. As a platform they care about my business as much as I do.
Before Castiron, I was taking orders really manually, through emails or texts or Facebook. Now I can send customers straight to my website, and I don’t have to worry about missing any details.
I couldn't run my business without the Castiron platform. It made it so easy to get my shop up and running — it truly removed a massive barrier to me getting started!
I realized that the barrier of having to DM or text me to order was holding a lot of potential customers back.
Now that I have a professional website and a simple ecommerce checkout, I'm seeing a huge increase in new customers and they appreciate how easy Castiron makes ordering.
Easy to start, created specifically for local, handmade food: Castiron’s website builder was created to help you grow. Create a website in minutes with our templates, sell where and how your customers want to buy, and look professional without being technical. Keep customers coming back with email marketing tools, customer records, and more.
Food entrepreneurs, this is your moment. Your community is more and more conscious about what they buy and where it is from. They want food made with love. With ingredients they can pronounce. And they want to support their community while doing it.
Castiron is the best fit for your food business because we're not a one-size-fits-all tool. Selling local food is different from pre-packaged warehouse products. Whether you sell cooking classes, need local pick up, utilize pre-sales to plan inventory, or need a fully custom order form — we got you.
No code required. Add pages, sell your products, build order forms, and show off your beautiful work. We'll handle the tech so you can focus on growing your food business.
Never track down a payment or oversell products again. Real-time inventory tracking and secure payment processing make life easier for you and your customers, and our order form builder makes managing custom requests a breeze.
With our marketing tools, your email marketing can go on autopilot. We make it easy to promote your latest products, announce custom order availability, and stay connected with customers.