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Have you ever created a recipe that people said was so good you should sell it? Maybe you've been thinking about selling food from home, but don't know how to begin. Maybe you've been told that selling food from home in NYC or selling homemade food online is impossible. The truth is selling home cooked food to the public is possible in many states, thanks to cottage food laws.
Selling food from home can be a good way to make a little extra money on your hobby, it can be a way to quit your day job, and it can be a way to make a living doing something you're passionate about.
For many of us, selling food from home is an opportunity to be valued for what we love doing, for something that is personal to us. You may go to work in the morning and spend eight hours a day filing paperwork or driving a delivery truck, and it pays the bills, but it's not exactly fulfilling. If you're a passionate gardener, baker or chef, selling homemade food may open the door to a more satisfying life.
But there's a lot to learn about how to make money selling food from home before you get started.
For instance, there are laws in place that govern how you're allowed to manufacture, sell and ship your products. And the rules change from one area to the next. If you're selling food from home in Ontario, you're going to be following a different set of rules than someone selling food from home NYC, or selling food from home Illinois, or selling food from home Washington state. In some areas the rules on selling home cooked food to the public are stricter than others, so the first question you need to consider is: can I sell food from home in the first place? For that, we need to look into the laws in your area on selling homemade food online to find out: can I sell food from my house?
Once you find out if you're allowed to sell food from home, the next step will be to actually put your business plan into action. You need to develop a strong foundation before you can start selling. There are going to be tools and apps that you need, including professional-grade kitchenware, jars, baggies and other containers to hold the food, shipping equipment like label makers and shrink-wrap machines, and assorted software and apps to help you run your business smoothly and efficiently. You'll probably need Quickbooks, at the very least, to organize your accounting, as well as ingredient apps to ensure that you're not wasting money on the recipe.
All of this can seem overwhelming. Sure, there is a lot to learn. But the good news is that you can take it a step at a time, and we're here to break down some of the most important parts. Below we'll get into the law as it pertains to home kitchen operation, as well as what you need to know about permits.
This is going to be the first step, and in many ways it's the most important one. After all, if you can't get a permit, then you're not allowed to run a homemade food business, so all that other stuff is irrelevant. The first step is making sure that you are legally permitted to sell homemade food in the first place.
If you're wondering if I can sell food from my house, the answer is most likely yes! In recent years, states discovered that there's a need to bridge the gap between restaurants and non-commercial foods. People needed to sell foods at bazaars, farmer's markets, roadside stands, and to individuals. To accommodate this cottage industry, legislatures developed cottage food laws. These food laws vary from state to state, but basically allow people to sell food that pose the least risk of carrying food-borne pathogens and are less likely to spoil without being obvious. So selling food from home in Ontario may have vastly different laws than selling food from home in Illinois. Even selling food from home in Washington state can be different from Illinois or New York.
Let's start with a general overview of the rules on selling food from home, and we can get into state-by-state home kitchen operation law from there.
One of the first things to know is that not all foods are going to be allowed. Expect to pay a stiff fine for selling food from home if you're trying to sell, say, homemade burger patties or something like that.
Foods that are allowed generally fall under the categories of baked goods like pies and cookies, jarred jams and jellies, dry food mixes for things like cakes and cookies, as well as dehydrated and dry foods like cereal and granola, and most, but not all candies.
If you're not sure if what you're selling is allowed, get in touch with someone at the FDA and find out for certain. Better to find out with an email right now than with a fine later.
You're not allowed to sell to other businesses. You can sell to individuals, but you can't go talking to different grocery store managers to see if they're willing to stock your products. You don't really want to invite this sort of risk onto a small business, anyway.
Nebraska only allows selling at farmers markets, so if you live in Nebraska, start looking up local farmers markets and quit worrying about shipping expenses.
There are also rules pertaining to how much money you're allowed to make. For instance, by Illinois cupcake law counties may demand that you sell less than $1,000 worth of product each month. This might make it difficult for you to make a living at it.
These rules apply to all individuals, and most small businesses.
Is it legal to sell food from home in Illinois? Yes. According to Illinois cottage food law 2021, you are allowed to sell jams, jellies, butters, high-acid fruit butters, high-acid fruit pies, and baked goods. You can sell them online or at farmers markets. You are not allowed to sell most animal products, including meat, fish and dairy, and you cannot sell fried pastries like donuts or pancakes.
According to Louisiana cottage food law 2020, the state actually has more lax law than some, but more restrictions placed on bakers than on people who sell other types of homemade food, like salsas and sauces. You also cannot make more than $20,000 a year on your homemade food products.
According to cottage food law NY 2020, you can sell most baked goods, like rolls, bread, cookies, cakes and so on. You can sell fruit jam, popcorn, and peanut brittle. But you can only use commercially processed nuts in your products, you cannot sell homemade chocolate, you can't sell anything with raw nuts, you can't sell sauces, custom cakes, wine jellies, or any breads containing fruit or vegetables.
If you want to learn how to sell food from home legally, you're going to have to make sure that you've researched the laws in your city, state and county. Some of the laws are more or less universal, while others are specific to where you live. The only way to be sure is to be sure, so don't skimp on your research.
Making money selling food from home requires more than just baking bread and hanging up signs. Most states require you to apply for a business license and possibly a license for creating and selling cottage food. It's important to understand your local laws before starting your business. Most states require a kitchen inspection, which means you'll have state inspectors visit your house. In some states, the inspectors only come out after they receive a complaint, but you should be aware of the possibility. You could be fined and shut down, if your kitchen is dirty. But if you keep everything sanitized, you have little to worry about when it comes to inspections.
Next, you'll have to scope out where you can sell your food. Most states will not allow you to sell food to restaurants or grocery stores under the cottage laws, but most likely you can sell food at farmer's markets, roadside stands, and even out of your home. Sure, you can have a website, but most states won't allow you to sell food on the Internet because of the potential of selling outside the state.
Not surprisingly, there are now apps that allow you to sell food from home. These apps are great because they allow local food producers to sell their foods and pair them with delivery people to take the food directly to your customer. These apps are incredibly useful to the home based entrepreneur. Here are some to consider:
Not surprisingly, there are rules on selling food from home. Some rules, such as applying for a business license and having your kitchen inspected, have already been mentioned as part of the home kitchen operation law. How to sell food from home legally varies from state to state, and sometimes from municipality to municipality. For example, the Louisiana cottage food law 2020 will vary from the Illinois cupcake law 2019 in that with the cupcake law, there were only eight Illinois cupcake law counties. These, of course, are different from the Illinois cottage food law 2021.
Besides keeping your work areas spotless, you will probably need hair nets and disposable gloves for handling food items. You must be familiar with your county's health laws for cottage foods and follow them to be certain that your business isn't shut down due to failure to follow the law. Each state and county requirements are different, so be sure to contact the local department in charge of overseeing those laws. They should be able to provide you rules that you can follow to be sure your kitchen and your methodology for cooking follows the law.
Your food will require appropriate packaging and labeling. The law requires that you label your product with the ingredients' list, the product's name, product's weight, and your business's name and contact information. These are the minimum requirements, but depending on where you live you might have to include other information.
Before you start cooking, the first thing is to know what you're going to offer for sale. This plan will enable you to create a menu of foods your customers will naturally come to expect. However, you can't sell any type of food via your home. There are rules and regulations in place to prevent people from accidentally getting sick from the food you produce because they weren't kept at a proper temperature. If your food requires refrigeration, chances are you won't be allowed to sell it. That includes meats, cheeses, dairy products, milk, and poultry products. It also means that home cooked meals are not allowed, even if you use the utmost care in producing them.
Even with this prohibition, there are plenty of foods you can sell. Coffee, tea, canned goods, cookies, cakes and pies that require no refrigeration, breads, chips, popcorn, jams, preserves, pickles, and other goods are often approved for sale by cottage food laws. But cottage food laws are different between states and what is permissible by the cottage food law in NY 2020 may be subject to the vagarious laws of another.
After hearing what is required to sell food from your home, you may think it might be easier to just sell it to people without going through the necessary steps of legally selling food from your home. But selling food from home illegally is a bad idea. Usually this entails selling without a business and tax license. It also entails failure to obtain the proper food handling permits. These licenses and permits are required for you to run your business legally. In many states, illegally selling food is a misdemeanor, and can result in a fine up to thousands of dollars and/or jail time for each offense. That means your little side business would cost you far more money and time in legal fees than it would if you had simply made your business legal in the first place.
Now that you have your kitchen clean and have it ready to make your delicious product, it's time to consider how to get a permit to sell food from home. Not all states require licenses to sell homemade food, but many do, so it is imperative that you understand the licensing requirements before you go into business. You should at least get a business license and probably liability insurance, since people can and do get sued over product, even if the product is safe. There are other permits that are mandatory, depending on the state you live in. Contact your local municipality and find out how to get your food permit application, if it is applicable.
If your state requires licensing or permits before you are allowed to sell your product, then you have a few more hoops to jump through before you can get started.
In order to get a permit to sell food from home, you're going to have to at least clear the following hurdles:
There are some food operations that do not need permits. Generally you don't need a permit to sell food from home if you are making baked goods with no fruit or vegetables in them, or if you are selling food that is dry or uncooked, like pasta, granola, vinegar and tea leaves. So the answer to do you need a license to sell baked goods from home, in most states, is no.
But, as always, it varies from state to state. You need a permit to sell food from home California for almost any product. But, beyond that, their laws are actually more permissive than you might expect, allowing up to $50,000 in annual sales, and placing prohibitions only on processed meat, dairy, fermented food, juices and pickled products.
For the most part, you don't need a permit to sell food from home Texas, and you don't need a permit to sell food from home Florida. In either of these states you would need a food service establishment permit, of course. You can't set up a restaurant in any state without the proper licensing in place.
In finding out how to get a permit to sell food from home, the journey starts with your food permit application. This applies whether you're selling food at farmers markets, online, or you're looking up how to get a permit to sell food on the street.
You're probably going to be getting the application from your state's Department of Agriculture. If you simply Google "food vendor license application" plus your state, this should take you right where you need to go. In Florida, for instance, it would be FDACS.gov, for Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Of course there are extra steps if you're seeking, say, a food service establishment permit New York State, so that you can build a restaurant, diner or shop. But it all starts with the application, whether you need a New York State food license or food business license Washington State.
And of course this all comes down to the question: do I need a license to sell food from my home? Again, it varies from state to state and product to product. You might wind up paying a fine for selling food without a permit Washington State, when it would have been completely legal in Texas. So when you're looking up how to get a license to sell food, make sure to ask "do I need a license to sell homemade food in the first place?" As the rules and regulations for a home bakery license NY, a food vendor license Washington state, and running a business in Florida are all very different.
That's really the key thing to keep in mind: what's legal in one place might not be in another. So research, research, research, get your licenses and permits in order, and then you can dig into the nuts and bolts of building a business from the ground up.
You may be surprised to learn that many states don't require you to have a food server license if you are a cottage food producer. However, the definition of a cottage food producer varies by state and the amount that you earn. For example, you don't need a permit to sell food from home in Texas, provided that you make less than $50,000 in revenues a year. You can only sell out of your home, a farm stand, a farmer's market, or at an event, county fair, municipal fair, or a nonprofit fair. Even with these lax rules, you still have to have a sales tax license and undergo training in food handling and get your food handler's card. So, even if you do not need a permit for your state to sell cottage food, you most likely need at least a sales tax license and a business license.
Every state is different. Even if you don't need a permit to sell food from home in Florida, you may still have rules and regulations you have to follow that are different from Texas's regulations.
In several states such as California, New York, and Washington, you need a license to operate and sell cottage food. Let's compare Texas to California, a state which does require you to have a license. You do need a permit to sell food from home in California. Like Texas, you need to make less than $50,000 a year, you must have a sales tax license, and you must undergo training in food handling to get your food handler's card. You must get a permit from your local environmental health agency. California has different types of permits, including direct sales and indirect sales, depending on how you intend to sell your products. You will need your business license as well.
But what if you don't want to get your license? Let's say you live in Washington and you don't get your food business license in Washington state. What then? The fine for selling food without a permit in Washington state is $1000 per incident per day. That's a pretty hefty sum.
If you're a cottage food provider, there may be times you might want to sell your product on the street. In this case you may wonder how to get a permit to sell food on the street. Most food vendors need a business license, sales tax license, and a food handling card or permit. There may be additional licenses required by your municipality, so contact them for information.
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