This resources page is a list of free tools to help you start, run, and grow your own food blog.
Blogging has been an amazing eight-year journey for us and we are super grateful for where we are today. It’s been an honest mix of celebrations, breakdowns, learning, trial, and error, and persistence, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
When we first started back in 2014, we honestly had no clue what we were doing (for real). We can safely say we know more now than when we started (thank goodness), but it’s still been a process of constant learning and improvement. We’ve been fortunate enough to gain tons of insight from other bloggers who have kindly shared their own resources along the way. So, wanted to share our own and hope it will help you in your own blogging journey.
Note: This page contains affiliate links which means we earn a small commission if you use those links. We only recommend brands, products, and tools we use and trust.
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We use BigScoots hosting. They have rock-solid performance and incredible support at a reasonable price (starts at $34/mo).
Hosting is your website’s home on the internet. The quality of that hosting can make a serious impact on your site’s speed, security, up time, and overall experience for your audience.
The importance of investing in solid hosting from the get-go is something we cannot stress enough. There are MANY cheap shared hosting options out there, including ones that are recommended by other bloggers, but they truly are not worth your time. It’s not worth sacrificing speed, up time, reliability, security, and support, for price. If you want your site to be rock solid as your site increases in traffic, choose a good host from the start.
Another solid hosting option we’ve used in the past is Flywheel WordPress Hosting (starts at $15/mo).
WordPress Themes are the backbone of your blog. They not only determine how your blog looks but can include functionality to customize your site that can improve SEO, content architecture, speed, and scalability.
We’ve been fortunate enough to use a custom WordPress theme built from the ground up by Drew, who has experience designing and coding websites. This has allowed us to build in custom functionality as needed – which may not currently exist in other themes.
Some custom functionality we’ve built into our theme is:
- A links page (similar to LinkInBio or linktr.ee). This gives us an easy way to associate links with our Instagram feed instead of manually updating our Instagram bio link each time a new photo is posted. It also keeps Instagram users on our domain, instead of sending them to a third-party site.
- A custom recipe index page
- & more to come!
If you are interested in other rock-solid WordPress themes, we highly recommend these from past experience:
WP Recipe Maker – This is our recipe card plugin of choice. It’s super easy to use and inserts all of the JSON-LD structured data for you so you can improve SEO and also validate Rich Recipe Pins for Pinterest. The plugin offers some solid visual themes to pick from to match your site design, but we built a custom theme on top to better customize the look and feel. We use the Premium version to take advantage of adjustable servings, nutrition labels, and ingredient links.
Yoast – This SEO-focused plugin helps you easily manage all the nitty-gritty SEO details for your site, pages, and posts. It analyzes your post and page content for SEO recommendations, allows you to customize the title, meta description, and open graph tags for pretty much anything, and helps you structure your site content in an SEO-friendly way.
SEO Tip: No plugin or hack will get you to rank #1 on search engines. Google is too smart for that. Focus on making amazing content that provides incredible value to your readers.
Advanced Custom Fields – This is a must-have if you need to add extra fields to your posts, pages, or other collection types that WordPress currently does not offer. It’s easy to get the fields set up, but actually implementing the custom fields does take some coding work to get the fields to display in your theme. We currently use this plugin to give us flexibility on pretty much every page on our blog.
Thirsty Affiliates – Affiliate marketing is a huge part of monetization for many bloggers. We use this plugin to organize and maintain all of our affiliate links and categorize them for easy search when we are writing new content.
Social Pug – This plugin adds social share links to the top and bottom of each post.
Redirection – we use this plugin to help manage our redirects when we delete or modify content on our blog.
Blogging Tools & Apps
Nutrifox – we use this app for generating the nutrition information for our recipe posts, which is important for our audience and Recipe Schema. It was made by our friends over at Pinch of Yum using it is as easy as copying and pasting your list of ingredients into the generator. You can even import the list from a live post URL.
SEMrush – we use this tool for keyword research, SEO analysis, and tons more SEO-related things. SEO is a massive part of blogging and creating content online that gets clicked on and read. This tool helps us do research and stay competitive in the ever-changing blogging landscape.
Adobe Lightroom Classic – this is our main tool for image processing and editing. We switched from Photoshop about a year ago and haven’t looked back. It’s really helped us speed up our food photo workflow and keep a consistent look & feel.
Google Analytics – this tool is a must to gain key insights into your audience and understanding metrics into what’s working well on your blog. It’s super easy to create an account and install it on your site if you haven’t already.
Google Search Console – we use this tool to see what search terms (keywords) are driving the most traffic to our site from Google Search. This paired with Google Analytics gives us a powerful picture of what content is working and content we can rework to rank better.
Flodesk – our email marketing platform of choice. Their basic features do the job for what we need including: a simple subscribe form on our blog and an easy-to-use email editor!
Figma – one of the best “free” design tools out there. Technically this tool is meant for UI or web design purposes, but we’ve found of a ton of other uses such as: creating long pins for Pinterest, designing Instastories, and designing new features for the blog.
Photoshop – anything we can’t do in Lightroom or Figma, we create with Photoshop. This tool is super powerful but can be a little complicated to get started. We recommend watching some tutorials to get started. If you are just looking for photo editing, we recommend Lightroom over Photoshop.
Bethany is not only in charge of developing the recipes featured on the blog, but she is also behind the camera shooting and styling each recipe! She currently shoots in 100% artificial light.
Canon 6D Mark II DSLR – our current daily driver camera for food photography and video. It takes impressive stills and handles auto-focus for video like a champ. If you are looking for a solid DSLR in the $1000-$1500 range, this one is a go-to.
Canon 50mm f1.4 Lens – we’ve been rocking this lens for the past few years, and it hasn’t let us down. Even though it’s a prime lens (fixed focal length), it’s tack sharp and is so versatile for food photography.
New Lens (2021) Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art DG HSM Lens – After shooting with Canon’s 50mm f1.4 lens for a solid 7 years, we decided to upgrade. If you are looking for a super sharp, easy-focus lens – the Sigma 50mm is fantastic. We tested this lens alongside a Canon 50mm L1.2 lens and found the Sigma outdid the Canon in many ways. It’s also $500 less than the canon lens so it’s a win-win situation.
Neewer Studio Lights – lighting is as important as the camera you are shooting with. If you’re looking for inexpensive artificial lighting set up at a reasonable price, check these out. We used these two lights for several years and they served us well!
Updated Studio Lights – In 2021 we upgraded our lights from a simple softbox setup to using a more advanced setup. We now use the Godox SL-150W as our light source, the octagon softbox as a diffuser, along with a Neewer light stand. This entire setup really gives us a massive amount of light that looks natural and bright, resulting in beautiful food photography every single time.
Sandisk SD Memory Card 64GB – large memory cards are getting cheaper. We love this 64GB card because it processes images fast and can hold tons of content without running out of space.
Backgrounds – choosing a background can make or break a photo. Over the years we’ve used lots of different props for backgrounds, but our favorite ones to use are by woodville. These backgrounds are certainly not cheap but are worth every penny! Bethany will also check out local antique shops for rustic cuttings boards or backgrounds.
Adthrive – our primary advertising partner. They are excellent to work with and make getting set up a breeze. They also do a lot of work on their end to serve up ads in an efficient way so our blog speed does not dip too much.
Amazon Associates – is our top affiliate link. This helps us easily make product recommendations for the ingredients, products, and tools we use to make each recipe. It’s helpful for users too because they can easily add ingredients to their Amazon list in preparation for making one of our recipes. It’s free to sign up and one of the main benefits is you can earn a commission on a user’s entire cart purchase within a certain amount of time after they add your recommended product to their cart. Pretty sweet.
That’s it! We will be keeping this page up to date as we continue to grow and learn as a blogging team.
Feel like something is missing from this list that we should know about? Drop us a line on our contact page. Thanks for following along!