Lessons Learned at Permit Renewal

renewalIt has been just over a year since the implementation of AB1616 which spawned a California Cottage Food industry. Now, entrepreneurial foodies can start a business making certain foods at home for sale to the public. Last year was a year of growth and learning for everyone.  Some updates and refinements have been made. What’s new for 2014?

Here’s a summary of what we we’ve seen changed as of our renewal date…

Website Information:  The San Diego County Health Department now has a page on their website specifically devoted to Cottage Food Operations (CFOs).  You will find links to the most current regulations and applications on our RESOURCES page or posted here.

Applications must be submitted in person at the Kearny Mesa office of the San Diego Dept. Environmental Health by the person(s) applying for the permit.  Application forms have been updated during the year.  Links are available on our RESOURCES page or posted here

  • Generally, the application packet and labels can be reviewed over the counter when you come in, but if there are more than ten labels, the application may be taken and labels reviewed within 5 working days.  Meaning you will have to make a second trip.
  • Debit and credit cards are now accepted for CFO application fees.


  • The San Diego Health Department no longer previews labels which are faxed or emailed in.  They have provided a sample with instructions here.
  • Sample labels for all items and flavors must be submitted with the complete application.   They prefer that the labels be printed on paper for review, rather than actual labels.  The design and information should be essentially 100% finished, though subsequent changes to logo or graphics is permitted.
  • Ingredients can now be listed on a secondary label so you don’t have to jam everything on the primary label!
  • Calling your product “Organic” in its title or product description is not allowed unless you have it certified as such.  However,  if it has at least 70% organic ingredients, you can say, “Made with Organic Ingredients.”  In any case, you can list individual ingredients where appropriate (i.e. organic oats, or organic peanuts, etc.)
  • The words “Made in a Home Kitchen” must appear alone in 12 point type (i.e, not Made in a Home Kitchen with Love, etc.)
  • In addition to the Permit Number, these words must appear:  Cottage Food Registration/Permit Issued by: County of San Diego DEH-FHD


  • Permits are good until the end of the month one year from the date they were issued.  At present, there does not seem to be a penalty for late renewals, but you should not do sales if your permit is not renewed beyond the expiration date.
  • If you get a Permit A ($142) and decide a few months later that you want a Permit B so others can sell your items, you will have to apply for Permit B and pay the full $284.  The Permit B will be good for one full year from date of issue, but you will not get credit for any remaining time or money from Permit A.
  • Before applying, carefully consider your budget and sales strategy, and whether or not you really want or need the B permit.


Class B inspections are being scheduled within 5 business days of the application being approved.  Unlike earlier, the CFO may not begin operation until this inspection is complete.

Approved Foods

California’s state health department recently developed a procedure for citizens to request that specific foods be added to the Approved CFO Food List.  You can find information on the steps and deadlines in our post, “Amending the Approved Food List.”


There are still some questions about what frostings will be approved.  Presently in San Diego, most butter cream or cream cheese frostings are not accepted.  Nearly all commercially processed frostings are acceptable.  For more information, contact the San Diego Department of Environmental Health Food and Housing Duty Specialist at (858) 505-6900 or e-mail: fhdutyeh@sdcounty.ca.gov

OVERALL, it has been a good first year, with over 1200 permits issued statewide as of mid February 2014.  And kudos to you cooks, bakers, candy makers, et al. – Last year there were no reported cases of food poisoning across California from these types of businesses.

Let’s make 2014 a banner year for CFO’s in San Diego County!


Amending the Approved Food List

cdphsmallSo your food is not on the CA Approved Cottage Food List . . . now what? The Homemade Food Act, AB1616, authorizes the state Department of Public Health to add or remove foods and they have just released instructions on how you can request that they consider adding your food product.

As one of the most recent laws in the country to allow the making and selling of food from home, AB1616 is (in my mind) one of  the most comprehensive and well designed cottage food laws of any state.  It permits a wide variety of edibles—from honey to jams, pastries to popcorn, roasted coffee to dried tea, even specifically including ethnic foods like mole paste, churros, and fruit empanadas.

But what if the food you make is non potentially hazardous and NOT on the list? One aspiring Cottage Food Operator (CFO) in San Diego wanted to make dried vegetable soup mix.  Although dried fruit is an approved product, dried vegetables are not, and therefore not permitted.  Now, however, there is a way to have that, and other foods, considered for addition to the Approved Food List.

Complete and submit the “Request to Add Food Product to the Approved Food List” application to the CA Department of Public Health by mail or email.   A review and response is promised for every request.  Recipes and formulations are not necessary (in fact, not wanted) but you should provide a brief description of the food, how it is made, and how it will be packaged.  Use a separate application for each food product.

A notice of proposed changes to the Approved Food List will be posted on the state website in December and June of each year, allowing the public to comment on changes for twenty (20) days.  The following month, notices will be posted indicating whether the proposed amendments were accepted or withdrawn.

Dried spices

Dried spices

Because of the late notification, this year submission deadlines are extended to January 31, 2014 to be posted by March 2, 2014 and take effect April 1, 2014.  Subsequently, the June/December deadlines will be followed.

Do you have a non potentially hazardous food product that you think should be included on the state’s Approved Food List? Get the application in now and find out if you, too, can become one of California’s new Cottage Food Operators!


Ethnic Variety in CA’s Cottage Food Law

Flag_of_Mexico_svgAspiring business owners of all cultures and all cuisines can participate as Cottage Food Operators by making their own traditional varieties within approved food groups. California’s Cottage Food law honors the Mexican cultural influence in particular by specifically permitting certain Latino foods or variations.

Among the baked goods that the CA Homemade Food Act explicitly approved are tortillas and churros.  Tortillas, made from flour or corn, are part of the staples of Mexican cuisine.  They date back to 10,000 BC but were popularized throughout California by the missionaries.  The versatility of tortillas for soft burritos, tacos, enchiladas, etc. mean they are often favored over bread.  In addition, their low fat content make tortillas a healthier choice for many calorie-conscious consumers.

And who doesn’t love churros?  Those mouth-watering cinnamon treats, when baked not fried, qualify for churros.wikimediacommonsa homemade cottage food product!  Plus you can always find a jar of chocolate sauce or dulce de leche for guilt-free dipping with all the calories that are saved by baking them to crispy brown goodness.

Fruit tamales and fruit empanadas can also be made and sold through Cottage Food Operations.  These sturdy foods are easily packed and sold at community events without too much trouble (being somewhat  gentle with the empanadas!).  And while pineapple tamales and apple empanadas may be the best known, recipes for other tempting flavors also exist, like strawberry tamales or empanadas made with banana, blackberry and strawberry, pineapple, even guava or pumpkin (who knew pumpkin was a fruit?!).  (Note: some recipes may need to be adapted to be classified as non potentially hazardous.)

Even mole paste (pronounced moh-lay) is listed as a product approved for CFOs in California.  What a great idea!  Mole poblana may be the best known of all mole varieties (in fact, it’s been called the “national dish” of Mexico), with its characteristic chili peppers and chocolate, but other varieties of mole exist, too.  Oaxaca, Mexico is often called “the land of the seven moles.”  Roasted, dried chilies and ingredients ground to powder and reconstituted into pastes can create mole colors ranging from smoked-oaxacan-mole-saucebrownish-red to bright green, red, yellow or black each with a distinctive taste.  What a great opportunity to develop a home-based business and introduce more Californians to new mole flavors and recipes to try.

According to 2011 US Census Bureau estimates, 38% of The Golden State’s total population is Hispanic/Latinos.  And, with California having the highest total number of Latinos of any U.S. state, we at San Diego Cottage Foods are glad to see the legislature thought to definitively include Mexican heritage foods in the Homemade Food Bill.  We hope that it encourages more Latinos, and Latino food lovers, to start their own Cottage Food Operations!

State vs. Local Laws – Which Prevail?

residential traffic singAccording to California’s Homemade Food Bill (also known as CA’s Cottage Food law, AB1616), local governments cannot outlaw or prohibit Cottage Food Operations (CFOs) through zoning laws.  Municipalities can, however, regulate “…spacing and concentration, traffic control, parking, and noise control relating to those homes.”  The law was written, in part, to encourage the startup of small businesses by people making nonpotentially hazardous foods.  It specifically included provisions which would help in that goal such as classifying a CFO as a permitted use of residential property, allowing one employee (in addition to a family or household member), and allowing direct sales (as well as indirect sales) of the food product to consumers.

Danielle, an aspiring Cottage Food business owner, did some investigating and found that nearly every city in San Diego County had one or more restrictions in their business licenses or home occupation permits that conflicted with the state law.  (Individual city ordinances relevant to CFO’s are summarized in Home Business Local Laws.)  Most cities require a home occupation permit for home-based businesses and this is often where the conflicts are found.  Imperial Beach was the only city deemed to be in agreement with AB1616 whereas cities such as Vista have multiple restrictions that seemingly contradict the state law.

residential sign2

The most common discrepancies forbid having an employee and restrict selling your goods from home.  Understandably, local governments want to keep residential areas from becoming snarled with commercial traffic and noise that would negatively impact areas where we live.  But those laws seem in direct opposition to the Homemade Food Law and its intent.

Some regulations even seem a bit extreme.   One in Vista limits how much your business operation can increase your utility services.  Escondido dictates that “Any vehicle bearing any advertisement related to the home occupation… shall be garaged or stored entirely within a building or structure.”  El Cajon has a bizarre regulation that any “… equipment necessary to perform the home occupation on the premises must be kept in a pickup truck or van… or a trailer that can be towed by a truck or van.”   Good sense would have to prevail here since you are obviously not going to keep your oven in a truck!  Some cities even require you to get your landlord’s permission if you rent in order to obtain a business license.

wait in line mateIt seems for now that most start-up CFOs can function within the local city guidelines.   Initially, young businesses may not have enough customers to attract complaints, or enough demand to need an employee.  But ultimately if they are successful, the question becomes, will the state law preempt the local restrictions?  And, how can we as new business owners help city planners accommodate home-based Cottage Food Operations?

Are you having trouble getting a business license for your Cottage Food Operation?  If so, please let us know.  We may be able to find a recipe for success, yet!

(Much thanks to Danielle for her time researching and compiling this information!)


Photos Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License


bridgets fudgeSUCCESS has already come to some who started operating their own businesses as Cottage Food Operations in San Diego County.  Bridget Doyle knew people loved her white chocolate fudge—they told her all the time at the hospital where she volunteered.  She got a reputation as the “Fudge Lady.” But when they offered to buy it, she began doing some research and discovered the California Cottage Food law. That made everything possible because otherwise, it was just too expensive to rent a kitchen and produce it commercially!

When people start asking to pay for your food, it’s a good time to consider a business!  Her first challenge was learning about California’s Cottage Food (or Homemade Food) Law, AB1616 which took effect Jan. 1, 2013. The next challenge was working out the labels and getting all the correct information on them.  But once approved, she faced the question every budding entrepreneur faces – how and where to get customers?  Bridget turned to social media and using a Facebook page for her business, asked people where they had bought fudge in retail settings.  major marketShe got a lead to Major Market grocery store in Escondido.  Bridget called and learned that they had lost their fudge vendor three years earlier.  Hopeful, she got busy in the kitchen making a batch of fudge, packed it up, and went to market.

Bridget met with the store manager, offered samples of her fudge and simply said, “I am starting up a fudge company.  Would you be interested in selling my fudge at your store?” And so began her official foray into business.  Major Markets in Escondido and Fallbrook now carry four flavors of Bridget Rose Delights’ fudge: Fudge at Major Marketwhite chocolate, peanut butter, milk chocolate, and milk chocolate with walnuts.  And she’s recently expanded to Rockin’ Jenny’s Italian Sub shop for those who also want a sweet treat with their sandwich.  Just shows that you need to explore options, and think creatively, when looking for additional markets.  Bridget’s advice on getting into a store or market?  “Make sure you make the right contacts and give samples of your product.”

To learn more about the “Fudge Lady,” visit Bridget’s blog or Facebook page – and keep an eye out for her fudge at a market, shop, or retail outlet near you!

If you have had some success pioneering your CFO business in San Diego County, let us know! We’d love to hear about it and possibly feature you and your creations, too.

Avoid Getting Frosted Over Frosting

pink cupcake

You make the most awesome cakes and cupcakes ever! Now, you want to sell them. You want to get a cottage food  permit, but what about the frosting?  Did you know that most buttercream and cream cheese frostings will not be approved as they are not proven to be shelf stable?  What to do. . .

NOTE:  Also see updated information at end of post.

All foods made and sold under the Cottage Food Law AB1616 must be non-potentially hazardous meaning that they can be held at room temperature without growing harmful bacteria.  According to the FDA, this means foods that have an acidity (pH) level of 4.6 or less or a water activity (Aw) value of 0.85 or less.

If your recipe does not contain perishable ingredients, it may be allowed.  Many people claim that most American-style buttercreams made with butter or shortening and powdered sugar do not require refrigeration.  However, if you use butter, margarine, oil, cream cheese, etc. the San Diego Environmental Health Department may reject your recipe–or even your permit application–without proof that is non-potentially hazardous.

How can you be sure your frostings are safe and likely to be approved?

    1. Use a store-bought, commercially prepared frosting which has already been made shelf-stable.
    2. Use fondant only.
    3. Check out the updated California list of approved frostings and icings listed below.
    4. Have a sample of your frosting tested yourself.  In San Diego, several food testing laboratories can test your frosting for pH and water activity.  Tests run approximately $35-$45.

TexasCottageFoodLaw.com has recipes for several frostings.  The recipes were tested and shown to be non-potentially hazardous, but you MUST follow the directions exactly with no substitutions and would need to have whichever recipe(s) you want to use tested yourself.  Send the independent laboratory results into the San Diego Environmental Health department with your sample label or permit application.

Remember, all your ingredients must be included on the primary label of your product and the labels must be pre-approved by the Health department. If your frostings include any of the “suspect” ingredients, you will probably be required to get pre-approval from the state or have it tested to demonstrate that the frosting is non-potentially hazardous.

Use these tips to avoid getting “frosted” over your label, application, and recipes!

Passing Inspection for Class B CFO Permit

Slinky inspector says yup all to code - where's my food bribe?All Class B CFOs must have their kitchens inspected annually in order to receive their permit. Wondering how to pass your Inspection? Cottage Foods Sandie has some tips and insights to make sure there are no hidden surprises!

The main point of the inspection is to ensure that the public health is protected. That means checking that you have proper sanitation, safe food handling and storage procedures, and that the risk of contamination is minimized as much as possible.

To get an idea of what inspectors will look for, study the Self-Inspection Checklist required for Class A permit holders. When your inspection is scheduled, make sure your operation meets those guidelines. Get set up as if you were ready to begin making your product. Then, be prepared to walk the inspectors through your process, from start to finish. Though you won’t be expected to actually make the product, it will give them a clear picture of your operation.


Prepare your sanitizing solution in advance. The cheapest and easiest solution to use for surfaces and utensils is approximately a tablespoon of household bleach per gallon of water. The water should be warm, not hot. Hot water will reduce the effectiveness. If you have sanitizing test strips, the solution should be between 100-200 ppm.  Cottage Foods Sandie uses a large shallow plastic bin in which her cooking utensils and baking pans can be submerged.

Pour out some of the solution into a small container for use sanitizing working surfaces. After washing and rinsing counters and working surfaces, sanitized with the chlorine solution.

The chlorine solution will looses effectiveness as it contacts organic material. Therefore your utensils must first be washed, then rinsed, before being sanitized and air dried. Be prepared to show inspectors how you sanitize working surfaces before cooking and how you wash, rinse, sanitize, and air dry cooking utensils after use.

Utensils should be in contact with the solution for 30 seconds or more before shaking off excess sanitizer and being allowed to air dry.


  • Handwashing water must be at least 110 degrees F. If you are on a public system, you won’t need to have the water tested for bacteria or contaminants. If you have a well or private water supply, the water will have to be tested, but you probably did it prior to submitting your application.
  • Be sure your bathroom (or whatever hand washing area you have in addition to the kitchen) has soap, hot water and clean towels for hand drying. The kitchen should have either paper towels (preferred) or hand towels to dry your hands. Know how to wash your hands (lathering hands, wrists, arms) and when you should wash them. Know when you need to wear gloves.

Food handling and packaging

Plan to talk the inspectors through your product preparation, showing them your utensils, where you store your ingredients, and how you package the food. Having packaged, labeled samples on hand for inspection is recommended by Cottage Foods Sandie. If there are any questions or issues, they can be clarified then. It just makes it easier in the long run!

baby gatePreventing Contamination

  • All pets, children, and smoking materials should be removed from the kitchen prior to the inspection. Activities such as smoking, eating, or household chores (laundry, meal preparation, diaper changing, …) must occur apart from the cottage food operation (preparation, packaging, storing). Have animals and children separated as you would if you were actually working, before the inspectors arrive.
  • Ingredients and product must be stored within the home (not in a garage, storage shed, porch, etc.), where it is safe from rodents, insects, and animals. Cottage Foods Sandie uses different plastic bins with lids available from Target or Walmart to keep all nonperishable items (ingredients, utensils, packaging, final product, etc.) safe from harm and separate from everyday use.

Assuming that you know and follow safe food handling practices and can adequately separate the preparation, handling, packaging and storage of your Cottage Food products from everyday domestic activities, passing inspection for your San Diego Class B CFO permit should be no problem at all!  Remember to get your food handler’s certification within 90 days of being permitted.

See, easy as pie!


Selling Your Product: Farmer’s Markets

Farmers MarketThe real question for most California Cottage Food Operators is how and where do I sell my homemade foods?  Farmer’s Markets, where people knowingly come to sample and buy food, is often the first place people plan to sell.  But getting into a market is not always as “easy as pie.”

Here are some points and ideas to help…

The Markets:  A list of SD County Farmer’s markets can be found hereFirst, decide what days and times fit your schedule.  Identify the markets which fit your availability, adding at least one hour to either end of the market session to allow yourself set up, break down, and travel time.  Secondly, identify markets within your travel distance.  Visit them to see if vendors are already selling your type of product.  Market managers usually do not like to have vendors competing with each other to sell the same or similar products.

The Fees:  Each market is different and has its own fees.  Vendor fees can run between $17 and $40, though the average seems to be around $25 for a spot.  That amount is due whether you sell a little or a lot so be sure your products are priced competitively and you can profit enough to pay for your space.

Your Homework:  Visit the website of the farmer’s market if there is one.  Then check out the market in person.  Look at what is for sale already.  Market managers want vendors who will draw more customers or improve the market by bringing something new.  When you are ready, contact the manager to see if they are open to adding a new vendor.  Then set an appointment to meet.  Bring pictures of your product, your set up (if possible), and samples of your food.  Be ready to answer the unspoken questions, “Why should we let you sell here?” and “What makes your product special or different than similar products?”  Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression so be as prepared and professional as possible!



Your pricing. Can you make a profit? Add the costs of travel and vendor fees.  How many of your products will you need to sell in order to make a profit? Are your products priced appropriately and competitively?

Your time. There is often a lot of competition for a stall space.  Once you get into a market, you need to commit to being there regularly. Can you have enough product and be there every week?

Smaller, more remote markets.  New markets, smaller, or more remote markets may be easier to get into initially.  They will give you opportunity to test the public’s response to your products, the chance to identify your target audience, experience promoting your business, and sales results that may help persuade larger or more popular markets to admit you.

Unique requirements:  Different markets have different regulations.  For instance, Imperial Beach’s Farmer’s Market requires each vendor to have a fire extinguisher due to city laws.  The Horton Plaza, Coronado, and one Pacific Beach farmer’s markets do not allow packaged foods at all. Find out what your target market requires or restricts. Most of that information is in their application packet.


It may take you a few tries to find and get into the right market. Don’t despair!  Keep trying. And check out our Facebook page for new markets just starting up.  Selling at a Farmer’s Market is a great way to interact with the public, get feedback, orders and leads and get your products known. It’s worth the effort!

Pricing Your Product

Please Pay Here 3-14-09 19

There is no sense having a business that eats you out of house and home.  Why work so hard making great food, then sell it at a loss?  Do you know how much it costs you to produce your product?  How much time it takes to make your goods?  How much your competitors’ products cost?

Cottage Foods Sandie has some ideas to help you price your products sensibly.






1. Determine the value of your product. 

Most home food makers greatly under price their products it seems. Remember, just because you have lower overhead expenses does not mean that your kitchen creations should be dirt cheap. Remember this important rule – customers want good VALUE.

Think about it. You may not always buy the least expensive version of a product.  You might choose certain ingredients, use a certain mixer, cook with certain pans not because of the price but because that brand gives you freshness, durability or consistency that justifies paying a bit more. In other words, its characteristics are worth the money.  It is a good value.

Now consider your edible delights.  What makes them special? Is there a “niche” market that they target (vegans, toddlers, gourmands, … )?  Is there a rare ingredient, or combination of ingredients, that create a distinctive flavor?  Do you have a refreshingly new version of some more common food item?  Is it your decorative flair that creates awe-inspiring creations?  Whatever it is, defining what sets your cottage food product apart from others will help you see its value to the customer.

 2. Determine the cost of making your product. 

a)  Ingredients:  How much does each ingredient cost per sale?

Calculate the cost of ingredients for one recipe.   First, how much does that ingredient cost you when you buy it?   Next, how many times can you make your recipe out of the ingredient package?  Add the costs of each ingredient, keeping in mind the yield (i.e., one cake, a dozen cookies, a pint of jam).

You can determine the number of uses you will get out of a package by pouring it out and measuring it by hand, or by doing some conversions and math to calculate how many loaves, for instance, that flour bag will yield.

For convenience there are online culinary conversion charts to help.  Some change pounds to cups (CLICK HERE)  or volume (for liquids) into weight (CLICK HERE).  For general recipe conversions try HERE .  (Note: Sometimes it’s convenient to check the nutrition label where you can find the number of servings per package and the amount per serving already calculated.  Cottage Foods Sandie just uses Google to convert the grams or ml. to ounces.)

Add the cost of each ingredient per recipe and divide the total by the number of sellable “units” it generates (one dozen, one pound, a 12 oz. bag, 1 quart, 1 pie, etc.)

For those who do a lot of baking you might find the Cake Boss Price Calculator Software useful.  Designed by a cake decorator for home bakers and small businesses, for $149 it offers simple cost/pricing determinations plus other benefits for tracking orders, etc.

Cottage Foods Sandie found this FREE helpful Recipe Calculator spreadsheet and FREE Conversion list on www.thecarolinaclipper.com.

 b)  What is your labor cost?

Most cottage food makers tend to undervalue their time, a leading cause of underpricing their product.  Cottage Food Sandie suggests thinking in terms of costs of an employee.  If you were paying an employee $10/hour and needed to pay employment taxes, social security taxes, Medicare, etc., the total cost would be closer to $12-13 / hour before adding benefits (like health insurance).  So it may be reasonable to consider your time as worth $15/hour in such a case. To calculate time spent, you should count set up time, the actual production time, packaging and clean up time.  Add up all the time it takes you to produce your product—start to finish.  Multiply those hours by your pay rate, then divide it by the number of packaged items you generated.

(For instance if it takes you 5 hours from set up to clean up that would be 5 hours x $15/hr = $75 in labor.  IF you made 50 packages, divide the $75 labor cost by 50 packages and each package represents $1.50 of labor.

c)  How much does it increase your utility bill?

San Diego Gas and Electric has a handy online display which shows on a day-to-day basis the amount of gas and electricity you use.  Compare the days your Cottage Food Operation (CFO) is functional versus those days when it is nonoperational to evaluate the increased use of gas or electricity. Or, compare on a monthly basis to your use the year before. If you use significantly more water for your CFO, you might compare those utility costs, too.  Keep a record of how much product you generate in a month to determine the utility costs per item.

 d)  How much does it cost to package and label your food product?

Don’t forget that the wrapping, boxing, printing, labeling, etc. cost you money, too.  Again, determine how much the materials cost to package and label your product.  Add the cost to your total cost per item.

 3. The cost of selling

The least costly means of selling your product is through word-of-mouth to clients who will pick up the product from you. Sometimes picking up the product at your home business is not possible so you may need to arrange delivery or a meet-up.  Either way, the added transportation costs should be included somewhere in your pricing—either as a delivery fee or factored into the overall costs of all of your products.

If you will be selling food yourself at a farmer’s market or local event, there is usually a fee to participate.  Most farmers’ markets cost $20-40 per week.  Remember to calculate the cost of gas to get there and home, too.  A market that is 20 miles away could require a gallon of gas each way.  Gas and market fees alone could cost $30-$50.  Whether or not there is a good crowd that likes your product may help you decide if that is the right market for making a profit.  Look for other opportunities to sell and advertise your products as well.

If you are planning to sell your product wholesale to a store, restaurant, or other business to sell at retail, you will need to determine how much to discount the item, how much to provide them and how often.  Does your product deteriorate or get stale over time?  It will be important to determine how much product to provide so that it is sold out while fresh.  Spoilage reduces profit!

 4.  Profit

If you are just doing this for fun, you won’t need to add in profit margin.  But who wants to do all this and not make a profit?  Don’t just use a guess-timate of 2-3x ingredient costs to price your product. Calculate your real costs, include a reasonable profit, compare to other products like yours, and remember your VALUE.  It’s not just about price, it’s why the price is a good value!


Don’t be discouraged by fees at the start.  Remember that in the beginning your costs are generally higher than after you have established a regular production routine.  You will get faster and more efficient, reducing your labor time.  Also, knowing what you will need in advance means that you can order online and get free (or at least non-urgent) shipping, take advantage of sales when they occur, or buy in bulk.  To reduce your selling costs, work on building a clientele that will pick up from you at certain locations at certain times.

Later this month we will look at strategies and locations for selling your delectable cottage food creations so stay tuned or subscribe to be notified of new postings.







Best Value, Least Risk CFO Training

hands washing femaleBy law, Cottage Food Operators (CFOs) in California must complete a food processor’s training course within 90 days of getting a CFO permit. In  San Diego you have two options, online classes approved by the state or classroom style classes approved by the county.  Online classes are faster, cheaper, and more convenient if you have computer access. We compared the online providers for you and found that one, eFoodHandlers (also known as caFoodHandlers), has the best price and least risk of online training classes.

The complete list of approved online training organizations for California CFOs is here. For our comparisons of price, languages, etc. click our Comparison of Online Trainings. For a list of classroom-style, San Diego County approved trainings see page two here.

For only $10 www.eFoodHandlers.com (called www.caFoodHandlers.com for California) guarantees you will pass the test after reviewing the material from their website. Material can be read online, viewed in a video, or downloaded for review offline. Passing is guaranteed because you review the material and take the test prior to paying for the course! You can take the test as many times as needed until you pass, showing that you understand the basics of safe food handling, preparation, and storage. After all, isn’t that what is important?

The website will walk you through the steps. You can start and stop as often as needed. It will automatically keep track of where you are in the process. I registered one day, reviewed the materials and took the test several days later, paid for the class the following day and printed the certificate a few days after that. My experience was that the information was clearly presented, easy to understand, and the test provided instant feedback on correct/incorrect answers to aid in learning. The test also is available online in Spanish.

For those who do not like computers or who do not have the option to study and test online, San Diego County has classroom training for food handler’s cards which will be accepted for CFOs in SD County. A list of those courses can be seen here on page two. Some classes are walk-in and others are by pre-registration only so be sure to check. Also, be aware that most in-person classes cost around $25.

If you need to take the test in another language, some of the online trainings offer Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese, and most offer a Spanish option. For classroom training in San Diego, most courses are offered in English or Spanish, and the Chinese Services Center offers classes in Chinese.