How to monetize your recipes without relying on ads

Google changes its search algorithms all the time. Social media reach, the ability to build an audience overnight and monetize it, has essentially come and gone for most people.

And now there’s ChatGPT and a changing ads environment to contend with.

Faced with dwindling traffic, and a crunch on ad revenue, where can food bloggers and content creators turn to stabilize and improve revenue — using the content and audience they already have?


Memberships are a tried-and-tested way to wring revenue from content.

Some membership programs let people vote in polls about what content they’d like to see, communicate directly with content creators, and more. Others allow access to premium content or ad-free experiences.

Here are some ways food bloggers and content creators use memberships to support their businesses.

Let members access paywalled content

The simplest approach to a membership program is to put some content behind a paywall.

This functionality is already built into several WordPress theme families, like Astra and Divi, and there are a range of membership plugins for WordPress themes.

Price tags vary; one of the most popular options, MemberPress, is $399/mo for a Pro package.

Paid Member Subscriptions (shown above) is slightly more affordable, starting at €169/mo for a Pro account.

Put content where users have to pay to read it, or to read all of it, or consider making it time-sensitive so that members get early access. It’s that simple — in theory at least.

Offer premium (ad-free) experiences for a small fee

Offer your visitors a premium, ad-free experience of your site for a small fee. The fee can be small enough that most people won’t notice it in their budget — yet large visitor numbers can still make it add up.

A monthly subscription to the ad-free version of 40 Aprons (above) is just $3.99/mo; annual subscriptions are $40 a year, or $3.33/mo.

And if opt-in is truly optional, there’s nothing to scare existing visitors away so the risk is minimal, letting you safely trial the idea of selling subscriptions or memberships with your audience.

Another option is to use the ‘honor system,’ the way Jennifer’s Kitchen does:

Make a donation or purchase through an affiliate link and you get to feel like you’re a responsible member of the community. Bringing us to…

Offer access to a paid community

Probably the most comprehensive approach to a membership program is to offer a paid community, one that might include:

  • Access to a private group or forum
  • User-generated content
  • Interactions with you, chosen partners, or other site staff
  • Exclusive ways to add value to the basic experience of using your website

You can create bundles a different price points, offering benefits such as:

  • Access to all recipes
  • Customizable meal plans
  • A weekly update from you
  • And more.

Yummly’s freemium model lets you access a restricted version of the site for nothing. Paid memberships start at $4.99/mo and include articles, guided recipes and recipe-sharing.

This leaves you handling some communications, and of course, some of these things involve creating new content — but not necessarily more new content than you were already creating.

In many cases, doing it this way lets your audience do a lot of your work for you. Instead of trying to figure out what to create content about to increase engagement, they tell you.

Sell digital downloads

If you’ve been a food blogger for a while, you’ve likely accumulated a back catalog of recipes, know-how lessons and how-to guides.

Yes, your regular visitors might have seen some of this already but they’ll often be happy to pay for a copy they can access offline, or a bundle that makes the content easier to consume and put into action.

You can offer readers:

  • Best-of, themed, or seasonal recipe bundles
  • Meal plan bundles — easy lunches, vegan meals etc.
  • Digital download access as part of a subscription (this is Audible’s business model!)
  • Individual recipes as downloadable files like PDFs
  • And more.

Reset & Flourish sell a range of bundles made up of recipes, workbooks, challenges, tips and tricks, including an "Ultimate bundle" at $57.00.

Online courses and classes

There’s no substitute for being taught by someone who knows. For a lot of your audience, there’s a big gap between cooking recipes and bringing about a change in their personal habits, or learning new skills in the kitchen.

Luckily, you’re here to fill that gap.

Online courses can be written, supplied with photos and descriptions to help guide your audience. Or they can be video.

It’s also worth considering selling online classes, in which you directly teach your audience the cooking skills that will open up their kitchen (and your website’s recipe archive).

Bruno Albouze’s Pastry Fundamentals course will net revenue directly; it will also make the website’s archive of premium recipes more appealing.

Consider offering group classes, a more expensive small-group experience and premium one-on-one coaching — individual coaching, even online, can be transformative so a higher price tag is well worth it.

Case study:

Here’s how one longstanding niche food blogger and content creator made a membership model work for her.

Mary Goldman set up in 1997. After a few years as a freebie site, Mary’s reputation was strong enough to start charging.

Now, the site has huge recipe archives organized by month and food type, and features several ways for Mary to earn money from her visitors and still deliver the quality recipes they love:


Featuring recipes assembled by type of food, features 11 cookbooks available as print or ebooks, and more are added regularly.

It’s a great way to generate revenue from users who don't want to be long-term subscribers, especially as the cost of a cookbook ($14.99 for the ebook version) is lower than a subscription. 

Two-tier subscription model

Users can subscribe to Mary’s site too. Subscriptions come in two flavors: signing up to the free email newsletter, and an annual paid subscription to the site’s vast and ever-growing recipe archive.

High-volume users who derive a lot of value from the site are likely to see the $39.99 annual price tag as a steal for the number of recipes offered.

Notice that the subscription model on offer is very simple: a free newsletter or a single flat-fee subscription option.

Selling individual recipes previously sold individual recipes for $2.49 each, though the recipe archive is now only accessible with a subscription.

This likely means that both readers and Mary herself saw subscriptions as the better approach: it can be difficult to get pricing right on individual recipes.


You don’t have to get caught in a race against AI chatbots or the ever-changing search algorithms to maintain your success as a food blogger or recipe creator.

And you don’t have to constantly create new content to stay in the game either.

There are a ton of ways you can repurpose your existing content to drive revenue and increase engagement with your audience, establishing a business outside the algorithm, based on assets you own and an audience that connects with you.

So, next steps?

Ready to drive repeatable revenue growth without tons of new content or relying on ads? Get a free trial of the no-code, hassle-free MealPro app here.