Can You Make an Awesome Sandwich? This Woman Made $5,000 With Hers…

cooking competition
Rachel Whetstone on America's Better Sandwich

Do you love to cook? Want to collect cash for your culinary creations?

You’ve read how to earn money watching cooking shows, and you’re already experimenting with creating luxury dishes on the cheap.

So how about writing down some of your recipes to make extra money?

I recently discovered the wonderful world of recipe contests, and decide to give it a shot.

What Happened When I Entered My First Recipe Contest

The very first contest I entered had a grand prize of $25,000 — just for writing a sandwich recipe.

I found out about the contest a few days before the deadline, so I spent those few days perfecting my entries. Then, I waited.

I was thrilled when I got the call — my sandwich was a national finalist! A few intense weeks went by while I waited for the judges’ taste tests and encouraged my friends and family to vote for my recipe.

Finally, the winners were announced. I won my category — and received $5,000!

How to Enter Recipe Contests

Sound exciting? You can easily join in the fun, and the rewards.

To get started, check online for upcoming contests. Contest Cook has a vast list, and it’s always being updated. There’s a list for professional cooks, one for children and a few for amateur home cooks.

Some contests offer free plane tickets to an event so you can cook your dish live. Others award cash, or hand out fun food prizes like cooking tools and appliances.

You might even win a chance to compete on TV or earn hundreds of thousands of dollars!

But first, you need to plan your cooking content strategy. These tips can help make your entry the best of the bunch:

1. Read the Contest Rules

Start by reading all the guidelines. Then read them again.

And after you complete your entry, read the rules one more time before submitting it.

You could create the most exquisite cuisine, worthy of a Michelin Star restaurant, but be disqualified for something as simple as failing to mention the sponsor’s brand name.

Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Take an extra few minutes to read all the rules so you give your entry its best shot.

2. Find Out How Your Entry Will Be Judged

The rules usually give a detailed breakdown about how the judges will rate each recipe.

Don’t submit a recipe that requires two hours of chopping vegetables if “ease of preparation” is a big factor.

If creativity is important to judges, try inventing a fusion dish that will surprise the tasters.

Some contests rely primarily on audience votes — so get ready to recruit your friends and family during the voting stages.

3. Research Foodie Trends

Did you know cauliflower is one of the big trending foods of 2015?

If you feature something fashionable, you may be more likely to get attention. Look into the most popular spices, drinks, sauces and vegetables.

If you can find a way to put them all together — even better!

4. Channel Your Inner Food Photographer

Natural light will probably be the most flattering to your dish. Take your plate outdoors, or photograph it next to a large window.

Put some fresh produce from your recipe next to your plate — it’ll improve the image and give a visual suggestion of what’s in the dish.

Display your food vertically and horizontally on the plate for a better presentation. Bring your camera close to the food so the audience can clearly see every layer.

Add some action. Spoon some sauce over the top, or dig in a fork to lift a bite — either can add a special dynamic to your photos.

5. Taste Your Creation

Leave yourself time before the deadline to taste-test and perfect your recipe. It’s hard to tell on paper if you’ve overdone the hot peppers in your chili, or added too much salt to your green beans.

I usually cook by throwing ingredients together and tasting rather than measuring — but that doesn’t work for contests. I have to force myself to be mindful and measure everything as I go.

Finalize your measurements, and only submit once everything is just right.

6. Chose a Clever Name

Which sounds better? “Tuna Salad with Mango” or “Tropical Tuna Temptation?”

Go beyond the simple description and consider the emotion you hope to evoke when people read your recipe. If you’ve already tried your hand at naming contests, you’ll be a star.

Your name should tell your meal’s story.

For my contest entry, I made a chicken salad sandwich. Instead of calling it “Chicken Salad on Protein Bread,” I called it “Chicken and the Egg Power Snack.”

I was striving for a light-hearted name, but wanted to highlight key ingredients and the purpose of the sandwich — refueling after a tough workout.

7. Enter as Many Times as Possible

If a contest has multiple categories, enter them all! Create a diverse array of dishes so you have the best chance at finding the one that stands out.

Good luck, Penny Hoarders!

Your Turn: Have you ever entered a cooking or recipe contest?

Rachel Whetstone is a freelance writer and work-at-home mom. Rachel took a chance this year and jumped into the world of freelance writing for the chance to spend more time with her family. She enjoys writing articles and recipes, as well as going mystery shopping to earn her pennies.