When I first started blogging, I posted only when I felt like it (which only ended up being about twice a month…if even that). I wouldn’t really put much thought into any of my posts. I’d rush to cook dinner, get everything set up for the photography while my starving family started eating without me, take some not-so-great photos, then eat my food (which was cold by that time). After putting the kids to bed for the night, I’d upload my photos, type up the post and recipe without even proof-reading it, and then click “Publish”. Yikes! It’s no wonder that my blog wasn’t doing too well at that time.
This “flying by the seat of my pants” method was not working. I was stressed out all the time and I knew that I needed a plan in place. With a full time job and two very active kids, I needed to do something. I love my blog too much to give it up.
Over the last few months, I’ve learned that a good workflow is absolutely necessary in order to maintain a successful blog. I’ve developed my own workflow based on advice from some of my friends in the Food Blogger Pro community so I thought I would share it here. I hope you’ll find it helpful!
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any comments or suggestions on how I can improve on this workflow. I would love to hear from you!
First, I’ll give you an overview on the different tools that I use, then I’ll go into the workflow in more detail. Sound good?
The tools I use:
* Evernote – so much more than just some place to store notes. I rely on Evernote so much for just about everything in my life.
* LeanKit – based on the Kanban system, Leankit is like a virtual whiteboard. It can be used in various ways but I’ve outlined how I use it for the purposes of my food blog below.
* Weekly meal planning spreadsheet – where I plan the menu for the week for all of my family’s meals
* PlantoEat – where I store recipes to my favorite every-day meals
* OurGroceries – cloud based grocery list. I can enter my shopping list on my computer, then check the items off my list at the grocery store via their mobile app.
* Adobe Lightroom – for photo editing. I run ALL of my images through Lightroom. Makes good pictures great!
* PicMonkey – I’m no Photoshop expert. PicMonkey makes it super easy for me to add text to my images. This is great for getting your food blog images Pinterest-ready.
Leankit (my virtual dashboard)
– I’m so excited to share how I use Leankit. This has been so helpful to help me keep all of my blog posts organized and my sanity in check).
– It helps me track the progress of each blog post from the very moment I write down the idea, all the way to when it’s published, shared and promoted. The best part about LeanKit is that you can create it exactly how you want and what works best for YOU!
– I’ve got two main sections on my board: “Ideas” and “In Process”.
– Under “Ideas”, I create a new card for each recipe idea or blog post idea. I also have an “Incubation” section at the bottom where I store ideas that I want to implement in the future but not ready to look at yet, so I don’t want them clogging up my active section.
– When I move a card from the “Ideas” section to the “In Process” section, I just follow each step from top to bottom. I just drag and drop the card.
– First, it starts out in a pool of recipes I will make that month. Each week, I plan which meals I will make for that week (I only blog a couple of times per week so I just move the card to the corresponding day). Here is my workflow:
* Recipe ideas
* Content for the Month
* On this week’s menu
* Cooked and photographed
* Images Processed
* Blog Post in Draft Phase
* Published! Need to share and promote.
– So, I just drag and drop the card for the post that I am working on to whichever category it should be in. This way, I know exactly where I am in the process for each post. This system has truly been a sanity saver.
Recipe Ideas and Creation
– Sources of inspiration: Uhh…EVERYWHERE! Pinterest, other food blogs, cooking shows, even old-fashioned cookbooks (Note: If following someone else’s recipe closely, don’t forget to mention/credit that person in your post, and provide a link if possible. At the end of your post, state something like “recipe inspired by……..[link here]”.
– I keep a list of my recipe ideas (and blog post ideas) on Evernote. I have a “Recipe Ideas” notebook, and within that notebook, I create one note for each recipe idea. One of the many great features of Evernote is that I can use the mobile app to access my account and add notes from my cellphone or tablet, so I can add recipe ideas when I’m just about anywhere!
– I add to this list as often as I can so I never run out of ideas. I have a recurring appointment set up on my calendar every week to remind me to browse for ideas and inspiration.
– Throughout the week, I review a handful of recipes and make a list of ingredients.
– I also add each recipe idea as a card on Leankit in the “Ideas” section.
– Around the 3rd week of every month, I sit down to do monthly planning.
– In Leankit, I move some cards (1 recipe = 1 card) from the “Ideas” section to the “Content for the Month” section. How many cards I move will depend on how many posts I can do per week for that month. For example, 3 recipes per week X 4 weeks in that month = 12 recipe cards needed.
Weekly Planning and Grocery Shopping
– I set aside time each weekend to plan my meals for the upcoming week using my Weekly Meal Planning spreadsheet.
– I look through my “Content for the Month” section in Leankit to determine what I want to cook that week, then slot them in to my spreadsheet on the days that I can cook those meals.
– For the rest of the week’s meals, I look through my recipe collection in PlantoEat and whatever sounds good will go into the meal plan that week. For busy weekdays, I select easy meals.
– Note about PlantoEat: This is where I store all of my favorite recipes; my recipe database, if you will. They are mostly quick-and-easy every-day recipes. They have a great meal planner feature that I used before I started food blogging on a regular basis, but it just wasn’t flexible for me as a food blogger. I highly highly highly recommend PlantoEat for anybody who is looking for a good recipe storage solution with a meal plan feature.
– I usually only plan for dinners. For breakfast and lunch, we’re usually eating cereal, eggs, leftovers, and simple meals so I don’t bother adding those. This spreadsheet is flexible enough where I can add as many meals as I need to, though.
The yellow highlighted items are the meals that I’ll be blogging about. As I add meals to this spreadsheet, I would add the ingredients I need to buy in the “Shopping List” column. (This is why PlantoEat’s meal plan feature didn’t work for me. It was a pain to enter all the ingredients I thought I would need for each recipe “experiment”….this spreadsheet gave me the flexibility to add whatever I wanted very easily)
– When the spreadsheet is complete, I transfer my shopping list to OurGroceries.com. I put an “x” to indicate that it’s already been entered into Ourgroceries so I don’t miss anything. I always buy a little bit more so I have enough food for photographs and leftovers.
– In LeanKit, I’d move the cards that I’ve chosen for the week into the section titled “On the menu for this week”.
Plan for Food Photography
– At times, I may need to photograph the dish before your family can enjoy the meal. For example, casserole and one-pot meals, meatloaf, lasagna, etc……and foods that won’t look great if they sit for too long (eg. melted cheese). I like getting those sorts of dishes photographed as soon as possible so I don’t keep my family waiting, and so that they can enjoy the food while it’s still warm and fresh.
– Before I start cooking these sorts of dishes, I plan my photography setup. Yes, I do this even if I’m not 100% sure that the recipe will turn out. Why? If my recipe does turn out right, I don’t want to scramble at the last minute to set up for the photo. And sometimes, I might just need to make some minor tweaks in the recipe that won’t alter the look of the dish. I’ll have that picture ready so I won’t have to set up again for the food photo when I do get the recipe right.
– I do my best to visualize the colors of the food and use props that would go well with it. Then I prepare the set. I use empty plates/bowls to help me visualize the setup, and also to test my camera settings.
– Since I already have everything set up, it doesn’t take me long to plate the dish, take some photos, then enjoy dinner with my family.
– First, I print out my recipe draft from Evernote.
– I always have a pen or pencil handy to write down any adjustments, notes and ideas as I’m cooking the dish.
– I get all of my ingredients measured and ready before I even turn on the stove.
– I snap photographs as I prepare the food so that I can show the step-by-step process. I’ve found that once I started doing this, I dropped my bounce rate from high 80’s to under 10%!!
– When I’m done cooking, I set aside the best looking piece(s) for photographs (if I haven’t taken photos already)
– Then I sit down and eat dinner with my family.
Food Photography After Dinner
– This is the best time to take pictures…..AFTER I eat. I’m not rushing around to feed my hungry family. I’m not hungry. No stress = better photographs
– I take my time in arranging my set and plating my food, paying attention to every little detail.
– I try different angles for composition and move things around until I get the shots I want.
– Lightroom is not meant to make bad pictures look good, but to make good pictures look GREAT! I do my best to get my exposure and all of my settings correct on camera, but Lightroom can enhance my photographs to make them look even better! Confession: I have a bad habit of underexposing my images (which is easy to do with indoor/artificial lighting) so I use Lightroom to bump up the exposure.
– Next, I use PicMonkey to make a long-pin image for Pinterest. This will make images stand out a LOT better in Pinterest:
Drafting the blog post
– Great content is so important on any blog!
– Every once in a while, when inspiration hits, I would draft up the text for my blog post in Evernote in the same note as my recipe idea.
– Most of the time, though, I would write it up in WordPress itself and “Save Draft” until I’m ready to publish it.
– After writing the text, I would add the recipe at the bottom of the post using the EasyRecipe plugin.
– I read it at least a couple of times to check for errors and to make sure that my tone is maintained. If what I read doesn’t sound like something I would say, I would delete it and write again until it sounds like me.
– Finally, when it’s all ready to go, I hit “Publish”! (and celebrate a little)
Share and Promote
– After the blog post is live, I share and promote it on the following platforms:
* Google +
– Next, I submit the image and blog post link to various food sharing sites. I have these all bookmarked in one folder on my browser so when it comes time to submit, I simply right-click on that bookmark folder and then click on “open all bookmarks”. My browser automatically opens op all those sites on separate tabs in my browser window.
– I just close each tab after I’ve submitted to that site. Here are the sites that I submit to:
* Healthy Aperture
Yeah, it’s a lot of sites to submit to, but my blog is still quite new, so I want to make sure I get the most exposure…any traffic at all helps. Eventually, once I have more consistent visitors on my blog, I will probably end up just submitting to Tastespotting and Foodgawker since the generate the most traffic out of the other sites combined.
I hope you’ve found this information helpful! I would love to hear your feedback so please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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