Mary Frances Pickett, creator of Gluten Free Cooking School makes me feel lazy.
She’s been blogging about gluten-free cooking since ’06 and has been quite successful at it, financially and flavorfully. She chatted on the phone with me for a bit to give a new blogger some tips on all things gluten-free, from bread machine mishaps to saving money at the store.
When Pickett was first introduced to the gluten-free diet, it wasn’t even out of necessity.
“My husband found out in college that he had Celiac and needed to avoid wheat. But the doctor didn’t tell him implications so he didn’t start eating gluten-free until senior year of college. After my first son was born, I really started noticing more digestive problems and got tested; found out I didn’t have Celiac, but I did have a wheat allergy. So I don’t have a problem as long as I stay away from wheat.”
Pickett started blogging back in 2006 sort of on a whim, having read some vegan and gluten-free blogs, and was hoping to make a little extra cash. She blogged often for several years, but with three kids and a full-time job as a CPA, it became less and less of a priority.
When her husband began taking classes on search engine optimization, Pickett picked it up again.
“(My husband) built traffic to site way up as well as the (Google) Adsense earnings and I thought, ‘Maybe we can really make money at this.’”
In addition to their blog earnings, the couple wrote an e-book last summer that has sold about 700 copies to date. Even with a 4-year-old, a 21-month-old and a 9-month old, Pickett still felt secure enough to quit her job in November and revamped their online cooking school.
One thing I found surprising when talking to Pickett is the fact that she has no cooking or nutrition background other than her husband’s illness and the lessons her mother and grandmother taught her growing up in Alabama.
She attributes much of her gluten-free success to that characteristic of many southern women: tenacity.
“I started out trying some (already made) gluten-free recipes. They were alright but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. I’m stubborn. I’m gonna find a way to make it good. We’ve stopped using all mixes unless we really need it. None of the ones I’ve tried are just great. They need to taste a whole lot better.”
She doesn’t remember her very first homemade recipe, just that she made a lot of pancakes and waffles and bread early on, and has this to say to those starting out on their own homemade gluten-free baking adventures:
“Learn as much as you can about why a recipe works with wheat flour. The flour change is not that huge of a deal if you get the other parts of it right. If you can understand what makes a bread recipe and how that’s different from a pancake recipe and when should you use baking soda – and read other recipes. They help a lot in figuring out why a recipe works and why it’s not working.
“If testing, always follow exactly to see how it’ll turn out; then change one variable at a time.”
It took her 4 years to perfect her sandwich bread , and knew it was ready when it finally stopped falling – had some height to it – and she could eat one sandwich and be full instead of two or three.
Having gone from two major incomes to one supplemented by the blog, Pickett also had some money-saving tips to offer up. This grad student listened carefully.
“We used to be very busy so we just bought groceries and could easily spend $1000 to $1,200 a month on groceries, and that’s with me cooking 5-6 breads a week. I had lunch with Jenny of Gluten Free Birmingham and she said the rule of thumb is to not pay more than 99 cents per pound for produce. If there’s not much there, you end up using vegetables you might not normally use because they’re on sale and it’s like, ‘Oh I do like rutabagas.’”
Pickett also uses Southern Savers to print out Publix coupons and never buys what’s not on sale. She’s managed to only spend about $100-$150 in a week on groceries.
Not bad for a family of five!