Tina Verrelli of Devon, Pa., is a mother of two, a substitute teacher and a millionaire.
“I was trying to figure out some way to bring a little bit of money into the house,” she said.
But that’s not the only prize she got.
Verrelli won free groceries and appliances. Now, she is working on a top secret pizza recipe that could win her a trip to Italy.
“I’m just your total normal mom and I do my laundry. This is just making dinner for the family but in a creative way. If you like to cook and you like food and if you’re creative, you can do this,” Verrelli said.
Big brands like Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, and even Lay’s Potato Chips put on these contests to hype new products and give shoppers ideas on how to use familiar products in new ways.
Verrelli finds contests through websites like cookingcontestcentral.
Kristina Vanni of New York runs the site and said there are more than 500 contests and $3 million in cash and prizes just waiting to be won every year. She and her team scour the Internet and send members the biggest contests.
“There is a lot to be won out there, you’ve just got to go claim your piece of the pie,” Vanni said.
Denise Vivaldi of California has one of the biggest success stories.
She is a ghostwriter for celebrity cookbooks and charges $200 to $400 per recipe. She’s behind stars like Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Suzanne Somers.
“No one is more surprised by my success than me,” Vivaldi said.
Erika Kereks, also from California, has her own secret sauce — a ketchup alternative made from fruits instead of tomatoes called Not Ketchup.
Kereks packages and ships right from her home. She loads up her van, which proudly displays her logo on the side, and travels from grocery store to grocery store selling her product.
She is now in talks with a big box retailer to sell Not Ketchup nationwide. She said her biggest goal was to be on Oprah’s Favorite Things list.
“So Oprah, if you’re listening, I’m out here,” she said.
ABC News’ Michael Koenigs, Chris Brouwer and Linzie Janis contributed to this piece.