Over the past years several authors have used the approach of generalized modeling to study the dynamics of food chains and food webs. Generalized models come close to the efficiency of random matrix models, while being as directly interpretable as conventional differential-equation-based models. Here we present a pedagogical introduction to the approach of generalized modeling. This introduction places more emphasis on the underlying concepts of generalized modeling than previous publications. Moreover, we propose a shortcut that can signicantly accelerate the formulation of generalized models and introduce an iterative procedure that can be used to refine existing generalized models by integrating new biological insights.