Image for Ask a Local Chef: Kristin Hamaker

Chef Kristin Hamaker is a longtime Mississippi Market Co-op member and founder of Goosefoot Kitchen, a weekly meal-planning service focused on healthful food, self-sufficiency, and mindful eating. In addition to being a local chef, she’s also a cooking instructor, good food advocate, and edible gardening guru. You can find her teaching meal-planning classes at the co-op and demoing simple from-scratch recipes while you shop.

How can people save money and reduce food waste when cooking at home?

Start with what’s on hand and build from there. See what you have in the pantry or freezer, and recycle what you can into new meals. If you’re not keen on using what’s in the cupboard, simply double or triple a recipe and freeze in single servings for leftovers.

What kitchen staples would you recommend the home cook keep on hand?

A well-stocked pantry has the potential to see you through many satisfying meals. Extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, kosher and/or sea salt, dried or canned beans, pasta, fresh garlic, lemon, eggs, and chicken or vegetable stock can lay the groundwork for many everyday dishes.

What cooking basics do you use to stretch your budget?

Eating a plant-based diet since meat tends to be more expensive and seasonal vegetables are often less expensive. Also, buying grains and beans in bulk is a great way to stretch your budget. The biggest impact on my family budget is from-scratch cooking. This means we’re buying more fresh foods and less processed or packaged ones, which can add up at the register.

How do you involve children in the cooking process?

I have a young daughter who isn’t much of a foodie or cook. When she’s in the mood, I give her simple age-appropriate tasks, such as stirring, kneading, shaping, or rolling. If your children are keen, ask them to be taste testers. Expect them to make impressive messes, and don’t fret over it.

What’s your favorite vegetable to cook with in the winter months?

The modest potato — an important foundational vegetable for hearty dishes like creamy vegetable soups and sheet pan dinners. My family also eats a lot of hearty greens, like kale and collards, winter squash, and various root and tuber vegetables during the winter.

What benefits does meal-planning provide your family?

It offers us needed structure to our busy lives, forces us to be creative and resourceful, enables us to cook more confidently, and empowers and engages us in the kitchen. Engagement in the kitchen leads to engagement at the table, an important place to dwell with families, friends, and community.