Ian: The Master of Homemade Lunches

Ian: The Master of Homemade Lunches

Learn about Ian’s cooking schedule that makes homemade lunches a workday reality. Every. Single. Week.

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • February 23, 2021

If you’ve been wanting to get in the habit of saving money by bringing your own homemade lunches to work while also coming home to home-cooked dinners at night, Ian can teach you how. He isn’t only the Master of his D&D games, he’s also a master in the kitchen with great tips for successful meal planning, shopping, and cooking!

Name: Ian Johnston
Age: 29
City, State: Atlanta, GA
I cook for: just myself.
Outside of the kitchen I: work as an air traffic controller at a medium sized airport north of the city. I spend my free time DMing D&D, playing video games and board games, and recently have gotten into cycling.
The 3 pantry items I cannot live without are: Don’t know if it is a pantry item but first is garlic, then chicken stock for cooking rice and grains (I make it in bulk whenever I have enough left over chicken bones and then freeze it in 1 cup portions), and olive oil.
I cook because: A lot of reasons, the short answer is because I like to eat. The long answer is because cooking for yourself allows you to explore foods and recipes that you may not encounter in the restaurants around your area; additionally home cooking is generally cheaper and healthier than eating out, and always affords you the opportunity to customize the dish to your liking.
Favorite Cook Smarts meal so far: Fish Chowder with Butter Lettuce Salad

1. How did you learn to cook?

When I was growing up my mum homeschooled me and my sister. As part of our life skills education both me and my sister were responsible for planning, budgeting for, and cooking one lunch each week. This sort of sparked things for me and from there I just read and watched as much as I could — watching Alton Brown became a weekend morning tradition for me and my dad, and I experimented with things, not every experiment a success. I still remember the waterlogged doughy result that was my first attempt a making homemade tortellini, and grew in my abilities.

2. What’s been your biggest cooking challenge?

Digging through all the online recipes to find what is actually any good; so many of the top rated recipes on site are just casseroles with cans of condensed soup poured in. I tend to not like to eat the same thing over and over again so I am always hunting for new things to try.

3. How has your cooking routine changed since starting Cook Smarts’ meal plans?

I have gotten into a good routine with cooking all my meals on my weekends and being able to just pack my lunch for work in the morning, and when I come home just having to reheat my dinner. It took me a while to find a good rhythm for how many of each meal to make and how many days to plan meals for, but I have gotten the hang of it since.


“I have gotten into a good routine with cooking all my meals on my weekends and being able to just pack my lunch for work in the morning, and when I come home just having to reheat my dinner.”

— Ian


4. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since joining our meal plan service?

It actually hasn’t been in the kitchen, but is something I picked up for grocery shopping. Organizing my shopping list by category has been a huge help and has significantly reduced the amount of forgotten items and back tracking when I go grocery shopping.

5. Tell us about your proudest kitchen moment.

So it isn’t exactly with Cook Smarts, but Cook Smarts gave me the confidence to try it — for a few weeks I signed up for a local farmers coop that delivered a bag of whatever produce was in season. I had no control over what was included nor did I know what was coming till it was delivered. For about two months I used this produce as the core of my menus and while I referenced recipes for ideas and concepts, I tried to cook every meal without following any sort of recipe. It was a fun stretch of creativity, but I will say I am now glad to be back to the easy mental routine of using Cook Smarts.

6. What are your tips for health and success in the kitchen?

The biggest tool you can gain to become a better cook, especially when following other’s recipes, is to learn what each ingredient’s purpose is in a dish, how they change the flavor and / or the texture, and how they interact with the other ingredients. Developing this knowledge alongside developing the habit of tasting your dishes at every step will allow you to go from just following a recipe to really making the dish your own. The book the Flavor Bible is a really awesome way to get started on building this knowledge.


Ian, thank you for giving us a window into your life in the kitchen! We’re so happy that we’ve been able to help ease the mental load of meal planning so you can enjoy all those homemade lunches and dinners. We are thrilled to have you as a part of our cooking community and wish you all the best with gaming, cycling, and making sure those planes end up exactly where they should!

To join Ian and cook meals like his favorite Fish Chowder with Butter Lettuce Salad, check out our meal plan service. You can get started for free!

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