A majority of Americans (76%) are still cooking their meals at home despite the rise and rise of eating out and takeaway. But they are spending less time in the kitchen than ever before, according to NPDFoodworld’s 17th Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America.

Over the decade from March 1990, the number of meals taken at home annually fell 7.3% from 702 to 651. Conversely, the volume of meals purchased away from home rose 13.6% from 184 to 209.

Comments the report’s author Harry Balzer: “Americans are trying to make cooking easier and faster. Cutting back on the number of dishes we serve, using fewer appliances and utilizing prepared foods are some of the ways we accomplish this.

“The EPA gives foodservice manufacturers, suppliers and retailers the tools for better decision-making by providing a complete picture of what Americans eat, as well as where they eat and how they prepare their food.”

Key points from the report …

• Preparation times are decreasing. For the year ending February 2002, half of all meals were prepared in thirty minutes or less.

• Fewer dishes per meal. Nearly half of all main meals are one-dish affairs. At-home suppers that included at least one side dish fell from 66% in 1991 to 56% in 2002.

• No dessert. Americans are dropping desserts from their in-home meals. Only 14% of supper meals now include a dessert, down seven percentage points from 1990.

• Out of home alternatives gaining. The total number of annual main meals prepared and eaten at home has decreased from 702 in 1991 to 651 today, while meals purchased away from home increased from 184 to 209 during the same period.

• Fewer meals prepared from scratch. This year continues a decade-long trend in meals prepared from scratch. Thirty-five percent of main meals in 2002 were prepared completely from scratch. This is down from 41.3% a decade ago.

• Fewer appliances needed. In 1990, 38% of all suppers cooked in-home required the use of at least two different appliances. Twelve years later, only 23% of these meals were prepared with more than one appliance.

Data sourced from: Daily Research News Online; additional content by WARC staff