Who cooks at home? Report looks at trends

U.S. Department of Agriculture report looks at gender roles, time spent on shopping, cooking and cleanup.

How people shop, prepare for and eat food has changed over time. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

Americans in general, including men, are spending more time shopping for food and preparing it at home, a new study found.

"It's good to see that at least a little more time is spent on food preparation. It's a sign that people are more interested in nutrition," said Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service analyzed the 2014-2017 American Time Use Survey and compared the results with numbers from the same survey for 2004-2007. Among the notable changes in grocery shopping and food preparation:

Americans are spending more time on food preparations at home.

In 2014-17, 54% of Americans 15 years of age and older prepared food at home on an average day. That rate was up from 47% in 2004-07. The report pointed to the so-called Great Recession of 2007-09 and said that difficult economic period caused many American to eat more often at home, a trend that was reflected in the 2014-17 figure.


Men spend more time preparing food at home, but women still handle the majority of the task.

Women spent an average of 57.2 minutes per day preparing food in 2014-17, compared with an average of 41.5 minutes per day for men in that time period. In 2004-07, women averaged 54.7 minutes per day and men averaged 39.4 minutes per day. The report didn't address why men are spending more time at the job, but presumably societal changes are at least part of the explanation.

Women still do most of the food-related cleanup.

On an average day in 2014-17, 33% of women were involved in food-related cleanup, the same percentage as in 2004-07. On an average day in 2014-17, 12% of men helped in food-related cleanup, up from 10% in 2004-07. Again, the report didn't address the reason for the percentage increase for men.

More time is spent shopping for food.

The report said 14% of all Americans shopped for groceries on an average day in 2014-17, unchanged from 2004-17. But people who did shop for food spent more time doing so. On an average day in 2014-17, Americans 15 years or older spent an average of 46 minutes per day shopping for food, up from 43.2 minutes per day in 2004-17. A number of factors — including bigger stores, more products to choose from and greater interest in comparing price and nutrition — could be responsible, the report said.

Garden-Robinson said it will be interesting to see how Americans' food shopping and preparation will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing will have an impact, as will the economic downturn that will reduce how often people eat away from home, she said, adding that no one wants restaurants to close.

She also said that in her own social networks, she's seeing greater interest and involvement among children in preparing food at home.


"So I'll be watching to see what the next report (on food shopping and preparation) has to say," Garden-Robinson said.

What To Read Next
Get Local