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Cooking Trends in the United States : Are We Really Becoming a Fast Food Country?


Graphic of vegetables


A popular perception is that Americans now spend less time in the kitchen than in the past.  Has there been an identifiable trend toward cooking less in the 1990s, or have cooking habits remained relatively constant over that period?  And what characteristics of American households can be seen to influence their cooking patterns?

The Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) collects data on household characteristics as well as on residential energy consumption.  The first RECS was conducted in 1978 and the eleventh and most recent survey was conducted in 2001.  This report will refer to data collected in the 1993 and 2001 RECS.


Americans are Cooking Less Often at Home

The data indicate that Americans are indeed cooking less at home in 2001 than they were in 1993.  Figure 1 shows that the percentage of households who report cooking “two or more times a day” dropped from 35.9 percent in 1993 to 32.1 percent in 2001.  The percentage of households cooking, on average, “once a day” declined as well, from 44.3 percent in 1993 to 40.5 percent in 2001.  Consequently, the percentage of households reporting cooking “a few times a week” and “once a week or less” increased.

Figure 1.  Number of Meals Cooked in the Home for
All U.S. Households, 1993 to 2001
Bar graph showing the number of meals cooked at home for all U.S. Households from 1993 to 2001.  If you need assistance viewing this page call 202-586-8800.


Households in Single-Family Homes Cooking Less in 2001

Households living in single-family homes (69 percent of all U.S. households), including single-family attached homes such as townhouses, showed significant changes in their home cooking patterns from 1993 to 2001 (See Figure 2).  Mirroring the overall U.S. pattern, households in single-family homes reporting cooking hot meals every day decreased, while the percentage reporting cooking a few meals per week or once a week or less increased.  The changes from 1993 to 2001 for households living in apartments (25 percent of all U.S. households) and mobile homes (6 percent of all U.S. households) were not statistically significant.

Figure 2.  Number of Meals Cooked in the Home, for Households living
in Single-Family Homes, 1993 to 2001
Bar graph showing the frequency of cooking in the home for all U.S. households living in single family homes.  If you need assistance viewing this page please call 202-586-8800.




Household Size Still Affects Frequency of Cooking

Household size is another factor that relates to the frequency of meal-cooking at home.  Figure 3 shows the percentage of households that cook at least one meal per day at home (combining the categories of "two or more meals per day" and "one meal per day") for different household sizes.  As the number of members of the household increases, the tendency to cook every day increases as well.  In 1993, 62.6 percent of one-person households cooked at least once a day, whereas 96.4 percent of households with six or more people cooked at home every day.  By 2001, the percentage of households cooking daily had decreased for all sizes (down to 57.8 percent for one-person households and 89.4 percent for six or more person households) but there still remains a clear trend in which larger households more frequently cook at home.

Figure 3.   Percent of Households that Cook at Least Once a Day by
Household Size, 1993 to 2001
Bar graph showing the percent of households that cook at least once a day by different household sizes.  If you need assistance viewing this page please call 202-586-8800.


The Larger the Household, the Greater the Tendency to Cook at Home

Figure 4 and Table 1 show the relationships between household size and frequency of cooking at home in 2001.  The clearest trend is in the number of households who cooked twice a day or more, with a direct correlation between household size and tendency to cook this often.  There is no statistically significant correlation between household size and tendency to cook exactly once a day.  There is a trend in the households who report cooking “a few meals per week or less” (this category combines “a few meals per week” and “once a week or less”) with smaller households being more likely than larger ones to cook this often.

Figure 4.  Number of Meals Cooked in the Home
by Household Size, 2001
Line graph showing the frequency of cooking at home for different household sizes.  If you need assistance viewing this page call 202-586-8800.


Table 1.   Number of Meals Cooked in the Home by Household Size, 2001, Percent of U.S. Households.
  Members in Household
Number of Meals
Cooked at Home
1 2 3 4 5 6 or more
Two or more per day 20.7 29.7 31.9 44.2 47.8
57.9
One per day 37.1 42.4 45.6 39.1 40.9 31.5
A few per week or less 42.2 28.0 22.5 16.7 11.4 10.5
Source:  Energy Information Administration, 2001 Residential Energy Consumption Survey.



Households in Mobile Homes Cook at Home the Most

The relationship between type of home and frequency of cooking meals in 2001 is shown in Figure 5 and Table 2.  Households living in mobile homes are the most likely of all types of households to cook twice a day or more (40.7 percent of all households living in mobile homes).  In fact, households in mobile homes are more likely to cook twice a day or more than to cook once a day, unlike households in apartments and single-family homes.  Households in apartments and single-family homes more frequently cook once a day.

Figure 5.   Number of Meals Cooked in the Home by Type of Home, 2001 Line graph showing the frequency of cooking at home for different types of homes.  If you need assistance viewing this page call 202-586-8800.


Table 2. Number of Meals Cooked in the Home by Type of Home, 2001, Percent of U.S. Households
  Type of Home
Number of Meals Cooked at Home Single Family Apartment Mobile Home
Two or more per day 32.4 28.8 40.7
One per day 41.7 38.4 36.3
A few per week 19.6 23.5 15.6
One per week or less 6.3 9.4 7.3
Source: Energy Information Administration, 2001 Residential Energy Consumption Survey.




As the data show, Americans were indeed cooking less often at home in 2001 than in the early 1990s.  This is true for all household sizes, even large households that tend to cook at home more in general.

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Specific questions may be directed to:

James.Berry@eia.doe.gov
Chip.Berry
Survey Manager
Phone: (202)586-5543
Fax: (202) 586-0018

Chip Berry
James.Berry@eia.doe.gov
Phone: (202) 586-2453
FAX: (202) 586-0018

http://www.eia.gov/emeu/recs/cookingtrends/cooking.html.

Release date: November 25, 2002

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