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PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y.
After nearly a decade of year-over-year declines in the number of meals Americans prepared at home, that number inched up 0.1 percent last year for the first time since 1992.
This was one of the key findings reported by the NPD Group Inc., a market information provider, in its annual Report on Eating Patterns in America.
Another indication of the increased use of the kitchen is that Americans have already started to cut back on going out to eat in restaurants. The number of annual meals eaten in a restaurant per person dropped from 66 in 1999 to 64 in 2000. In addition, Americans are ordering fewer take-out meals, down from 73 meals per person annually in 1999 to 70 in 2000, the study said.
Contributing to the decrease in restaurant take-out meals is the fact that many food manufacturers now offers an easy meal product that is generally less costly than a restaurant meal. In 2000, Americans continued the trend of serving a frozen meal dish at home with 11.5 percent of suppers prepared at home featuring a frozen meal dish, up from 9.4 percent just four years ago. Homemakers are serving more frozen pizzas, frozen entrees and frozen meat dishes. During the same period, the importance of take-home suppers from a restaurant has remained unchanged at 6.8 percent.
"Even in an economic downturn, people still want easy meals," said Harry Balzer, NPD vice president and author of this year's report. "During the early '90s, restaurants were the only place available for easy in-home meals...that's not so today."
The downturn in the U.S. economy over the past year also played a role in the results. "Every economic change, up or down, results in new and unforeseeable patterns of behavior and this economic disruption will be no different," Balzer said. "The Eating Patterns in America data for 2000 shows that people will be using their kitchen appliances and utensils more as a reflection of their attitudes regarding current economic conditions."