Who Does Most Of The Cooking In The US?

The USDA Economic Research Service publishes a magazine on issues related to farming and food called Amber Waves. In a 2010 issue, they reported that people in lower-income households spent more time preparing food than people in higher-income households. I blogged about it back then. Here’s a graph:


The report they put out in 2011 added a year to the data range, 2006 to 2008. It continued to find that those with low-income (less than 185% poverty threshold) who prepared food spent more time doing it, on average 70.8 minutes a day (in food prep and cleanup, not including eating or food shopping) than those with higher incomes, who spent just 56.4 minutes a day (Table 7):

How Much Time Do Americans Spend On Food?, USDA, November 2011

And, consistent with the older data in the graph above:

“Lower income Americans, those with household incomes less than 185% of the poverty threshold, spend less time engaged in eating and drinking activities than those with higher incomes.”


I thought this was interesting. Older people spend more time preparing food than younger people:

“Those who were 65 and older spent the most time in food preparation (42 minutes), had the highest rate of food preparation (61 percent), and had the longest time spent by those who prepared food (68 minutes). This is consistent with the finding that those age 65 and over were more likely to grocery shop on an average day than those in other age groups, spent the longest amount of time in primary eating and drinking, and spent less time in secondary eating/drinking than other age groups. Clearly those age 65 and over are preparing and having meals, as opposed to just eating/drinking food.”

The next two charts are conversation worthy. This one says that Americans eat two major meals, one around noon, another at 6:00 pm. There’s a breakfast blip around 7:00-8:00 am but it’s no where near the importance of the other two meals. Americans aren’t big on breakfast.


And this. I can’t get over this. Secondary eating means there is an activity that is not eating (like watching television), and we eat while doing it. I often eat while preparing food.  But “washing, dressing, and grooming oneself”?  How do you do that?  By the looks of this chart, a lot of people are doing it.


So, who is doing most of the cooking in America? People with not a lot of money, women, and the elderly. There’s where the cooking expertise is.

5 thoughts on “Who Does Most Of The Cooking In The US?

    1. Bix Post author

      That’s a great point about how much time we spend on devices. I don’t know how people do it. I also don’t know how people afford it. Internet access, phone data plans, tv, streaming services … it’s hundreds of dollars a month.

  1. anrosh

    We think that devices help us to be connected, but virtual communities are best virtual .
    Social interaction with other human beings can help us aerate our cells? People who age well – have real food and real communities. People with devices have frozen food, TV dinner and virtual communities ? They put a price on everything and a value on nothing ? Institutions have “educated” us this through our culture, media , schools and colleges. Do people have confidence to buy a product without a brand name and a logo ? – This applies to food too

    Just my 2 cents

    1. Bix Post author

      There’s a lot of truth in what you say. I really like your point about institutions educating us. I mean, they do, they will, but it’s the message that can be corrupting. And right now, it’s a message about consuming. I was around in 1992 when the world wide web (it sounds so weird saying it in its entirety) was emerging. There weren’t web pages back then. I used a modem to access info at universities and government institutions directly. When the web took off, there weren’t many ads, or at least I don’t remember it that way. It was more about sharing knowledge. Now it’s about buying. The web has become a giant advertisement. Everywhere you go there’s either a cue to purchase something, or a program collecting data about you to target their ads better. You can’t even go to someone’s personal blog anymore without being confronted with Google or Amazon ads. Or the blog exists to promote a person’s book, service or other product. And everywhere people are beholden to their sponsors.

      Maybe it was inevitable, like television, which I also see as a giant advertisement.

  2. Pingback: The Problem In Telling People To Eat Home-Cooked Meals | Fanatic Cook

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