The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Food Preparation and Home Bakers

cgap's picture

Food Preparation and Home Bakers

I’ve read a couple of things lately that are about food preparation for family evening meals. 

The first was that it is probably better to spend another hour at work and then order your evening meal from a delivery service because it is now comparatively cheap to do so and the extra hour at work to pay for the meal is more cost efficient than going shopping and then preparing and cooking. 

The second was that in 2011, Americans (it was from an American author) spent about half the time on average preparing and cooking the evening meal than in the 1960’s – from roughly just over an hour to just over a half hour. There was some statistical evidence provided to back the claim. I’m guessing that the time spent in other countries has probably dropped too. 

So this has me wondering now if home bakers spend more time than the average person preparing and cooking the evening meal because, if home bakers are prepared to spend some time making and baking bread (and other goodies), are they taking the same care and attention with dinner? 

I mill my own flour, make and bake bread a few times a week and spend at least an hour (average over a week) preparing and cooking the evening meal, everything made from ‘scratch’, as in not using readymade sauces from a jar or microwaveable meals or other so called convenience foods, or highly processed items that resemble food. Last week for example, it was 11/2 hours (average per night) to prepare two to three courses, depending on my inclination, this week so far, 50 minutes per night. Tonight will take the average back over an hour. 

Now admittedly, I have the time to spend in the kitchen and I’m guessing that other home bakers also have a reasonable amount of time to spend there so, solely to satisfy my curiosity and hopefully yours too now, is anyone willing to say how long they spend in the kitchen preparing and cooking their evening meal and whether or not they use convenience items. Perhaps the country you live in too, so we can separate us Aussies from the rest of you, or the Americans from the rest of us. Or whoever from whoever else. Or is it whomever? I'm open to correction on that one.

Danni3ll3's picture

For me it is zero! Hubby does the day to day meal prep. He spends well over an hour preparing the evening meal when he cooks which is probably 3-4 a week. We may order out a couple of times a week or have leftovers the rest of the time. I am in Canada. We use very little in terms of convenience items. Prepared tomato sauce and packaged rice mixes are probably about it. Most dinners are cooked from scratch. Hope this answers your questions.

alfanso's picture

North American/USA  I am the primary cook at home, as my wife has a set of different evening activities which bring her home between 8:30 and 11 PM.  We have eaten late dinners since first meeting in the 70's, so sitting down to evening meal as late as close to midnight is nothing new for us.

Several thoughts on this.  Frequently food prep is the majority of time to preparing a finished meal, sometimes as long as up to an hour, unless something fried or stirred on the stovetop requires constant attention.  Once in the oven, it takes minimal time to check up on or turn the food.  Therefore, cooking time can be a typical 30-45 minutes total.  However the post-dinner cleanup does take time, sometimes surprisingly so, based on how many vessels and implements were used and what wasn't or couldn't be washed prior to the meal. 

Much of what we eat is made from scratch.  I can pretty honestly state that I believe we have never ordered food to be delivered to our door.  We do try to dine out 1 or 2 times a week, and long ago became acclimated to the fact that wherever we've lived almost all restaurants close up too early for our dining habits and hours.

Another note is that we are both retired and that likely makes for a distinct difference from working families with children's mouths to be fed as well.

hanseata's picture

I was used to cooking for my children every day (no school lunches available, anyway). After moving to the US no more need for TV-dinners or chips & bean dip for my American husband, but meals made from the scratch (he likes cooking, too, but didn't think it was worthwhile for just one person).

My daughter's friends often visited on weekends and were amazed that we served home-cooked dinners, they were used to take-out or frozen prepared meals.

No wonder we had always a full house! :)


Yippee's picture

is the average time I spend on cooking and I work full-time.  Hence it leaves me very little time to bake.  I have to be very "creative" to work out my baking schedule in order to enjoy this hobby.


loydb's picture

I love to cook, and have been the official household cook for around 30 years. For most of that time, I've worked from home, which I love.

I usually spend 60-90 minutes making dinner (plus the occasional 2+ hour marathon).Baking time I squeeze in throughout the day once every 8-10 days (2 loaves). I generally cook 2-3 nights, we eat leftovers 2-3 nights, and we go out 1-2 times.

When I'm cooking something that lends itself to bulk, I cook a lot and freeze so that I can do something fast on nights where work has kept me away from the kitchen until late. 


cgap's picture

From this highly scientific survey I can say that 83.3% of home bakers who contribute to this site spend more than 30 minutes preparing the evening meal. Danni3113 who doesn't do the cooking has lowered the % but then we could say that her household does spend more than 30 minutes so that would bring the % up to 100%.

As I said, this is a highly scientific survey with no margin for error so therefore it is proven that home bakers do actually take care and attention to their dinners.


Danni3ll3's picture

Does it count if I say that I did all the cooking for the first 15 or so years of wedded bliss? Hubby took over at some point and he tried giving it back to me after the second 15 years but I politely declined. ;-)

ETA: By the way, for holidays or company, I do most if not all the cooking. I love cooking for special occasions but the day to day grind gets to me. 

cgap's picture

So by my highly scientific calculations, that brings the total up to 116.7% at this time of year as there are two people in Danni3113's household that do the cooking.

Aren't statistics amazing?

loydb's picture

I am 97% sure you are right, but still have a 16.5% seed of doubt.


AndyPanda's picture

I spend time baking (it's fun) but I don't spend much time preparing dinner.  I am a fan of eating fresh, healthy, tasty, easy, quick and simple.  It's a bit of a trick making things healthy that are quick and easy - but I manage it.    I don't like processed or packaged foods - I like to use foods that my grandmother (and great-great-grandmother) would recognize.  So a typical dinner for me would be salmon and a baked potato and coleslaw or steamed (or sauted) veggies of some sort.  It takes me about 15 minutes to make - other than waiting for the potato to bake - are you counting the non-prep time when something is in the oven?   I never spend more than 30 minutes making dinner.

So if you are talking prep-time - I spend about 3-4 hours a week preparing dinner. If you count time waiting while something is baking then 7 hours a week.

cgap's picture

Just one, to bollix up my highly scientific survey results...

I may have to classify home bakers into the 'average' people who prepare dinner and the 'above average' people.

Mr Panda, you seem to have read some of Michael Pollan's writings. My issue with Pollan, despite him being rather entertaining and sometimes informative, is that he does go on about not eating anything that Granny wouldn't recognise. OK, I agree that we should avoid processed and pre packaged food (like) items and that leafy greens are good but, Granny certainly wouldn't recognise a lot of what I prepare and eat and she would starve at most of the restaurants that I go to.

I'm not knocking what you choose to prepare, I just prefer to spend more time in the kitchen preparing something that is challenging and the end product will be visually appealing and very tasty and to answer your question, no, I wasn't counting the time something is in the oven cooking, unless it's a bit of salmon that I'm finishing off at 250 C for 3 minutes while I finish the sage and mint cream sauce in a pot. Which Granny wouldn't have eaten because I doubt that she ever saw salmon in her life.

We can potentially miss out on way too many extremely yummy things if we don't give something new a go. My wife is right now making a duck liver parfait (she has taken over the kitchen this weekend) which I know will be bloody good. Granny would have given her a whack with her walking stick for putting that in front of her.

AndyPanda's picture

I've never read Michael Pollan.  I just prefer simple food - I grew up on the farm, far from any grocery store (let alone any restaurant) and we mostly ate what we grew.  I'm certainly not trying to get anyone else to eat like me or like what I like :)  just tossing out my answer to the question.  

BTW ... my granny loved to fish and never missed salmon season.  I'm sure yours is wonderful with the sage and mint cream sauce - but if you ever get the chance to have some fresh caught wild salmon cooked over a campfire you might enjoy it.

cgap's picture

I too grew up on a farm where we grew our own vegetables in a garden that was about 1000 square metres, which involved a lot of preserving at various times of the year but, now that I'm a city dweller my garden is limited to about 8 square metres.

I would definitely enjoy some wild caught salmon cooked on a campfire however the chances of that happening in Queensland Australia are unfortunately non existent.

Give Pollan a go, you may well enjoy him.

Anyway, I've reclassified your food prep time into the 'average' group so as not to wreck my highly scientific survey results...

loydb's picture

I think of it more as not "my grandmother would recognize it" (I don't think she ever ate Asian food) -- but rather "someone's grandmother would recognize it".  Whole foods prepared fresh.



jimbtv's picture

I grew up in an American-Italian cooking family of 7 so anything but fresh and home-cooked was out of the question. Having raised a son, and a couple of wives (not at the same time) over the past few decades, I now live alone but the allure of home-cooked meals still appeals to me.

Some call me a "prepper" but I think of myself more as an advanced-stage boy scout. Along with that comes skills in canning, fermenting and dehydrating as a means to store foods. Growing my own fruits and vegetables, and working with local meat growers, allows me to lay in stores of fresh, local food products.

This all leads up to cooking for one.

Since I still love to cook and I have no particular interest in store-bought packaged meals, I make my meals in sizable quantities, eat a meal or two, then preserve the rest for savings and convenience. I may actually cook a few times a week and warm-up a canned entree on other days.

Last evening I had braised pork in sauerkraut with mashed potatoes on the side. I grew the cabbage, fermented the sauerkraut, and purchased a whole hog from a local farmer. The potatoes also came from my garden but I did buy the milk and butter. I trade eggs for bread with another neighbor.

So yes I prepare food a lot, in addition to my bread baking venture. I am a person that needs to keep his hands busy and food preparation is both time consuming (a good thing for me) and rewarding. I am a relic member of a generation that rarely had food prepared by others.

Bread rat.'s picture
Bread rat.

I don't know about anyone else but i'd rather spend an hour at home rather than an extra hour at work. I have food allergies so I have to cook. And LOVE it. The only pre prepared food in this house is the box of raisin bran. I don't think of crackers, potato chips and store bough cookies as food. However occasionally i do eat them instead of food. 


syros's picture

now living in Canada, eating anything that wasn’t homemade was unheard of. Plus my parents had a grocery store and my dad was a butcher. Everything was fresh. When I had my four boys all good was made by me. As they grew up from time to time we would order out but it was not often. 

Even though it’s just the two of us at home I still spend hours cooking. And now baking sourdough bread. 

My husband however went to boarding school and loves all the wrong food. Canned soup, kraft Mac & cheese (which I put an end to), canned processed food. Yuk! He exercises like crazy but I try to explain he can’t consume that junk. And I almost never let him cook. Too risky!

cooking is therapeutic. Sometime I make food for my kids to take home because they work and one has three kids. 

I am an admitted popcorn addict. Homemade of course with almost no oil in my whirlypot. 

jrabin22's picture

I work full time and cook from scratch every night for my wife and three year old. I have an early schedule so I am home before 5 most days.

Although I sometimes drag things out (I enjoy cooking so I am not racing) I can get most meals on the table 60 minutes or less from when I get home. On weekends I will bbq, braise and do more time consuming stuff.

I do make bread on the weekend and for dinner parties, but sadly our household does not really consume much bread, other than the bagels I make for my own lunches (pb&j every day during the week). Bread just isn't part of our lifestyle, despite how much I enjoy making it :(

Other baking is also sporadic. I do muffins which I freeze for my wife and daughter during the week. And again, I will go all out for a dinner party.

But everyday bread and baking? Just no real demand for it. Do people really eat bread anymore as a big staple? Then again, I guess my daily bagel couts.