Meal planning is deciding and preparing your meals in advance based on your preferences, schedule, and the food you have on hand. Creating the menu usually involves other people in the household. You can plan for the next few days or for a whole week. You can even schedule your trips to the grocery around it. It may seem like a lot of work, but the reality is far from this notion.
If you’re considering meal planning but can’t seem to start, perhaps these statistics will help you delve deeper into what meal planning is about and what its benefits are.
Intriguing Meal Planning Statistics (Editor’s Picks)
- 29% of consumers in the US plan their meals for an entire week.
- Women are more likely to plan meals than men.
- Among all age groups, those in the 50–65 range are most likely to be meal planners.
- Households with a child have a higher likelihood of planning their meals than those without.
- 17% of American shoppers stated that improving their cooking skills was challenging for them.
Meal Planning Statistics in the US
1. 29% of American consumers plan their meals for an entire week.
When it comes to meal planning in the US, the percentage of those who plan their meals a week at a time and those who don’t plan their meals at all are about the same (29%). Conversely, those who plan their meals a few days at a time make up 42% of American consumers.
Looking at these statistics, it’s clear that meal planning is gaining popularity — and for a good reason.
2. In 2020, 19% of American consumers were less likely to eat foods prepared outside of their homes.
The pandemic has affected our lives in more ways than we could have anticipated. One of the changes that we saw was a change in American eating habits. Perhaps as a direct result of the lockdowns, more people were encouraged to prepare their meals at home. With this, meal planning comes in handy to save money and reduce time spent preparing meals.
3. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a 12% increase in American consumers who eat dinner at home.
Before COVID-19, only 21% of consumers in the US ate dinner at home. However, when the pandemic hit, this percentage increased to 33%. Generally, there was an increase in the percentage of individuals who ate at home for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
4. In 2020, 36% of Americans reported preparing more simple foods.
During this time, the priority of meal planners shifted from labor-intensive and elaborate meals to convenient and affordable ones.
Only 30% of Americans stated that they want to try new recipes, and only 19% wanted to attempt new cooking techniques. What’s concerning is that 28% were worried that they couldn’t afford food for their family in the coming year.
5. 53% of Americans plan dinner within an hour of eating it.
Life moves pretty fast, and when you’re trying to get dinner on the table, it can feel like you’re in hyper-speed.
According to a survey, more than half of respondents (53%) planned their dinner within an hour of eating it. That leaves dinner planners with little time to figure out what to make, let alone do anything about making it.
Demographics of Meal Planners
6. Women are more inclined to practice meal planning than men.
The NutriNet-Santé study found that among meal planners, 78% were women, and 21% were men.
Traditionally, in American households, women have been bearing the responsibility of feeding the family. This entails buying food and preparing it. That said, it would only make sense that women are more likely to practice meal planning than men to save money and reduce the amount of labor it takes to prepare meals for the whole family.
7. Individuals aged 50 to 65 are more likely to plan meals than other age groups.
According to the same research study mentioned above, 35% of meal planners belong to the 50–65 age group. Additionally, around 34% belong to the 30–50 age group. A significant percentage of meal planners are aged 65 and above (around 24%) but you can clearly see a decline.
Perhaps, when people reach the retirement age, they’re less likely to practice meal planning since they’re more likely to move into a retirement home, thereby having someone else plan their meals for them.
8. Among educational levels, university degree holders are the most likely to be meal planners.
An estimated 37% of university graduates plan their meals. This seems like a significant percentage, but it’s also worth noting that other education levels don’t lag behind. For example, 31% of meal planners had some college education, and the same percentage can be observed among those who finished high school.
Overall, this data tells us that educational levels don’t have a massive influence on meal planning.
9. Households with a child present have a higher probability of meal planning than those without.
Looking closer, the statistics show that 73% of households with a child plan their meals, as opposed to only 27% among households without a child.
This is attributed to a number of reasons — meal planning helps control portion sizes, allows more time to spend with family, and is generally cheaper than eating at a restaurant. Kids can get involved in meal preparation as well.
10. Only around 8.5% of obese individuals are meal planners.
The data shows that 68% of individuals with a BMI lower than 25 are meal planners. Moreover, for those whose BMI fall in the 25–30 range, only 23% of them plan their meals. The percentage is even lower for individuals with a BMI greater than 30.
With this data, it’s safe to say that the higher the BMI, the lesser the likelihood is of meal planning. However, in this case, we can’t say for sure which circumstance is the cause and which is the effect.
Biggest Challenges of Meal Planning Statistics
11. The risk of exposure to COVID-19 during grocery shopping was a concern for 45% of American shoppers.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, every trip you step out in public, you’re risking exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This became a cause for concern among meal planners who go out for groceries. However, during this time, supermarkets and other retailers also came up with a solution — online shopping.
12. 40% said they’re most concerned about planning a variety of meals every day.
A significant percentage of American shoppers were also concerned about the variety in the meals that they plan. This was especially a huge concern for beginners in meal planning and those who have perfected only a limited number of cooking recipes.
Having said that, including your family in the planning process and trying out new recipes can help reduce the monotony of meals.
13. 38% of American shoppers stated that the lack of ingredients necessary to make a meal was worrisome.
The resulting lockdowns caused a lot of businesses to close down; as a result, quite a huge number of workers lost their jobs. What followed was financial insecurity among many households.
The Food and Nutrition Service in the US approved additional food stamps and meal programs to help address this problem, but some households were still struggling to make ends meet.
14. For the small 17%, improving their cooking skills was a challenge.
You don’t have to be a chef to be successful at meal planning. However, you do need to be able to whip up some good recipes to increase the variety and keep your meals healthy. That said, cooking isn’t for everyone.
That’s why statistics show that 25% of shoppers in the US are exhausted from having to cook more. On the bright side, 35% of consumers reported that they’ve quite enjoyed cooking during the pandemic.
15. 46% of women in the UK admit that sudden changes in their schedule prevent them from preparing their planned meal.
In a survey of 11,347 UK respondents, 46% of females said that unexpected events often leave them scrambling to make a meal they hadn’t planned.
That’s because things come up! Maybe you thought you were going to have time to make our soup, but then you found yourself stuck at work for two extra hours and suddenly it was too late. Or maybe you were going to make a salad, but your partner was craving pizza.
Whatever the reason, sometimes it’s just hard to stick to our meal plans. So maybe next week you should try making a bunch of different dishes for the whole week and freezing them, so all we have to do is heat something up when it’s time to eat.
Why is planning your meals important?
It may seem like it takes a lot of work, but in reality, meal planning is important because it is practical. Because you organize your meals, you consequently organize your grocery list and expenses because you don’t buy more than what you need. Additionally, preparing your meals ahead of time saves hours of prepping and cooking for the rest of the week.
Lastly, because you plan ahead, you can ensure that your meals are varied to maintain a balanced and healthy diet. So, meal planning doesn’t only save you time and money, it also helps you eat healthily.
What are the factors affecting meal planning?
Although it generally saves you time, a lot of thought goes into planning meals. That said, these factors have to be considered:
- Budget: How much do you plan on spending on meals?
- Meal frequency: How many meals do you and your family eat at home? How long do you want to plan the meals for — a whole week or a couple of days?
- Food availability: What foods are available and affordable in your area? Are certain fruits and vegetables in season?
- Equipment: Do you have the necessary cookware to prepare a larger volume of meals?
- Storage space: Once the meals are prepared, do you have an ample amount of space in your refrigerator or freezer to store them?
What are the qualities of a well-planned meal?
Meal planning often results in mindful eating and well-planned meals since we aim to prepare adequate, balanced, and varied meals. Meals should be adequate; they should provide enough energy to get us through our daily activities.
All food groups should also be present, so your body has enough nutrients to function well. Lastly, aside from being balanced, meals should also be varied so you and your family don’t get stuck with eating the same foods every day.
What are the five basic steps of meal planning?
If you’re not sure how to get started with meal planning, here are five easy steps you can follow:
- List your favorite meals, snacks, and desserts. This will give you an idea of what meals to prepare.
- Inspect your pantry before heading out to buy more groceries. You might have enough in your pantry already for a complete meal.
- Check your schedule. If you expect to have busy days for a week, you may want to plan and prepare meals for a whole week to save time.
- To save more, plan your menu around what is currently on sale in the supermarket.
- Cook from scratch to increase your savings and ensure that your meals are healthy.
If you’re still reading, I’ll take that as a sign of your success. You are truly a meal planning master!
I know that the information in this email can be intimidating at first, but those numbers were just there to help you understand the potential benefits of meal planning.
Remember: You don’t have to do it all at once. Focus on one meal plan for a week, and then move on to another one next week. Keep going until every meal of the day has been planned out—you’ll get there!
And if you have any questions along the way, just send us an email and we’ll be happy to help you out!
Thanks for diving in with us and taking a look at some meal planning statistics. As you can see, this is a growing industry, and there are so many ways to get involved.