Among those who live with others, 87% of Americans sit down to family dinner at least once a week and roughly a third do so four to six nights a week or every night, according to the survey of 2,236 US adults conducted March 16-21.
Household income and marital status are influential factors in who prioritizes eating together. People who make $75,000 or more per year are most likely to sit down together once a week, while those who are married are more likely than those who are not to sit down every night (34% versus 21%), according to the survey.
The most often cited reason by 29% of respondents for not eating dinner together more frequently is difficulty coordinating schedules. This is more often the case for unmarried Americans (36%) compared to those who are wedded (24%). That said, 42% of people surveyed say they are perfectly content with the frequency with which they sit down to dinner together.
Finding the time to cook
For more than three-quarters of Americans, eating dinner together involves cooking from scratch, according to the poll. Given that this is more time consuming than picking up restaurant carryout or pre-prepared items at the grocery store on the way home, which 23% and 22% of respondent say they do, many families rely on teamwork to get dinner on the table.
Specifically, the poll found, 65% of American say getting dinner on the table is a family affair. This skews slightly higher for families with children under the age of 18 (71%) than those without (61%).
Despite an overwhelming preference for cooking from scratch, many Americans still regularly use time-saving strategies to pull together dinner after a long day. About 37% said they use cooking shortcuts, such as pre-cut veggies and pre-marinated meat, while, 67% say they use pre-prepped and/or frozen ingredients and 63% say they augment a homemade main dish with a pre-prepared side dish.
Often touted as time-savers, home delivered meal kits are only used by a small fraction of Americans who eat dinner together, according to the poll. Just 7% of Americans use services such as Blue Apron or Plated to help put dinner on the table.
Those who do use these services tend to be younger, with 14% of 18- to 34-year-olds using them compared to 10% of 35- to 44-year-olds and only 5% of 45- to 54-year-olds, according to the poll. These consumers also often are more like to be male (9%) than female (5%). They also are more likely to make at least $75,000 annually per household, have at least a college degree and have young children, the survey found.
What people are eating for dinner is evolving, the survey results suggest. It found 79% of respondents have changed what they prepare for dinner in the last couple of years to make meals healthier.
While this is true across the board, more people who make $75-$99,000 a year agree (85%) , as do those who have a college degree or higher (83%) versus only 76% of people who each make less than $50,000 a year or who have a high school diploma or less. It also is more often the case for married Americans (82%) versus those who are single (75%), the survey found.
Despite an increased interested in healthier eating, the vast majority of respondents (86%) say that family eating together is more important than where the food comes from, according to the poll.