PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. -- According to the Report on Eating Patterns in America, after nearly a decade of declines in the number of meals Americans prepared at home, that number inched up last year for the first time since the last recession in 1991-'92. The report was compiled by The NPD Group, Inc. and released Oct. 1.

The report indicated that Americans have cut back on restaurant meals, from 66 per person in 1999 to 64 in 2000. In addition, Americans are ordering fewer take-out meals each year, down from 73 per person in 1999 to 70 in 2000.

Contributing to the decline, the report said, is the growing abundance of easy-to-cook products, such as frozen entrees. The research revealed that, in 2000, 11.5 percent of dinners prepared included a frozen meal dish. That figure was up from 9.4 percent four years prior. Among those frozen dishes are frozen pizzas.

"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. Supermarkets these days do not look anything like the supermarkets of just 10 years ago.

"Every economic change, up or down, results in new and unforeseeable patterns of behavior and this economic disruption will be no different."

The report was based on more than 30 research studies of daily food and beverage consumption habits of 5,000 Americans. The studies used for this analysis included proprietary daily food diaries, retail sales, kitchen audits, restaurant sales, food safety concerns, appliance and cookware sales, nutritional concerns and others.

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