A Year in Our Kitchen: ( Week 1) Time Spent in My Kitchen

by Laura on February 16, 2012

in A Year in Our Kitchen, Blog

This is the first of a yearlong series of posts focused on what goes on in my kitchen.

Days around our household are pretty crazy. Working, cleaning, driving, and searching for lost socks in the morning, finishing homework in the evening, and finding stuffed animals for bedtime, are all part of a typical day around here. But, in between all the hectic-ness, I find time to nourish the family with healthy foods to sustain them through the constantly-moving life that we lead.

Yes, that means I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, making breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for a family of six. At times, I’m exhausted and cringe at the thought of heading into the kitchen. But I do so, because around here we make food a priority.

Regardless of everything else that goes on in our lives, eating healthy meals together is as important as getting enough sleep (although I have to work on the latter a bit).

So, as I think about all the meals I prepare for the family throughout the week; all the granola bars and muffins I make for snacktime; all the homemade bread baked in our oven; and all the time I spend searching through cookbooks, I figured it was about time to see how much time I actually did spend in the kitchen.

I started on a Monday morning, as I headed into the kitchen at 4:45 a.m. to brew some coffee. I ended the following Sunday evening, after the last dish was washed. I started and stopped the clock as I entered and exited the kitchen throughout the week. And when it was all over, I spent 6 hours and 51 minutes in the kitchen throughout the week.

“Hmm,” I thought. “That seems a bit low. I feel as if I’malways in the kitchen.” Then, I got to wondering how my number compares to other Americans. So, I turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Time Use Survey for some numbers.

How Americans spend their day: (Average number of hours per day)

  • 9.47 hours on Personal Care Activities
  • 1.25 hours on Eating and Drinking
  • 1.79 hours on Household Activities
  • 0.75 hours on Purchasing Goods and Services
  • 0.51 hours on Caring for and helping household members
  • 0.21 hours on Caring for and helping non-household members
  • 3.5 hours on Working and work-related activities *
  • 0.47 hours on Educational Activities
  • 0.35 hours on Organization, civic, and religious activities
  • 5.18 hours on Leisure and Sports
  • 0.18 hours on Telephone calls, mail, email
  • 0.35 hours on Other activities

* Ave./week, including weekendss. Daily average is closer to 8 hours.

A further analysis of the numbers finds that the “household activities” consist of housework, food prep and cleanup, lawn and garden care, and household management.

That translates to

  • 0.57 hours on housework
  • 0.56 hours on food prep and cleanup (1.01 hours for those who participate in food prep and cleanup)
  • 0.21 hours on lawn and garden care
  • 0.12 hours – household management

Comparatively, the 5.18 hours a day we spend on “Leisure and Sports” breaks down like this:

  • 0.70 hours on socializing and communicating
  • 2.71 hours on watching television
  • 0.31 on participating in sports, exercise and recreating

As I peruse these numbers to see how I stack up against other Americans I was surprised, because this meant I spent less than an hour in the kitchen each day (and yes, some days it feels that I’m always in the kitchen). Slightly more than the average for all Americans 15 and older 0.56 hours), and slightly less than the 1.01 hours spent in the kitchen by those Americans who participate in this activity.

I was a bit perplexed, as I’m not into convenience foods, so my time in the kitchen is spent prepping vegetables, marinating meats, baking biscuits and granola bars for homemade snacks. In fact, I can boast home-cooked meals on 99.99% of evenings; I eschew boxed and bagged snacks, pre-cut and pre-washed produce; and you won’t find me driving my seven passenger van through the drive-thru, so how did I clock in as just ‘average?’

Perhaps, I am a master of efficiency. An efficiency gained by continual practice. An efficiency gained by putting great emphasis on planning the week’s meals, ensuring I have everything on hand for when I am called into action.

Or, perhaps this week was an anomaly, and I should retest again this week (which I will do). I did, after all, buy the kids take-out after Monday’s ballet practice, cutting my time in the kitchen.  And, I did enjoy a Saturday morning out of the kitchen, while Greg made the pancakes, two loaves of bread and a batch of sticky buns.

Are you one of those who find yourself saying, “I don’t have the time.”

If one looks at the average – whether it is mine, or the collective American’s – one hour a day isn’t a lot to ask to give. In our opinion, it is all about allocating (or re-allocating) our time in the kitchen. Trade some of that TV time for kitchen time. (Do you really need to watch re-runs of Seinfeld, The Office, or  Grey’s Anatomy?)

Trade some of your eating out time for eating in. (Doesn’t it feel better to slow down and eat at a your own table rather than in a fast food restaurant, or your car?)

Reallocate some of that socializing and communicating time to dinnertime.

The benefits of cooking and eating in your own kitchen are rewarding and relaxing.

Yes, watching television can be relaxing, but cooking can be as well. In addition to the act of cooking, you can gain satisfaction from the fact that you are providing nourishment for your family. It is a great way to connect with family – spouses and children alike. Conversely, television and computer games alienate the family, as they are singular activities that create no face-time with family.

Are we so averse to making our meals that we won’t spare an extra half hour a day doing something that can be beneficial to our family’s health – inside and out?

Forget the “I don’t have the time to cook,” excuse. It is time to reallocate your time. We’re certain that after a few weeks, you won’t miss that extra hour playing Wii.


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