Time budgets

An analysis of changing eating and cooking practices, using time budget data and household accounts (preliminary title).

Sarah Daniels

Preparing food and eating are highly socially relevant activities taking place on a daily basis. However, people are aware that time is scarce and that it keeps on ticking away. Therefore, people want to use their time in an appropriate way. As a result, decisions must be made about the allocation of time, whereby cooking can provoke ambivalent feelings. People feel they frequently fall short of time to cook when experiencing problems with the temporal organization of daily life. This, in turn, is strongly related to the increased consumption of convenience foods and the increased proportion of outdoor eating as household time management strategies. This research will first focus on the use of time for home cooking by men and women, during the week and at special occasions. Although it was expected that the increased labor-force participation of women since the 1960s would equalize the gender division of labor within households, previous research findings indicate that this division still follows traditional attitudes. As a consequence, cooking is still regarded as women’s work. We will try to clarify this by investigating how men and women perceive the preparation of meals differently. How people use their time for preparing meals depends on how they think about cooking. It is assumed that men distance themselves from associating food preparation with female characteristics such as care giving responsibilities and rather experience the making of food as a pleasurable and flexible activity. Because the main responsibility for cooking remains predominantly women’s, men would not be bound by the obligations or duties, concerning the daily preparation of meals. Therefore, this study will also try to investigate the regularity of our cooking practices. The use and the experience of time for cooking will be studied in various households, paying attention to the occasion (the social features), the timing (the temporal features) and other variables that put the time for cooking of men and women under pressure. Time- use surveys are helpful to picture how eating and cooking practices are embedded in the structures of social time. Since the Belgian time-use surveys were conducted in conjunction with the household budget surveys we can determine the actual acquisition of convenience food and the effect on our cooking and eating habits. By comparing the Belgian data from 1999 and 2005 and the Flemish data from 1999 and 2004 we can carefully take conclusions to what extent our eating and cooking habits have changed. No doubt a significant decline of the cooking time may reveal an incline in the consumption of convenience foods.

  • 2010-2014
  • Geconcerteerde Onderzoeksactie - Human and Social Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (GOA)
  • supervisor: prof. dr. Ignace Glorieux