The economic downturn can be blamed for a number of lifestyle changes, but causing Americans to cook more is not one of them, according toThe 24th Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America, recently released byThe NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y.

NPD says Americans are eating at home more, and have been since the beginning of the decade, but last year they turned to their microwaves to serve their food up for them.   

“Microwaving has been flat for two decades, but it increased last year as Americans found a way to eat at home and not cook,” says Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, and author ofEating Patterns in America, an annual compilation of NPD’s food and beverage market research. “We’re using our microwaves to warm and heat more, but not prepare more dishes from scratch.”

According to Balzer and NPD’s food industry market research, Americans used their microwave ovens more last year and their stove tops less. Approximately 20 percent of all meals prepared in U.S. homes from 1990 to 2007 involved the use of a microwave, until last year when usage rose ten percent. He said stove tops remain the most popular cooking appliance but the percent of main meals prepared on a stove top dropped from 52 percent in 1985 to 33 percent in 2009.

"There was a lot of speculation last year as to how our eating behaviors changed as a result of the economic crisis. The truth is that consumer behavior changes slowly,” says Balzer. “I’ve observed America’s eating patterns in good and bad economies, and the constant is that there is no recession in eating ─ and Americans don’t want to cook what they eat.”