U.S. consumers have a renewed interest in cooking freshly prepared meals, but not in spending more time doing it, according to a recent kitchen audit conducted by The NPD Group, Chicago. While convenience has always been a chief consideration in America’s kitchens, the definition of convenience is constantly in flux, and now saving consumers time with their freshly prepared foods is essential. The move toward fresh or clean eating has had an impact on how kitchens are equipped and set up today. Pantries are stocked differently and kitchen appliances, cookware, technology and tools are evolving to make fresh food prep and cooking more convenient and foolproof, reports NPD.

The most common items found in American kitchens are ingredient-oriented and used to make fresh meals and snacks, as opposed to ready-to-eat food items. Kitchen appliances fall into the buckets of “make life easier,” like coffee pod machines and dishwashers; “make it my way,” like juicers and vacuum sealers; and “make it for me,” like electric pressure cookers and sous vide machines. 

Technology has also enabled new ways to purchase groceries and other kitchen goods, and there are more “smart” appliances and tools helping consumers prepare and cook conveniently as well as clean up quickly.

The study, “Inside America’s Kitchen,” based on an audit of 2,900 U.S. households, examines kitchen trends and provides insights on what they mean for the food and home industries.

“Although cooking freshly prepared foods requires more time, the time savings for many of us are built into how we source the foods or which kitchen tools we use,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst. “Since the definition of convenience is closely related to consumers’ desire to save time when cooking and preparing fresh foods, food and housewares marketers need to monitor where consumption patterns shift in order to deliver the convenience consumers demand.”