‘Family dinner’ a thing of the past? Average person spends just 3 meals a week with loved ones

NEW YORK — Between after-school sports and parents working long hours, is the family dinner becoming more obsolete? Three in five Americans believe every dinner should be a “family dinner” — and just as many wish they could eat more often with their family.

In a poll of 2,000 U.S. adults, the average person says they only get to spend three dinners out of the week with their loved ones. Many have seen a decline in how often they get to eat with family, leaving them wanting more. In their youth, the average person recalled eating four dinners per week with family and another two dinners with others outside their family circle.

For nearly half the poll (49%), having a family dinner together is an “important way to connect” over a meal. Shared dinners were also good for making memories (46%), learning more about their family in general (46%), and continuing family traditions (45%).

Commissioned by The Honey Baked Ham Company and conducted by OnePoll, the study also explored what table manners look like in 2022. The data revealed that two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed believe having good table manners is an important factor in family dinners.

Did you wash your hands? Most common rules of etiquette for family dinners

Over a third (35%) follow the same etiquette rules they did as kids. Twenty-six percent note they’ve created their own rules as adults. The top five universal rules for table etiquette that Americans follow today are: wash your hands before you sit at the table (49%), don’t talk with your mouth full (46%), don’t slurp your food or drink (44%), chew with your mouth closed (44%), and don’t make noises with eating utensils (43%).

The survey also exposed the most offensive “sins” at the dinner table. The top no-nos include chewing with your mouth open (19%), not washing your hands (17%), and burping (17%).

“We’re happy to hear that families want to spend more quality time together talking, catching up, and bonding over a delicious family meal,” says Jim Dinkins, CEO of The Honey Baked Ham Company, in a statement. “What’s pleasantly surprising to us is how many people consider good table manners to be an important part of the family dining experience.”

table manners

What’s the cost of ‘convenience’?

When eating with others, nearly half of Americans prefer ready-to-eat meals from home (49%) or home-cooked meals (48%). Ordering takeout (43%) and dining at a restaurant (32%) followed closely behind.

Parents in the survey were especially fond of home-cooked meals — with four in five preferring them to any other method of dinner prep. Yet, the average parent only gets around to making four meals from scratch per week. Two in three (65%) claim preparing dinner for their family is a stressful event.

That may be especially true during the summer months, since parents reported feeling more stressed about dinner prep in the summer (59%) versus the school year (53%). When asked what would prevent them from preparing a home-cooked meal, 43 percent of all respondents say they don’t want to deal with the clean-up process. Others don’t have the cooking skills (40%) or don’t have the time (35%).

In order to be considered a “convenient” meal, the average American says it needs to take less than 33 minutes to prepare. When looking at price per meal, Americans expect family meal costs per person to be $10.10 for a home-cooked meal, $12 for takeout, $11.60 for fast-food, and $12.40 for a sit-down restaurant meal.

“No matter how you define family, we’re all looking for ways to keep family dinner stress-free,” Dinkins adds. “Finding something quick to make is only one part of the solution.”