For some Americans, going out to dinner is a treat, planned and budgeted for. For others, it's just another Tuesday night. And Wednesday. And Thursday.
And that second group of people is becoming the majority. The number of Americans who enjoy cooking is declining, while the prevalence of food delivery startups, and culinary-centric television shows grows.
In the Harvard Business Review, researcher Eddie Yoon shares data he's gathered over two decades working as a consultant for consumer packaged goods companies. Early in Yoon's career, he conducted a survey that determined that Americans fell into one of three groups:
- 15 percent said they love to cook
- 50 percent said they hate to cook
- 35 percent are ambivalent about cooking
When Yoon conducted the same survey 15 years later, the percentages had changed. Only 10 percent of consumers professed a love of cooking, while 45 percent said they outright hated it and 45 percent were on the fence.
"I've come to think of cooking as being similar to sewing," Yoon writes. "As recently as the early 20th century, many people sewed their own clothing. Today the vast majority of Americans buy clothing made by someone else; the tiny minority who still buy fabric and raw materials do it mainly as a hobby."
However, what you save in convenience, you lose in cold, hard cash.
Take buying lunch. If you go out to eat every workday and spend, on average, $10 per meal, it comes out to $2,500 a year, CNBC's Jonathan Blumberg reports. Making your own lunch, meanwhile, will cost you half that. One VISA survey found you only spend on average $6.30 when you bring something you prepared at home.
And it only keeps spiraling from there. In 2016, one couple reviewed their credit card statements only to find that they spent $30,000 eating out in 2016, according to Frugal Rules blogger John Schmoll. That's more than $82 a day for their three-person family.
While Americans' growing aversion to spending time in the kitchen signifies a host of challenges for the grocery industry, it's likely to impact individual customers as well. Why stay home and cook when all of your friends are going out? Why eat a sandwich at your desk when your coworker wants to hit up the food truck? Why not order off Seamless for dinner? It's so much easier.
It's easy to start from a $10 salad one day and end up with a $30,000 credit card tab a year later. In fact, it's becoming common.
For those with the means to spend an exorbitant amount on food, this epidemic might not register as an issue. But the majority of Americans can't afford such a costly habit — not when it comes at the expense of being unprepared for an emergency, or, worse, having nothing left for retirement.
Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!