Two thirds of meals in Portugal are not prepared at home


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“How we eat what we eat” reveals that the majority of the population eats at home, but most meals are cooked outside. Three out of four women are still responsible for cooking for the family.

In Portugal we spend around two hours a day eating, but two thirds of the meals we eat are not prepared at home. And although the vast majority of the national population eats at home, a quarter of the younger population – and even adults – spend very little time in the kitchen and even undervalue the benefits of making their own food. These are some of the conclusions of the study “How we eat what we eat – a portrait of meal consumption in Portugal”, which is being launched today by the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation.

The study, coordinated by Ana Isabel de Almeida Costa, says that “there is a structural preference among Portuguese families for eating meals away from home”, a situation that differs from the majority of European families.

According to the data collected by the report’s authors, in 2015-2016 food consumption outside the home accounted for 8.1% of the total average annual expenditure per household in Portugal. In Belgium, for example, it was only 5%. Similarly, when compared to the United Kingdom, food consumption away from home accounted for 35.1% of the average annual total food expenditure per household in Portugal, compared to 30.7% of the total weekly food expenditure per capita of the British.

Thus, it is from the age of 64 onwards that we see an increase in the Average Total Annual Expenditure dedicated to food consumption at home in Portugal, and it is the income of the last two decades that has led Portuguese families to opt for eating at home, to the detriment of eating out.

In this field, says the study “How we eat what we eat – a portrait of meal consumption in Portugal”, there is a direct relationship between income level and professional situation and the consumption of meals away from home. In other words, “going to a restaurant is more common among people with higher incomes and levels of education, and who live in large urban centers”. The document reveals that food parcels are ordered eight times more often by families with higher incomes, who also have twice as much to spend on food when compared to families with lower incomes.

It’s the woman who cooks

When it comes to cooking meals at home, most of the responsibility still falls to women and “is the result of persistent social norms, which place the responsibility for food and the well-being of the family on women and, to a large extent, continue to exempt men from this burden”.

In practice, three out of four women spend at least an hour a day making food. This is three times the percentage of men. As the study points out, “if the time spent cooking is added to the time spent by women caring for the family or doing other domestic tasks, it can be concluded that women do more than two days of unpaid work each month than men.”

The report also says that half of the Portuguese cook for at least an hour a day, while 27% spend less than an hour a day cooking. And two out of 10 Portuguese never cook.

More dinner at home

It’s at lunchtime that a large proportion of the national population eats out (42%), with the majority of these meals taking place at the workplace or school (21%). There are also those who eat lunch in restaurants (9%), at the homes of family and friends (8%) or in cafés and bakeries (3%).

In the opposite direction, 72% of Portuguese meals take place at home, mostly breakfast and dinner. And it’s to prepare the evening meal that the Portuguese cook the most, at 56%. At this point, dining out happens 13% of the time and, on these occasions, it is more common to eat at the homes of family and friends (6%) than in restaurants (4%).

The study details that “among older people, the proportion of household consumption is still significantly higher in households with a lower net income (less than 970 euros a month) and in situations of food insecurity than in the rest”.
On the other hand, it is households with a net income greater than or equal to 1,455 euros per month that consume the most in restaurants or through catering companies.

In Portugal, there is a direct relationship between the level of income and professional situation and the consumption of meals away from home. It is the people who earn the most who go out to eat most often.

Cooking meals

We are increasingly eating food that is not prepared at home. Two-thirds of the meals consumed by residents in Portugal are the result of non-domestic cooking, i.e. food production, preparation and/or cooking activities that take place outside the home, according to the study “How we eat what we eat – a portrait of meal consumption in Portugal”. It goes even further and states that almost 90% of what we eat for breakfast or snack is not made at home. “Specifically, three-quarters of the food and drink consumed at breakfast, as well as two-thirds of that consumed during snacks, comes from industry or food retail, while most of the rest comes from cafés and similar establishments.”

Cooking is a practice that around a quarter of young people and even adults don’t engage in. In addition to not valuing home-cooked food, they also value the convenience, socialization and entertainment provided by eating out.

Meals for diet and health

Excluding the older population (who mostly invest their income – from pensions or other social benefits – in food prepared at home), there is a preponderance of Portuguese people eating in restaurants and other places outside the home (other than school or work, or the homes of family or friends). This habit is associated with a lower probability of having a diet close to the Mediterranean standard. In the case of non-elderly adults, this is combined with a sedentary lifestyle.

The study also details that in the working-age population, the Body Mass Index is higher in men who eat out the most and who don’t prepare their own meals or go shopping.

On the other hand, overweight and obesity are less prevalent among women of working age who are part of families with higher incomes, who eat out more often and who are less concerned with preparing meals. Conversely, among women who are involved in preparing family meals, “overweight and obesity may be linked to the division of daily time between paid work and unpaid work caring for the family, as well as to income level and household composition.”

2 hours is the average time the Portuguese spend eating each day. This means that half of daily leisure time is dedicated to meals.

72% of the national population’smeals are eaten at home, mainly breakfast and dinner.

42% of the time the Portuguese eat lunch out, with the majority taking place at their workplace or school (21%).

90% of the food we eat for breakfast and snacks is not made at home. At lunch, the proportion of food not made at home is 55%. At dinner, 56% of Portuguese cook and thus increase home cooking.

27% of Portuguese devote less than an hour a day to cooking. Two out of 10 never cook and half spend at least an hour a day cooking.

3 out of 4 women spend at least an hour a day cooking. This equates to a percentage three times higher than that of men when it comes to preparing meals in Portugal.

Iris Lavan
Iris Lavan
With a background as a consultant in the medical industry, Iris Lavan brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to Portugal Pulse. Iris also runs a company in Tel Aviv offering marketing, business development, content creation and public relations services. She holds a degree in economics and management, giving her a solid grounding in business strategy and financial planning. Iris' commitment to Portugal Pulse is reflected not only in her consulting career, but also in her impact on the Portugale media landscape in Israel. She was an interviewer for Hadshot Portugal חדשות פורטוגל, a media outlet that broadcasts news about Portugal in Hebrew, where she provided valuable information on current affairs, healthcare and the economy. Since July 2023, Iris has also been part of the Portugal Pulse team.

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