How much time do we spend on food?

The Challenge is based around the idea of money – can we come in under a set, monetary budget? But money is only part of the story. Meal production costs not just money, but also time. So during Week 3 of the Challenge, Hide and I tracked our time spent on producing food. Here are the results.

Week 3 time diaryUnlike regular calendar views, you’ll need to read this chart from bottom to top. You can see that we broke down ‘food time’ to cleaning (washing dishes, wiping countertops, etc), cooking, eating, shopping (for food, specifically), and travel (to and from the grocery store).

If you look closely at the chart, you can also see that the data aren’t perfect. Sometimes we ‘forgot’ to eat, for example, because remembering to turn the timer on or off was difficult. Multitasking was also a problem, although a minor one. Hide often cleans while cooking, and cooking often involves standing around and waiting. When the waiting period was long enough, we’d pause the timer and go off and do something else. When we were checking the food very frequently, we wouldn’t pause the timer, even if we were multitasking.


  • Hide eats twice as fast as I do. We knew he ate faster (he eats faster than anyone else I know, and he does it ninja-style), but I didn’t realize how much faster. We’ve begun eating in front of the TV (because I don’t have time for TV the rest of the day), and that’s when we take a long time eating or both of us take the same amount of time eating.
  • We spend time on food throughout the day. Obviously we spend more time around lunchtime and around dinnertime, but by no means are our food-related activities restricted to those times.
  • We don’t have a set routine. Each day looks different: we may eat dinner as early as 7:30 or as late as 9:30.
  • We always eat together. Meals provide more than just sustenance and sensory enjoyment – they also provide bonding time.

Cooking and cleaning

I’m restricting further analysis to just the tasks of cooking and cleaning. There isn’t much to be done about eating (and clearly it has to do with more than just food, e.g., TV), and there’s just too little data on shopping and travel to be very interesting. Moreover, we were most conscientious about tracking cooking and cleaning, so the data are most accurate for those tasks.

I will also be collapsing the second Friday’s task into the first Friday’s, because the week’s cycle really began with Friday lunch preparations. The ‘cleaning’ on the second Friday was actually washing dishes from Thursday night.

The chart below shows daily totals by person. The coloured bars represent an individual’s total time spent that day on cooking and cleaning, whereas the grey bar in the back represents the total time spent by both people that day on cooking and cleaning.

Week 3 time diary, daily totalsObservations:

  • There is quite a lot of variability from day to day. We may spend a lot of time on one day, but then the next day we’ll spend half the time. We may spend an hour or over three hours.
  • When the combined total is high, individual totals that day are similar. But when the combined total is low, individual totals are quite different. I’m not really sure how to interpret this observation: maybe it’s because we work together on big cooking project, then we have a lot of leftovers – but somebody still has to make the veggies, and cooking veggies is more a one-man job.

The table below shows daily averages, in minutes, by person and task.

Cleaning Cooking Both
hide 10.3 49.6 59.9
clara 30.1 31.4 61.6
both 40.4 81.0 121.4


  • We spend one hour per day per person on cooking and cleaning. That really doesn’t seem like a lot, particularly compared to going out – getting to a restaurant (and perhaps finding a parking spot), waiting for your food, then getting back from the restaurant. Altogether, those activities could easily take an hour, and that’s just one meal.
  • Our individual daily averages are basically equal, but the distribution across tasks is very unequal. I clean more than Hide does, while Hide cooks more than I do.

I hope this bit of data and analysis has been illuminating for you. It certainly was for me: I knew about the cleaning/cooking split between the two of us, since it’s intentional, but I wasn’t sure where we stood in terms of overall time spent. Our equality in overall time is very reassuring to me; I’m no longer worried about not pulling my weight. I’m also relieved to see that we only spend an hour per person per day on cooking and cleaning.

This entry was posted in Food, Food Stamp Challenge and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to How much time do we spend on food?

  1. Wendy says:

    Cool! The secondary activities if recorded will help with multitasking tracking.

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