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Homemakers in a Good Housekeeping poll had some suggestions on how foood companies could help them in preparing family meals.(chart) DESPITE FULL PLATE, HOMEMAKERS STILL LIKE MAKING MEAL

By Published on .

Time constraints haven't killed the American homemaker's appetite for serving a good home-cooked meal.

Cooking was rated a pleasurable experience by 61.5% of the respondents in a poll of Good Housekeeping readers, even though more than half work full time (41.9%) or part-time (16.3%). Only 10.3% said mealtime was a source of both pleasure and stress.

But time-saving shortcuts that don't diminish quality are greatly appreciated.

"Women still feel that it is their obligation to get the meal on the table, and they derive some kind of satisfaction from that," said Amy Barr, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute. But she added: "They are buying more prepared cooking sauces and pre-cut vegetables."

And the homemaker isn't going solo. Other family members are pitching in to cut down on preparation, cooking and cleanup.

"Husbands and sons are getting more involved than ever before in preparing and cooking the meals," Ms. Barr said. "We feel it is because women have said, `I'm not going to do it anymore, I don't have the time.'*"

Fifty-two percent of respondents' husbands and 22% of sons shop for groceries, while 34% and 16%, respectively, cook the evening meal. Only a tiny minority-9.1%-don't help at all in meal preparation.

When asked for suggestions to food marketers, the single largest percentage opted for lower prices (17%), followed by better packaging/less bulk/recycle and foods with lower fat or sodium content (12% each).

A full 75.9% of homemakers now rank nutrition as a "very important aspect" of meal planning, making it their top priority in preparing a meal. That even outpolled family acceptance, ranked as very important by 70.3%

When it comes to leftovers, 80.2% said they reheat meals in a microwave oven "frequently," while only 4% of those serving leftovers said they never use a microwave.

The survey was mailed in March to 1,500 randomly selected members of the Good Housekeeping Reader Panel, and 1,211 responses were received; margin of error was 3 percentage points. The poll was overwhelmingly female (98.8%) and most respondents were married (80.5%).

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