Roasted your first turkey? Data shows Quebecers, especially men, cooking more in the pandemic

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By Selena Ross, CTV News Montreal

MONTREAL -- Roasted your first-ever turkey this weekend? Or even just did something as simple as coming up with a grocery list—for the first time?

If so, that squares with what Quebec researchers say is a wider change in how people in the province, including many men, are approaching cooking.

The pandemic is bringing old-school meal planning and home cooking to many Quebecers who weren’t in the habit of doing either, according to data from the first wave’s lockdown.

“The results show that a large majority of behaviors have significantly changed,” the researchers wrote in a paper published last week.

Among the biggest changes, people are increasingly planning out their grocery shopping, spending more time cooking meals, and wasting less food, they found.

The paper, whose lead author is Jacinthe Cloutier of Université Laval, came out of a survey conducted in late May of 1,143 adults in Quebec. The respondents were roughly evenly split between men and women, and different age groups and regions were represented.

They were asked about 13 different habits around cooking and meals and reported, as a group, big changes in nine of those habits.

TWO-THIRDS OF QUEBECERS SPENDING MORE TIME COOKING

For example, 61 per cent said they had increased the amount of time spent planning meals and doing grocery shopping.

Forty per cent said they were sticking more strictly to those shopping plans, keeping to what was on their lists.

In one dramatic number, 67 per cent of Quebec respondents said they were spending more time cooking. 

The study’s authors noted that another study from this year, which looked at American and Chinese citizens, found that people reported using cooking as a way to relax or relieve stress.

On top of those changes, 63 per cent of the Quebecers surveyed reported they’d cut down on food waste, including by using leftovers more often.

Perhaps less surprisingly, 76 per cent of respondents said they were making fewer visits to the grocery store, while 27 per cent had increased their online grocery shopping.

MEN ESPECIALLY HEADING INTO THE KITCHEN

Those most likely to change their habits were men, people active in the workforce and people in Quebec regions less affected by COVID-19 at the time, the researchers found.

“It seems that there are more men increasing their time spent planning and preparing meals,” the researchers wrote. 

Men were also more likely than women to report buying less food in bulk and wasting less food. 

“The results of the present study suggest that when men are more involved in various food tasks, there is less waste,” the researchers noted, citing several studies that support the fact that women remained largely responsible for food management and preparation within the home before the pandemic.

One group was largely unchanged in their habits: the elderly. “This could also signify that they already had good practices before the context of spring 2020,” the researchers noted, pointing to research showing that older adults already wasted less food. 

LOSS OF INCOME IS A FACTOR

Overall, the findings seem to show that when people are kept home, their food habits improve, the authors said. Changing these kinds of habits can lead to better “food literacy,” they said.

Still, it’s not all good news, they noted. One major reason for many people’s changing habits was not just confinement at home, but the loss of income during the pandemic and worries about shrinking food budgets.

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