Dinner Habits Research

In January 2023 we asked our Fork Ranger fans about their dinner habits. The idea was to get a better understanding of how people choose and plan their dinners and what their challenges are in moving to a sustainable diet.

Now we want the results and our learnings with you.

About the participants of the survey

73 people participated in the survey, who all had different diets. It should be noted that there was a higher percentage of vegans, vegetarians or flexitarians compared to the Dutch distributions of diets.

How often do you currently eat meat or fish?

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Also we asked about people's household as we suspected that  the social situation would impact how people plan their dinners.

How does your household look like?

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Results from the survey

Here are the key results:

  • Roughly 1/3 of the people decides on the day itself what to have for dinner, 1/3 plans 2-3 days a week, and 1/3 plans the working days or the full week ahead.
  • The biggest challenges when it comes to eating sustainably are 1) eating less dairy, 2) social situations and 3) finding out what’s sustainable.
  • The things that weren't a challenge when it comes to eating sustainably are 1) avoiding food waste, 2) eating less meat.
  • 60% of the people uses offline sources (cook books, own lists of previously made meals, etc) and 60% uses online sources to plan meals. Many people use a combination of both.
  • Meal planners (where meals are suggested for you or similar tools) have been used by 1/4 of the people but many experiences weren’t satisfactory:

"It depends, they can be sometimes overly complicated or using ingredients that are not always in season. Also sometimes they don’t consider costs or time"

"Could be useful for inspiration but I never follow them"

"For me only an option when I can decide out of (tot example) 3 days what to eat today. And intolerances/allergies can be a problem."

  • Many people have their own preselection of meals that they like and make them more often.
  • The social context has some effect on how people plan meals:
    • the majority of people living alone (63%) has no plan and decide on the day itself
    • for people living with housemates it varies a lot (this is the smallest group among participants)
    • the majority of couples (77%) decides either on the day itself or plans 2-3 days (there options are evenly distributed)
    • almost half of the families (48%) plan 2-3 days ahead

Results from the in-depth interviews

Some of the participants indicated they would be open for a follow-up phone/video call. This gave even more detailed insights. Here are the summarised results:

  • There are a 1,000 ways to organise oneself when it comes to meal planning (the proces from what to eat to food on the table).
  • Many people have a specific starting point when choosing meals (what’s left in their fridge, what’s on sale, what comes in their veggiebox).
  • People have their own selection of around 10-30 meals that they have stored in their minds or on actual lists (Notes, Evernote, Trello, etc) where they choose from.
  • How people experience planning meals (fun, neutral, ‘necessary evil’) determines whether they want or are open to suggested meals. Some people like the creative part of choosing/creating meals, but for others it’s a ‘I have to eat something’ thing. The people who see it in latter way, value suggested meals more.
  • There has to be an enormous amount of trust in the selection process of meals for suggested meals to work. It only works well if all factors one finds important can actually be included (is it sustainable? is it healthy? isn't there too much packaging in case of delivery.. etc)
  • Suggested meals could work as personalised inspiration rather than a determined plan, i.e. ‘here are 3 ideas for you for upcoming week’ instead of ‘here is what you are going to eat the next 3 days’
  • Suggested meals also work well if people go ‘cold turkey’ in what they eat and not eat. Then it all of a sudden becomes a much harder task to choose meals and therefore suggested meals can solve the issue of meal selection.
  • The challenges related to eating less dairy vary widely, but in some recipes the alternatives (milk or cheese) don’t easily replace dairy well. Cheese is the hardest to replace.
  • Social situations are challenging because of a multitude of reasons: not wanting to restrict others in what to make, not wanting to get into discussions about food choices, etc.

What's next?

In the short term:

  • We want to share more blogs, tips, etc, about how to eat less dairy.
  • We want to share more personal stories and tips on how to deal with social situations.

In the long term:

  • We want to improve search function in the app (based on vegetables) to make it easier to pick a meal based on starting points.
  • We want to create a ‘what should I eat tonight?’ button in-app that gives you a suggestion based on a few quick personalised choices.