In 2002, U.S. households used 3.94 qBtu of energy on food-related tasks—28 percent of total food system energy use. ERS research indicates that a typical U.S. household would have used about a half million more Btu per person in 2002 than in 1997 for the same foods.

More households adopted labor-saving technologies to save time and effort on food preparation and cleanup. In 1985, 18 to 64 year olds spent an estimated average of 49 minutes on cooking and cleanup per day. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data indicate average cooking and cleanup times per household fell to 31 minutes per day in 2008.

The share of U.S. households with energy-using dishwashers, microwave ovens, and self-cleaning ovens increased substantially between 1997 and 2005, providing more evidence of an energy/labor tradeoff. At the same time, the percentage of U.S. households with two or more refrigerators increased from 15.2 percent in 1997 to 22.1 percent in 2005; there were 9.2 million more households with two or more refrigerators in 2005 than in 1997.