Within a fast-paced world where people are usually busy with their lives, meal preferences are usually affected. You will obviously opt for a faster and easier means to eat when you are already tired after a long day of work. Yet, home-cooked meals tend to be the healthier choice.

For as much as fast-food restaurants try to be open about their ingredients and their cooking methods, it’s difficult to keep track of it all. On the other hand, cooking at home allows you to decide whether your meals will be made from fresh and organic ingredients, fat-free, or sodium-free.

In the global Real Research survey focusing on fast food versus home-cooked meals, we have derived results showing the meal preferences of users around the world. Which is more prevalent in today’s society — fast food or homemade meals?


  • In a typical week, over 40% of people are eating fast food and take-out meals 3-5 times, with a budget of less than $5.
  • Similarly, the majority are also preparing home-cooked meals 3-5 times per week.
  • On a similar scale, people are most likely to eat lunch at a fast food or restaurant as well as prepare this meal at home.
  • People typically buy ready meals instead of cooking mainly because they don’t have enough time to cook and shop for ingredients.

Fast Food/Take-out Meal Preference

People eat fast food and take-out meals 3-5x a week
Figure 1. People eat fast food and take-out meals 3-5x a week

When asked how often they eat fast food or take-out meals in a typical week, the majority (~45%) answered 3-5 times. Usually, people tend to order and have ready-to-eat meals whenever they do not have the time to prepare the food themselves. Moreover, if you have friends who want to eat outside, most often you will agree with them and eat outside.

Taking into consideration the people’s jobs, many would prefer to buy something they can eat easily and get without waiting for a long time. People on the go or those who are traveling may also prefer to get food takeaways for their own convenience.

Rather than bringing an extra weight of a container in your bag, some may also prefer to eat outside with meals that they can easily dispose of. This will save more time and reduce any worries of having leftover food at your hand.

People spend less than $5 when eating fast food or take-out meals
Figure 2. People spend less than $5 when eating fast food or take-out meals

Even though the people’s frequency of eating fast food and take-out meals are quite frequent, this does not mean that they are spending a lot to buy. In fact, results show that the budget of fast-food lovers (40%) per week is only less than $5.

To explain further, people who prefer to eat these meals are not willing to pay expensively. Despite that, almost 30% of those who responded are spending between $5 to $25. These individuals may opt for a restaurant that serves food at a decent price.

The majority of people are dining in or ordering their food from some of the biggest fast-food chains in the market like Subway, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, Burger King, and Wendy’s. They have affordable prices for their tasty, yet considerably unhealthy, meals.

Which Meal is Usually Got From Takeout?

People mostly eat lunch in a fast-food chain or restaurant
Figure 3. People mostly eat lunch in a fast-food chain or restaurant

People usually have their own meal timings. So, we asked which meal are they most likely to eat from outside. The majority preferred lunch (33%) and is closely followed by dinner (28%).

It is typical for restaurants and fast-food chains to offer special lunch and dinner packages. For a cheaper price, crowd favorites can be bought without any hassle. Taking this into consideration, it is not surprising that people also prefer to get their lunch from various food providers.

Aiming to know the leading reason why people are opting for ready-to-eat meals, the Real Research survey provided common options. In summary, the top three reasons why people buy rather than cook is that they don’t have enough time to cook (26%), they don’t have enough time to shop for ingredients (~25%), and they are not confident to cook (21%).

Others say that it’s too much effort to cook, while some affirm that they like fast food. Less than 10% said that they don’t buy ready meals at all.

We can then conclude that lack of time and skills in the kitchen are the primary reasons why people tend to buy pre-cooked meals. Those people who have 12-hour shifts and work even during the weekends may be included in this demographics.

Reasons why people buy ready meals instead of cooking
Figure 4. Reasons why people buy ready meals instead of cooking

Home-Cooked Meal Preference

You can spare yourself from unwanted calories, carbs, fats, and sodium by preparing your own meals with fresh and healthy ingredients. Results show that over 40% prepare home-cooked meals 3-5 times a week. This is a similar frequency in comparison to the people who also like to eat fast-food meals.

People prepare home-cooked meals 3-5x a week
Figure 5. People prepare home-cooked meals 3-5x a week

We can then infer that people will also choose to cook at home than buy food from restaurants. Hence, society is not really that motivated by fast-food and takeaway meals. This is because, with the same ratio, people are also preparing their meals at their preferred time.

A high percentage of 35% also answered that they only prepare food at home, a maximum of twice a week. These people may not find cooking suitable for their schedules.

Figure 6. People mostly prepare their lunch at home
People mostly prepare their lunch at home

When asked about the meal that they are most likely to prepare at home, the majority also answered lunch. Usually, people also keep their lunch boxes with them whenever they can to save money and time than going out and ordering food.

Breakfast and dinner both have 24% of the population each as a preference. As people get ready for work, many prefer to eat first before leaving to have the energy for the rest of the day. In contrast, as a stress reliever after work, some may also prefer to cook.

Moreover, some households may also have the opportunity to get together only in either mornings or evenings. Thus, whoever is responsible for the food will have to prepare at home and serve it nicely once done.

Survey Audience

Out of all the respondents, most are living alone or living with one more person. Based on the demographics, these are primarily 18-25 year-olds. As the lifestyle of Generation Z and Millennials are more active than others, their meal preferences may vary according to their job, financial status, location, and health condition.

Respondents are mostly aged 18-25
Figure 7. Respondents are mostly aged 18-25

Predominantly males and Asians, this Real Research survey results unveiled the general meal preferences around the world. By and large, fast food and home-cooked meals have the same weight of preference for people. Debunking the norm that people are mostly into fast food now, the results show that when given the opportunity, people will still shop, prepare, and cook at home.


Survey TitleFast food vs. Home-cooked Meals
DurationJanuary 6, 2021 – January 10, 2021
Number of Participants366,500
DemographicsMales and females, aged 19 – 64
Participating CountriesAfghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, China (Hong-kong), China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Ma, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Zimbabwe.