CHICAGO ? Approximately three out of four US households typically plan at least some dinners in advance of entering a grocery store and half plan breakfast and lunch meals, according to a recent food and beverage market research study titled Before the Store by The NPD Group, a leading market research company.

Taking a holistic view of the grocery shopper from menu planning, meal preparation, eating behavior, to shopping, the study found of the 71% of households that plan at least some dinners in advance, 24% planned nearly all dinners in advance. Of the 53% of households that plan at least some lunches in advance, 13% planned nearly all lunches in advance. Fifty-one percent of households planned at least some breakfast meals in advance, and 26% planned nearly all breakfasts in advance.

“The frequency of meal planning is an indication that many purchase decisions are made prior to grocery shopping,” said Ann Hanson, executive director of product development at NPD and author of the report. “Retailers and manufacturers who can help consumers address meal planning challenges have the potential to become ingrained in the family meal planning and shopping cycle.”

The primary shopper and meal preparer is typically the woman in the household, according to the report findings. The most common challenges for these meal preparers are getting new ideas for main meals, finding meals that are quick to make and staying within a budget.

Recipe use is one way for meal preparers to address these challenges and find new ideas. Thirty-four percent of households indicate they use recipes weekly and 69% said they use recipes at least monthly.

Responses to the cost and convenience challenges are often consumer impulse purchases. The major reason for making an impulse purchase was because the item was on sale. Prepared foods are frequently purchased on impulse when shoppers are looking for ideas while in the store.

“Cost, variety, and convenience are constant challenges for household meal planners, and an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to become part of the solution,” Hanson said. “Understanding the meal preparation process prior to grocery shopping, behavior around recipes, impulse purchases, and the use of prepared foods can help manufacturers, food retailers, and marketers design effective strategies for increasing loyalty, trip frequency, and basket size.”