From UCLA: this study of the time spent by Americans on basic household tasks.
The big surprise? Those relying heavily on convenience foods didn't save much time (they saved about 10 - 12 minutes per dinner, according to the researchers) over those using fewer convenience foods.
The non-surprise? Hardly anyone is actually cooking from scratch. Even those who were counted as doing 'home cooking' were mostly relying on preparing convenience foods rather than actually starting with a recipe.
"With almost all of the home-cooked meals, families served some sort of packaged convenience food. Frozen entrées (such as stir-fry mixes, potstickers, chicken dishes and barbecued ribs) were the most popular products, followed by vegetables (canned or frozen), specialty breads (ready-to-eat, parbaked or from mix), canned soup and commercial pasta sauce. [Researcher Margaret] Beck did not consider dried pasta and tortillas to be convenience foods, but she did count bagged salads and hot dogs."
Beck's study focused on 'working families,' which she defined as two-income families. I'd be interested in seeing if the same results would be found among families with at least one at-home spouse/partner. I can understand how families in which both spouses are returning home near dinner time would find it necessary to rely on convenience foods. Is a truly from-scratch meal now a luxury?