CHICAGO — Consumers are planning their menus before going to the grocery store, according to a report titled “Before The Store” by The NPD Group.

Nearly three out of four (71%) U.S. households plan at least some dinners in advance and half plan breakfast and lunch meals, the report found. Twenty-four per cent planned nearly all dinners in advance, 53% planned at least some lunches in advance, and 51% planned at least some breakfast meals in advance. Additionally, 13% planned nearly all lunches 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. “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 woman is still the primary shopper and meal preparer, and the most common challenge is getting new ideas for main meals, finding meals that are quick to make and staying within a budget. Recipes are a way for meal preparers to address challenges and find new ideas. When impulse purchases are made, it is often a response to cost and convenience challenges, most frequently because the item was on sale. Prepared foods are most often purchased on impulse.

“Cost, variety and convenience are constant challenges for household and meal planners, and an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to become part of the solution,” Ms. 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.”