Kiwis are certainly creatures of habit when it comes to the kitchen - with most of us sticking with dinner options involving the classic "meat and veg".

And it appears time is an ingredient that's increasingly being tested as the week draws to a close.

New research conducted in conjunction by insight agency TRA and supermarket giant Foodstuffs, looked at consumers' behaviours when it comes to planning, preparing and eating dinner.

More than 2000 people shopping at Pak'nSave and New World were surveyed.

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The findings reveal a quarter of us - 26 per cent - kick off our days with an idea of what kind of dinner we'll sit down to that evening.

A little less than half of us - 45 per cent - have some sort of plan for dinner ahead of time.

And then there's the last minute scramblers - 19 per cent decide what to have for dinner "at the last minute".

According to survey results, nearly three quarters of New World customers - 74 per cent - come into the store with a "what's for dinner" shopping mission.

And as a nation, what we're choosing to cook is fairly limited.

The highest proportion of survey respondents - 36 per cent - stick with a combination of meat and vegetables for dinner.

Indian or Asian dishes came in second, with 27 per cent of respondents going for meal options within these cuisines.

Nineteen per cent of respondents went for Italian, while options like burgers and pizza, and soup, chowder or casserole rounded out the bottom options.

When it came to protein, 32 per cent of us opt for chicken. Beef was second at 25 per cent.

Twelve per cent of respondents' preference was pork. White fish and vegetarian options shared fourth place, with 7 per cent each.

Niki Bezzant, from Healthy Food Guide, wasn't surprised many Kiwis were sticking with tried-and-true recipes.

"We have our favourite dishes that we know work, that are easy to prepare, that the family likes and will eat - a lot of the time that's an issue for families."

Having a repertoire wasn't necessarily a bad thing, however Bezzant said variation of ingredients was key.

"You need to think about all the different types of plants as well, not just the vegetables and fruit but also whole grains, lentils, chickpeas and all the legumes as well."

On the subject of planning, Bezzant suggested households "plan for emergencies".

"It's about having a few things up your sleeve that you know are easy and good that you can pull out at a moment's notice.

"You can't really go wrong with an omelette. It takes about 10 minutes max, even if you're chopping lots of veges to go in it."

Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Laird said the research showed meals were more often planned from Monday to Wednesday.

By mid-week consumers would start to opt for shortcuts on the meal front.

And by Friday, Laird said, the desire to cook had diminished.

"Folk might be 'switching off' and feel like they deserve a reward for eating or cooking at home throughout the week, by treating themselves to a meal out."

For households trying to improve their meal planning and organisation, Laird suggested cooking with two meals in mind.

Dividing the tasks involved with dinner - shopping, cooking and dishes - between three could help to make meal preparation more manageable.

Eating in: Kiwis are creatures of habit in the kitchen

• 19 per cent of us decide at the last minute what to cook for tea
• 45 per cent are well-planned on menu options
• But just 26 per cent know what they're cooking at the start of the day
• 36 per cent opt for meat and veg, or fish and veg (of which 8 per cent are roasts)
• 27 per cent are curries or stir fries
• Chicken is the favoured protein, at 32 per cent
• Beef is an option 25 per cent of the time
• Fish features in just 7 per cent of three key meals cooked weekly

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