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Modern Kiwis know "next to nothing" about cooking a meal from scratch, says Alison Holst.

The bestselling author and chef said she was concerned that a generation of New Zealanders were being brought up without any kitchen skills.

Holst spoke out after an Australian study revealed that the tradition of cooking a meal from basic ingredients was all but obsolete because of the advent of ready-made meals.

New Zealand academic studies reflect the similar findings: women, in particular, no longer learn to cook. Many people are scared off by the perceived complexity of modern Asian and European cuisines.

The survey of 1000 families showed that three in four ate a main meal that had been prepared with just a few ingredients and not much skill.

Holst said lifestyle changes and a lack of cooking classes in schools were partly to blame.

She said: "Many young parents have busy lives, working full time or part time. I think they find it easier to stop on the way home and buy ready prepared foods which can be reheated and served at home.

"I don't think that there are even simple cookbooks in some homes."

Progressive Enterprises, which owns Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown, said there had been a growing demand for ready-made meals since their introduction eight years ago.

Spokesman Ryan McMullen said: "It saves them time, people's lives are busy."

Dr Carolyn Morris, a senior lecturer at Massey University, said women face considerable time pressures.

"Domestic work has been transformed rather than reduced. For instance, the demands of parenting are different than they used to be."

She said, "We used to eat a bland diet of overcooked vegetables and plain meat. The food of the old days was terrible ... now people want to eat a much greater variety of food and it is difficult to master Indian, Italian and Chinese cooking."