Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press A detail is shown of utensils at ChefMart near the Eastgate Town Center. Cookware sales are up with more people looking to save money by staying at home to eat instead of going to restaurants.
Jamie Miles, of Cleveland, Tenn., said eating at home is a routine for her family most days out of the week.
"We have home cooked dinner six times a week, including a pizza night," she said.
Mrs. Miles and her family aren't alone. Across the nation, Americans are staying at home and cooking more, driving an increase in cookware sales.
"The sales have gone up a little bit as people eat out less," said Gayla Hatfield, manager of Kitchen Collection in Dalton, Ga. "A lot of them say they want to cook more and healthier and stay away from some of the fast food."
A study by Appliance Magazine in 2009 found that 51 percent of adults are now eating dinner at home more often as a result of the sluggish economy. In 2008, the average household spent $609 on housewares, a 0.7 percent increase from 2007, according to the 2009 International Housewares Association report.
Richard Arnold of ChefMart near Eastgate Town Center said the kitchen often is a place people look to upgrade and enhance with homeowners consequently investing in more quality products.
"People are tired of buying junk and are becoming more conscious of spending," he said. "They are willing to spend $1.99 versus 99 cents for something that'll last five years as opposed to three months."
Mr. Arnold said sauté pans, egg and pancake rings, mixing bowls, large pots for seafood and more commercial items are popular among customers.
But when it comes to which items are flying off the shelves and into kitchen cupboards, men and women differ in their preferences.
Local retailers say women buy more silverware and bakeware, while men prefer knives and steel materials. Men also tend to look at prices less, while women are more cost conscious, Mrs. Hatfield said.
Yet, there is one purchase men and women both love -- chef coats.
Local retailers say television personalities such Rachael Ray, Emeril Lagasse and Paula Deen and the popularity of cooking television shows creates an added interest in cooking.
* Food processors are most popular in the South Atlantic region of the U.S.
* 62.4 percent of women bought electric grills and griddles
* Dinnerware was the most popular sale in the third quarter of 2008
* 22.8 percent of Americans between 25-34 purchased stovetop cookware.
Sources: Retail Tracking Service, Consumer Tracking Service (2009 Housewares Marketwatch Fall 2009 newsletter)
"I think it's impacted it a lot. People are a lot more interested in cooking than they were 10, 15 years ago," Mrs. Hatfield said. "They see how it easy it is, they have more access to recipes and ideas. And with male chefs, men are becoming more interested, too, sometimes taking over the cooking in the home."
In addition to sparking interest, the channels are also influencing the purchases of consumers.
"They have a tremendous influence because they make it look glamorous. And if someone who you respect is touting an ingredient or tool, you want to get it. It's like wearing Michael Jordan's shoes," Mr. Arnold said.
It appears that the boost in cookware sales has benefits beyond the consumer wallet by bringing families together.
"When I was a kid, every night we hung out at dinner, even if we didn't for the rest of the day," Mrs. Miles said, adding that dinner with her husband and four boys is a way to pause from hectic schedules. "Some families have always been that way but now I think that it's definitely making a big comeback."