Consumers are abandoning ready meals and cooking from scratch instead, according to a new report to be published next month.

Data in Green Shoots, a report from the Meat and Livestock Commission based on TNS Worldpanel data, indicates that average meal preparation times are increasing, with the number of young adults enjoying cooking in rapid growth.

In 2005, the average amount of time spent cooking the evening meal was 36.1 minutes - up 10% on 2002 levels, marking the end of a decline over the past two decades.

Overall cooking times rose at a similar rate - from 18.1 minutes in 2002 to 19.8 minutes last year.

Meanwhile, the numbers of housewives aged 17-24 stating that they enjoy cooking was up 77% year-on-year, with overall numbers of housewives relishing time in the kitchen up 9%.

The family meal occasion is also on the rise again, with the proportion of meals eaten at the table up to 36.3% in 2005 from 32.9% the year before. The proportion of meals eaten in front of the television fell from 46% in 2004 to 41.5% in 2005.

The change in consumer attitudes is the result of an increased interest in healthy eating. Health as a key meal choice driver is growing in importance as the significance of convenience goes into reverse, with one million more adults every year saying that they try to eat healthy foods.

In particular, parents were becoming conscious of what they were feeding to their children, said Chris Lamb, consumer marketing manager at the MLC.

He added: "Mothers are deciding what their children will eat and pester power is on the wane."

Lamb warned that retailers needed to scale back ready meal facings and increase space for fresh foods - or be left behind.

"This report is called Green Shoots because we believe that it is the start of something. If you are a retailer you need to be aware of this, and build it into strategic planning.

"Consumers are prepared to do things themselves, so retailers should make it easier for them in-store."