oa Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences = Tydskrif vir Gesinsekologie en Verbruikerswetenskappe - Die konteks vir die keuse van geriefsvoedsel van bepaalde beroepsvroue
The purpose of this research is to understand and descriptionbe the context in which career women choose, purchase and use convenience food (CF). A person is rarely isolated from or unaffected by factors in his/her context/environment. The context also helps to give meaning to the behaviour of people. The choice of an ecological framework as an organising tool for this study is therefore selfevident. The two most relevant environments or contexts in which a household functions are the socalled proximal or close, and distal or societal environments of the ecological framework. The close environment includes the social and physical subsystems. For this research, the social subsystem refers to the people for whom the food is intended, the type of meal and whether the meal occurs during the week or weekend. This may influence the type of food chosen. The physical subsystem refers in this case to the type of dwelling, e.g. whether it is a single freestanding unit or a townhouse (in which space is mostly limited). The societal environment refers inter alia to the economic and sociocultural subsystems. Understanding the interaction patterns among and within the various subsystems of these environments can contribute to an understanding of the complexity of choosing, buying and using CF. <br> A qualitative research methodology and a grounded theory approach were used in the study. A theoretical sample was drawn to get to know more about the object of study. With this sampling technique, the researcher, on the one hand minimises differences, and on the other hand, maximises differences between participants. In the end, eight career women were chosen as participants, who met the criteria for inclusion in the study sample (minimising differences). The criteria were (a) a professional career and (b) a working week of at least 40 hours per week. Differences between the cases were maximised by including <ul><li>participants of two age categories, namely 'Generation X' and 'Baby Boomers';</li><li>single and married homemakers;</li><li>some participants without children and some with children of different ages.</li></ul><br>Basic individual interviewing and a projective technique were used to gather qualitative data. Cash slips, field notes and observations in the supermarket were used as additional sources of data and for triangulation purposes. Data analysis included open, axial and selective coding. <br>Considering the closer environment, the most salient findings were the following: <br>Social aspects are important when choosing CF. The preferences and likes of their spouses, children and guests seem to be considered when choosing CF. CF seems to be an acceptable choice for some of the married career women especially during the week when they are pressed for time, whereas single career women seem to use CF as a standard practice. For guests, food is often prepared from scratch. Only when guests arrive unexpectedly, CF would be considered. During weekends, a relaxed pattern regarding meal preparation seems to be the norm. Those who rely on CF during the week continue to do so during the weekends. Those who sometimes opt for CF during the week, tend to spend a little more time preparing 'easy' foods, such as salads. <br>The most salient findings within the distal environment were the following: <br>The spendable income of the household is a product of the economy. The more price sensitive 'Baby Boomers' view CF as too expensive, whereas the Generation X sees it as value for money and time saved, which are both scarce resources for this generation. The single participants living in townhouses employ part-time domestic workers, whereas the married participants living in freestanding dwellings employ full-time domestic workers. Full-time domestic workers assist in or do all the food preparation as well as various household chores. The accessible retail environment seems also to play a significant role in the choice of convenience food. Factors such as a convenient location, a clean, well-organised and friendly atmosphere and a one-stop shopping experience, favour the buying of CF. Finally, an indirect socio-cultural influence was evident in the choice of CF, such as partially prepared meat products suitable for a 'braai', a typical South African tradition.
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