Have a special birthday or anniversary coming up? Most people celebrate with a trip to a favorite restaurant. While expensive, high-end restaurants remain popular destinations for special celebrations, going out to eat for no special reason has become mainstream for most Americans.

I guess I am like most Americans. My name is Joyce and I am an eater outer.

According to a report from Datamonitor, American consumers will spend an average of $1,704 per year on eating and drinking outside the home and miss almost 150 core meals by 2010. Eating out is an ingrained part of our national culture, the report says, and eating habits are evolving to meet the pace and structure of daily life. Consumers are not only missing meals, they are changing the times at which they eat and the types of products they eat, says Datamonitor.

Another market research report says an increasing number of Americans are skipping breakfast. According to The NPD Group, young adults skip breakfast approximately 25 percent of the time, and 35 percent of Latinos do not eat breakfast daily, despite both groups indicating that it's the most important meal of the day.

McDonald's, however, refuses to let us skip out on breakfast. Late last month it launched a website called www.mcmornings.com where it invites the "morning impaired" to re-engage in the idea of a regular breakfast.

My name is Joyce and I am morning impaired. I ate breakfast at the golden arches once 30 years ago and vowed never to do it again. Regardless of my opinion of the menu at Mickey D's, I must admit I like the idea of a quick, drive-thru breakfast I can pick up on the way to work.

Over the past two decades, food manufacturers have adapted to the enormous growth in demand for prepared meals, meals to go and convenience packaging. However, the work is far from over.

As Americans, we are increasingly becoming a nation of eater outers and take outers. I may not be typical, but I have not prepared a home-cooked meal in more than 10 years. As you now know, I am also morning impaired. I think I just peaked earlier than most of my countrymen. Nevertheless, these trends and habits are here to stay and food manufacturers must respond quickly to stay competitive.