The oft-repeated myth that working women rely more heavily on convenience foods than those who don't work appears to have been shot down by a recent survey.

The marketing firm of Stratmar Research sampled 200 women in the top 25 metropolitan market areas last month to determine if there were differences in food shopping habits between those who worked full time and those who did not work at all.

The most startling statistics from the report show that more nonworking women used a variety of convenience foods regularly than their working counterparts.

Only 2 per cent of the workers used TV dinners regularly while 6 per cent of the nonworkers did. Among the workers, 37 per cent regularly used instant coffee; the figure was 49 per cent for the nonworkers. Nine per cent of the workers used frozen desserts regularly; 11 per cent of the nonworkers did. The spread was 45 to 52 per cent for frozen vegetables and 20 per cent versus 23 per cent for frozen main dishes.

The survey also produced other startling figures. A large majority of both working and nonworking women never use frozen TV dinners at all: 60 per cent of the former; 67 per cent of the latter.

Other responses to the survey were more in keeping with one has come to expect. Working women and their families are twice as likely to eat in fast-foot restaurants as the families of nonworking women.

Both working and nonworking women who did not use convenience foods regularly gave similar reasons:

"They aren't good for you."

"The quality isn't the same as my homecooked meals."

"There are too many additives, so I avoid them."

"If I relied on convenience foods I couldn't afford it."

Most people are at a loss to explain the results of the survey. But not food authority Burton Wolf who said: "A working woman is much more informed and she's not going to take that junk."