There's no way to give a universal answer to how many calories you will burn during a given activity because everybody burns calories differently. The best thing to do is to use a calorie calculator (see Resources) to get an accurate analysis. By entering your weight and amount of time working, you can find out how many calories you're burning during everyday activities such as sleeping and watching TV. For this article, assume a 150-pound person doing 30 minutes of activity.
You'll burn the most calories before and after you eat. Going grocery shopping for 30 minutes will burn somewhere around 80 calories, and that's even if you don't push a cart. Simply walking around the grocery store, picking things up off of shelves and carrying weight around will burn calories. If you're going to be talking on the phone the entire time, you'll burn another 60 calories, waiting in a line for 30 minutes will shed about 40 more calories, and reading a magazine for 30 minutes will burn another 45 calories. All the scrubbing you'll do washing the dishes later on will burn about 80 calories every 30 minutes. The harder you have to scrub, the more calories you'll burn, but just washing, towel drying, and putting away dinnerware is an exercise in itself.
Now on to the food. While you're chopping up your onions and tomatoes and seasoning your chicken, expect to burn off around 70 calories every 30 minutes, and you'll burn off another 90 if you take 30 minutes to set the table. This assumes that you're walking back and forth to set dishes and utensils, as well as serving the meal. And when you finally sit down to enjoy your meal, the energy you use to eat your food will burn off an extra 50 calories for every half-hour.
There are several activities you do every day that burn calories. Doing your laundry, showering and getting dressed all burn calories, and most people don't even know it. Folding clothes, putting them in and taking them out of the washer or dryer will help tone your arms as you burn off about 70 calories. If you have to go put the clothes away, possibly walking up and down stairs and opening and closing drawers, you will burn an additional 100 calories. When you know you have a clean set of clothes and you're ready to take a shower, the scrubbing and stretching will slightly get your heart rate going. And once you get out of the shower, toweling off keeps your heart rate up. All in all, you'll burn about 70 calories while showering. And if you do a lot of grooming when you get dressed (wash and dry your hair, put on makeup, shave), then expect to burn about 110 calories. If you're just going to put your clothes on and leave, you'll still burn around 70 calories.
Other activities that burn calories while standing up:
(Un)packing boxes = 128 calories every 30 minutes
Pumping gas = 73 calories every 30 minutes
Watering lawn = 55 calories every 30 minutes
Picking up lawn/flowers/vegetables = 110 calories every 30 minutes
Washing dog = 128 calories every 30 minutes
It's so good to be able to burn off some calories while you're being lazy. Watching TV, smoking, listening to music and even sitting on the toilet will all burn around 35 calories each. When you're watching TV, you're most likely aren't sitting completely still. Getting comfortable and using the remote to change the channels burns some calories. If you have to get up to change the channel, walking back and forth will burn more calories. And if you're eating while watching TV, you'll also burn more.
While you're smoking and listening to music, you're heart rate can go up for a couple reasons. First, inhaling the smoke will increase your heart rate, and second, listening to music can amp you up. You don't have to be jumping across the room for your heart rate to increase while listening to your favorite song--just sitting there will do. But singing along and changing songs is how a lot of the calories will be burned.
It's rare to spend 30 minutes sitting on the toilet, but if you ever have, you know why you just burned 30 calories. And you'll even burn 30 calories every 30 minutes you spend sleeping.
Other activities that burn calories while sitting down:
Knitting/sewing = 55 calories
Playing cards/board games = 55 calories
Writing/Typing = 66 calories
Studying = 66 calories