Apps offer holiday help

Smartphones can assist with meals, gift shopping and more


Lawrence Journal-World Illustration

Smartphone apps offer a range of services that might come in handy for the holidays.

Diana Buchanan manages all her grocery shopping and to-do lists with smartphone apps, and her Thanksgiving cooking and Christmas shopping lists will be no different.

The Lawrence resident, who owns Mobile Media SOS, says apps can make things easier, and they’re fun.

“I think once people make the transition from paper and pen to apps and phones and tablets, they never go back,” Buchanan says. “The one thing you’re never going to leave home without, besides your wallet and your keys, is your phone.”

The holidays are coming, and we’ll soon be trying to calculate how long to cook a turkey, come up with an eloquent blessing, budget for Christmas gifts, find the best deals and remember the name of that fantastic merlot we had at our friend’s holiday bash.

As smartphone and app use skyrockets, app offerings follow suit. No matter what’s on your holiday to-do list this year, there’s probably an app for it.

Half of all mobile users now have smartphones, according to a report from this spring. That’s up 14 percent from a year earlier, when Nielsen reported that 36 percent of mobile users had smartphones.

Those smartphone users are also downloading more apps and spending more time using them, Nielsen reported. The average number of apps per smartphone jumped 28 percent, from 32 to 41 apps, and users are spending about 10 percent more time on them.

For our smartphone-toting readers, Go! gathered a roundup of apps to help make the holidays more organized — or at least more fun.

The following apps are for iPhone (what the Journal-World issues to reporters these days), but many also are available for iPad and Android.

For those without Android versions, there’s a good chance Google Play, the Android market, offers an app that does the same thing.


Chow Thanksgiving Dinner Coach app, free for iPhone


  • Chow Thanksgiving Dinner Coach (free) basically puts cooking Thanksgiving dinner on a silver platter for entertaining newbies. The app contains recipes for roasted turkey and classic sides, automatically creates a grocery list for the recipes you select and lists cooking steps by day. That frozen turkey needs to go in the fridge to thaw on Monday!
  • Safeway Chef Assistant (free) has recipes for turkey or roast, an instructional video and food timers — up to four — built into the app.
  • Many recipe websites and cookbooks have apps, including Epicurious Recipes and Shopping List (free), Dinner Spinner (free or $2.99 for pro version), Must-Have Recipes from Better Homes and Gardens (free) and How to Cook Everything ($9.99, or free for Essentials version). Cook Mobile (free) offers video cooking tutorials by category, including dozens specifically for Thanksgiving.


Selecting a Wine for Dummies app, free for iPhone


  • Food and Wine Cocktails (free) has cocktail recipes searchable by spirit or type (you can shake the phone to search), plus mixology tips and techniques.
  • Corkbin (free) describes itself as a mobile scrapbook for wine lovers. Save photos and notes from wines you like, see others’ favorite wines and notes and look up basic pairings by wine type or food type.
  • Selecting a Wine for Dummies (free) is the app version of Wine for Dummies. There’s a pronunciation guide (Chateauneuf-du-Pape = shah toe nuf - doo - pahp, FYI), pairings, a place to save photos and notes of your favorite wines and chapters of information such as serving temperature and all about wine labels.
  • Should you be driving home from that holiday party? Drink calculator iDrinkSmart (99 cents) lets you calculate your BAC (of course, it’s only an estimate, not a guarantee), including variables like gender, weight, food eaten and alcohol levels of drinks.


The Christmas List app, 99 cents for iPhone


  • The Christmas List (99 cents) manages your gift shopping list and budget and helps you track your progress. In case of nosy family members, there’s an option to password-protect your list.
  • A number of Black Friday apps promise a steady feed of the popular deals and the latest ads from major retailers. Some are TGI Black Friday (free), Black Friday Shopping (free) and Black Friday by (free).
  • Quick Scan (free) and ShopSavvy (free) let you scan barcodes then search websites of major retailers selling the product. If another store’s selling it cheaper, you can order it right from your phone.


Lawrence KS app, free for iPhone


  • Nervous about giving the blessing before a holiday meal or the big toast? Food Graces (99 cents) has first lines galore from scripture and literature, for numerous world faiths. iJew Mobile ($1.99, or free for Lite version) has blessings for Hanukkah and other holidays. Toast (99 cents) has — you guessed it — toasts for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
  • For entertaining and putting up out-of-town guests, Lawrence KS (free) helps you find lodging, restaurant menus and hours and shops. There’s a “near me” option for GPS-enabled devices.
  • Christmas Carols by iChristmas (99 cents) has instrumental Christmas music and lyrics for family sing-alongs.
  • To share memories of the festivities with loved ones — even the ones who don’t have smartphones — SnapShot Holiday Postcard (99 cents) lets you take a photo on your phone, pick a border, type a message, and then — for an additional charge — send it as a postcard through the U.S. Postal Service. All you have to do is press send.

— Features reporter Sara Shepherd can be reached at 832-7187. Follow her at


voter78 5 years, 5 months ago

Great article! On a related note, my friend and KU grad Amy Marin Carlson started a company which is in the process of creating an app to help with (and improve) the after-holiday thank-yous. Their IndieGoGo campaign runs through next week:

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