Happier Holidays with Recipe, Shopping & Gift-Giving Apps

When I was a kid many moons ago, Christmastime was my absolute favorite time of year—even more so than my birthday. As an adult, I love to reignite that childlike spirit at the end of each year. I get so excited when I think of Santa hats, holiday tunes, festive lights, mouthwatering feasts . . . I could go on. This year, I’ve discovered entertainment, recipe, shopping, and gift-giving apps that can help make this holiday season more magical than ever before.

Related: Apps We’re Loving This Holiday Season

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Keep the Family Entertained & Calm with Meditation & Game Apps

Let’s talk about games. We all have a memory of a game that made us, a game that shamed us, a game that transformed us, or even inspired us. Holiday games with family and friends offer the perfect opportunity to create joyous memories we’ll cherish for years to come. One iPhone game that gives the gifts of laughter and fun is Holiday Charades (free). It is a fun, easy-to-use game with a classic style that’s sure to have you hooked. There are multiple categories, such as Christmas music and holiday foods that will test your knowledge and tickle your spirit. Here’s what you do: choose a category, then the player starting the game will place the device on their head facing out at the group. The others offer hints and clues to help the player guess the correct word or phrase before the time runs out. You then tally the scores, and the next player is up. The categories are broad and allow for many rounds of play, entertaining the youth and adults alike. There are ads, but it’s only $0.99 to get rid of them.

With the bigger crowd entertained, you may begin to wonder what could appease the little ones who are too frantic to play word games but not quite independent enough to be left alone. Instead of chasing around the little rascals as they run from room to room giggling, present them with Mindful Powers, a free meditation app for kids. It’s colorful, calming, and interactive—I gave it a test run and found myself feeling more Zen as well! Set your youngster up with headphones, and they’ll love having the phone to themselves. There is some light reading required, so be sure your little one can follow along, or perhaps be around to walk them through the early stages of the game. Mindful Powers has two modes: Mindful Play and Focus Time, and uses the help of Flibbertigibbets to encourage compassion, creativity, and concentration. Mindful Play is ideal for settling down, and Focus Time helps with self-monitoring during tasks like homework or creative projects.

Recipe Apps Make Holiday Meals Easy

Whew! Now that the children are calm and the in-laws are laughing, you may be wondering how you’re going to tackle this monster of a meal that everyone is expecting to enjoy. Ten years ago, a frantic race to the grocery store and wrestling over last turkeys and cans of cranberries was bound to cause utter chaos at your typical Walmart. Now, however, there’s an app for that. With Instacart (free), you can have all of your groceries, and even some household products delivered right to your door, often within an hour or two. You can order everything from frozen foods to fresh produce, meat and seafood to dairy, packaged foods to alcohol, and have them sent directly to your door with only a few taps on your iPhone. Instacart features great deals, offers replacements for items low in stock, and offers suggestions based on what’s in your cart. Got the mac but forgot the cheese? No worries; Instacart will suggest popular products purchased together to make sure your entire list is covered. With free delivery options, you’ve basically done twice the work in half the time and probably saved some money.

You can add to those savings with the free Ibotta app’s cash back offers. If you’ve been shopping without Ibotta, you’ve basically left trails of money behind on your way home. Ibotta offers cash back from lots of popular retailers both in-store and online, and the cash can be redeemed with either a photo of the receipt or the online purchase itself. Just be sure to add the offers before you shop, and Ibotta will handle the rest. You can even share the wealth and earn up to $100 just by inviting your friends! Cash out with PayPal, Venmo, or any number of various gift card options. Shop in advance, and your savings from Ibotta can help purchase holiday gifts for your loved ones!

23Snaps (free) is a brilliant platform that’s like a social media app exclusive to your family and select friends. You can take photos, record videos, or post status updates to share with your loved ones within the app or via email. Create family journals with collections for holidays, birthdays, graduations, or any event you’d like. You can even order prints or photo books of your collections. With 23Snaps, selfies and video shoots will keep the family busy for a good while as you navigate the evening’s food preparations.

With Holiday Recipes (free), you’ll produce restaurant-quality dishes in no time since you can choose from a wide variety of engaging, easy-to-follow video tutorials. Try vegan recipes like sweet potato biscuits, health-conscious choices like the avocado chocolate pudding, and classic gut-stuffers like lasagna and macaroni and cheese. Basically, there’s something for everyone, because we know people have different dietary preferences. The app does have ads, although they’re generally only five seconds or so. Recipes are from popular websites, such as allrecipes and feature world-renowned chefs like Gordon Ramsay. And yes, for those with a sweet tooth like myself, there are also dessert recipes. You’re welcome.

Stress-Free Gift Giving with Shopping Apps

Now that you’ve made sure the guests are fed, you’re thinking ahead. Did you get gifts for everyone you intended to? Is your nephew going to like the new Nintendo, or is he an Xbox kind of guy? Well, before you fall into the endless rabbit hole that is your mind, consider downloading the free Christmas List app. Christmas List helps you keep track of who wants what, how much you want to spend, and what gifts you’ve bought, mailed, or wrapped. Christmas List auto-creates a shopping list from your input and removes items from the list once you’ve marked them as bought. You can export the list to your email for storage or printing, and password protect the app, so no one knows what you’re up to until they rip open the decorative wrapping paper you spent hours taping together.

While you’re making your list, remember to throw in the gifts that you’ll need for that work party next week! Additionally, go ahead and download the Elfster app (free) for all the parties and friend circles you’re destined to be a part of. Elfster makes gift-giving a breeze. You create an event—say, a Secret Santa work party—and then add the date, budget, and method of exchange. Invite others and, if desired, allow them to invite their friends as well. You can add items to your wish list to offer clues to your Secret Santa, and you can chat anonymously within the app to learn more about what your giftee might like. Is Secret Santa happening at the kids’ school, too? No problem, since with Elfster, you can add children’s accounts to help keep track of their gift-giving obligations as well.

So that’s it from me, everyone! Grab your superhero cape, your iPhone, and a jolly spirit to prepare for the wonderful days ahead. If you’re hoping to have a carefree, smooth, and peaceful holiday season with your family and in-laws, good luck and let me know how that goes! If you’re looking to add a little more ease, higher-quality memories, and a lot more fun to your upcoming holiday, check out these apps in the App Store, and let’s ho-ho-hope for the best! Happy Holidays!

Top image credit: Cienpies DesignShutterstock.com

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Author Details

Melanie Newell's picture

Author Details

Melanie Newell

Melanie has been writing for as long as she can remember, and she loves using words to express ideas, convey emotions, or educate an audience. From speeches and journaling to poetry and screenplays, writing has guided Melanie through various experiences and continuously expands her intellectual and creative horizons.