Family Apps: A Short List

Shea Anderson / March 21, 2012

Not to scoff at the success of Angry Birds, but we’ve been focusing here on a few must-have smartphone apps for families.

As modern families hustle about their days, it’s reassuring to be able to keep track of household basics, but on a modern platform. Gone are the days of the spouse getting asked to “pick up a carton of milk on the way home.” Instead, you might be told to check the shared grocery list, enter your expenses on the accounts keeper and order new photos for the in-laws.
Here are a few of the family-style apps we’re using :

  • Cozi: Say “So long” to the grocery list jotted on a scrap of paper or the whiteboard at home.  This mobile app allows families to share grocery and other shopping lists online, and manage them on the fly. You can add items instantly, so that even as your significant other is shopping, you can add to it, to make sure they replace that jar of peanut butter  you just emptied. The app also features a shared family calendar, so you can plan vacations, and a “to-do” list.
  • Mvelopes:  sold as a “home budgeting system,” this app is designed to help families manage their spending habits through a catch-all accounting system that lives on their mobile device. New users of Mvelopes here call it an extremely useful app, but that it requires some significant behavior change on the part of the user. For example, you need to create a budget, which means examining spending habits to figure out how much you spend on everything from dry cleaning to gas to groceries, utilities and your mortgage. You then create a budget built around a series of envelopes – online mini-accounts – for each of these items. You fund these envelopes from every paycheck. Users can track their spending and saving through the mobile app.
  • Allrecipes: You have pork tenderloin in your fridge, it was a special at the local grocer, but you have no idea what to make with it. Apps like Dinner Spinner can solve the problem of a stocked fridge but an empty menu. Choose the course you want to make (side dish, dessert, breakfast or main dish), select the main ingredient and then decide how long you want it to take to cook (it even has a slow-cooker option). Allrecipes will find a place on your plate for that random sweet potato in the fridge. Or if you can’t decide what you want- just give your mobile device a shake and the app will decide for you. You’ll find a daily recipe, a favorites list, and even provide the opportunity to search for  a specific recipe.
Those apps cover the basics of family life: scheduling, eating and finance. The less “essential” apps that we couldn’t live without include Pandora for family music, and photo sharing apps like KodakGallery.
The best family apps, we’ve found, are those that don’t require huge behavioral changes, but instead add utility and convenience to everyday chores like shopping, cooking and managing money. We know there are others out there, and would love to get your suggestions. As readers submit ideas we’ll test them out and highlight them here.