4 Free Tasty Apps for Foodies

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Not sure what to make for dinner? Don't crack open a cookbook or even call Mom. Just look at your phone.

Cookbooks are as American as Mom and, well, apple pie recipes. But these days, both cookbooks and moms have been replaced by electronics. A new study by research firm Hartman Group (cleverly titled Clicks and Cravings) polled more than 1,600 computer-savvy adults and found…

While 31 percent say they are inspired by food shows they watch on TV, 25 percent are inspired by recipe websites or phone apps, and 17 percent are inspired by restaurant review websites or phone apps.

Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Except the study laments the old days when “we learned our recipes from mom or a cookbook, and we ate our meals together around a table.” But 29 percent of those surveyed “have used a social networking site while eating or drinking at home in the last month” and 32 percent have texted during their meals.

I plead guilty to both charges. But often I’m eating while surfing my Android phone about food. I have a half-dozen food apps and subscriptions to 11 recipe blogs, and I’m always re-tweeting recipes and advice from famous chefs. While I still occasionally call Mom for food advice, I get most of my new recipes from my apps.

Food  apps beat a phone call to Mom or a page from a cookbook because you’re getting pictures, recipes, and reviews on thousands of dishes free. (Not that Mom charges, but cookbooks aren’t cheap.) Whether you’re an iPhone or an Android person, there are some great free recipe and review apps out there. Here are my favorites…

1. BigOven

Available for the iPhone, Android, and Windows phones

BigOven boasts a giant collection of user-submitted recipes – more than 200,000 and growing. But that’s not so special these days. Here’s what is: With the “Use Up Leftovers” option, you type in three ingredients currently in your refrigerator, and the app finds a recipe you can use. I usually don’t use BigOven until I’m running low on pantry supplies, but that one feature has helped me stretch my food budget and stop wasting leftover ingredients.

2. All Recipes

Available for the iPhone, Android, and Windows phones

How much do I love the All Recipes app? It’s pinned to my home screen. It has thousands of user-submitted recipes, complete with photos and ratings. And once you find something you like, you can add it to your “recipe book” for next time. My recipe book is full of home-style cooking – everything from the perfect pot roast to zesty lasagna.

3. Epicurious

Available for the iPhone, Android, and Windows phones

Epicurious is my go-to app for culinary inspiration. The app collects recipes from some of the best culinary magazines – like Bon Appetite – and stores them in a database. You’ll also find high-resolution photos, ingredient prices, and an ingredient finder. I like that Epicurious lets me dream big, but it also keeps my food budget realistic. Since the price and accessibility of different ingredients are listed on the recipes, I know if I’m better off skipping the “grilled redfish with Andouille reduction sauce” before I run to Whole Foods and spend half my checking account on pricey items.

4. Urban Spoon

Available for the iPhone and Android (no Windows yet)

UrbanSpoon is my answer to “but-nothing-sounds-good” syndrome. When I don’t feel like cooking and want someone else to do the work, I just shake my phone – yes, shake – and UrbanSpoon picks a nearby restaurant for me, based on hundreds of user reviews. If you’d rather make your own life choices, you can browse through the full list. If the place exists, UrbanSpoon has a review on it. And if you’ve got an iPhone, you can use the “dineline” feature to track everywhere you’ve eaten.

For more money-saving food advice, check out…

Stacy Johnson

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