None of our Christmases will be alike this week, but two things that bind us all are the need to have some sort of meal ready on time, and to work it off when it’s all over. There’s an app for both of those.
Technology has contributed little since the advent of the microwave oven to the business of preparing the Christmas feast. But if the timer on your cooker is no more sophisticated than it was a generation ago, your phone certainly is.
Multiple consecutive countdowns can keep track of the turkey, sprouts and potatoes and remind you when it’s time to turn them over or add the stuffing. You can do some of this just by using the clock built into your phone, but an app will give you more flexibility, by letting you set a cooking time for each part of the meal. Some give you a visual indication by mimicking the layout of your hob and oven, and others will let you enter the details in advance and then tell you when to turn the heat on.
Admittedly, you can do a lot of that with a pen and paper, but the reassurance of not being allowed to forget anything in the heat of the moment takes a little of the stress out of Christmas.
There are more cooking timers for Apple phones and tablets than for Android handsets, but whichever model you have, you’ll find one that will do the job. Just don’t wait until Christmas morning to start looking, because each has its idiosyncrasies that you’ll want to master before the main event.
Easy Cooking Timer, for iPhones and iPads, is one of several apps that work things out backwards, beginning with the time you want to eat. All you do is enter the name and cooking time for each item, and optionally add any intermediate steps. It’s the most logical way to work, because it makes the phone do the maths.
Kitchenmate takes a similar approach, with added recipe storage. It’s not visually appealing, but it covers the basics.
For Android phones, Kitchen Timer is a free app with an interface like a clockwork egg timer. It lets you set unlimited counters and keeps several on screen at once. And once Christmas is out of the way, you can use it for sleeping and exercising.
Most of these apps are the work of individual developers rather than corporate interests, which is certainly not the case with those that aim to help you lose the weight you’ll have put on by Wednesday evening.
Apps like Lose It, Fat Secret and My Fitness Pal are components of web-based services that keep track of how much you’ve eaten and how much more you can consume before you hit your daily goals. They also work on smartwatches, keeping count of how many calories you’ve burned off.
My Fitness Pal lists more than 5m ingredients and can work out how many calories each involves, while Lose It will devise a custom weight loss plan for you, based on information you give it.
There are literally hundreds of alternatives, often with hidden agendas and paid-for extras. Real-world services like Weight Watchers and Slimming World also have their own apps.
For those of a more sedentary nature, Christmas means television, and picking the best programmes is also now the province of the app stores. TV Guide goes one better than the double issue of the Radio Times by letting you watch programmes on the spot, and encompassing listings for the streaming services of Netflix, Amazon Prime and the BBC iPlayer, as well as the broadcast channels. It’s littered with adverts, but it wouldn’t really be Christmas without those, either.