Feature Story

How tech helps consumers make the most of Thanksgiving

by Melissa Jun Rowley

How tech helps consumers make the most of Thanksgiving

Apps and devices enhance the way families experience this time of year.

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. As one of the most important meals of the year, the prepping, cooking and cleaning involved can cause their fair share of anxiety. That being said, multiple technologies are enhancing the way families experience this time of year. Smart tech, mobile apps, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are bringing kitchens of the future into homes now.

Recipes galore

Finding the perfect recipe is the first step to creating an ideal Thanksgiving experience, and yes, there's an app for that! The free recipe app BigOven helps people make grocery lists, plan meals, use leftovers, share recipes with others, and even has a Thanksgiving Advice Center.  It's similar to the Paprika App, which embeds timers in the recipe to minimize app switching while cooking.

Time, temperature, and weight

When it comes to cooking any meal—especially dinners as large and intricate as Thanksgiving—timing is indeed everything. This is where wireless and smart technology come in handy.

Thanks to wireless, digital thermometers, home cooks are able to monitor temperatures from their smartphones. The Zvation Wireless Meat Thermometer works with eight different types of meat, with up to four temperatures for each. Users can also set their own custom temperature.

See also: New shopping solutions and why security is more important than ever

Vorwerk's TM5 machine offers multiple features for at-home chefs. Its robust Cookidoo-Recipe Platform has more than 40,000 recipes with step-by-step instructions that can be added to a home cook's personal weekly meal planner and converted into digital shopping lists. The machine also whips up Thanksgiving favorites, such as cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, desserts, cocktails, or even mulled wine. Because of the smart technology that provides guided cooking instructions, the TM5 cooks the meals, while hosts can spend more time entertaining their guests.

"The TM5 represents the future of cooking," says Kai Schäffner, CEO of Thermomix USA, "Smart kitchen technology will continue to simplify the cooking experience, like the TM5, so that everyone can make healthier, cheaper, and unbelievably delicious meals in a chef-like manner. Technology will connect the best kitchen appliances, and they will come ready-to-connect right out of the box."

In addition to timing and temperature, measuring the weight of ingredients is crucial for home cooks during Thanksgiving. The wifi-enabled Drop scale allows users to place ingredients on its heat resistant surface, and see the weights on their smartphone through the Drop app.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping

As for post-Thanksgiving tasks, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right on the horizon. These days, many customers want a game plan in place, and don't want to deal with the craziness of in-store crowds. So specialty sites that report on Black Friday sales are key, like BlackFriday.com and BFads.net.

See also: What scams shoppers should look out for on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

"The focus of Black Friday tends to be on offline sales, and especially electronics," says online shopping expert Michelle Madhok, "Just be sure you're getting the model you want, because sometimes retailers try to pass off special Black Friday order models that may look like the premium version, but aren't the same. If apparel and cosmetics are what you're after, you'll want to shop on Cyber Monday."

Madhok also recommends using comparison search engines that specialize in shopping categories. For instance,  shopstyle.com has specific databases for fashion, home and kids' toy sites. Meanwhile, shopping.com and bizrate.com make it their mission to ferret out the best prices on commodity items like big screen TV's.

"To find promotional codes, go to RetailMeNot.com or Google the name of the shopping site with the words ‘coupon code' or ‘promotion code," says Madhok.

As for security tips for online shoppers, Madhok says to be wary of sites that offer too-good-to-be true offers or merchants you've never heard of.

"Google the name of the site and "fraud" or "scam," she suggests, "Shop with companies located in the U.S. because you're protected by state and federal consumer laws. Use a credit card when you buy online, since unauthorized charges of $50 or more are covered by federal law. Never use a debit or check card, which could expose your bank account to theft. Use an autofill tool for your credit card and shipping address.  You can set up tools like RoboForm to remember the passwords to your favorite sites, and also fill in shipping addresses to various places."

Most of all, just like with food prep and cooking, planning ahead for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping is paramount, as it helps you save on shipping costs.

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