Even a task as basic as grocery shopping is evolving with technology as Lexington smartphone users discover ways to simplify their shopping needs.
Applications contain myriad functions from social media and organizing tools to travel planning and games. Searching for "grocery" in the iPhone App Store brings an endless scroll of options. Many are free, and others have a download fee ranging from 99 cents to $4.99.
Shannon Halvorson, 24, uses her grocery apps to save time. Halvorson often goes grocery shopping with her infant son in tow. Over the course of her week, she looks up recipes using the UCook app and then translates the ingredients into a grocery list.
The apps are easy to use for those who aren't technologically savvy, she said, and are convenient since they are part of a person's most instrumental personal item — a cell phone.
"I may forget a handwritten grocery list or a recipe I printed out off the Internet, but I am never without my phone," she said.
While searching for recipes takes some time, Halvorson said using her grocery apps expedites the overall shopping process — a plus for a busy mom.
"When shopping with a child, the sooner you can get out of the store, the happier everyone is," she said. "It takes a while to do, but in the long run, you're not going to be wasting time in the store trying to remember what you need."
Mike Ferguson, operations coordinator for Lexington's Kroger stores, said he has seen a growing trend in Lexington shoppers utilizing smartphone grocery apps. Beyond making grocery lists and downloading recipes, Ferguson said he has seen customers download online coupons using their phone and scan barcodes with their phone's cameras to do price comparisons with other stores.
Ferguson said the grocery industry is benefiting from this technology as much as the customers.
"If customers have the ability to add coupons, then that helps with sales, and overall it helps with sales in general because customers are able to get everything on their list and they won't forget to buy items," he said.
Most of the customers Ferguson sees using smartphone are younger shoppers in their mid-20s, but the user pool isn't limited to that group. Doug Wedding, 53, uses his iPhone to grocery shop once a week. Since he and his wife are retired, Wedding said he is the primary grocery shopper and cook in the family.
About three months ago Wedding downloaded "How To Cook Everything," the app version of New York Times columnist Mark Bittman's cookbook. Wedding said he uses the app because if he finds an item on sale, he can enter it into his phone and find a recipe centered on it that builds an entire meal.
"I saved money the first time I went shopping with it. It allows me to make a meal with whatever is on sale at any given time at the store," he said.
A frugal shopper, Wedding said he hates trying to keep track of coupons, so the iPhone app is a welcome alternative. Using the app, he buys only the ingredients necessary to complete a meal based around a sale item or something he already has in the fridge at home. Wedding said he loves the freedom the app provides when it comes to grocery shopping.
"You can use it on the spot because you don't know what is going to be on sale or a manager's special before you get there," he said. "You can be super spontaneous with it and switch tracks at the last minute if you need to."
Without the iPhone apps, Alison Pope said she probably wouldn't even bother with a grocery list. Pope, 31, uses iPhone Assistant Lite by Kraft to turn recipes into a grocery list. She often plans her menu for the entire week on her phone after she arrives at the store.
"I like that I can do it on location; I don't have to make out a list ahead of time," she said. "I can go about my day and make the list at the store."
Pope sees the apps as a great marketing tool for food companies who have earned a seat at the family dinner table through iPhones.
"It's great branding, it creates a one-on-one connection with clients. To be in someone's phone, which is so important to so many people, is a big deal," she said.