As mobile phone applications, RSS Feeds and websites become more sophisticated, food lovers no longer need to scan cookery books for inspiration for their evening meal.
When four American University students set up a recipe-sharing website in 1997, their motivation was anthropological rather than commercial.
However, within ten years their website, designed to explore how people share recipes, had grown into one of the world’s biggest food websites – allrecipes.com.
According to vice president of marketing, Esmee Williams, it was people at home rather than web entrepeneurs, who made this site a success.
“We just created the technology,” she explains. “It was the community who created the content.”
With 15 million visitors every year, this easy-to-use website has proven that, when it comes to food and technology, the internet foodie world is not just limited to Blackberries.
But while using the internet to find recipes, do the weekly shop or just order a takeaway has become normal thanks to forward-thinking companies like Allrecipes, the launch of Apple’s iPhone two years ago took things one step further.
Easy-to-download applications which could be used on the move, became available, and this month allrecipes.co.uk launched their first iPhone ‘app’.
“We first introduced our first mobile phone application ten years ago. But back then it was a small screen and a miserable experience,” Williams remembers.
Faster internet connections and better-designed websites changed all that and the companies’ ‘Dinner Spinner’ application has already had 1.5 million downloads in the US.
With a slot machine-like search facility, those who can’t decide on their dinner can simply shake their iPhone to activate the Dinner Spinner. No typing is needed.
You could then download another application to help you buy the ingredients, adds Jon Rudoe, head of retail at Ocado.com
“Our application enables you to do a full shop, anytime,” he explains.
“You could be sitting on a tube and choosing your products. Your list would then be synced to your Ocado account when you go above ground.”
This is great news for those who prefer to make up their shopping lists spontaneously, rather than sitting in front of a computer.
Ordering online is also a handy way to keep an eye on your budget.
“When you’re standing in the supermarket you can’t do an instant price comparison,” Jon points out. “But online you can, so we have to be competitive. You can also see exactly how much you’re spending as you go along.”
A common myth about Ocado.com is that it only stocks Waitrose products, when in fact the site offer 19,000 products. All branded goods sold on Ocado.com are price-matched with Tesco, and their Waitrose own-label produce is sold at “internet only” prices, which makes them cheaper than you would find in-store.
But if you’re still not sold on apps and websites, here are a few sites to get you started…
Download www.seasonsapp.com to find out which fruits and vegetables are in season. The application includes information on fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, fungi and nuts, so you can save the planet while tickling your taste buds. If you haven’t got an iPhone, visit www.eattheseasons.co.uk, instead.
Whether you’re intolerant to dairy, gluten or nuts, this application will help you choose your meals in restaurants, as well as reminding you what questions to ask your waiter. Visit www.allergyfreepassport.com. Or if you need general advice go to www.eatwell.gov.uk.
Matching food and wine
You might have worked out what to eat and how to buy it online – but do you know what to drink? Get some instant expert advice from Natalie Maclean and you’ll never get confused in a wine store again. Visit www.nataliemaclean.com/mobilematch or head to her website for advice, podcasts and subscription to the newsletter.