Sunday, December 16, 2012

RedLaser App, Pomegranate Banana Dip, and Sugar and Spiced Tortilla Chips

I'm not super awesome at adopting new technologies.  I'm just not.  Like, for instance, writing this blog.  I keep a pen and notebook for scribbling down recipes and such.  Definitely old-school.  I should probably point out that I have terrible handwriting.  I try to make it legible, but then my need for speed wins over readability.  Then I take a ridiculous amount of time trying to decipher the scrawlings of a madwoman.  Which completely negates any time savings.

That is the advanced technology that I use.  A notepad and pen.  There is an iPad and an iPhone in this family, which I use to browse the internet at night when I can't sleep.  Or to do Google Image searches of Max's favorite things -buses, trains, etc.  Maybe playing a game if I'm feeling fancy.  But I have yet to use these things in a way that was actually useful.  

When I saw this opportunity through Daily Buzz Moms to use a list making and shopping app for the iPhone (the app also works on the Android and Windows Phone), I thought, maybe, just maybe, now I will become a person living in the year 2012 (almost 2013-where does the time go!).  So I seized the day and all that carpe diem jazz.  I decided to just take the plunge into this new era of life.  One filled with order and ease and apps, to make everything in your life run smoothly.  A whole new Jenn. 

This year, we are having a small Christmas Eve party, and I thought, this...this is the perfect catalyst to become that whole new app-organized Jenn.  And so I downloaded the RedLaser app (which is free, how awesome is that?)

When you open the app, there is a home screen, with some menus listed along the bottom.  There is a "deals" menu, a "scan" menu, a "search" menu, and "more."  More is where you can see things like your loyalty cards, your lists, create a QR code, your history, your purchases, and settings (one of which is whether you want to post your purchase to Facebook).  The home menu will tell you items you recently viewed and recommend items for you based on your search history.

There is so much to love about this app.  I liked that you can scan all your store loyalty cards and keep them all in one place- right on your phone.  Now my wallet doesn't have to be so obnoxiously bulky and barely keep itself closed with all those cards - yay!  The camera and scanning features are intuitive and easy to use.  Navigating around the app in general is actually pretty intuitive.  It didn't take me long to figure out how to get to the various features, and the app is super helpful in directing you.  

The deals section of the app is great, you can see online and local deals for major retailers like Michaels (oh how I love Michaels!), Gap, Target, Kohls, Macys, Walgreens, Home Depot, and this list goes on and on.  Definitely nice!  A one stop place to check out any good bargains, which is super convenient at this time of year! Another really useful feature is their in-app checkout, so you can easily access those good online deals.

Just having a place to store a list is really great.  And you can have multiple lists.  Many lists! All in one place.  So no more trying to make out my illegible scribbles while standing in the grocery store aisle.  No more losing my lists!  Oh god, I make so many lists. and I have to, with so many lost to attrition.  Crumbled and lost to the ether in the bottom of bags and purses.  Forgotten on countertops and then fallen into an abyss, most likely knocked over by a bored cat.  Now I can store them all in the phone!

But once I used the app to make a grocery list (which, lets face it, is the most common list I make), things went a little wonky.  You can manually type in a list.  Or you can take a photo of the item and have the app find the item to add to the list.  Or you can scan the barcode of an item to add to a list.  So in theory, these options are pretty cool.  I know you won't always have the barcode or ability to take photos of everything on your list, but it is convenient when possible.  I decided to take a picture of some milk, as that is always a fixture on our grocery list.  But the app wasn't able to recognize it as milk, instead it was recognized as a plastic bottle.  Okay, not really useful, but no biggie.  I then used the app to scan the barcode of the milk.  Here it came up with "product of dean foods company," a description that isn't useful on your grocery list.  I tried the barcode scan again on a bag of pecans and the app added "product of poindexter nut company" to my list.  Correct information, but not useful as a grocery list.  So I was left with manually adding items to my grocery list.

When you finally get something added to your list, you can get price comparisons from both online and local stores, reviews, and details about the item (theoretically).  I looked at truffle oil, and it gave me online prices from internet retailers but "check back soon - new results added daily for the local prices" came up under the local store section.  This was also the result in the reviews section, a section that would be useful. How great would it be to have reviews for the brand of oil you are interested in right in front of you?  It did have information, though, in the "details" section.  This is quite nice, giving nutrition facts and allergen information,  both useful and convenient!  Most items I entered onto my grocery list had online prices, but none gave me local prices. Giving you more grocery options would be seriously awesome - like, if you typed in "bacon" and then the app gave you prices for various brands of bacon in both online and local stores.  That would make this a killer app! 

I decided to take a look at some non-grocery related features on the app, and that is where this app really shines.  Seriously!  I did a price search for a car seat, as this is something we need for Max when he outgrows his current one.  Here I could see online prices and local prices, though the reviews section did say "check back soon," again.  Which is a bit unfortunate, as that is useful information to have at your fingertips.  I also did a search for diapers.  Here I got multiple online and multiple local options, letting me know how to get the best price for this item.  Which is absolutely amazing.  The future - it is awesome!

Maybe this app won't completely revolutionize my grocery shopping habits.  But I will be using the list functions, even with its clumsy barcode scanner.  It will also help me price some specialty ingredients (especially from online retailers).  It will most definitely help me with some of the non grocery things.  Like for our party, all those other things, like a punch bowl and Christmas decorations - these are things for which this app is designed.  And all those other life things like car seats and dvd players and books.  These are the sorts of things I will be using the app to research and buy.  And I will definitely be checking out the deals at top stores, just to see if Santa can pick up any more good buys.  With all those loyalty store cards stored in one spot.  So I may not be ready to give up my notebook and pen completely.  But I am ready to incorporate some apps into my life.  Including this RedLaser one.  Maybe not a completely new Jenn, but one with some new organizational and shopping tricks under her belt.  And also a dip - a festive pomegranate and banana dip for holiday parties. 

This post is brought to you by RedLaser. Get the free app at RedLaser
I was financially compensated for this review by RedLaser through Daily Buzz Moms.  The opinions, however, are completely my own based on my experience.

Pomegranate Banana Dip

8 ounces cold mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 small, ripe banana
3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest
pinch salt
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (arils), plus more for serving

Place mascarpone and sugar in bowl of electric mixer and beat on medium speed. Mix in remaining ingredients.  Sprinkle top with additional pomegranate seeds.  Serve with Sugar and Spiced Tortilla Chips and fruit (I like it with apples).

Sugar and Spiced Tortilla Chips

4 tortillas, each cut into 8 equal size wedges
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
pinch salt

Place tortilla wedges in bowl, toss with oil, cinnamon, sugar, clove, salt.  Use tongs to distribute oil and seasonings as evenly as possible on the tortilla wedges.  Bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes, until crispy.  Serve with dip.