Avoiding traffic and crowded shopping centers at all costs is the best gift you can get this holiday season. The movies make holiday travel and shopping look romantic -- the lights, the window displays, the music in the store -- when in reality, it's anything but.
But in our technological age, you'd be surprised at how much you can pull off for the holidays without ever leaving your couch. If you want a happy holiday season with minimal effort, these apps and websites can help.
In some houses, holiday cooking starts days before anyone eats anything. But if you're not a Julia Child or a Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen, all isn't lost.
- Dishes from prepared meal service Send a Meal dishes look like something straight out of a holiday movie. You can order almost anything for your holiday dinner -- traditional premade sliced ham, smoked turkey, chicken pot pie, appetizers assortments, charcuterie boards and more. The items are available individually or you can choose feasts, dinner for two and other options.
- HelloFresh is a meal delivery kit with customizable plans to choose from like Meat & Veggies, Veggie, Family Friendly and Low Calorie. Since you have the option to subscribe but don't have to, you could select a meal for two or four people and have the ingredients delivered to your door before your holiday dinner, with delicious recipes like Balsamic Fig Chicken, Teriyaki Pork Chops and more.
- Blue Apron is another meal delivery kit that lets you choose a two- or four-serving box (with vegetarian options as well), with unique recipes like Harissa and Honey-glazed Chicken, Calabrian Ricotta and Gnocchi, and more.
If you plan on cooking your own holiday meal from scratch, there are easier ways to get the ingredients other than fighting the crowds in the aisles of a grocery store.
Check out grocery delivery services like Instacart, which covers 80% of US homes. Stores like Target, Aldi and Walmart also have delivery services. In many areas, you can also shop for groceries online and then just swing by to pick them up later, like Kroger Pickup.
If you plan on navigating the sea of mall-goers to check off everyone on your holiday shopping list, you're braver than I am. Instead of carrying too many bags and losing circulation in your fingers, get gifts for everyone with just a few clicks without leaving your house.
- Amazon, of course, has just about everything you could hope for. There's usually some type of deal going on -- you can even get some special perks if you pay extra for a Prime membership.
- If Amazon is on your naughty list, you can check out to help you shop a bit greener this holiday season.
- eBay is another option for holiday shopping. You can either bid on items or buy them straight out. There is a massive range of items to satisfy all of your friends and family's wishes this holiday season.
- Today, almost every store has an app, or at least a website, where you can see what it has to offer, order products and have it delivered to your house. Give the store you have in mind a Google -- no matter how obscure you think it might be-- and find out.
- Etsy is also a great place to find one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones. Prices might be a bit higher since many of the products are handmade, but you're also supporting artists. Just make sure you order in enough time to factor shipping in.
Even if you don't plan on throwing a party, having a few seasonal decorations, can make your home a bit cozier in the holiday months. But you don't have to break the bank at Michaels or Hobby Lobby (though, if you go to a craft store, may the gods of fiscal self-control watch over you). Plenty of good (cheap and free) decorating ideas are up for grabs on Pinterest, some made with things you might already have around the house, or can get delivered easily. Here are some searches to get you started:
- DIY holiday decor
- Budget holiday decor
- Dollar Tree holiday decor
- Simple holiday decor
- Easy holiday decor
Many unique decorations can be found on Etsy if you search "holiday decor." Again, prices may be a bit higher than at a major craft store because you are buying directly from artists. Just make sure you order in enough time to factor shipping in.
And don't forget about YouTube on your quest to find easy-to-do holiday decor. Be on the lookout for craft pages on Facebook or Instagram. When in doubt, a Google search never fails. Lastly, if you have a Netflix account, the streaming service has a crackling fireplace visual to make your living room a bit cozier. You can stream the hour-long "fire" wherever you typically watch Netflix. If you're looking for something more unique, you can have 10 hours of comedian Nick Offerman sitting next to a fireplace to accompany your holiday party.
Pictures and holiday cards
Finally, after the holiday madness calms down and you're parsing through all the photos of the festivities on your phone, you can get physical prints delivered to your door from services like Shutterfly or Snapfish. Google Photos has also updated to let you order prints to pick up at Walmart or CVS.