Our Favorite Apps for Living Abroad

Our Favorite Apps for Living Abroad

We live in a Smart world, where information is available at your fingertips. But when you’re abroad, having the right apps can make all the difference in your life. Today, we’re discussing a few of the apps we like the most. Some you can use at home, right now! Others are more useful when you’re on the go. Intrigued? Read on! (Note, we’re not getting paid for any of these. We just like them and want to share.)

MealBoard

Platform: iOS (+ simple web app for importing recipes)

Price: $3.99

Om nom nom.

We first started using Mealboard in Madison, WI in 2013. It’s a pretty simple, paid app, designed to help you grocery shop with ease. There are a lot of apps out there like this one, but with time, we’ve really made the most of MealBoard. Now that we live in Germany, where we don’t have a car and have to carry our groceries home, it’s even more essential (you can even include the German names of tricky ingredients if necessary!) Here are a few of our favorite features:

  • Organization by aisle. You can customize the names and order of the aisles for each store you shop at, and you can pair ingredients with certain stores, so they appear on the right list.
  • Pantry. Got a lot of chicken stock? Edit the number of cans in the pantry, so it only appears on your list when it has calculated that you’ve gone through your stock (super useful, we no longer buy cinnamon every time because we forgot to check the amount we have).
  • Importing recipes. Online or in the app, you can pull in recipes from recognized sources like Allrecipes or from blogs. It instantly recognizeds the ingredients and steps, so you just have to do a little bit of editing once you’ve imported.
  • Calling up favorite recipes. Soon, you’ll have a full thing of recipes. Since they’re organized by type, you can select your recipes for the week and generate your grocery list based on that. It’s also easy to browse the available recipes, so you can pick what you want to eat that week.

This really makes things easier when shopping for a week’s worth of food (an unpopular idea here in Europe, but who wants to go to the store every day?). We can pull in a few old favorite recipes, import a couple new ones, and then generate a grocery list with ingredients listed by aisle. Since we can’t always find everything in one place (e.g. we have to go to the Asian market for brown sugar) it even creates separate lists by store. This saves a lot of time, especially when we do our big run on Friday nights when everyone is at Berghain.

 

YNAB

Platform: iOS, Android, web

Cost: Included with $5 monthly subscription

Always be budgeting.

Admittedly, we don’t use this app on a day-to-day basis. In general, we budget at home once a week. For more, see our post on budgeting. However, the app is really handy if I’m at the store and need to check how much room we have left in the budget for clothes. I can also easily move money from one budget to another.

1Password

Platform: iOS, Android, web, Mac, Windows, browser extensions

Price: $5 monthly subscription for a family

Super secure for the win!

I have been a bit of a security geek ever since I took a course on cryptography in college. Passwords have always irked me. It’s highly insecure to use the same one everywhere. All it takes is a breach on one site and someone can log in everywhere. The alternative is to always use a unique password, but then how do you remember them all? There are some useful techniques, but they always seem to fall short in the real world. What about sites that have specific password restrictions? What about those random accounts you don’t care about? What about passwords you have to change every 3 months by policy? I got 1Password to solve all these problems. Now, I just memorize a single, super secure password, and this unlocks a safe which has all my passwords. Here are the features I like:

  • High security
  • Fills passwords on sites
  • Generates new passwords
  • Stores and fills credit cards, passports, and other sensitive info
  • Unlocks with your fingerprint on iOS
  • Shared vaults
  • Updates passwords
  • Remembers previously used passwords
  • Notifies you of security vulnerabilities (weak or duplicate passwords, breaches)

This app has really changed the way I interact with software. Now I never have to worry about forgetting a password and getting locked out of an account. And I can fill my login details on any site with a single hotkey. This is super convenient. Just one word of warning: be sure to take your account key with you when you travel so you can get into your account even if you lose your phone or computer.

Wunderlist

Platform: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Windows Phone

Price: Free

There’s nothing a list can’t fix.

Katarina loves organization. She really, really loves it. In fact, her mom might be the best list-maker I’ve ever seen, so she comes by it naturally. And while she’ll protest that crossing things off is always the most satisfying, even she has to admit that a good list app is essential (and environmentally friendly). Wunderlist is awesome. Here are some of our favorite things about it:

  • Recurring tasks
  • Due dates
  • Folders and sub-items
  • Notifications
  • Shared lists
  • Assigning tasks

We use Wunderlist for everything from work to home to travel. Since we travel a lot, and try to plan in advance, we often end up juggling multiple trips at the same time. We can create lists for each trip and be sure we don’t forget to book a tour, check-in, or print something. The ability to see previously completed to-dos and restore them is particularly handy on our packing list. We also put our chores in there so the apartment stays clean and the cats stay happy. At work, I use Getting Things Done for productivity, and this plays very nicely with Wunderlist. When it comes to tackling the ups and downs of living abroad, I can’t overstate the importance of having a list. Or many, many lists…

CityMapper and Google Maps

Platform: iOS, Android, web

Price: Free

Go! Win!

When we moved to Berlin, we were public transit noobs. The bus service in Madison was not great, and Los Angeles is notorious for terrible transit options. So when we arrived, we embraced transit with open arms. CityMapper helps us make sure we get where we need to be on time. And if we’re without internet or data? Then we download Google Maps offline before we leave. Here are some things we like about each.

CityMapper:

  • Easy point-to-point transit
  • Indicates which part of the train to get on
  • Tells you which entrance to use (very useful in Alexanderplatz, which has about 20 entrances)
  • Real-time ETA for your current route
  • Map with up-to-date arrivals for nearby stops
  • Warning about closures and delays
  • Look up a trip on the web and save to the app
  • Save your commute
  • Trip statistics

Google Maps

  • Offline maps
  • Star important places
  • Reviews
  • Street view and pictures

I was a diehard Google Maps fan when we moved here, but now I use CityMapper exclusively for getting around Berlin (and any city we visit where it is supported). The experience for getting from point A to point B just can’t be beat. However, Google Maps still has the upper hand in that it is available everywhere, has more data, and you can save large areas offline. This is great for when we take a short trip out of the country and it’s not worth it to pay for mobile internet for a few days. On our trip to Rome last year, we starred everywhere we wanted to visit before we left, downloaded it, and managed to wander all over the city with no internet and always knowing where the nearest gelato was.

Duolingo and Google Translate

Platform: iOS, Android, web

Price: Free

For when you really need to know how to order a beer.

When we moved to Germany, I spoke some German, but Katarina knew very little. In order to get prepared, we both spent some time every day practicing vocab in Duolingo. Now, this app is awesome for learning new words and getting comfortable with the sounds of a new language. We like the rewards system and the easy ramp up. That being said, the grammar lessons are lacking, and it’s difficult to understand the rules without more formal instruction. We used my old German textbook as a reference quite often.

And for those words we just don’t know, we love Google Translate. This handy app not only translates what you type, it can actually scan an image and try to translate as you go! Granted, the technology is not perfect, but it did save us a few times when we had very confusing notices posted on our apartment door. Like Google Maps, you can also download your favorite languages so you can translate without internet. Now we can write passive-aggressive notes in German for our neighbors as well!

OverDrive

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows

Price: Free

Get your fantasy fix anytime.

Are you a bookworm? Katarina definitely is! When we first started budgeting, we noticed that the book line item numbers were… a little high. In a country with few bookstores in English and a confusing library system (again, not a lot of selection in English), Kindle downloads are all too easy. But those add up, quickly! In comes OverDrive to save the day. This is a free app provided by many US public libraries. All you have to do is use your US library card to register, and then the world is at your fingertips!

Katarina loves downloading audiobooks straight to her phone for her commutes to and from work, but she can also download Kindle editions of books, including travel guides! This app is a huge money saver. The selection available depends on your local library, but you can suggest titles. In Katarina’s experience, these are purchased if requested enough, and then you’re automatically on the hold list!

 

These are just a few of the apps that really improve our daily lives across the pond. What apps do you love?

Colin

 

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