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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in February

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

If you follow our monthly feature “Your Shopping Cart,” you know we have some eerily good intel on what you all are buying, which led us to think that, as Strategist editors, we could turn the tables and highlight all the things we’ve been buying for ourselves. As you’ll notice, it’s both a blessing and a curse to be a Strategist editor; we’re picky, but sometimes we just have to get on with it. (It’s online-shopping expertise meets IRL needs.) Below, what we bought in February.

Kelsie Schrader, managing editor

Like many Strategist readers, I bought a pair of these Levi’s when they were on sale for just $21 at the start of this month. The 27-inch inseam was slightly long on me, so I gave the brand’s in-house tailor a try and had them hemmed a couple of inches for $10 extra. They’ve already become my go-to pair. I almost wish I’d gotten a backup while they were so cheap.

I just moved and needed a new drying rack — the one I had been using (a) didn’t belong to me and (b) was not super-sturdy, so it fell apart every time I tried to open it. I didn’t want anything too big or too expensive, and this collapsible one seemed to have the best reviews for the lowest price. I’ve only used it twice so far, but it’s definitely sturdier than the old one. You have to push quite hard to click the rungs into place the first time you put it together, so I don’t foresee them popping off like the previous rack’s did. It did take me a minute to figure out how to collapse it (personal defect, not a product one), but I’m happy with how compactly it folds up too.

Emma Wartzman, kitchen and dining writer

I’ve been on a very unglamorous buying kick recently (as evidenced by the last Strat Haul, too). Purchases this month included a new drain stopper for my kitchen sink from my local hardware store, a bag of soil to repot one of my plants, and some white socks to replace pairs with holes. I did, however, buy one slightly more exciting thing: the smallest version of the classic L.L.Bean tote. I wanted something roomier and more casual than a nice purse for running errands, but also less branded than the totes I use for grocery shopping. This totally fits the bill. It’s nicely structured (I took it on a recent flight to Miami and everything stayed organized and upright on the plane), and because I got the longer-handle version, it fits comfortably over my shoulder when I’m schlepping things around Brooklyn.

Sam Daly, deals editor

I’ve been a Beastie Bands loyalist for a long time, but I finally decided to look for new breakaway collars for my two cats after they outgrew theirs. I stumbled upon these at my local pet store and immediately had to buy them in the pirate and strawberry designs. They’re lightweight and easily adjustable — and while I haven’t had to wash them yet, it’s nice to know they’re machine washable.

After being unable to play the original Machi Koro at a board-game café due to the … moldy nature of some of the pieces, I did a bit of research online and found an upgraded version of the game.

In Machi Koro 2, you begin with five coins and are tasked with creating a bustling metropolis of sushi bars, business centers, flower gardens, and more by rolling dice and drawing cards. According to online reviews, this sequel has sturdier, more detailed playing cards, plastic coins instead of paper ones (yay for no mold!), and more streamlined game play. It’s not reinventing the wheel — I found it similar to Splendor — but it’s easy to learn and just downright enjoyable to play.

Tshepo Mokoena, senior editor

I hadn’t realized it, but I was clearly on cocooning-at-home overdrive at the start of the year — by mid-month, I’d burned four of my favorite candles nearly all the way down. I was sent a limited-edition herby candle from the U.K.-based brand NEOM, but its stock is already running low. That inspired me to pick up one of its classics, an almost powdery floral that blends jasmine, lavender, and Brazilian rosewood. You end up with an enveloping scent, but it doesn’t do that thing where it catches in the back of your throat after a deep inhale. It would make a cute gift, too.

Maxine Builder, editor

My husband and I went on our honeymoon this month, and it was very nice and plenty romantic. The 22-hour travel day to get home was not. And as I stared at my jet-lagged, plane-dehydrated face in the mirror upon my return, I decided I needed something, anything to soothe the dark circles under my eyes. That’s how I convinced myself to buy Dieux’s new Auracle eye cream. That, and the fact that the brand was running a special, so I got the eye cream with a free set of angel-wing-shaped forever eye masks. I’ve been using it nightly for about a week, and so far, my under-eye area is looking more hydrated, which I’ll round up to a success.

The second-worst part of coming home from vacation, besides the under-eye bags, is the mountain of post-vacation laundry. While I was taking my swimsuits out of my suitcase, I realized I never picked up a new detergent for handwashing delicates after I threw away my last bottle from the Laundress. So I picked up a duo of the much-lauded, no-rinse Soak in the fig scent Dominique recommended in December.

Chelsea Peng, senior editor

It’s cawn … cake. I had a relative in town who is fond of sweets, so we went on a whirlwind tour de desserts that culminated with a visit to haute baker Lysée. On Eunji Lee’s second-floor gallery (that feels more like a designer’s showroom), we picked out bear-shaped madeleines, milk bread topped with corn crumble, and this much-hyped-about mousse cake celebrating the same starchy veg. It was very nice (the best expression of corn’s natural sweetness), the branding was strong, and I didn’t feel weird about dropping $18 for a pastry. In fact, I feel great about it.

Lauren Ro, writer

I was worried about what constantly being on my phone meant for my poor hands, so I finally got a PopSocket, and now my life has improved considerably. I can hold my phone a million times more comfortably — without using my pinky! — and it gives me more options for gripping or picking up my device. It pushes down flat and has a super-thin profile so I can still easily slip my phone into my back pocket. The PopSocket is great for running and juggling kiddos, too, and it feels super-durable. After trying mine out, my husband immediately ordered one for himself.

Rachel Griffiths, writer

I’m heading to Seoul next month and wanted a bag somewhere in between my teeny-tiny Telfar and enormous tote bags for schlepping essentials around. I’ve seen plenty of people worshiping the Uniqlo over-the-shoulder bags the past year, and given that it’s less than $20, I thought one was worth a try. When it arrived, it was smaller than I’d pictured, but its appearance was deceptive: The amount of stuff I’ve fit inside it is absurd. Right now, I have my 35mm camera, a portable charger, my phone, my passport, a makeup bag and — most impressively — a book stowed inside. Quite simply, if a petite bag can fit a Penguin classic, it’s a winner.

The weather in Seoul is still rather chilly, but I want to dress cute while I’m away, so I’m planning on layering my outfits over ice-skating tights to keep warm — a trick I’ve sworn by for years. Instead of just layering with plain old black tights, though, I thought I’d buy a special pair for the occasion. These in particular, with their fishnet and bows, are a nod to my alarmingly ribbon-heavy Pinterest feed, as well as looks from Simone Rocha and Aniye Records I’ve been obsessed with lately.

Dominique Pariso, writer

In an attempt to wean myself off my morning coffee, I decided to try to make matcha lattes at home again. In the past, even though I had a tin of high-quality matcha in the pantry, my attempts were fairly disastrous. This time around, I invested in the right tools. Take my word for it: A small sifter and bamboo whisk are absolutely necessary if you want your matcha to be deliciously frothy and lump-free.

Brenley Goertzen, junior writer

It’s still very much winter in Minnesota and everything is unbearably dry. As someone who completed Accutane in the past, the corners of my mouth are always the first to crack. To keep chapped lips at bay, I typically cycle between Aquaphor and the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. More recently, however, I decided to look for something that lasts two to three hours for when I inevitably forget to reapply. I know it’s pricey, but this stuff is next level. It’s highly sticky, so I don’t recommend using it on windy days, but the glossy shine it creates is unlike the cloudier look of most lip moisturizers. It also has a minty scent, so it feels extra refreshing to put on after a meal.

I purchased this bomber in hunter green, and it was far and away my most worn jacket last fall. This month, I found it on sale and thought, Why not invest in the black color, too? It’s the right cropped fit I prefer for my short torso and the perfect weight for everyday wear. I approve of the scrunched-cuff detailing because it keeps my wrists and arms extra insulated at chilly sporting events.

Crystal Martin, senior editor

It’s surprisingly difficult to find a gingham shower curtain that doesn’t look awful. It seems so simple, but it took me a couple weeks to land on this one in the russet shade. Nearly $90 for a shower curtain feels excessive to me, so I compulsively checked pricing until it was marked down 25 percent. Turns out it was worth it. It’s a really nice, soft cotton; the check is the exact right size; and the color is an interesting red-earth brown.

The kitchen light fixture I’d bought from Home Depot online turned out to be some weird off-brand that wasn’t compatible with American electrical standards (I didn’t even know that was a thing on Home Depot — lesson learned). I needed a new fixture in a pinch, and this one from Rejuvenation was decently priced and available relatively quickly. It’s really beautiful in person. The parts are solid brass, which I’ve come to appreciate, and there are lots of options for the shade, so it’s customizable.

Erin Schwartz, writer

Earlier in the year, I set an intention to read more trans literature, which was sharpened by the recent open letter to the New York Times criticizing the paper’s coverage of trans issues and its subsequent publication of a really bad op-ed. Inspired by a piece by poet Kay Gabriel in the Yale Review, I read Nevada by Imogen Binnie, which I loved, and also bought Gabriel’s A Queen in Bucks County. Also on my list is Mucus in My Pineal Gland by Juliana Huxtable and Gossip Girl Fanfic Novella by Charlie Markbreiter; send recs.

When Strategist junior writer Kitty Guo wrote about the Salux washcloth last year, it jogged me out of bath complacency. I had been using a more expensive, very beautiful Tawashi brush that didn’t do as good of a job exfoliating as the Salux (when I messaged Kitty about it, she reminded me that sometimes things that are expensive are worse). I still avoided using my Salux because of my neurotic dislike of the colors that came in an Amazon bundle of bright blue, cool candy pink, and highlighter yellow. Then, while shopping for a replacement last week, I found saluxshop.com, a family-run California retailer for Salux-heads that allows you to order bundles from 2 to 48 cloths and customize the mix of colors. As it turns out, there are two different Salux pinks, and I like the other one better!

Winnie Yang, senior editor

I make and go through a lot of stock, soup, beans, and grains, but I also like to make large batches so I can freeze the excess for later use. I have had my eye on these silicone freezer trays for a couple of years now and am hopeful they will make dealing with frozen portions feel a lot less like a doomed Tetris game. I got the two-cup-size set, but they also make a very popular one-cup version.

The resident gamer in my household has been holding out for a non-PC, non-Facebook-owned VR headset (and didn’t find the PSVR 1 compelling enough to buy), and this new one from PlayStation seems promising.

Jeremy Rellosa, writer

I’ve worn the same pair of slim navy J.Crew chinos since college, and in February, I finally ripped a hole in the inner thigh that made them unwearable in the winter. Since those navy chinos are basically my uniform, I wanted to get a similar pair to wear until I got those fixed. I tried these on at the J.Crew Men’s Shop in Noho and loved the wider fit. The cotton is thicker than that of my previous pair, which gives them structure and a straight silhouette. I’ve worn them about three days a week since I bought them, and I don’t see that frequency declining anytime soon.

In February, I started upping my running mileage since I’m training for a half-marathon this spring, and I’ve been using these socks for speed workouts and tempo runs. I’ve been a huge fan of Tracksmith’s shorts (our favorite men’s pair for running), but I hadn’t tested other Tracksmith apparel before. The brand sent me some new pieces to try, including these socks. After my first week of using them, they were the socks I threw on most frequently, so I bought another pair. They’re a bit thin, so don’t expect lots of cushion — they’re best for speedier workouts. I’ve also used them on faster long runs where I’m pushing close to race pace.

As a Spurs fan, I was a bit embarrassed when I realized I only had one piece of apparel that supported my club. I also needed a scarf I could throw on and wear to the pub, so I chose this one because of the simple, clean design and the yellow accents (although I was worried one might confuse the yellow and blue for a Chelsea scarf — it’s much less noticeable in person). Since I bought it, the Spurs have won two in a row — I think we owe those wins to the scarf.

Kitty Guo, junior writer

Last weekend I stopped into a Lush, which I regard as a gym for my nose; I like to pop in to give myself the occasional olfactory workout (Bath & Body Works also fulfills this function admirably). Sandwiched between the salt cubes and shampoo bars were the gold limited-edition bunny bath bombs I’d included in our Lunar New Year roundup — and there were only two left. I proceeded to make my way around the store, giving a cursory sniff to all the other offerings, but it was a foregone conclusion. The one downside, unfortunately, is that it’s too adorable and precious for me to ever bring myself to use it.

I’m unduly susceptible to caffeine — one time, I drank a cold brew at 2 p.m. and inadvertently pulled an all-nighter — so I don’t drink coffee at all and tea only on occasion. Barley tea, however, is both delicious and caffeine-free, so I’ve been stocking up on bottles of Ito En mugicha from my local Japanese grocery store; I’ve become such a fixture there that the owner slipped me a bag of Hi-Chews to thank me for my patronage. But the guilt (and expense) of buying pre-bottled tea has been weighing on me, so starting in March, I’ve resolved to instead buy these barley-tea sachets that Mia Leimkuhler, the former Strategist senior manager of audience development, raved about — and you can bet I’ll be buying the two-pack.

Arielle Avila, writer

Luckily, I never jumped on the Laundress bandwagon, but for anyone looking for a new fancy detergent (that won’t irritate your skin), this is it. I’ve been buying Dirty Labs’s signature scent for about half a year now, and I’ve noticed fewer eczema flare-ups or random rashes since making the switch. But even if that’s purely coincidental, this stuff makes my clothes smell so good. It has an earthy and slightly floral scent that’s never overpowering, one of my biggest pet peeves with detergents. Also, it’s better for the environment since its bio-enzyme formula is completely biodegradable (which isn’t the case for most detergents).

Kat Gillespie, writer

I got overly excited for a dear friend’s upcoming wedding and typed one of my most dangerous phrases, www.ssense.com, into the URL bar. This dress was actually less discounted when I purchased it, so the price I paid means I will probably be wearing it to my own ceremony someday.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in February