We write about hundreds of products every week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked some of our recent favorites: expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly launched gizmos, and very good deals we uncovered while trawling the vast online-shopping universe — including the sparkly (and indestructible) Korean scrubbers one Strategist writer prefers to all other dish-washing implements, a $9 can opener left-handed folks won’t have to finesse, and the all-occasion dress Anthropologie employees say “looks good on almost everyone.”
A work backpack that’s a proven conversation starter
We’ve heard about Cotopaxi’s impressive bags before, but this style comes recommended by science teacher Joey Anderson in our guide to the best work backpacks. Anderson says its bold patchwork pattern is perfect for both in and out of the classroom, where it’s become a talking point among his students. An avid runner, Anderson initially bought the ultralightweight bag to carry his belongings while he ran from Clapham to Hampstead Heath’s mixed swimming ponds on a trip to London. After the eight-mile journey, he found that, most important, it didn’t “look lame walking around the city.”
The notepad that makes Karen Chee feel like a 1930s detective
Comedian and podcast host Karen Chee can’t live without these “very heavy-duty and no-nonsense” notepads she uses to jot down first drafts of jokes or sketch short-piece ideas. Chee says she can’t bring herself to “pollute” the pages of thoughtfully designed notebooks, but with these writing pads (and her favorite Uniball pen), the brainstorming possibilities are endless — or, as she puts it, you can scribble a really terrible idea and then just tear off the page. “The dream combination is putting one of these yellow notepads on a clipboard; it just feels so official, whatever work you’re doing,” she says.
Goo Gone that’s not (just) for removing stickers
Ever since her final oophorectomy, Strategist contributor Andria Kennedy says her estrogen patches have left dark circles of clothing fuzz stuck to her abdomen. In an effort to remove the gooey remnants, which had become a source of embarrassment in gym changing rooms, Kennedy tried “every suggestion on the internet,” she notes. Finally, further Google searching revealed this blue bottle of Goo Gone, which lifts away residue without any digging or scraping, Kennedy says. (She’s even used the alcohol-free formula to successfully take bandages off after blood draws.) While this Goo Gone is made for skin, it has the same strength as its orange counterpart: Kennedy recently used it to remove sticker residue from a suitcase handle.
A snow-skin mooncake with a chewy exterior like mochi
Ahead of the Mid-Autumn Festival (which takes place September 29), stocking up on mooncakes is a tradition synonymous with the festival itself, Strategist writer Kitty Guo says. To find the best mooncakes that are available to purchase online, Guo spoke to various cool people about their favorites, such as this MeiXin one that comes recommended by Serious Eats culinary editor Genevieve Yam. Yam has a soft spot for “snowy” mooncakes because, unlike the traditional Cantonese ones that are baked and have an egg yolk in the center, “these have a thin, chewy exterior with a texture similar to mochi and are filled with custard or ice cream,” she says. This one tastes like the popular Chinese dessert mango pomelo sago.
The tissues Melissa Etheridge can’t go anywhere without
After being on the road for 40 years, Grammy- and Oscar-winning musician Melissa Etheridge says she learned that these packets of tissues — “preferably in the little plastic wrap,” which keeps your bag from getting all fuzzy — are an essential. Etheridge counts them as one of her favorite things because they can be used for anything: “They can clean up messes, they can wipe away stuff. If all of a sudden you’re crying, there you go,” she says. Although she used to think of them as “such a mother thing,” Etheridge says she’s lived long enough to know “what serves and what works.”
An affordable can opener for lefties
As seen in our roundup of the best can openers, this nifty $9 Japanese one is our top affordable pick that’s favored by professional chefs for its sturdiness and efficiency. The sharp edge “works 100 percent of the time,” pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz says. And while a couple of sources tell us it takes a few tries to get used to it, once you do, “you’ll be opening cans with more precision and faster than ever,” says Josiah Bartlett of Wizard Hat Pizza, who’s owned his for five years. It’s also rare in that it works if you’re left-handed, like Pickowicz, who says this one never feels awkward for her to hold.
A crocheted Korean scrubber that’s become the only dish sponge one Strategist writer buys
“A few years ago, my mom started giving me sparkly crocheted pads in funny shapes like pinafores and various fruits that her friends had made,” says Strategist writer Lauren Ro, who quickly became hooked on the Korean kitchen sponges. They also make washing up much more pleasant thanks to their soft, neon-colored weave that dries faster and doesn’t get grimy, Ro says. While crocheting these scrubbers is a pastime among certain Korean ajummas, Ro discovered they can also be found at retailers like Amazon, Coming Soon, and Etsy, which offers “a trove of cheeky scrubbies that will delight anyone who dreads facing a sink filled with dirty dishes,” she says. The shopping platform has an array of food-shaped ones and this Snoopy and Charlie Brown duo that you can enjoy long after watching the Halloween-themed special.
A costume for The Last of Us fans (that’s stylish enough to wear in your normal life)
If a Charlie Brown sponge doesn’t get you in the Halloween spirit, maybe our list of the best pop-culture costume ideas of 2023 will. It includes the retro-looking Rollerblading outfit Barbie wears after leaving Barbieland; Jenna Lyons from the new cast of The Real Housewives of New York; and Joel and Ellie, the lead characters in The Last of Us. For Joel, you’ll need this Fjällräven flannel shirt that the show’s costume designer verified is the one worn onscreen, plus a workwear jacket, a military watch, and some hiking boots. You’ll also need a friend to stand in as Ellie, so we found this ringer tee, a hoodie, and a flashlight for their fit.
The A-line dress Anthropologie employees repeatedly recommend
In the latest installment of Retail Secrets, Strategist writer (and former Anthropologie employee) Ambar Pardilla asked current associates and managers about the brand’s croissant-shaped satchel that’s a dupe for Bottega Veneta’s Jodie tote, its ultrapopular juice glasses, and this Somerset dress “that looks good on almost everyone.” It has a Hill House–esque tiered skirt and smocked waist, and several associates told Pardilla the piece’s greatest selling point is its A-line shape. There’s even a dedicated Somerset collection with different “editions” of the number, such as a mini style with floral appliqués and another with cutwork.
The beef-tallow cream Rumer Willis slathers on
“When I was pregnant, my histamine response was so high that any lotion that I put on my body, even ones that I used to use beforehand, would make my skin feel like it was on fire,” says Rumer Willis, who didn’t know what beef tallow was until she tried this product. Willis calls the whipped moisturizer a game changer and says she applied it on her body and belly when she was pregnant and, after she gave birth, on her stitches. Willis even puts it on her daughter after bath time. “You can use it for anything because it’s so clean, and you can literally read every ingredient on there,” she says.
A pair of pedigreed sandals for exploring the coastal villages of Bodrum
We followed Mina Dilber, founder and creative director of Turkish lifestyle brand Anim, on her mid-September trip to Bodrum, a less obvious alternative to beach-club destinations like Mykonos. Dilber’s four-day trip to the Turquoise Coast consisted of strolling through the open-air Türkbükü Market, dining on traditional mezze, and taking dips in the Aegean Sea. With the sun out nearly every day, Dilber says a cool pair of sandals, like these from classic French brand K. Jacques, will go with any outfit. For another strappy (and supportive) option, we can’t help but mention the Tevas many Strategist staffers own, which senior editor Simone Kitchens originally spotted on Mary-Kate Olsen. (And there’s also the comfy German ones Lily-Rose Depp was seen wearing this summer.)
A delightfully packaged skin-brightening gel for fading picking scars
Since her dermatillomania diagnosis, Strategist beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton has made some changes to kick her skin-picking habit but still struggles to keep her hands away from her face. To find other healing solutions, Viera-Newton spoke to dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch, who recommends using this gel in the weeks after a picking episode. It contains a mixture of brightening ingredients (such as kojic acid, tranexamic acid, azelaic acid, and niacinamide), plus soothing and hydrating ones (Centella asiatica, squalane, and glycerin) to fade dark spots and even out skin tone, Viera-Newton says.
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.