best bets

From Resin Vases to B.J. Novak’s $5 Face Cleanser

Photo: Retailer

An all-over-the-place assortment of stood-behind products culled from this very website that appear in the September 12 issue of New York Magazine.

Best in Class

The world of houseplant fertilizers at first seemed to Strategist writer Erin Schwartz like “an impenetrable maze of chemical symbols, ratios, acronyms, and hyperspecific nutrient blends.” But after speaking to various landscapers and plant doctors, they found it comes down to picking a formula with balanced levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (a ten-ten-ten ratio should effectively address leaf, stem, and root growth plus help with flowering and fending off disease) and not adding too much (follow the directions for dilution on the package). For perking up a run-of-the-mill living-room succulent or philodendron, experts repeatedly directed them to Dyna-Gro’s all-purpose fertilizer ($20). Chris Satch, an instructor at the New York Botanical Garden, has used it since graduate school and chose it over Miracle-Gro for its healthy dose of calcium. “Calcium fortifies a plant’s cell walls and makes it stand tall,” he says.

Now That I Know Better

Model and entrepreneur Ashley Graham gave birth to twins this year, making her a mom of three. Here are two items she has used practically every day since.


“If you know you’re going to grow your family, this is a great stroller. It can fit three kids, which I’ve been testing lately. The twins go in the base, and there’s an attachment my 1-year-old can stand on. I’ve used it in Dumbo — where it goes right over the cobblestones — but also on stroller-friendly hikes, and the wheels were super-durable.”

“With twins, if you don’t feed them at the same time, you’re never going to have any time for yourself. This pillow fits in a chair, has cushioned back support, and has two adjustable clips that go around your waist, allowing you to feed the twins simultaneously. I ended up buying two so I could just leave one in their bedroom and one in my living room.”

The Strategist 100

We’ve surfaced hundreds of home items on the Strategist over the years through various means (from sitting on dozens of couches in search of the most durable one to asking architects about their favorite trash cans). Recently, we gathered 100 of our picks in an online catalogue. Here’s a small sampling.

For the living room

For the kitchen

For the bedroom

For the home office

For the dining room

For the bathroom

Strategist Investigates

Writer Tembe Denton-Hurst recently noticed people on the celebrity Instagram account DeuxMoi chattering about actor B. J. Novak’s “flawless” skin. So she reached out to see if he would share his skin-care routine. He did, and as it turns out, he uses only a single product: the drugstore cleanser Noxzema. He began using it when he was 12 and struggling with acne. “I tried Oxy and Stridex and Clearasil and everything else advertised at the time. None of it worked,” said Novak. His mom instructed him to wash his face with Noxzema twice a day, and the acne quickly went away. “I’m probably their most loyal customer,” he said. He’s been using it for 30 years.

Back to School

We polled 39 students — from pre-K kids to high-school seniors — on their favorite lunch boxes, thermoses, and fidget toys.

For preschool, the hottest lunch bags are from Pottery Barn

They have prints and patterns to satisfy budding paleontologists, princesses, and superheroes as well as unicorn fiends, mermaid enthusiasts, and glitter freaks.

Middle schoolers love long socks … for some reason

Several middle schoolers we spoke to had an aversion to no-show socks. “I don’t think that looks cute,” says Tess, a seventh-grader who made her friends switch to these long Hanes.

Fidget toys were the most-mentioned school supply

There were plenty of must-have notebooks, highlighters, pencils, and markers named, but we also heard about three types of fidget toys students will be carrying around this year.

Maggie, a third-grader, will pack her octopus Pop-It. “It has a surprise face, the head is one giant Pop-It, and the tentacles are little pops,” she says.

$33 for 40

Diego, a second-grader, will take along a tiny wooden figure. According to his mom, Georgia, “It’s a little touch point from home.”

Riya, a sixth-grader, is going to stock her backpack with a “really stretchy” monkey noodle fidget that she’ll turn to “if I get bored or if I’m nervous.”

Key chains matter more than the backpack

Valencia, a first-grader, can’t wait to show off her mermaid pom-pom.

Thermos FUNtainers are to kids what Hydro Flasks are to teens

For the pre-preteen set, the FUNtainer, with its pop-up straw and animated designs, got the most mentions.

What I Can’t Live Without

“My friend Sarah’s style is beautiful and elegant. One day I asked her what perfume she was wearing because it was so lovely, and she was almost embarrassed to show me this bar of soap. Now it’s just a memory thing. I carry it everywhere.”

“I’ve been wearing these boy briefs since high school. I am a chronic wedgie sufferer, and I like that these stay put. I’m not having to figure out how to pick a wedgie without being seen when I wear these. They give me comfort without feeling like a big ol’ granny panty.”

“I went to Sephora for a gold inner-eye accent, and they showed me this. I was like, Oh my God, this is iconic. Instead of glitter dust, it’s like glitter glass. It breaks up and crackles after you apply it for this sickening iridescent look that makes the eye pop.”


Whether you’re looking for a Japanese-style knife at an affordable price, a splurge-worthy European-style knife, or some vice versa, here are four knives that fit the bill. — Emma Wartzman


Cheaper, Japanese style.

This Thing’s Incredible


The Euro-size fridge in my London flat means I’m constantly whittling down my condiments to make room for fresh produce. One item I’ll never get rid of, though, is New York Shuk’s Preserved Lemon Paste. When it’s hot out, I drop a spoonful into a shaker of ice, then empty a can of sparkling water over it for a salted-lemonade spritz. In the evening, I stir whatever leftover herbs I have with another dollop of paste and a thumb of gin. I cook with it too. Brushed over a fatty pork chop, the paste cuts the richness of the meat. —Lauren Joseph

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.

From Resin Vases to B.J. Novak’s $5 Face Cleanser