strategist investigates

All the Unlikely Places to Find Toilet Paper, Puzzles, Weights, Kitty Litter, and Other Essentials

Photo: 1975 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc

As Amazon and other big-box retailers struggle to keep up with the demands of housebound shoppers during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s become nearly impossible to track down the products that many of us find ourselves needing (or just really, really wanting) right now. But like fish in the sea and hyperspecific streaming services, there are always other options — often with fast shipping and (for the moment) stock. To help you in your search, our expert shoppers have put together this list of where they’ve been tracking down hand sanitizer, toilet paper, beauty products, diapers, pet supplies, puzzles, board games, masks, and other hard-to-find essentials, without seeing those now-dreaded words: Expected to ship June 15. (Some of these places, we should note, also offer curbside pickup options that they say can be faster than delivery.)

Editors’ note: Stock at these retailers is constantly changing, so we can’t guarantee that what you are looking for will always be available at any outlet. (Although we certainly hope it will.) We’ll continue to update this post with other alternate sources as we find them, so keep checking back.

Where to buy hand sanitizer

Lots of beauty brands have pivoted to making hand sanitizer, including Megababe, which is stocked with both mini and large sizes of their plant-based sanitizer, and Saie, a clean beauty brand known for their mascara and glow gel that’s shipping a small tube with every order. With their access to alcohol, distilleries have also become temporary producers of hand sanitizer. Although many are distributing directly to health-care workers or to areas of need in their community, some have partnered with other brands to offer nationwide shipping. Spirit Hound Distillers in Colorado, for example, is working with body care and first-aid specialists Green Goo to offer sanitizer that ships nationwide. (For even more available hand sanitizers, check out our dedicated post here.) —Tembe Denton-Hurst

Where to buy toilet paper and paper towels

You can find both at hardware and office supply stores. For instance, Home Depot keeps replenishing their stock regularly, with only a slight shipping delay (you can actually still get limited two-day or next-day shipping on some items). If you happen to live close to an Ace Hardware or Big Lots, each company seems to have a sizable stock, but they offer curbside pickup only. Office Depot has a few items ready to ship and also offers in-store pickup for brands like Charmin. They also occasionally have bulk packs of 1- and 2-ply in stock, as does a place called, which should last you (and your neighbors) quite a long time if you’re quick enough to get them. K-Mart also has toilet paper in stock online and ready to ship, but avoid third-party sellers, whose prices seem higher than usual.

If you’re really stuck for paper towels, we’ve written about these excellent reusable Swedish dishcloths as an ecofriendly alternative to regular paper towels. The craft store Michaels also offers “guest paper towels” in cheerful colors and patterns. (Maybe it would be nice to treat yourself to something a little fancier than usual?) And B&H Photo has disposable microfiber towels that are typically used for cameras but would work in a pinch. As a true last resort, you can still get plenty of novelty toilet paper on Etsy — complete with puns and images of Trump. (For more unlikely places to find in-stock toilet paper, click here.) —Chloe Anello

Where to buy cleaning supplies

Staples has a surprisingly robust lineup of cleaning supplies, including their own line of sustainable all-purpose cleaners. Things like Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer are unfortunately out of stock, but you can still find essentials from brands like Mrs. Meyers, Method, Simple Green, and Comet. Grove Collaborative, which specializes in all-natural, health-conscious products, has their own line of cleaning supplies and carries a wide variety of green cleaning brands, including Bon Ami, Mrs. Meyers, Method, and Caldrea (many of which are still in stock). Verishop has plenty, too, along with free one-day shipping. There’s also the Laundress, which specializes in cleaning products that look good enough to display and smell good enough to momentarily pull you out of a pandemic-inspired stress spiral. They are currently fully stocked and offering 20 percent off select products including this home-cleaning bestsellers kit. Prices are on the high end, but the products are highly concentrated, so they’ll last you a very long time.

Another way to stock up on household supplies is to skip big retailers and go straight to the brands. Many direct-to-consumer cleaning-supply brands, like Branch Basics, Blueland, and Clean Cult, still have ample stock. As a bonus, they are often more sustainable than what you would pick up at the grocery store. Plus, signing up for a monthly subscription will make sure you don’t have to worry about running out. —Liza Corsillo

Where to buy food

If you’re trying to order groceries online from the usual suspects (FreshDirect, Instacart) like just about everyone else, it can be really tough to get a delivery slot that works for you. Consider alternative food-delivery services instead, like meal-kit services including Blue Apron and Marley Spoon, or produce companies like Misfits Market and Imperfect Foods. (Nine of our writers and editors wrote about their favorite services here.) And don’t forget restaurant-delivery services like Caviar and Goldbelly, which in addition to offering restaurant delivery, also let you order from your favorite specialty food shops like Russ & Daughters. Depending on your location, many restaurant suppliers — like Chef Collective (New York City) and Baldor Food (tristate area and Boston) — have pivoted to making home deliveries. We also just saw that Edible Arrangements is offering deliveries of whole fruits and vegetables, too, if you want to get creative about how you source your produce. And if you’re having a hard time finding grocery staples (flour, anyone?) we’ve had luck with Mercato, a conglomerate of independent grocery stores. —Lauren Ro

Where to buy baby goods

Although Amazon is constantly refilling its baby-goods stock, it’s limited and quick to disappear. BuyBuyBaby is another one-stop option that seems to be well-stocked at the moment. In addition to diapering supplies, it carries formula from major brands including Enfamil, Similac, Earth’s Best, and Happy Baby, as well as baby-food pouches and snacks. For everyday essentials like diapers, wipes, and formula, you may want to go directly to the source. The Honest Company, for example, seems to have plenty of items in stock. You can make a onetime purchase or sign up for a diapers-and-wipes subscription so you never run out. Hello Bello is another subscription service worth considering. (Strategist senior editor Peter Martin found their bubble bath to be a much more bubbly — and fun — experience for his daughter than Johnson & Johnson.) For European formula brands like Hipp and Holle, head to Formuland, which ships them from the U.S. — L.R.

Where to buy ibuprofen and other OTC medication

If you’re having trouble finding OTC medication, the generic pharmacy brand Cabinet not only sells preparedness kits that include hand sanitizer, they also stock ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and cold-and-flu treatment.

Where to buy pet products

Chewy carries a wide range of items, including pet food and kitty litter, but stock does fluctuate day to day, and delivery times may be longer than usual. Traditional retailers like Petco and Petsmart are still open — although operating with reduced hours — and offering curbside pickup. There are also plenty of direct-to-consumer pet-food companies to explore (just double check with your vet before making any dietary changes). Among the Strategist team, Open Farm Kibble, the Farmer’s Dog, Ollie, and Buckley are all tried-and-true favorites for pups. For felines, there’s Cat Person, Smalls (which Rio uses for her cat Martini), Nom Nom, and Darwin’s. Of the many kitty-litter subscription services, resident Strategist cat mom Karen Iorio Adelson’s favorite is Pretty Litter. For toys and treats delivered right to your door, try Bark Box, PupJoy, and Pet Treater. And if you’re leaning into walks (to keep both you and your pet sane) and want to upgrade your gear, Found My Animal makes very cool-looking leashes and supports animal adoption efforts. — Dominique Pariso

Where to buy skin-care products

Yes Style is often overlooked as a beauty destination due to the fact that (in comparison to retailers like Soko Glam or Sephora) the layout of the site itself looks pretty, well, chaotic. But if you can get past the disorder, Yes Style is filled with rare beauty treasures — from I’m From’s Mugwort Essence to buy-in-bulk Benton sheet masks — accompanied by thorough charts that break down each product’s ingredients. Since the site is based in Hong Kong, I would expect some delayed shipment, but I ordered something from there not too long ago and it arrived in around 17 days, roughly the same amount of time it took for a recent Ulta order. I also like oo35mm, a local skin-care shop in Chinatown that will forever have my heart (and whatever I have in my wallet). The website is phenomenally curated and sells all of my skin-care go-tos: my favorite acne-fighting serum from indie beauty brand Manyo Factory; my holy grail affordable, soothing moisturizer from Forest Pick; and of course, endless Cosrx pimple patches.

If, like me, you love these jelly masks, you might not love the current three-week delay in shipping. Instead, I’ve been ordering directly from Sofie Pavitt (my go-to esthetician in Manhattan), who is currently selling, via her Instagram, the same cooling, thick, jelly peel-off masks that she uses to hydrate, calm, and nourish your skin at the end of her treatments. They’re priced at $52 and you can select which one you want depending on your skin concern — for example, a calendula based for anti-inflammatory and calming properties or rose for hydrating and plumping the skin. And finally, for more Sephora-type items, my fellow Strategist writer Jenna Milliner-Waddell tells me that Verishop has a lot of stock and faster shipping. —Rio Viera-Newton

Where to buy men’s grooming products

We’ve found that Target provides quick shipping (and has a high stock count) for razors, beard trimmers, deodorant, and body wash. The same goes for CVS, which also has a faster delivery date for condoms, and more in stock. (Although if you’re shopping only for condoms, a site we found called RipNRoll offers free and discreet shipping.) When it comes to hair, purchasing your shampoos, conditioners, pastes, and gels from barbershops is a great way to support them during this crisis. If your barber doesn’t have an online store, Fellow Barber makes a range of essentials in its  Fellow line. And Mott NYC’s online store sells the R+Co range of hair products — a brand almost every barber we’ve interviewed recommends. When it comes to fancier face wash, moisturizers, hand soap, and perfumes, you can find a lot online — from Kiehl’s to Malin+Goetz, Aesop and more — at Bloomingdale’s Men’s Grooming page. — Louis Cheslaw

Where to buy board games

Game stores like New York City’s the Compleat Strategist, North Carolina–based Atomic Empire, and Wisconsin-based Noble Knight Games have plenty of stock and are still fulfilling online orders. There are also plenty of smaller, independent online retailers to check, including Boardlandia, Miniature Market, Cardhaus Games, Game Kastle, Macronova Games, Time Well Spent Games, and Power to the Meeple. While you may have to pay a little extra for shipping, these stores are well-stocked with classics like Catan, as well as lesser-known titles that aren’t available at more prominent retailers. —D.P.

Where to buy puzzles

Food52 is selling Areaware puzzles, as is furniture store Coming Soon. Museum gift shops at the Met and MOMA are selling art-inspired puzzles, and has a wide-ranging selection to suit the whole family. A book store might feel a little obvious, but judging by the number of puzzles in stock at Barnes & Noble, it’s not obvious to everyone. B&N has quick ship dates, too. You can also go straight to the manufacturer: Puzzle-makers like Galison and eeBoo have modern designs in stock and eeBoo is still shipping within a week. —Jenna Milliner-Waddell

Where to buy books

Although temporarily shuttered, many bookstores are still shipping. This includes Brooklyn staple and Strategist-favorite Greenlight, along with Books Are Magic and Word. Some bookstores, like the Bronx’s The Lit. Bar, have partnered with Bookshop, an indie Amazon alternative that works with independent bookstores to share sales. — T.D.H.

Photo: Penguin Random House

Where to buy video games

Everyone with an Instagram seems to have hopped on the Animal Crossing wave, and with that comes the inevitable scarcity of the Nintendo Switch. While the OG Nintendo Switch with detachable joysticks is nowhere to be found, we’ve spotted the Lite at Target and Best Buy (although Best Buy currently has a two-week delay on shipping). Stock fluctuates daily, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get your desired color, but if you’ve been experiencing FOMO from not being able to hop from island to island, it’s worth a shot. If you’re looking for a system to pass the time that isn’t a Switch, you can find options from the nostalgic (Sega Genesis Mini) to brand new (XBox One) at GameStop and Best Buy. — T.D.H.

Where to buy weights and exercise equipment

Even though weight sets, yoga mats, resistance bands, and kettlebells — basically anything you need to try to stay fit in your home — seem to be short supply at most online retailers, we were able to find a jump rope, resistance bands, and yoga mats at Kohls. Massage Warehouse — a specialty store that sells massage tables, salon-grade cuticle clippers, and body oils by the gallon — offers hand weights in one to ten pounds (in case you’re sick of using cans of Goya beans). They also carry resistance bands, ankle weights, jump ropes (not to mention hand soap, vinyl gloves, and plenty of other relevant goods) at reasonable prices with a $4.99 flat shipping rate. We also saw that Urban Outfitters added quite a bit of fitness gear to its inventory. Zulily often has in-stock resistance bands, yoga mats, and medicine balls, too. —Hilary Reid

Where to buy fabric masks

Now that the CDC recommends wearing non-medical face masks whenever you go out in public, many fashion brands have pivoted to manufacturing them — both for individual purchase and to donate to essential workers in need. (We’re keeping a running list of stores with stock here.) Buck Mason, Alice & Olivia, Caraa, and many others have started donating one mask for every one they sell. In addition, Etsy is full of homemade fabric masks many of which feature bright colors and patterns. — L.C.

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.

Unlikely Places to Find Sanitizer, TP, Puzzles, and More