quarantine products
Cheapism

16 Items That Kept Us Going During the Pandemic

View Slideshow
quarantine products
Cheapism

Retail Therapy

We can probably agree 2020 won't be making anyone's highlight reel anytime soon. Life as we knew it ground to a halt, leaving many of us scrambling to make life at home (and only at home) just a tiny bit easier. While no purchase could banish the stress of pandemic living, the Cheapism crew did find some things that helped. Here's what we've been buying to stay sane.


Prices and availability are subject to change.


Related: The Best Things We Bought in 2020

White Mountain Cereal Boxes Puzzle
Barnes & Noble

White Mountain 1,000-Piece Cereal Boxes Puzzle

$18 from Barnes & Noble
Shop Now


I'm one of those people who started snapping up jigsaw puzzles this spring. There's just something so zen about them — the way they require total concentration makes it a lot easier to shut out the rest of the world (something we've all aspired to this year). I am very picky about my puzzles, though, and prefer busy images with lots of "stuff," such as this one, to yawn-inducing landscapes. I also loved seeing all the retro cereal boxes, and appreciate the sturdiness of White Mountain's large, unique pieces. — Saundra Latham, senior staff writer


Related: Gifts For People Who Love Jigsaw Puzzles

Mid-Rise Plush-Knit Jogger Pajamas for Women
Old Navy

Mid-Rise Plush-Knit Jogger Pajamas for Women

$28 from Old Navy
Shop Now


It's not a pandemic purchase list without a few sweatpant entries, am I right? These are the softest pants I've ever owned, and while they technically say "pajamas," we all know soft pants can be worn any time of the day. The tapered jogger style leg makes them just trendy enough that I don't feel like an actual garbage bag. — Anna Christakos, production manager


Related: 11 Stores With Comfortable Clothes You Can Wear For Years

Drillbrush Power Scrubber Kit
Amazon

Drillbrush Power Scrubber Kit

$15 from Amazon
Shop Now


Early in the pandemic, much of the world went on a cleaning tear, including our empty-nester household. We wiped down groceries, loaded up on hand sanitizer, and scrubbed the bathroom fixtures. Among the handiest cleaning accessories we found are these brushes that clean tile, grout, and other surfaces as fast as your power drill can spin. No elbow grease needed. They're also really great at clearing burned food off pots and baking dishes. The bristles are plastic and won't harm most surfaces. — Pat Shrader, assistant managing editor


Related: Useful Gifts for all the Practical People On Your List

Meiomi Pinot Noir
Wine.com

Meiomi Pinot Noir

$22 from Wine.com
Shop Now


I'm not going to lie: I'm one of those "basic" moms whose sanity has been saved by a good glass of wine throughout this pandemic. Between homeschool and no school, house messes, and trying to do my own job, wine has been a lockdown essential. And I know I'm not alone. Thank goodness for Wine.com, which makes it easy to get a variety of well-priced wines delivered right to the door or to schedule a pickup for an excuse to get out of the house. The site also has gift options for all the mom friends on your list. — Jenn Magid, editorial coordinator


Related: Boozy Gifts That Don Draper Would Endorse

Falholmen Patio Set
Ikea

Falholmen Patio Set

$219 from Ikea
Shop Now


Eight months and counting of quarantine to avoid becoming a statistic in a pandemic? At least I had a few months of warm weather patio time, when I could work and take Zoom calls surrounded by trees, fresh air, and strangely aggressive squirrels and rabbits — and it's all thanks to this affordable set of a table and four chairs. (Three of those chairs are aspirational, but I sprang for four cushions for when we're allowed to see people again.) The set was easy to put together, is sturdy for the money, and is weathering well. The outdoors time kept me sane. — Marc Levy, senior editor


Related: Holiday Gift Bargains From Ikea

Post-it Extreme Notes
Amazon

Post-it Extreme Notes

$11 from Amazon
Shop Now


I know my kids, and they're slobs. Fun, kind slobs that I get along with most of the time, but still … slobs (sorry, boys). So when I knew we'd all be at home on top of each other, I also realized my patience would wear thin if I had to tell them constantly what to do. Then a coworker pointed me to the kanban approach to house chores. Feeling inspired, I picked up a pack of these Post-its that stick faithfully while resisting heat, cold, and water, assigned a color to each kid, and kanbanned the you-know-what out of an empty wall. Nine months later, I haven't done lasting emotional damage to either of my sons, and I haven't had to replace one Post-it note with a new one. — Kris Scott, writer/editor


Related: Stocking Stuffers They'll Actually Use

Daily Ritual Women's Super Soft Terry Hooded Open Sweatshirt
Amazon

Daily Ritual Women's Super Soft Terry Hooded Open Sweatshirt

$31 from Amazon
Shop Now


I worked from home before the pandemic, so I already have more comfy clothes than the average bear. But even I bolstered my supply once it was clear that I no longer needed to be presentable for school drop-off, or to work in a coffee shop, or, well, anything in particular. This sweatshirt ticks all the boxes: It's warm, soft, versatile, and when I'm on a Zoom call, it looks like a slightly-more-adult open cardigan instead of just another hoodie. — Saundra


Related: The Best Gifts For Women Who Have Everything

Harry Potter Book Series
Amazon

Harry Potter Book Series

$52 from Amazon
Shop Now


Around June, I realized I could not keep going to bed every night staring into the abyss of the internet on my phone. I was sleeping terribly, waking often, and having nightmares. Basically, the anxiety of it all was getting the better of me. So I adopted a new night routine that resulted in swift, peaceful sleeps: rereading Harry Potter. I grew up with Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and revisiting that magical world every night was exactly what I needed. While I would highly recommend having a hardback collection of your own, this paperback set is more affordable and will get the job done. — Anna


Related: Clever and Creative Gifts for Book Lovers

Tekcians Mask Extenders
Amazon
Pulse Oximeter
Amazon
Elephant & Piggie: The Complete Collection
Amazon

Elephant & Piggie: The Complete Collection

$88 from Amazon
Shop Now


True story: My great-uncle died because he had his nose buried in a book and fell. I'm told my daily story intake as a preschooler had to be capped at 18 books. But no one told my daughter she hails from a long line of readers — she'd leave the room every time I tried to introduce her to the wonders of fiction. Enter the Caldecott Award-winning "Waiting Is Not Easy!" by Mo Willems, and suddenly I had a lockdown convert. Like all the books in Willems' Elephant & Piggie series, it's told through digestible dialogue and expressive illustrations, and builds to a breathtaking final page that charms the pants off a 3-year-old and 30-something alike. — Melissa Cantor, senior editor


Related: Great Gifts to Buy Your Grandkids 

GoSports Cornhole Regulation Size Set
Amazon

GoSports Cornhole Regulation Size Set

$98 from Amazon
Shop Now


I bought this in late May, anticipating a summer of staying at home with a few camping trips thrown in for sanity's sake. We didn't play this game every day by any means, but it got used in the front driveway, the backyard, on those campouts, and we even hauled it to a park one day just to feel like we were getting out of the house and having fun. It folds up into a pretty portable package, and has been great for something to do on days when we might otherwise have been bored out of our minds. — Kris 


Related:  Fun Gifts for the Entire Family

Peloton.png
Peloton

Peloton Bike+ Exercise Bike

$2,495 from Peloton
Shop Now


I never knew I wanted a Peloton until I had a Peloton. It was my husband's doing: He'd been going to a pricey spin studio, but that no longer felt safe this year. I was wary of the steep price tag, but it turns out that the expense is a powerful motivator: I've ridden this thing all but two days since we've had it. I've also enjoyed it way more than I expected to, and am in a better mood than I have been in a long time. Peloton's instructors are funny, motivating, and unreasonably attractive, and there's plenty more to do besides ride the bike, from strength to yoga to boot camp and beyond. — Saundra


Related: The Best and Worst Fitness Products of 2020

Ice Pop Molds
Ikea

Ice Pop Molds

$2 from Ikea
Shop Now


We were lucky enough to get a roomy new freezer this summer despite a huge backlog of orders. When it did arrive, I went into popsicle production overdrive with these adorable ice pop molds from Ikea. They're simple, really cute, and oh so cheap. We even shared some kits with family members to brighten up their lockdown time. — Pat


Related: Best Finds at Ikea for $10 or Less

Box Claw Weed Puller
Amazon

Box Claw Weed Puller

$38 from Amazon
Shop Now


How have I dealt with pandemic fatigue and endless tedium? By gardening like crazy. That often requires ripping up the rock-solid soil in my yard, no easy feat when it's mostly clay and rock. The twisted spikes on my Yard Butler Twist Tiller box claw can rip out grass, uproot weeds, fish out stones and debris, and aerate soil in a jiffy. And there's something satisfying about the riiiiiip sound it makes as I work. — Scott Nyerges, deputy editor, shopping


Related: 46 Well-Made Products You'll Never Have to Buy Again

Linaire Album, and Other Music Downloads
Bandcamp

Linaire Album, and Other Music Downloads

$8 from Bandcamp
Shop Now


I became obsessed with this sad but beautiful little album by Canadian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Anna Atkinson, racking up about 50 listens just in the first six weeks. Repeat listens are useful for working in front of a laptop for hours a day, but Linaire isn't just meditative, but a serious emotional journey with lyrics that intertwine from song to song — there's a ton to dig into within just 37 minutes costing a handful of bucks. The message of understanding and forgiveness is pandemic gold in a time most of us might be going a bit mad. But don't stop with Linaire: Bandcamp is filled with endless hours of music to explore, sample, and buy for little money. And that money goes directly to the artists.— Marc


Related: Gift Ideas for Music Lovers