We're spending a lot more time at home these days, and that's not changing anytime soon. The coronavirus is a worldwide health crisis, with everyone from medical professionals to essential service providers -- like warehouse and delivery staff to truckers and the clerks at your local grocery store -- putting themselves in harm's way on the front lines. For everyone else, sheltering at home means getting used to working at the kitchen table and not leaving the house for days at a time.
Watch this: 10 stay-at-home essentials under $20
We've prepared you with suggestions for free entertainment as well as a slew of free stuff to help you make the best of your social distancing. That's a good start, but this extended stay at home means you may need things you don't usually reach for in the house. You're cooking more, which means you might need kitchen accessories. More work-from-home time means a need for charging cables, Bluetooth speakers and a coffee mug warmer. And that's just for starters.
Upgrading to smart plugs, lights and speakers?
Install the CNET Shopping extension and we'll help you turn your house into a smart home without breaking the bank.
Add CNET Shopping
Here at CNET, we're all in the same boat. We've polled the staff, and we're sharing some of the items we've recently found indispensable in our newly home-bound lives. And best of all, nearly everything here is under $20 (with a splurge pick that goes a bit over that budget). Of course, prices and availability are subject to change -- and delivery times from Amazon and other vendors have been stretching out as they deal with the incredible delivery volume during this crisis.
I've sworn off sponges and gone all-in on pot scrapers when tackling that pile of pots and pans that are too big or crud-encrusted for the dishwasher. With a pot scraper, you can remove seemingly any cooking matter that has baked or dried onto a pot. Hate scrubbing eggs off your frying pan? A scraper will deal with those eggs. Burnt-on pie filling or barbecue sauce? Caramelized onions from a roasted chicken? A scraper will clean off all of that. There is no soap receptacle to deal with on a scraper. It doesn't retain odors. It doesn't get in the way of your faucet handles or need a hook to hang from like a bristle brush does. It won't scratch your nonstick coating. -- Rich Brown
If you're on video conferences and calls as much as I am, you know it's hell on your phone's battery. Instead of worrying about wireless chargers or battery packs, the easiest option is just a long-ass power cord. A two-meter (six-foot) cable is probably enough to stretch power to your kitchen table or work desk from a nearby outlet, and it can do double duty at night by reaching to the bed. Just make sure you pay up for the nylon cables -- they'll generally take more abuse and last longer. -- John Falcone
Everyone knows that bread is just flour, yeast and water, but if you really want to raise your bread game -- and this is the perfect time to do that -- grab this book. Based on recent experience, I can attest that once you learn the right ways to mix, rest and bake your dough, the results can be absolutely incredible. This particular guide has a whopping 4.8-star rating from over 1,600 buyers. -- Rick Broida
The RavPower Fast Wireless Charger 10W Max with QC 3.0 Adapter is normally $27, but there's a $10 coupon on Amazon that brings it down to $17. That's a great deal for a fast-charging pad that comes with a fast-charging power adapter. -- David Carnoy
Whether you opt for podcasts or music to pass the time, a tiny wireless speaker is a nice upgrade over the one built into your phone. For just under $20, this Sony model sounds great for its size and delivers hours of audio on a single charge. -- John Falcone
Most eye masks don't work for me: I don't like the feeling of the material pressed up against my eyelids -- and they never keep out all of the light, anyway. But this Bucky 40 Blinks model is the real deal. It's incredibly lightweight and -- most important -- it's contoured, with raised pockets above each eye, which makes it almost imperceptible. And when you get it set right, it's like you've been buried alive in a black hole. In the best possible way. -- Justin Jaffe
Have you ever used a foam roller? It's the worst, I know. But last year I learned I had been doing it all wrong. My gym offers a foam rolling class -- it's 60 minutes long! -- and it has been transformational. (Note that Instagram and Youtube are chock full of experts who can teach you the moves.) It's not exactly fun, but foam rolling is the best way I've found to mitigate sore muscle pain, enhance flexibility and approximate how you feel after an hour-long massage. Pro tip: Spend another $6 on a lacrosse ball and you have all of the equipment you need for a burgeoning mobility practice. -- Justin Jaffe
You're probably on some kind of webcam a lot these days, for work meetings, family hangouts or virtual cocktail parties. And probably look awful in all of them if there isn't enough pleasing light on your face. This inexpensive light is the ring shape that's preferred for lighting faces and can be set to three color temperatures and 11 levels of brightness. It plugs into a USB for power so you won't chew through batteries. The light output and build quality are remarkably good. The only thing you'll be missing is some way to mount it; it comes with an adjustable ball tripod adapter, but no mini tripod at this price. Bonus: When social distancing ends, you'll still enjoy using this as a makeup light. -- Brian Cooley
We're taking a lot more isolated walks these days and if yours take place in the evening, you'll appreciate the Quantum QHL-310 headlamp. It stands out from hundreds of others by having solid aluminum build quality, a zoom light whose beam can be widened or focused by just sliding the "lens", and an ample 310 lumens of light output. I also like that it takes standard AAA batteries in a holder that's easy to reload, unlike many other headlights. It also fits nicely over a helmet, but we haven't gotten to quite that level of apocalypse yet. -- Brian Cooley
The need to reheat a mug of coffee or tea in a microwave wears thin pretty fast and there's nothing comforting about drinking out of a metal thermal bottle when you're at home. This warmer, essentially a little hot plate for your mug, is totally worth the 10 bucks and allows you to keep drinking from a ceramic mug without trotting off to the kitchen for a warm-up. -- Josh Goldman
It's hard enough sitting all day in a chair that's not designed for long sessions; at least with a proper laptop stand I don't end up hunching over... as much. It also raises the built-in webcam (unless you've got an old Dell XPS 13) to eye level. This one in particular allows you to adjust to multiple angles, and because it's mesh I don't have to worry as much about gaming or Lightroom overheating my system. -- Lori Grunin
Now that we're constantly Zooming, Skype-ing and FaceTime-ing, we need a hands-free place to put our phone or tablet. (As you've no doubt discovered, propping it up on pillows just doesn't work well.) This simple stand gives you three viewing angles and folds flat so it's easy to store or even pocket. It's also large enough to accommodate tablets of up to 11 inches. Prices range from $6-$7, depending on color. -- Rick Broida
Chances are good you're doing a lot more cooking at home these days. This item has transformed our kitchen like few others; it not only keeps olive oil close at hand, but also makes it super-easy to pour. The bottle is dark brown to help protect the oil from light (which can degrade the quality), and it comes with a funnel for easier refilling and a screw-cap for long-term storage. Best $11 you'll spend for your kitchen, seriously. -- Rick Broida
It's always good to have a decent flashlight around the home and while this rechargeable Anker model costs slightly more than $20 (it's closer to $23), it's one of the best compact flashlights you'll find for this price. It has a bright 400-lumen Cree LED (50,000-hour lifespan) with high, medium, low, strobe and SOS modes. It lasts 20 hours on a single charge and is water-resistant (IPX5). No Micro-USB charging cable or power adapter is included but most people have those items already. -- David Carnoy