Black Friday shopping tips
- Don't be enticed by slow juicers. In our tests they took longer to juice, extracted less juice from fruits and vegetables, produced a more bitter juice with leafy greens. Plus, we found them trickier to clean and more expensive on the whole. In general, pulp ejector juicers were tops in our test.
- If you plan to juice whole fruits like apples or large pieces of fruit, look for a juicer with a large feed chute. This will cut down on prep.
- Look for a model with a separate pitcher that connects directly to the spout. These models tended to spill less and give you a convenient container for serving and storing your fresh juice.
Our favorite sale juicers: Breville Juice Fountain Compact ($99.99), Omega Mega Mouth Juicer BMJ330 ($169.99,), Krups Juice Extractor ZY501D50 ($180).
- If you're looking for a model that can charge your music player while it plays, consider a speaker set that docks. It's easy to hook up too.
- Want a wireless set? Look for speakers with Bluetooth or AirPlay. Choose AirPlay if you’re an Apple family — it's compatible with AirPlay-enabled iPhones, iPads, Macs, and the like. Bluetooth speakers pair with any enabled devices in the vicinity, but since it relies on its own wireless connection and not your home's WiFi, it’s a better choice if you want to take your speakers on the road.
- Be sure to check the ports on your new speaker set before you run out to the store. This way you can make sure it's compatible with all of your family's devices!
Our favorite sale speakers: Sharper Image Ambience ($99), EcoXGear EcoXBT ($129), iHome iD50 ($169).
- If you want to save money, pillows filled with a combination of down and feathers are generally less expensive than their 100 percent down-filled counterparts. Be aware, however, that the stiffer feathers can poke through a pillow covering in some cases. Many new fiberfill or combination pillows can mimic the feel of 100-percent down at a fraction of the cost and may be better suited for allergy-sufferers. Look for a pillow that claims to provide the most support for your preferred sleeping position.
- Check the care instructions when buying a pillow, too. Most can be machine-washed, but some suggest using a certain type of machine, such as a front loader, or some specify dry clean-only care. Foam pillows are usually not washable.
- Consider picking up a pillow protector or liner while you're in the store, too. This will help prevent wear and prolong the life of your pillow.
Our favorite sale pillows: The Company Store Down Soft Stomach Sleeper ($29-$49), JC Penney Signature Collection Side Sleeper ($55), Cuddledown Sateen Synthetic Fill Contour Cradle Gusseted Pillow ($59-$79).
- Price doesn't necessarily equal performance when it comes to blenders. So what do you get for splurging? Most likely, good looks, a heavy weight, a larger footprint on your countertop, and lots of special settings.
- Single-serve blenders with multiple blending cups and travel lids are convenient for those on the go. If you’re an avid smoothie drinker, consider a single serve blender, but don’t rely on it to make frozen drinks that require a good deal of ice.
- Don’t be swayed by wattage. The overall design of the blender is more important in determining performance.
- Consider the weight of the base and the pitcher independently of each other. A blender with a heavy base will remain stable during operation and is desirable unless you’re lifting your blender in and out of a cabinet often. While a glass pitcher may seem to be of a higher quality than a plastic one, it may be more difficult to lift, especially when full.
- Don’t be wowed by multiple settings, either. There usually isn’t a notable difference between adjacent speeds. However, we think a Pulse feature is indispensible.
Our favorite sale blenders: Oster Beehive Classic Blender ($60), Breville The Hemisphere Control ($200), Cuisinart Blend and Cook Soup Maker ($149).
- The point of a slow cooker is the convenience of set-it-and-forget-it cooking. Look for a model that automatically switches to a keep-warm setting, so you don't have to worry about being present precisely when cooking is done to prevent overcooking.
- Choose the largest model you have room to store. You can always cook smaller meals, but a more spacious slow cooker gives you the flexibility to make larger batches.
- Planning to take your slow cooker to a potluck? Look for a model with a lid that latches on securely.
- While an insert that can be used on the stovetop for browning enhances a slow cooker's flexibility, it will also add to its price. Remember you can always brown in a pot that you already own.
Our favorite sale slow cookers: Hamilton Beach Stovetop-Safe Programmable Slow Cooker ($80), Calphalon 4 Qt. Digital Slow Cooker ($80), Frigidaire YBM01 Slow Cooker ($99).
Cookware & Skillets
- Consider what type of range you have. If yours is gas, opt for solid aluminum cookware clad in stainless steel or coated with porcelain enamel or a non-stick finish. Cookware with a flat aluminum disk on the bottom is better for electric. And more and more pots and pans are designed for use on induction ranges.
- If you often put your cookware in the oven (say, to make a pot roast or frittata), be sure to check to what temperatures the pieces can be used in the oven, especially if the handles aren't metal.
- Consider design before you pick out a pan. Love an omelet in the morning? Look for a model with sloped sides. If you spend a lot of time pan-frying, a wide, shallow skillet is best, but deep pans are ideal for one-dish dinners.
- If you're buying a set, look for one that comes with larger pots and pans like 10- and 12-inch skillets, a 4- or 6-quart Dutch oven, and an 8-quart stockpot.
- Don't want to spend your evenings scrubbing? Stainless steel cookware looks beautiful when it sparkles, but cookware with a nonstick finish inside and out will make cleanup a snap.
Our favorite sale skillets: Circulon Symmetry 12-Inch Open Skillet ($60 for 12-inch and bonus 10-inch), T-Fal Ultimate Stainless Steel Copper Bottom 12-Inch Skillet ($45), Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless Steel 12-inch Open Skillet ($80).
- Don’t buy a super-large model unless you regularly cook for a crowd. However, it is worth stepping up from a mini chopper as a food processor also allows you to slice and shred.
- Look for a model that comes with a box to hold the accessories. It’s easy for them to get lost in a cupboard, and keeping them in a box keeps the blades from getting dulled and you from getting cut.
- Avoid buying a food processor without a pulse feature. It can be a valuable tool to prevent over-processing.
- Look for a unit with a feed tube in the front — it will be much more intuitive to use.
Our favorite sale food processors: Hamilton Beach 3-Cup Ensemble ($40), Cuisinart Prep 9 ($40), Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Duo ($80).
- You don't need to spend thousands of dollars to get a good machine; most models will get the job done. Price differences come into play more when it comes to ease of use, high-end automatic features, and getting the right tension for a specific fabric.
- Look to see what accessories come standard with the machine. It may make a huge price difference if you need to buy a lot of extras after the fact.
- Consider what features you'll be using. Is top speed a priority, or maybe automatic needle threading? Many sewing machines come with a lot of features and functions, so figure out which ones are relevant to you.
- If you're familiar with one brand of sewing machine, you'll most likely be familiar with a different model of the same brand — most companies stick to similar threading, bobbing winding, and controls across all their models.
Our favorite sale sewing machines: Brother SQ-9000 ($199), Singer 4411 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine ($230), Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116 ($400).
- Know the depth of your mattress before shopping and look at the dimensions of the sheets. Most sheets are cut a little larger to fit over pillowtop and deeper mattresses and you’ll want to allow a little extra room for shrinking in the wash.
- If you're particular about your sheets not pilling, stay away from flannel and jersey sets. Sateen and percale are more likely to stay pristine.
- Looking for cotton sheets? Be sure to check the fiber blend before buying. Many sheet sets are actually combinations, such as polyester and cotton.
- If you like a little sheen to your sheets look for sateen. The weave offers a little more luster than standard percale.
- Don't automatically assume the higher the thread count, the better. You'll find great sheets with counts between 400-600 and save money over higher count brands.
Our favorite sale sheets: The Company Store 450TC Wrinkle-Free ($142-$232), Garnett Hill Hemstitched Supima Flannel ($97-$148, twin to king), Walmart Mainstays Jersey ($24, twin to queen).
- Many machines are programmable so if you like to have your coffee brewed and waiting for you, keep an eye out for this convenient feature.
- Some machines have built-in grinders that grind whole beans, dispense them into the filter basket and then brew coffee. It’s a convenient option if you like to use whole beans, however they tend to be bigger and bulkier and can limit the amount of coffee you can use for brewing.
- If you frequently entertain, consider investing in a coffeemaker with a thermal carafe. This will allow you to bring the coffee carafe to the table and keep it hot without a burner.
Our favorite sale coffeemakers: Cuisinart Filter Brew 12-Cup Programmable ($80), Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew ($90), Capresso MT600 ($140), Bunn My Café ($100)