Holiday shopping advice: don't forget discount stores!

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So I know I've already told you a tale of how much I love discount stores recently (In which I proclaim my love for Big Lots, and tell you why). But I'm going to do it again. In particular, I am nuts about Marshall's and TJ Maxx. Both are ubiquitous here (really--there are 12 TJ Maxx stores and 18 Marshall's stores within 20 miles of my house), so, second only to thrift stores, they are my go-to places to shop. I buy everything there--clothes, housewares, pet stuff, occasionally food, and bath and body products.

I recently had an online friend tell me she'd never been to a Marshall's or a TJ Maxx. This astounded me. I guess they aren't common in some places? Anyway, that got me to thinking about all the things I love to buy at these stores, so I decided I'd show you a few recent favorites.

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Both Marshall's and TJ Maxx have recently been stocking these great travel sets from EO. Containing a 1.5 oz container each of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion, they'd be great for just tossing into a plastic bag to take a short trip. I'm a big fan of the EO line in general, so I was happy to scoop a whole bunch of these up. I got one each in French Lavender, Grapefruit & Mint, Sweet Orange, Tea Tree and Lemon, and Cranberry Hibiscus, and am planning to either give a couple of them away as small Christmas presents or hoard the whole bunch for my future travel needs. The price? $4.99 at Marshall's/TJ Maxx, versus $6.99 on the EO website.

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Another EO product I've been excited about lately are the 5 oz bottles of shaving cream. I hadn't previously used EO shaving cream, but it's good stuff and the scents are great. I picked up a lavender one and a tea tree and lemon one for $3.99 each. On EO's site? $8.99. If I get a chance, I'll pick some more up soon and stockpile them--that's one thing about finding this stuff at TJ Maxx or Marshall's, they aren't going to have it forever, so you have to get it while the getting is good.

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Another brand of which I am a big fan, which TJ Maxx and Marshall's carry not infrequently, is The Body Shop. My latest score was several 7.1 oz containers of Pink Grapefruit Body Scrub--pink grapefruit is my favorite Body Shop scent, and I think they might be discontinuing it? Anyway, the scrubs were $4.99 each, and The Body Shop sells them for $20! I also picked up a couple of 8.4 oz bottles of pink grapefruit shower gel, on clearance for $3 each ($13 at The Body Shop), a Moroccan Rose body butter for $5.99 ($20 at The Body Shop), and a Wild Cherry body butter ($5.99, $20 at The Body Shop).

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Recently, I've noticed a few high-end cosmetics at TJ Maxx, which is, as far as I know, a new thing. The best thing I've found was the NARS Black Eye set--a bottle of eye makeup remover, a eye shadow duo in Pandora (black and white), a black mascara, and a black eyeliner pencil. The retail on this set, which isn't available anymore anywhere I can find, was $60. I picked mine up for either $24.99 or $29.99.

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I live in tights in the winter, and buying them is not easy at my size. One brand I can always count on to fit me properly is Hue (Size 4, baby! They actually really do fit a 6'0", 215 pound woman!). On their website, Hue charges $9.37/pair or two for $15 for their opaque tights. At Macy's, they are $8.99/pair on sale. At my discount stores, I regularly find two packs of the exact same tights for $9.99. And I buy them every time.

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The gourmet food section is definitely hit-or-miss at most discount stores, and do you have to keep an eye on expiration dates, but there are gems in this rough. Most recently, I found a bunch of these gourmet Spanish salts from SoSo Factory, for $8.99 each. I snatched up the smoked paprika salt and the five-pepper salt, and was Mark ever happy that day! These retail for $18 each and the packaging is almost as great as the product--I'd definitely consider them for foodie gifts.

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Another recent food section highlight has been offerings from Mustapha's Moroccan, a brand Mark sometimes orders online. I've seen capers, harissa, and various spices. The 10 oz jar of capers was $4.99 (as compared to $9.50 online), and the 1.6 oz ras el hanout was $7.99 ($15 online). The 1.6 oz nigella (grains of paradise) was $3.99 ($7.50 online).

I also have to recommend taking a look through the clothes. Sometimes, there's nothing. Recently, though, I've been impressed with the sweater selection. The clearance rack at my TJ Maxx had tons of really nice merino wool cardigans that had their tags cut out, but I am fairly certain were from either J. Crew or Talbot's. For the $15 each they were marked, they looked very high end, and were I not allergic to wool, I'd be adding several to my new job wardrobe.

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If someone on your list has been very good, another thing I've noticed in my stores recently is a lot of Le Creuset. Even at a discount, this stuff is expensive, but there is a substantial discount. For example, I saw the 5.5 quart round French oven, which is $235 at Amazon.com, for $145 at TJ Maxx. You won't be able to be picky about colors--they usually only have one or two, but still, it's worth considering if you have anybody on your list who lusts after fancy cookware and doesn't mind last year's model (and honestly, has it changed?).

Cookbooks are another thing I've noticed a lot of recently--usually for less than $10. My not-MIL has a thing for the Barefoot Contessa, and I've seen several of her books at Marshall's, as well as Giada and Martha Stewart.

If you decide to take my advice and check out your local discount stores, I highly recommend you buy first and think about it later. If you decide against something, you can return it (with a receipt!). If you leave it, though, chances are excellent that you'll come back for it and it won't be there anymore. You can't guarantee anything will stay on the shelves, or that there will be more when something runs out. Likewise, if you find something small you really love (like, say, the toiletries I posted about at the beginning of this post), buy a few and stockpile them. It's not unlikely their manufacturers have discontinued them, so this is going to be your last chance.

Happy shopping!

5 Comments

i love TJ Maxx and Marshalls, Grace. Thanks for this post. I'm going to check them out before the holidays for some stocking stuffers. I have some Body Shop lovers in the family.

OMG. That salt! The cookbooks! The EO! The Mustapha's Moroccan! The LeCreucet! Oh, how I wish I could shop with you!

My mom and my sister and I have a big TJ Maxx shopping tradition when I'm home (San Diego). The closest one here is about 25 miles away but now I am newly inspired to take the trip!

Another thing I often find books at TJ Maxx are the sort of books that I tend to check out for too long at the library (cookbooks, other nonfiction how-tos). I buy them up cheap at TJ Maxx and then donate them when I'm done. $3 is usually cheaper than the fines I would incur on the same sort of book from the library.

Here, its Ross that is the place to hit. Our Marshalls can be really hit or miss. I'll have to re-visit TJ Maxx though. Its on the opposite side of town, so I never think to head over there.

I love TJ Maxx and Ross both...we've bought everything you've mentioned, and we also get a lot of our therapy items there. Let's see, $200 to buy a therapy ball from a specialized shop, or a $4 yoga ball from Ross? Tough choice....

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