The Ultimate Back-to-School Shopping Recommendations List


As back-to-school looms I find myself giving unsolicited advice about school supplies to anyone who will listen.  As is often the case, this advice tends to take the negative turn, with words like “crap” and “not worth a shite” cropping up. I call it cautionary advice, or helping others learn from my mistakes. So, to save my voice (and others’ ears) here’s my ultimate list of things you should and shouldn’t buy for the kids for back to school.

I’m calling it my ultimate guide as I read an article recently that said to use powerful words in titles, let’s see how that goes. Maybe I should have called it “This Mom of Three got a school booklist, but she never expected what happened next” or “The never beaten time-saving list of back to school hacks” What do you think? Although, you’re already reading so you were happy enough with the original title I guess.

If you stick to my list you should save money and stress, and some swear words.

This is based on primary school children aged 8 and under as that’s what I have so that’s what I know a bit about.

I’ve divided the list into a few sections for ease of reference.


Things you should not buy because you don’t need them

1. A new pencilcase. What has happened in the last six weeks that made the existing pencilcase vanish? When a new one is needed get it during the school year.

2. Books that can be rented. Hashtag statements of the obvious.

3. A new drink bottle.  See 1 above

4. A new schoolbag. See 1 above

5. Socks. See 1 above.

6. School shoes if they have shoes that fit the dress code. My youngest can wear runners to school with his tracksuit. He has a good pair of runners that we got in June so he’s not getting new shoes for back to school, he’ll get them when he needs them (The 2nd week in September probably).


Items to avoid like the plague despite the pester power

  1. Schoolbags with wheels. Dangerous when packs of small children try to leave school together with them. And very, very annoying.
  2. Schoolbags with characters on them. The character is no longer cool so we need a new schoolbag, and it’s still September.
  3. Lunchboxes with compartments. I was only delighted with the boys’ lunchboxes last year. On Bento trend. They are the most nightmarish thing to wash, they give me no joy. So I’ve given them to a friend who has more patience than me and we are back to the plain Sistema 2L lunchbox that can go in the dishwasher and separate reusable pots (we still use the tommee tippee ones that I use for weaning) for things that need to go into separate reusable pots, like grapes and things. Make sure the lunchbox you buy can fit an apple in it (the Sistema Slimline Quaddie cannot).

The worst lunchbox ever.


Things I do in fact recommend

1. Schoolbags 

For schoolbags if your kids didn’t go to Cúl Camp and get the excellent free (OK built into the cost of the camp) bags from O’Neills I recommend getting a bag from Clarks. They have a limited range but are excellent quality and there is plenty of life left in Cathal’s after a year. The cotton lined straps are kind to coats and our one has battery operated lights inside it. ( I don’t see them online but we got ours in our local Clarks store)


Best schoolbag ever

2. Sistema 2L lunchbox: These are available everywhere, are the right size to fit a sandwich and an apple and the rest. Just a plain plastic rectangle with a lid that opens easily. THE END. It goes in the dishwasher. Halleluia.

3. Marks and Spencers shirts: Especially the non-iron ones with velcro top buttons, genius. After a year these are still in really good nick.

4. The dearer jumpers.  You know the ones. They wash better, worth the investment. We buy ours locally in Funges of Gorey.

So now you know, all the ultimate, relevant, back to school shopping  hacks right here. What have I forgotten?

*No ads, no sponsorship, just recommendations for things I like and burns for things I don’t.


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  1. We finally stopped buying random cheap schoolbags a couple of years ago when they broke after only a few months, and I’m hoping this year’s better quality replacements will last a bit longer. Except that my kids keep losing them too. And once I lost one. But we also bough labels so that should help 🙂

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  3. You make such a good point about the bags on wheels. (All excellent points actually!) 🙂 Totally never thought about the tripping hazard and could easily have been badgered into getting one! They are such good pesterer-ers!

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