back to school shopping this year

Just 3 weeks until our baby girl starts school for the first time and the big kids head back. This year we send 4 kids off to school, 1 returns to preschool and the baby stays home with me. And yes it’s proving to be an expensive time of year getting everyone ready. One needed a complete uniform to start big school, two need a few bits and pieces as they move on from infants to primary, most needed a new pair of trainers, one needed new black school shoes, everyone needed new lunchboxes, one needs a full list of stationery, three need a few textbooks and me? I need to give my bank balance a rest. I’ve been tallying everything up in my diary and it’s all adding up.


Well the first thing I did was make everyone bring down their school shoes and trainers. 2 of the kids had new school shoes midway through last year, 1 girl had a choice of 2 school shoes a size up from a girl who never scuffs her shoes so that was one nice relief. 1 boy had the stinkiest trainers out there and 1 girl had a pair that were too small. And our sweet little girl needs trainers as her school shoes. So I went to the kids shoe shop who had 20% off Clarks and 3 pairs of trainers, 1 pair of school shoes later we were done school shoe shopping. I did think about the day I might need to get 6 pairs of school shoes and trainers. Oh boy.

Last year I had this great idea to do all the kids school shoes at a budget shoe place. It was ok for 2 girls with the school shoes but the girl trainers fell apart and the boy school shoes lasted half way through the year before falling apart. So it wasn’t the cheapest option in the end and one of the girls needed a wider shoe.

Everyone has a different budget so look for good quality that you can afford, a solid back of the shoe that gives support and that you can’t push down easily, width of your thumb at the end of the shoe for growth and if you can get them fitted then go for it and get the correct size. It’s ok to get fitted and shop around to get the best price. My other advice is if you have very narrow or very wide – we fall on the very wide side of shoe fittings – then don’t leave it to late. Oh and wear those shoes around the house before school starts. Or if you’re like our 5 year old, wear your shoes to church with a nice dress because you just can’t take those shoes off. She loves them.


Next up was lunchboxes. This year I’ve decided to go stainless steel. The tupperware/lunchbox cupboard is heaving and things fall out on me. We’ve got mismatched containers, broken lids and who knows what else lives in there. I decided to bite the bullet and go stainless steel for lunchboxes this year. I know that there are cheaper options but I’ve wanted to do it for a while and just decided out with the old and in with the new. And my Tupperware cupboard will get the mother of all cleanouts.

I settled on the lunchbots for most of the kids (I bought mine here) and the yumbox (not stainless steel) for our school starter as it is easy to open herself. I’ve never sent a little one with special needs off to school but I know that they will have some help with lunchboxes but this is an easy clip on the yumbox and she seems fine with it.

I’m going to write a post on lunchboxes but have to say if you’re looking at a good affordable one you can’t beat the nude food mover lunchboxes from the supermarket which have pretty much lasted the year and were great with the small containers for fruit break in the morning at school. Even my biggest boy with his huge appetite had enough room for plenty of food in there.


Drink bottles? Well I just love the Tupperware ones. We have them in an assortment of colours and you can write their names or place the stickers on the top or bottom sections and they are a good size with no leaks. I hate leaking drink bottles. We also have a few good stainless steel ones in the mix but make sure that your kids can close them properly…if you want a dry school bag.


This year I did stationery online with officeworks and their free delivery to avoid the shops and taking all 6 lovely little ones with me. Don’t forget to buy contact to cover books. My girls did use some of their Christmas money to buy smiggle pencil cases which is definitely not the budget option but was a practical way to use their Christmas money. That shop is just heaven for my girls and my littlest one loved it.


I tend to always buy new because I have little ones to hand down to. Anything that I won’t need because our little girl is going to a special school will be going to the 2nd hand uniform shop along with the netball uniform since art and gymnastics are on the activities list for 2016 and not netball.

Look after your school uniforms especially winter dresses/skirts and blazers as you can get a good amount back on them in the uniform shop. I hand wash most of mine and dry clean blazers during school holidays.

Don’t be afraid to buy extra shirts or summer dresses 2nd hand to keep as spares/back ups. I always do a quick scan of the 2nd hand rack and we got a great sports jacket when my big girl started school that is still going strong.

Please be sure to buy yourself 2 sunhats for the playground. The kids hate missing out on playtime because they’ve misplaced their hat or had it taken. Hats going missing kill me because they always do but it does get easier when the kids get older/more responsible. But trust me I have a few who lose their hats on a very regular basis. Get the name written on the hat with a sharpie as soon as you get the hat or before you leave the uniform shop!



Name labels well of course I used my lovely new label maker. However for my little girl starting special school I wanted something very big that she could recognise so fruit and her name in big letters made it easy from a personalised label shop were in order. I bought her a complete set.

And that’s that. With most of the back to school shopping done I can now look forward to saving for term 1 fees.

Any tips or words of wisdom from my readers?

And while we’re in a back to school mood, here are a few posts you might like

gluten free lunchboxes

baking for lunchboxes


  1. I cannot even think about it all yet. Lunchbox and drink bottle situation is dire. Uniform situation is OK-ish. I stumble by with two uniforms each (at $140 for a summer dress I like to economise somewhere!) Shoes are OK-ish and I think we are going to start the year with last years and reassess term by term. Stationery had to be ordered in December to be delivered to school (I think there are some things I thought we could organise ourselves – should check into that). Need to look at dance timetable and see how I can get that to work with some extra-curricular activities for the little man. Pick up and drop offs this year will be a nightmare with them both starting and finishing 5 minutes apart but their schools 20 minutes apart…

  2. I have my head firmly in the sand about school… I am not ready to even contemplate that my smallest will start school in a few weeks, and that I will have all four kids in school together for the first time ever! But I probably should order him some name labels!

  3. Ange Moore says:

    Back to school really creeps up! We’ve done the school shoe shopping (3 x black shoes and 3 x runners) – Clark’s shoes always seem to last and fit my kids well and I’m happy to pay a bit more for them being fitted properly (which is something I’m never sure about). And we have loved our Nude Food Mover lunchboxes and they have lasted really well – and I believe you can buy replacement parts (like the removable lids). As for drink bottles – we have had the Nike bottles for nearly 2 years and they’re still going strong. No leaks and no problems with not closing them properly because they have a valve. Good luck to Little E for her start at big school (and good luck to you for getting her there)!

    • the shoes do all add up and sounds like your bill was bigger than mine! thank you, still can’t believe we head off to big school again:)

  4. I’m thrilled that for 3 high school kids I have spent $40 all up on stationery plus 2 scientific calculators which seem to drop in price every year ($20 on special). Boys don’t care about such stuff and two of them will recycle stuff from last year they say. The year 13 kid needed a few refills and that was it!
    I’ve a few textbooks still to get but that is it. Pleased uniforms/shoes all still fit (esp after the state high school uniform was around $700 last year – good old NZ schools rip offs!).

    • wow that is good work! I wouldn’t mind that $40 since 1 child was $70 in stationary alone but the girls have everything provided which I really like:)

  5. You have school shoes from mid year last year? My sons are now adults but two of the three would have grown out of three pairs of shoes in the last six months and the other would have worn out a similar number. The local newsagent was very helpful. My boys had paper runs with him. The agency chain had a catalogue of soecials at the beginning of the year, and I was able to choose for the three and then pay him over a number of weeks.

    • we have some slow growers here:) I’d believe that Jan as my son is only 2 1/2 shoe sizes smaller than me now and he’s 7! 7!!!! He’s going to shoot past me in a year or two I reckon! how nice is that to spread out the cost of the shoes:) :)

  6. We move to a different campus but I am not completely sold on the school so I am umming and arring about replacing the summer shirts. At about $65 each new I am less than keen. I have my eye out on Gumtree and a local FB page for 2nd hand but they are few and far between. We did the sports shoe thing at Pauls Warehouse during their half price sale (better value than buy one get one free and we all got new runners) and I am still in shock at miss 10 needing a size 10.5 adult sneaker… Next up are orthotics and THEN school shoes. Lunchboxes are easy as I raided my store before all the good stainless steel boxes went, we too use the lunchbots and they are BRILLIANT but wash the lids up by hand not in the dishwasher (I can not stress this enough). Drink bottles we use the Ecocoocoon as they are double walled and keep water icy cold all day long. In Hobart a stationary shop hires the hall at the showgrounds and sets up tables upon tables of stationery. Each school has a section and each year is laid out in that section in the order the stationery is on the book list, you go in with your list and just pick the stuff up, pay for it and walk out the door. It’s pretty good price wise but the easy factor wins me over! So organised and so practical. They also have tables down the middle with things like texta’s and coloured pencils and ‘fancy’ things that are optional. It would make sense for schools to actually do it for themselves in Sydney. Get a good price on the stationery, buy in bulk, pass the savings on to the parents, a good initiative for a P&F to take on…

  7. I don’t have kids, but work with children with special needs. We suggest that families practice eating out of a lunchbox a few times in the weeks before school starts so that kids know which bits to eat when, like what to eat at fruit snack, lunchtime etc. it also enables you to know whether to snip packets open, or what containers to use so the kids can be as independent as possible at school.
    Enjoy the last few weeks of summer!

  8. Thank you! Once again, timely posts Corrie. I’d been thinking ‘label maker’ fir ages, but didn’t know which one to buy and then there’s your great post yesterday. Today I start looking at my 4 booklists wondering where to buy – and here’s your post suggesting Officeworks today. Hope you enjoy the rest of your holidays 😀

    • I have to get my text books sorted tomorrow, I figure so long as I’m done I can relax and enjoy the rest of my holidays:) :) hope you enjoy yours too

  9. If you do not need the school shoes immediately, wait till school starts back. All the good shoe shops have their sales the week after school starts. I have been known to have my child’s foot measured by a fitter then bought the shoes elsewhere. We are lucky enough to have a Clarks shoes warehouse just up the road.
    Corrie the mind boggles at what you have todo to prepare to get your kids back to school.

  10. Ecococoon water bottles … Brisbane business, bpa free, stainless steel, special medical seal which doesn’t leak even if tipped upside-down and no cap on & doesn’t ‘sweat” which means no condensation & no wet school bag, etc. Not cheap but they last & last. Can buy spare lids, mouth pieces, etc. They’re my favourite.

    • oh yes that’s the one I got for my little girl today, they weren’t cheap but thought they sounded good. Just an investment to buy for all of the kids:)

  11. Great tips Corrie although I am not ready to think about back to school yet. Will give myself another week and then get my act together.

    Couldn’t help mention – not trying to be picky but just thought I’d say – paper, pens etc – it is stationEry with an “E” – remember “E” for envelope. Stationary with an A means not moving and considering you were shopping with 6 littlies I’d say you definitely were moving..:)

  12. We have four at school, so know the expense of school. About two weeks after school goes back, many of the shops reduce there school supplies and I buy up big, place in a crate ready for the following year. The only things I had to buy this year where felt tip pens, sketch books and year 3/4 years exercise books. With the uniforms I normally spread the expense out throughout the year, but this year our school has changed the uniform. So we decided to buy everyone, one new uniform and then a second one in term 2 (as they can still wear the old uniform for one year). Shoes I buy new every year, as we only need one pair of black leather and I buy them from athlete shoes and they last the whole year. Love the holidays, dread returning in three weeks.

    • You sound very organised!!! I too love the holidays and am already dreading back to school but am of course excited with one starting kindy! enjoy the rest of the holidaysxx

  13. We have one at school and one at kinder, our Kinder girl just had to have the same sort of lunch box her big brother had. Our school supplies book packs with the fees so we didn’t have to run around. All I have left to do is make a bigger Art smock for my school boy and a library bag for my kinder girl as well as one for a friend, I know that the art smocks are really cheap in the stores but I think it is nice having one he can instantly find in the pile of other smocks.

    • oh you are so good, I always think I’ll make the art smocks and then I end up buying them! they do double as a great hair cutting cape for my boys too:)

  14. We love the stainless steel Lunchbots and the Yumboxes here too! Had the Yumboxes two years and they’ve been great, and the Lunchbots are still going strong after a year. Am about to get a whole bunch more!

  15. Nlosing ancy says:

    Wow – I remember those days – slugging through Staples our stationary store looking for some obscure book for spelling that didn’t exist anymore. With parents at wits end… I will say this – I started my kids making their own lunches following the guide and packing only healthy stuff from about age 7. Sounds early but it wasn’t and it ended the stuff coming back at the end of the day – soggy and disgusting.

  16. Two of my four kids went right through 13 years of school with the same Decor lunch box, where as one of the others made up for it.

  17. This year is a really small year for school shopping for me. I only have two attending school (and one homeschooled)… Compared to the 8 I had to get sorted last year – THAT was REALLY expensive! It’s the first time in years I’m not stressing about being ready… And I’m not stressing about the financial side either!


  18. Squee i cant wait for my little guy to start school, i adore back to school! He is only 18months so a while to go yet. Maybe ill have another then i get 2 back to school!

  19. I have one with additional needs who is heading back to school into Year 1 – in Kinder I learnt – if you have to buy specific shoes due to orthotics (ie. we need Ascent shoes from Athletes Foot) make sure you sign up to the loyalty program because we get a $30 voucher every $300 we spend. I went with sew in labels from Etsy because I have a love hate relationship with iron on labels – it’s great because you unpick the label when they get passed on second hand, my other fabulous find was bag tags on Etsy – had them custom made with coloured beads, name, & my phone number (all the same) & put it on school bag and lunch box – it served the purpose of extending the zip making it easier to independently open the zips. We had a case of the missing lunchbox for the first month of kinder until I realised someone figured that if she didn’t have a lunch box I’d have to give a lunch order – so I started the weekly lunch order mid term and suddenly the lunchbox came home everyday (as it was too devastating to possibly miss out on a lunch order!)

  20. I have my first one going to school this year. She also goes to a private school so she needs the blacks shoes also and some sports white trainers. I was going to buy mid range price range as i knew it would be better in the long run, well i was guessing it would be lol. Let me know how your daughter goes with the bento box as if this one doesnt last long i was going to get that next!

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