Mom Must-Haves: Back to School

We’re all in the throes of back-to-school mayhem: an exciting, sometimes emotional and always busy time of year. With contributors who have infants at daycare to college-age students, we’ve got a lot of favorite products and ideas to help simplify the back-to-school crazy and get your (school) year off to a great start:

Mom Must-Haves (1)Morning + Breakfast

Candice says: Sick of throwing your kids a Pop-Tart every morning? Running out of quick yet healthy options but in a crunch during your morning rush? Well calm down, sister. HEB has prepackaged frozen smoothie kits that are legit healthy and easy, plus the kids go ape poo over them. Blendables by HEB are super easy, healthy, and quick. Open the package, throw the frozen fruit in the blender with some water, and—BOOM!—breakfast is served. If you’re feeling frisky, you can add a fresh banana or apple and really kick it up a notch. There are four different options, so you’re almost guaranteed to make everyone happy…almost! These delights are found in the freezer section, breakfast aisle, about halfway down on your right…unless you’re coming the other way, in which case they’ll be on your left.

Erin loves: These amazing cups make morning commutes SO much easier…with coffee in tow! Reusable, microwaveable, dishwasher safe—and in super cute colors! A pack of four is $5! Done!

Lindsay’s idea: Does your child have trouble finding his/her shoes on a daily basis? Do school shoes mysteriously disappear into the abyss, only to be found by you amid early morning threats of privilege losses? You aren’t alone! We implemented a shoe basket DIRECTLY next to the door about a month into school last year. All school shoes must go in there upon entering our humble abode. I also added a smaller bin for socks to eliminate the inevitable “I can’t find any socks” comments from both my husband and my child when attempting to make it to school on time. There are tons of great baskets like this one from Target.

Katie depends on: Knock Knock Notepads. I have been a fan of the Knock Knock Notepads for a while now. We love the “All Out Of” one for keeping a grocery list. They also have one called “This Week” that can be used for activities, meal planning, or just reminders.

Heather adds: And just for fun, it’s convenient that back-to-school coincides with Hatch Chile Fest at HEB/Central Market. I look forward to it each year and only this year realized the coincidence. A tasty distraction from back-to-school blues.

Lunch Gear

Inga loves: The LL Bean lunch box is insulated—just add an ice block—and holds a hearty lunch, but still fits inside a backpack. My son has solid red, and my daughter has a purple floral print; both are monogrammed. Add a reusable napkin and utensils to go green.

Katie uses: This moderately sized metal bento box. I bought it on Amazon, and it was a bit pricey, but I love that I don’t have to buy any more plastic baggies or small containers. It is dishwasher safe and better last for years!

Erin suggests: The Pottery Barn Classic Lunch Bag. So adorable, big enough for everything, AND you can monogram it!

and Bridget agrees: Pottery Barn Kids lunch bags have been staples in our house for years. They hold up an entire school year (and beyond), can be monogrammed, and come in many designs that will pass the cool test at any age…until you hit middle school. Brown paper bags it is come sixth grade.

Candice swears by: Rubbermaid LunchBlox kits. They are perfect for the kids’ lunches and affordable. Plus, they come with a blue ice insert, and if that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will. With four differently sized containers in one package, this is a win, win, win-win. It’s perfect for a sandwich, some Wheat Thins, strawberries, and cucumbers. Or if your kids pack their own lunches, then it’s perfect for two ding dongs, a Twinkie, three cookies, and peanut M&Ms. You can score this amazing lunchblox at your local HEB, and they usually have a coupon during back-to-school time.

and Brooke loves them, too: Rubbermaid LunchBlox Kits easily fit in most lunch pails/bags. All pieces snap into each other, and I love that they include ice packs that snap into the boxes.

Michelle’s favorite lunch hack: Use silicone muffin “tins” to keep foods separate and contained.

Amanda adores: Lunchtime LOL Notes from Land of Nod. Fun for kids (and adults) to find in their lunches, these cards come in a pack of 180 and feature a joke and illustration on one side with space on the other for a note from home.


Lindsay says: Dixon Ticonderoga Wood-Cased Pencils, #2 HB, Yellow. These pencils are the way to a teacher’s heart. Not only are they strong and hold up well, they are pre-sharpened for the first day of school! Seriously, these gems have saved me hours over the years from fighting the line in the work room to use the “good” pencil sharpener the night before school starts!

and Inga agrees, from a parent point of view: #2 pencils by Dixon Ticonderoga are timeless. The hexagonal cross section helps develop a good grip. The lead is smooth; in fact, the only smoother pencils we have are from the Hello Kitty store, but they are too distracting for homework.

Michelle advises: Get an electric Pencil sharpener! So much cleaner than those cheap manual sharpeners that spill every six seconds.

America loves: Edukits! Pre-paid school supplies delivered directly to the school for your child. No need for school supply lists and traveling to the three different stores to find items. Our school provided the link at the end of the prior school year (so check with your school to see if it offers this service!).

Clothing + Accessories

Candice can’t live without: Curly elastic shoelaces. Sick of untied shoelaces or hearing “can you tie my shoes for me?” Well, I have the solution! Curly elastic shoelaces are the bomb. Yes, you should still teach your child to tie his/her shoes, BUT you can also take the lazy way out and get these pull tight shoelaces. One of my girls is special needs and simply hates shoelaces, but these have cured our morning shoelace melt down. Do yourself a favor and go get some. I even got them for my husband because I’m sick of having to tie his shoes before work. Find these lifesavers by the register at your near by Payless Shoes, and if it’s BOGO time, then you can get loco and stock up for the next few years.

Michelle uses: Avery No Iron Fabric Labels have survived two years (and weekly laundering) on my kids’ school uniforms. Huge lifesaver with school uniforms since it makes it easy to identify their names.

Lindsay has some serious heart-eyes for: Clorox Control Bleach Packs. My son’s white school uniform shirts really didn’t stand a chance at staying stain-free, but by God, I put up a good fight. I started with Oxyclean and felt like the bottle was laughing at me while I was spraying it on the filthy dirt that was embedded in the once-stark white threads. I moved on to spray bleach and then liquid bleach, but that got a little dicey when the bleach started eating holes in the cotton. Betty Homemaker I’m not. I discovered these bleach pods toward the end of the school, and they work well when combined with copious amounts of some type of shout/spray and wash. These also don’t make my whole house smell like bleach, which is good for our olfactory senses. I’ll definitely be stocking up on these!

Erin’s daughter lives in: Target bike shorts. My daughter is obsessed with (and will only wear) dresses. This doesn’t correspond well with swings and slides at recess. So, she wears these under every dress…every day. Target has them in a million colors. Girly girl life savers!

Jennelle gives two thumbs up for: No-tie silicon shoelaces by Coolnice. Perfect for the kiddo who wants shoe styles that have laces but doesn’t quite yet have the skill to tie them or you don’t quite yet have the patience for teaching that skill. In all honesty, we bought them after realizing the lessons were frustrating for all involved and I didn’t want to his Kinder teacher to have to deal with one more thing. These have allowed him to continue to independently put on his own shoes. I have complete faith that one day he’ll learn the skill of tying shoelaces, but for the time being, these are awesome and have saved our sanity.


Several contributors vouch for the longevity of an LL Bean Backpack:

Jennelle says: We invested in an LL Bean backpack for Kinder, and I’m pleased to report it held up amazingly well. Granted, I had to remind my son several times while walking back from the bus stop to not drag his backpack; otherwise he’d ruin it and have to carry his supplies to school in an HEB plastic bag. But seeing as I wasn’t always around to remind him of this, his backpack survived being in his care, which I feel speaks volumes for its quality.

Inga says: LL Bean Original Book Pack is a great value and is so sturdy that it lasts for years. They come in solid colors that are not distracting and that fit with my kids’ school’s dress code. Different sizes are available, from preschooler all the way to college. (My book pack got me through law school, and I still have it.) Get some monogramming and fast shipping, and your kids are ready for school.

Heather found: The Junior backpack at GAP, outer space/astronaut theme. Found it browsing through GAP. My son (three years old) spotted the larger backpack, which was too big for his pint size. This size fits him much better. I love that it’s not a character-themed backpack. He’s been getting into outer space lately, and I’m all for it!

What are your back to school must-haves? I’ve personally stocked up on coffee and wine—and tissues. Happy back to school!


A fifth-generation San Antonionian - who happened to spend her formative years in Austin - Amanda loves the SAT from the confetti in her hair to the bluebonnets under her feet. Never one to miss a reason to host a party or decorate for a theme, Amanda revels in the 'mas Fiesta' attitude of the city. She's mom to Vivi (2012) aka #HurricaneVivi, Mac (2020) and wife to Francois, whom she met at Texas A&M (FTAC '05). She has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and a Doctorate in Making it Up As She Goes - which means she's a sometimes-fun-mom. You can find her on Instagram . She loves confetti, croissants, and a cold Ranch Water. Favorite Restaurant: Piatti's Favorite Landmark: Johnson Street footbridge in King William Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Fiesta Medals