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Your annual back-to-school shopping trip might be canceled this year, but that doesn’t mean you and the kids can’t get create some sense of normalcy during these strange times.
As students, their parents and teachers prepare for what will almost certainly be an unusual school year, there’s still a lot to consider and plan for amid all the uncertainty.
Most of us won’t soon forget the empty shelves and long lines at grocery stores at the beginning of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak in mid-March and how even reliable retailers such as Amazon and Walmart couldn’t keep up with the increased consumer demand.
That’s why, this school year, it might be especially worth it to shop locally while checking off the items on your kid’s school supply list— and have some online alternatives to Amazon and Walmart as a backup for the more obscure items on your list.
From backpacks and pencil cases to clothes and shoes — and even kids’ desks for your kiddos’ own workspace — we put together an ultimate back-to-school shopping guide that doesn’t involve Amazon or Walmart.
Take a look.
First Day Essentials: Backpacks And School Supplies
Picking the perfect backpack is a rite of passage for most students, but this year it might be a little less about what looks cool and more about what’s practical.
If your kid won’t have access to her locker or cubby this year, she might need a bigger backpack or a rolling backpack. If your kid is only going to in-person classes part of the time, odds are high that you want a budget-friendly backpack, too. For backpacks that aren’t from Amazon or Walmart, we recommend checking out retailers such as State Bags, Etsy, Kohl’s, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack.
For the fun stuff — such as novelty notebooks, pencil pouches, writing utensils and craft supplies — you’ll find adorable options from such sites as Discount School Supply, Etsy, Anthropologie, Uncommon Goods, Rifle Paper Co., Society6 and Urban Outfitters.
If you’re looking for budget-friendly items in bulk, the sites we recommend are Discount School Supply, Staples and Office Depot, which will have basics such as plain notebooks, writing pads, pencils, pens and more. We found this school art supply kit with all the essentials, from watercolors to markers, for just $25 at Discount School Supply.
Home School Setup: Furniture And Tech
Whether your child will be distance learning or only going into the classroom a few days a week, giving him a dedicated workspace at home that’s just for him is a good way to get him excited for school at home. Helping him stay organized and create a “classroom setting” goes a long way.
If you have room for a small desk or want a better office chair for the kitchen table, retailers such as IKEA, Wayfair, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters, West Elm and Overstock have furniture and furnishings for creating a classroom corner at home.
For those who are short on space but still want a place to keep all supplies in one place, The Container Store and IKEA are good options for clever storage solutions that can fit under the bed or mount to a wall. An IKEA pegboard setup is a smart way to store your child’s writing utensils and craft supplies without cluttering up her desk or the floor.
For cute classroom decor, we recommend sites such as Etsy, Uncommon Goods, Rifle Paper Co. and Society6, which have plenty of wall art, knickknacks and educational printouts to pretty up your kid’s space.
And if you’re worried about your kiddo being hunched over a laptop all day, you can find ergonomic computer accessories such as monitors, keyboards and headphones at such retailers as Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot and even eBay.
Picture Day Must-Haves: Clothes And Shoes
Kids always seem to outgrow their clothes faster than expected. Some retailers such as Gap have opened their fitting rooms, but the question remains whether it’s actually safe to try on clothes at stores during the coronavirus pandemic. You may prefer online alternatives for back-to-school clothes shopping this year.
Fortunately, there are plenty of places to shop for kids’ clothes beyond Amazon and Walmart. There are even kids’ clothing subscription boxes that’ll send them new clothing as frequently as you want.
For back-to-school kids’ shoes, we recommend such sites as Zappos (which is owned by Amazon, FYI), DSW, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom Rack. They have a wide range of styles, whether you’re in need of sneakers, sandals or something in between.
Cafeteria Staples: Grocery And Food Delivery
After months of being both parent and tutor, nobody can begrudge you for dreading adding school chef to the list. If the idea of packing a lunchbox or preparing a kid-friendly meal during the middle of your workday seems less than ideal, there are plenty of grocery delivery options, kid-friendly meal kits for 2020 and prepared meal delivery services to make chowing down easier.
If you don’t mind making your meals but want to avoid going to the grocery store, there are plenty of grocery delivery services such as FreshDirect, Instacart and Postmates to stock up on sandwich stuff and snacks.
If you don’t want to think about a grocery list or plan out what to cook, meal kits for kids and families will send you all of the ingredients and recipes for easy, low-effort meals. We recommend Gobble for busy families because it sends pre-chopped and pre-portioned ingredients for meals you can throw together. If you’re grocery shopping on a budget, Dinnerly is one of the more affordable meal kits for families. For large families with households of six, we recommend Home Chef’s meal kit.
If you’re trying to avoid cooking altogether in the middle of the day, a prepared meal delivery service might be a good option. For younger kids, we recommend Yumble, which sends prepared meals kits that kids love and that require no cooking. For yourself or the more adventurous eaters in your household, we recommend Daily Harvest and Freshly, both of which only require a few minutes in the microwave for a healthy and delicious meal.
Finally, no back-to-school season is complete without a new lunchbox. Though lunchtime schedules seem to be up in the air for many school districts, you can never be too prepared. In case communal refrigerators won’t be available, you might look for a lunchbox that’ll keep your kid’s food the coldest, such as a Packit Freezeable Lunch Bag from Bed Bath & Beyond. If you’re trying to avoid communal microwaves, we recommend S’well’s new stainless steel insulated food containers.
Safety First: Face Masks And Cleaning Supplies
Amazon and Walmart aren’t the only places you can stock up on cleaning and sanitizing supplies such as face masks, hand sanitizer and cleaners.
You can stock up on hand sanitizer from such sites as The Honest Co., Grove Collaborative, Staples, Office Depot, Ulta and Credo. Household cleaning brands such as Grove Collaborative, The Honest Co. and Blueland offer eco-friendly cleaning supplies, including hand soap, laundry detergent, bathroom cleaner and more.