When I was a kid, school supplies displays didn’t start showing up until just a few weeks before school started. And once they did you knew your summer was almost over. But you had the whole summer to enjoy before that moment happened. It was always a shocker to walk into the store and see those displays show up.
But nowadays, the displays and whole areas of the store are devoted to Back to School by the beginning of July! You don’t even get a chance to enjoy the summer much before you have to be reminded that school is about to start again. How much fun is that?!
In my ongoing series on how to take advantage of the end of retail sales cycles to help your family become better PREPared, we’ll tackle the Back to School Sales!
21 Sales Back-to-School Items You Can Use at Home
A simple walk around the back-to-school section of Target shows you how retailers and marketers are taking advantage of your interest in school supplies, organizational desires, and pandemic fears (have you seen the amount of hand sanitizer in the school section?), and more.
You can keep an eye out now on what you’ll need when you’re doing your back-to-school shopping, and also when it’s time to begin clearing out those items after school starts. So let’s run down a list of what you might find there and how you can use it!
1. General School Supplies
Obviously, these are great for just having on hand for any reason, but they can be used in long-term emergencies by having school supplies to keep up your child’s education, as well as being entertainment. But for some supplies, there can be more specific uses for a family.
2. Pencils & Pencil sharpeners
They are not only good for writing, keeping track of inventory, etc., but did you know they can save your life, too?
3. Permanent Markers
For some reason, permanent markers are becoming a huge back-to-school item. For teachers, they’re great for marking, and good art supplies for kids to doodle all over their lockers 😉 But sharpies are great for your home in that they can help you keep track of your long term food storage. Dating items when they come into your home and when you’ve opened them can help you keep your food storage rotating smoothly, and help you rebuying/restocking productively.
Sure, you could use them for emergency lighting (but really, don’t let this be your last resort), but they CAN be used for fire starters!
5. Notebook Paper
Sure, you’re going to use this anyway for everything. You need to have a good supply of it for kids’ homework, if you’re homeschooling, etc. But did you know you can also recycle it to create firebricks to burn in your fireplace or firepit to help with heating and alternative cooking methods?
6. Organization Items
The shelves are full of organizational things to keep all the products the schools require your kids to buy (but do they actually use them?) neat and tidy. The $1 pencil boxes are perfect for small item preps in your emergency bags or pantry. We use them to help keep first aid supplies separate but contained. We found these cute little bags (they are a little expensive and makeup bags might be a better option for small storage, but I tend to hate all the girlie fabrics they come in, and this allows me to see what’s inside a little easier). I purchased these but will be keeping my eye out on the clearance for more. They make perfect small compartmental organization bags for my day bag.
Not only is regular tape good for a lot of little things around the house, but the alternative tapes we’re seeing in the school supplies are even better! This mini Ducktape we found at Target is not only great for emergency bags and EDC for general purposes (what can’t duct tape do?), this particular version is shiny silver, and great for marking trails, thus good for hiking/camping supplies. They also have glow-in-the-dark DuckTape as well as camo, etc.
Here’s a big one. Not only are backpacks good for hauling around all that gear the school told you to buy, but non-obvious backpacks are perfect for those who want to not scream, “I AM PREPARED,” in the case of a bug out of any situation. You’ll be less noticeable with a generic backpack of good quality than something that looks military. Think about walking around the streets of New Orleans after Katrina hit. Would you want to be the person who looks like they’ve got the stuff other people want, or walk around looking just like everyone else and nothing special?
9. Insulated food items
These items are great for food storage, hiking, and camping. Wait for the clearance sales and scoop up those insulated food bags!
10. Water Bottles
I’ve kept this separate just so that you can focus on the specific item. Water bottles of all shapes and sizes are available. Not only good for hiking and camping, but they are good for emergency preparedness, too. Many of the water filters we use are great for filtering, but you’ve got nowhere to store them. So it’s handy to keep a water bottle with your emergency bags to be able to put that water into if you can, and aren’t already carrying a filtered water bottle like this.
11. Sleep Mats
I’m not sure if these will make it to clearance in most places. I always see folks posting on Facebook asking if anyone still has one from last year because all of the stores are sold out, but these do make great sleeping bag mats so you’re not sleeping on the ground.
Spiral notebooks, composition books, etc. We found these tiny little composition books that would be perfect for our emergency bags. They’re a little sturdier than small spiral notebooks.
13. Hand Sanitizer
For Back to School, hand sanitizers come in a range of sizes. The large ones are good for rooms, but the small ones make great emergency bag sizes and are good for EDC. Many of them now come with keychains to be attached to backpacks for school kids.
14. Wet Wipes
Intended to be sold for cold/flu season in classrooms, the handy-er sized packaging makes them great for diaper bags, emergency bags, car kits, first aid kits, and more. You can clean up without water, you can use it to help wipe down wound areas if you don’t have alcohol wipes handy, and they can help maintain a more sanitary field if you’re in an unsanitary place.
While you’ll find more of the boxes to encourage classroom purchases, you can also grab travel-sized ones for your everyday carry as well as first aid kits, etc. Keep an eye out for the clearance section and buy up all you can. Even if you’re just stocking for home use, like TP, it’s one of those things that you just can’t seem to have enough of, especially during cold/flu season.
We use maps in our homeschool. We have one under the dining room table (you could also accomplish this with a clear shower liner or clear tablecloth), different ones on the walls, and tucked away in cars, emergency bags, etc. We use it to help teach the kids about geography in general, and use it to help learn about figuring out evacuation plans (just ask the folks from West, Texas during the fertilizer plant explosion, from Houston after Hurricane Rita, anyone trying to escape during Katrina, etc.), alternative ways to get places, and how to get from here to there to help the kids know their surroundings.
17. General Office Supplies
While not technically school supplies, these office supplies are usually found scattered in and around the school supply area. Balls of rubber bands (general purpose), paper clips (also used as fishing hooks), label makers (for labeling food storage), folders and boxes (for storage), etc.
We love these and use them for all sorts of things besides just doing math problems (though..did you know that you can also use wipe off markers on appliances? When my kids were young, we used our washing machine and dryer to do math practice a lot!). They come in handy when used in a PREParedness mindset for keeping inventories, good to have in place for passing messages.
Many of the locks found in the back-to-school section won’t keep the worst of the worst from breaking into your stuff, but they can be a deterrent. These are good to have a stash of to lock up your sheds, gates, garage doors, bikes, and more.
The large school calendars are perfect for keeping a running list of tasks that must be done around your home and homestead for monthly and yearly tasks.
21. Book covers
Do you remember using paper bags or those pre-printed foldable book covers from local businesses when you were in high school? Now, it’s all done for you in fabric book covers available for school books. BUT…think bigger. Cover those books that you use often that you want to protect. Canning books, recipe books, preparedness books. homesteading books, and more. Definitely watch for them during the clearance sales!
How Do You Use Back-to-School Items?
Obviously, there are going to be a lot of items I haven’t listed here. Your school supply area may contain more products. Look at everything in how it can serve a dual purpose for you.
YOUR THOUGHTS – what are other ways some of these items may be used, or do you have ideas of your own on how you can multi-purpose back-to-school items for your PREParedness needs?
Use sales cycles to become more prepared!
Tom is a Marketing & Communications graduate interested in nature, gardening, agriculture, and traveling. For the last decade, Tom has turned his hobbies into a full-time job, creating useful resources and guides for all our readers. If he is not working on his next article, you will find Tom spending quality time with family or taking care of his own back garden.
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