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Back-to-School Hacks

Tips and time-saving tricks to ease you back into the new school year, from school lunch to homework to organizing and more

Published on: August 27, 2015

It’s that time of year again — summer break is winding down and a new school year is just around the corner. Before you start worrying over early mornings, after-school activities and schedules, check out these 10 clever ideas that will make the back-to-school transition just a little easier.

Photo credit: Uncommon Designs

Lunch landing

It’s hard enough to make school lunches for your kids that are both healthy and delicious. Putting them together in the early morning is no picnic either, but this lunch station idea from Uncommon Designs will make it a cinch!

First, free up some shelving in your pantry or kitchen. You’ll also want to grab some cork board (to tack up lunch menus) and a few baskets. You can add labels to each basket to categorize various lunch items, such as “sweet,” “salty,” and “bread.” Now everything you need will be in one place!


Photo credit: Skip to my Lou

Cheap + easy chalkboard covers

This back-to-school idea from Skip to My Lou pulls double duty as a unique way to personalize notebooks while at the same time protecting them from wear and tear. Blogge and former classroom teacher Cindy came up with the idea of using chalkboard paper to cover notebooks as gifts for her children’s teachers. The technique can easily be recreated for textbooks, too!

You’ll need a textbook or notebook, chalkboard contact paper (check your local craft store), a tape measure and scissors. Head to the post to get Cindy’s tips for measuring just the right amount of paper to cover the book.

Photo credit: Ice Pandora

Safety first

Mei at Ice Pandora was inspired to create these cute and clever back-to-school DIY first aid kits after she spent time working in a school. She fills her mini-kits with classroom essentials like erasers, pencil sharpeners, mini pencils, rubber bands and staples — but you can fill it with anything you like. To make it a true first-aid kit, stuff the container with bandages, ointment, cotton balls and sunscreen.

Our favorite part of al? This handy DIY reuses recycled Jello cups as the kit (you can also use fruit cups).

Photo credit: Ice Pandora

Photo credit: My Kitchen Escapades

Perfect ice packs

We love it when simple meets brilliant, which is exactly what these DIY lunchbox icepacks are from My Kitchen Escapades!  Mom Carole discovered how to use dish sponges as cheap alternatives to icepacks after her son kept losing his lunchbox.

Get the sponge wet and place in a sealable plastic bag, then store it in the freezer overnight and voilà! Check out Carole’s post for more tips.

Photo credit: Clean Mama

Homework help

To keep your kids organized and on track at home, try making this helpful DIY homework caddy from Clean Mama.

Find a totable container to store homework supplies like paper, pencils, markers, glue, scissors and erasers. Blogger and mom Becky used a cutlery caddy and canning jars to arrange them all for easy access. 

Photo credit: Mom 4 Real

Study station

Now that you’ve got a convenient new homework caddy, it’s time to take the “work” out of homework by creating an inspiring study space for your little ones. Your kids will actually want to do their homework with this back to school homework station idea from Jessica at Mom 4 Real.

Jessica used scrapbook paper to make a fun banner to hang over the station and added a cork board to display important notes and art projects. Your kids will have a blast personalizing the space!


Photo credit: iHeart Organizing

Simplify school clothes

Plan your little one’s school-day outfits one week in advance and organize them by days of the week with easy-to-read labels for a quick and stress-free morning routine.

Jennifer at iHeart Organizing offers easy-to-follow steps for creating the tags using recycled materials— old cereal boxes and decorative paper. See the full post to make your own and get more helpful tips for conquering clutter in your kids’ closet.

Photo credit: Delightful Order

Freezer-friendly sandwiches

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a lunchbox staple for a reason — they’re economical, nutritious and quick to make. Thanks to this smart tip from Delightful Order, it turns out they freeze well, too.

Mom DaNita makes and freezes ahead of time up to two loaves’ worth of delicious PB&J’s to feed her brood of three. She neatly stores each in individual plastic baggies, which she places in a labeled container. A little bit of planning at the start of the week can make packing lunches on those early school-day mornings a breeze!

For more back-to-school timesaving tips — plus the secret to keeping the sandwich from getting soggy — check out DaNita’ blog.

Photo credit: Sew McCool

Reusable revelations

This DIY reusable snack bag project from Sew McCool is perfect for the parent who’s looking to reduce plastic waste and save money. Not only is this reusable bag a cute accessory for your little learner, but it’s a responsible alternative to plastic bags.

To make your own, you’ll need easy-to-clean laminated fabric in the design of your choosing for the outside, waterproof fabric for the inside, velcro, binder or quilting clips and sewing supplies. The blog post provides wonderfully detailed step-by-step instructions — including exact dimensions and sewing tips. Once finished, you’ll have a washable two-pocket bag that can be  reused all year!

Photo credit: Kitchen Meets Girl

Four simple steps

You’ll want to personally thank Ashely over at Kitchen Meets Girl for her genius four-step plan to creating the perfect packed lunch. Always on the search for lunch items that are delicious, fun and healthy, she came up a system that incorporates all of three without getting boring or too repetitive.

Simply make a list of main courses that your little one likes, a list of fruits and veggies they can stomach and do the same for snack and drink categories. It really takes the guessing game out of packing your child’s lunch. Head to the full post for great ideas for each category, recipes, packing tips and more!

From our 10 Cool Lunch Box Notes story

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