Back to School

24 Back-to-School Supplies I Want to Buy Right Now (Even Though I'm Not a Student)

These backpacks, notebooks, binders, and lunchboxes make me so unreasonably happy.

August 10, 2019

When it comes to school supplies, there is a universal truth: they are the single most exciting thing about going back to school.

Sure, picking out that first-day outfit (in sixth grade: green Converse high-tops, jean skirt, and a sassy t-shirt from dELiA*s) was fun, but the real thrill of leveling up a grade began at Office Depot and Staples. There was something about a fresh set of pens, binders, notebooks, planners, and sooo many #2 pencils that made the promise of straight As and a perfect SAT score feel so attainable.

And while college graduation was a mix of relief, joy, and terror, the realization that I'd no longer have a reason to stock up on new school supplies made me a bit sad. So this year, I'm imagining all the things I would buy (and still might) if I were headed back to school this fall.


Kanken Classic Backpack by Fjallraven

From $79.99

This classic, Swedish-designed backpack (available in over 20 colors) is the perfect vessel for all your school essentials, plus those dirty sneakers you'll need for soccer practice. Made from Vinylon F. material, it is dirt-resistant, water-resistant, and wipes clean, so it can go just about anywhere you do.

Photo by Amazon

Pop Quiz Backpack by Herschel

From $74.99

Starring Herschel's signature style and durability, this school-ready backpack (heck, it's even in the name—Pop Quiz) has internal mesh organizers, tons of pocket storage, and a padded, fleece-lined sleeve for that precious laptop.

Photo by Amazon

Memmo Backpack


This simple backpack looks like it's distressed leather, but it's actually made from eco-friendly paper—and believe it or not, is still durable enough for daily use. A stonewashed cotton lining and adjustable straps add just the right finishing touches.

Canvas Backpack by Urban Outfitters


Budget-friendly and long-lasting, this 100 percent cotton canvas backpack is a stylishly laidback option for middle school all the way through college. The black is a total classic, but it also comes in rust, mustard, and even a multi-colored option for when you want to stand out in a crowd.

The Modern Snap Backpack by Everlane


I'd buy anything that direct-to-consumer brand Everlane sells, but I especially want this sleek and sophisticated snap backpack with a water-resistant exterior and leather detailing.

Photo by Everlane
Photo by Urban Outfitters

Binders & Notebooks

Rifle Paper Co. Rose Journal from Anthropologie


A brand new, empty journal represents a world of creative possibilities, all just waiting to happen. I'd like to think that I could write an award-winning novel in this colorful journal from Anthro.

3-Ring Binder by Bloom Daily Planners


Binders don't have to be boring, plasticky affairs, as this breezy tropical binder, made from a sturdy laminated material, proves. A set of these will make you feel like you're on summer break even when you're stuck in the library.

Photo by Bloom Daily Planners

Blue Standard Issue Notebook No. 3 by Paper Source


This no-nonsense notebook would be a great companion to all those super focused students out there (or those, like me, who wish they were). It's got everything you need to stay organized: lots of paper, bullet templates, conversion charts, pen holders, and ID badges.

Moleskin 2019-2020 Planner from Target


Classic and functional, this Moleskin notebook-meets-planner has enough room for all your class notes, schedules, and random thoughts—as well as handy stickers that somehow feel like a wonderful bonus.

Photo by Target

Decorative File Folders by Juvale


Filing paperwork is both boring and annoying, but this 12-count set of decorative floral file folders make it just a littleeee bit more fun.

Amazon Photo by

Pens, Pencils & Markers

Graphite #2 Yellow Pencils by Ticonderoga

12.99 $9.96

I don't actually know if scantrons (aka the anxiety-inducing forms you bubble test answers onto) still require you to use a #2 pencil, but even if they don't, a pack of these timeless Ticonderoga yellow pencils are pretty obligatory.

Photo by Amazon

10-Count Assorted Gel Pens by Paper Mate

$29.98 $15.26

The only thing better than a new set of pens is a new set of gel pens in a ton of fun colors so you can keep those note-taking—or doodling—skills fresh. (For my history classes: purple was an important date, red marked a key historical figure, and green was for random things I thought I should remember, and never did.)

Photo by Amazon

Briter Liner 12-Count Yellow Highlighter by Bic


I never understood why people bought highlighters in any other color than yellow. I mean, who can even read text after a purple highlighter has gone to town over it? Exactly why I will forever be loyal to Bic's yellow highlighters.

Photo by Amazon

Electro Pop 24-Count Marker Set by Sharpie


You probably don't really need a 24-count set of Sharpies, but c'mon, you know you'll feel like the coolest kid in school if you've got one.

Photo by Amazon

Sharpeners, Erasers & Paperclips

Electric Pencil Sharpener by SMARTRO


I'm all for funny, funky pencil sharpeners (like this one in the shape of a nose), but the only thing that can really get the job done right is this electric version.

Photo by Amazon

Yoobi Fast Food Eraser Set from Urban Outfitters


What could be cuter than these teeny-tiny erasers in the shapes of my favorite fast food? Absolutely nothing. Add them to the shopping cart.

Rose Gold Paperclips from Etsy


Even basic paperclips are getting the millennial rose gold treatment, and honestly, I don't hate it. A little over $3 is a small price to pay for feeling like you fit in with your generation.

Photo by Etsy

White Pearl Erasers by Paper Mate


Since those adorable food-shaped erasers probably aren't the most functional, you'll want to pick up a pack of these more dependable ones for when you've got a lot on the page you need to delete.

Photo by Amazon

Greenery Binder Clips by Paper Source


Sometimes a paperclip just won't cut it. When that happens, turn to these floral binder clips that can comfortably hold the 20-page paper you stayed up all night writing.

Photo by Paper Source

Lunchboxes & Travel Mugs

Bento Lunch Box & Cutlery Set


This bamboo fiber bento box with cutlery included is the best (and cutest!) way to ditch plastic bags for good, and make sure your lunch is ready to travel with you (and thanks to a silicone band, without spilling).

Lunch Poche Bag from Anthropologie


My favorite thing about this lunch bag is that it doesn't really look like a lunch bag. It's more like the cute shoulder bag I'd be happy to tote to dinner, or on a day around the city. But don't let its good looks fool you: it's hardworking, too. The inside features a removable insulated lining and a back pocket for cutlery.

Lightweight Collapsible Lunch Tote by Hydro Flask


My Hydro Flask travel mug keeps liquids hot or cold for hours on end, so it's no surprise that the company has also mastered the art of keeping lunch in tip-top shape with this cute insulated tote.

Photo by Hydro Flask

Double-Walled Ceramic To-Go Tumbler


Speaking of travel, or at the very least tea, is the lifeblood of every student. And these pretty, double-walled ceramic tumblers are the best thing to drink from.

Commuter Travel Mug by S'well


This triple-walled, vacuum-insulated travel mug from S'well is another great option for those that like to stay hydrated on-the-go. The exterior has a soft-touch texture that’s easy to grip when you're running between classes.

Photo by S'well

What's on your back-to-school shopping list? Tell us in the comments below!

This post contains products that are independently selected by our editors, and Food52 may earn an affiliate commission.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Noreen Fish
    Noreen Fish
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  • Erin Alexander
    Erin Alexander
Erin Alexander is the Brand Partnerships Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


Noreen F. August 28, 2019
We have a refrigerator in the break room, so I don't need an insulated tote, and it's hard to find anything else in local stores. From Etsy, I order canvas lunch bags with fun stencil patterns. Makes it easy to find my lunch in the crowded refrigerator.
emgoh August 10, 2019
My partner is a junior high school teacher and likes to take lunch from home. We tried a variety of containers and ended up really liking the metal GreenLunch Bento Lunchbox ( along with reusable cutlery that comes in an easy carry soft pack ( Two years of heavy use and they are holding up great! (For meals he wants to heat up before eating, we opt for a Pyrex container with a tight fitting lid for transport.)
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Erin A. August 11, 2019
Thank you for the excellent recommendations!