I like to start my back to school process before the lists are even sent out. I know they will need: pens, pencils, paper, makers, crayons, glue, scissors, ruler, and folders at the very least.
So, my prepping starts before the lists and the mad rush. Although I realize the folders from last year will not be reusable as there is sure to be a new fashion, the other items survive from year to year. So, I go through last year’s items and put all reusable items in the hallway closet. Then when the time comes for back to school shopping, I first have them take the items that they need for their list out of the closet and mark it off their copy of the list.
If they want something new but have an old one that will do then I have them highlight the item. After that, we do the same with their school clothes. Once we have all our reusable items out, we then look at the list of what is absolutely needed and buy that.
If we have money left over, the children may get the non-essentials. Finally, we donate any items left in the closet that the children do not want/need.