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SHOP TALK : Stock Up for School With Practical Supplies : A variety of retailers offer folders, binders, lined paper and lunch boxes in styles from plain to fancy in a range of prices.


In our last column we began buying stuff for the new school year. And we admit we have gotten a little frivolous. We suppose we didn't have to check out those Nike Air shoes. Or the leather-trimmed backpacks--there's nothing wrong with all-nylon.

But it was hard to control ourselves, especially when we walked into Ventura County malls and found ourselves in the middle of a sale explosion.

Anyway, in this column we will be much more practical. Last week we went hunting for some serious school supplies for students of all ages. Anyone who has parented a student, or been a student, knows where to find these supplies. They're at discount stores, drugstores, toy stores, even grocery stores.

We chose some of our favorite spots to see what they had to sell. We visited Walmart in Oxnard, Pic 'N' Save in Camarillo, Vons in Ojai, and Thrifty at the Buenaventura shopping center in Ventura.

Let's begin with binders and folders. It gets pretty high-tech in the binder and folder world. There are multi-pocketed, multipurpose, multicolored "organizers" of various sizes and designs. The price is more digestible, the simpler you're willing to get.

Three-ring binders from K&M (a division of Avery) were in great supply. The basic model is very simple--no frills, no fancy covers, just a binder. They come in different sizes, based on ring size. We'll focus on the one-inch and two-inch widths.

At Walmart the one-inch was $2.48, the two-inch was $3.94. At Thrifty they were $2.49 (one-inch) and $3.99 (two-inch). At Pic 'N' Save they were $1.49 (one-inch) and $2.49 (two-inch). At Pic 'N' Save the supplies tend to come and go rather quickly, but there were quite a few binders available the day we were there.

When it comes to binders and folders, the Mead company has a good handle on the market. (Actually, when it comes to basic school supplies, Mead is pretty active. Vons even had a Mead display.)

At Thrifty we found a very attractive Mead/Nike "Spiral Notefolio" for $12.99. It comes with a wire-bound notebook, 100 sheets of lined paper, a zippered pouch in the front, a pen holder in the back, and a Velcro fastener for the whole thing. If you're looking to be "cool" or "rad" or whatever (we're hardly up on the latest schoolyard lingo) this seems like a pretty nice way to go. At Vons we found the multi-folder, multipurpose, popular Trapper Keeper for $8.69. Thrifty had the same product for $9.99.

Amid all the wild binders, it was a pleasure to discover an old Pee-Chee, single pocket folder still around. You remember the Pee-Chee? It has that sort of Manila envelope color, decorated with sketchy drawings of athletes? They were selling for 69 cents at Thrifty. A color version was 79 cents. Walmart had a Mead one-subject folder for 20 cents. Vons and Pic 'N' Save had the same folder for 25 cents.

Now on to other random essentials.

Lined paper: There's college-ruled and wide-ruled, primarily. We went with wide. A pack of 250 10 1/2-by-8-inch paper from Mead was $3.19 at Thrifty. The Stuart Hall brand there was 200 sheets of 11-by-8 1/2 inches for $2.49. Walmart had packs of 200 10 1/2-by-8-inch Mead paper for 63 cents.

Lunch boxes/containers: Walmart had the Thermos brand Snak Kit, consisting of little washable containers and an insulated bottle, for $7.97. Pic 'N' Save was selling a small "Lunch Plus" sectioned container, the size and shape of a Styrofoam box from a fast-food restaurant, for 99 cents. The store also had an old-fashioned Thermos brand lunch box for $3.99 and an Up & Adam brand box, with no drink container, for $1.99.

Crayons: A box of 64 Crayolas was $1.88 at Walmart and $4.19 at Thrifty. Pic 'N' Save had a set of three boxes of 8 crayons, distributed by West Coast Liquidators, for 59 cents.

Protractors: Pic 'N' Save was selling a six-inch Pedigree brand protractor for 29 cents. A six-inch Helix brand protractor was 37 cents at Walmart and $1.49 at Thrifty. Thrifty also had a Creative Works brand "Shapes and Forms" combination protractor, French curve, ruler, and template for $2.49.

Didn't school seem simpler in the olden days?

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