Children Stuff for Adults
November 5, 2011 3:57 PM   Subscribe

I need an affordable tote bag (exactly like a diaper bag, but isn't) AND reusable 8-12 oz cups, with lids and straws, which are both microwavable and dishwasher safe and will hold both hot and cold drinks. How in the heck do you find these things?

I thought it would be simple, but I've searched high and low!

I am a caregiver for my mother, who has dementia. She is very young to have dementia, but she does. I have to carry with me everything you would have to carry for a child, but in adult sizes. I also refuse to humiliate her by carrying an actual diaper bag.

It kind of ticks me off because companies can offer you adult things such as this, but then charge a couple of hundred dollars which is completely outrageous and out of my price range entirely. If the bag is really good quality (like will last with daily use for several years), I can spend as much as $50, but keep in mind that I can no longer work because I have to take care of my mom, so money is very tight.

I bought something similar to these at Walmart but they sucked. They have these weird screw top lids (which are impossible to open) and obviously no straw.

As for bags, I can't seem to find a bag that has the right number of large and medium pockets. I need to be able to put my purse in it too. I thought about a backpack, but in today's world there are signs everywhere which specifically say "no backpacks". While I understand why they say it and they'd probably make an exception for me, I would have to say the reason I have it in front of my mother, which I won't do.

So! Does anyone have any advice on this? Do you know of a bag or some cups? They need to be somewhat durable. Mother knocks her cups on the floor and the bag needs to last for a reasonable amount of time.

I sure hope someone can help!
posted by magnoliasouth to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Starbucks sells frappuccino cups with sraws.

As far as a diaper bag, why not a messenger bag? A lot of people use those instead of diaper bags. We use a Patagonia Half Mass and it has a zillion pockets.
posted by k8t at 4:17 PM on November 5, 2011

There are a ton of diaper bags that don't actually look like diaper bags, so no one would look at them and think "Hey, that's a diaper bag!" Something like this seems like it would be okay, even though that one is a couple more dollars than you were looking to spend. I guess the trend is to call these "daddy diaper bags", however ridiculous that is.
posted by crankylex at 4:23 PM on November 5, 2011

Have you seen "the perfect bag" that was only imperfect in price? It might help identify what you are looking for, if you have something in mind.
posted by Houstonian at 4:25 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you looked through what Thirty One has to offer? Look through their catalog and see if they have a tote that will fit your needs. You can order most of their totes in different fabrics and/or colors that won't scream "diaper bag". Ignore the embroidery stuff they show in the pics's an extra add on that isn't required.
posted by MultiFaceted at 4:38 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lands End has a lot of reasonably priced tote bags, which you could totally use as a quasi-diaper bag. The large one has four pockets -- I have one that I use as a carry-on when I fly, and it's great, because I can stick my purse in it. All under $50, and the quality is really really good.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 4:42 PM on November 5, 2011

How about a large tote bag from L.L. Bean? I have one I carry as a purse and that thing is indestructible and washes very easily in the machine if you should happen to spill something inside. You can choose the option of a zip top to keep someone from reaching into it without you knowing, and long handles so you can throw it over your shoulder. You won't have a problem fitting your purse in there, either.
posted by Mimzy at 4:48 PM on November 5, 2011

Ross often has big bags along what you're describing, as well as various drinking and eating utensils that could fit the bill for you.

I wish you strength & hope you have a lot of love to keep you going.
posted by batmonkey at 4:49 PM on November 5, 2011

Yeah, I think you'd be surprised at how stylish diaper bags have become. There are lots of options here. Cups are tricky - you pretty much either get something with a lid and straw OR something that can hold hot liquids, not both - it may just be easier to get one of each.
posted by judith at 5:05 PM on November 5, 2011

We had an awesome diaper bag; it was dark red nylon and very sturdy. The only "diaper bag" feature was that it had a matching foldable changing mat (which you don't need). But it didn't look like a diaper bag at all. It was a little spendy (someone had given us a gift cart to a fancy store).

I can't remember the name of the store or the brand, but when I went on Amazon just now and searched on diaper bags, nothing that I saw was cutesy except the "daddy's little project" builder-style bag.

So, I guess I'm wondering: if you need a bag with lots of pockets to keep lots of stuff, and if diaper bags would do the job well at an affordable price, and you leave the changing mat at home, how will using one humiliate your mother?

Also, it's possible that places that have "no backpacks" signs will look ascanse at your big tote, too.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2011

As for the cups - I'd look at Tervis Tumblers. The cups are microwavable. You can buy lids with straws. All is dishwasher safe. I've seen a pretty good selection at Bed, Bath and Beyond. But if you don't have access, I'd go through their website.
posted by Sassyfras at 5:18 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck getting inexpensive, brand name bags on eBay. They're not microwave safe, but I adore the thermos brand flip-top thermoses. I have smaller ones for the kids (12 oz) and a larger (maybe 18 oz?) one for me. Mine keeps coffee hot for nearly 18 hours, and ice in iced coffee for 24 hours.
posted by instamatic at 5:22 PM on November 5, 2011

I've been thinking about the cups, and I'm having a hard time coming up with suggestions. Do you need cups that will keep hot beverages hot in the tote bag? Or just to drink out of without storing the liquid in them?

Something like these Rubbermaid cups should work to carry cold liquids in (although if they are ice cold they will sweat and get moisture everywhere.

Tervis Tumblers are good and they are double walled to keep condensation under control. This is just one example of what they have on their website. They mention being good for hot beverages as well. I have no idea what the lid is like. They do tend to be pricey, but you might be able to find a retailer near you and check them out or see if you can find some on clearance.

This one looks promising if you have to carry hot liquids in your tote.
posted by MultiFaceted at 5:24 PM on November 5, 2011

Not everything I listed is microwave safe (I forgot about that requirement!) but they might get you started in the right direction.
posted by MultiFaceted at 5:26 PM on November 5, 2011

I'm really clumsy and knock stuff over all the time and I love these plastic cups made by Aladdin. (The link goes to the review at Re-Nest, which also has links to other kinds of bottles.) I got mine at the 3/$20 price at Costco, but that was a while ago. At 16 oz it's a little bigger than you asked for, but it's not huge water-bottle sized and it looks like a normal cup.

A couple of caveats:

1) It's not totally spill proof. I knock them over all the time and find the other features mitigate the tiny amount of spillage, but it's not something you can toss in a bag.

2) I have no idea if they're microwaveable, but there's no obvious reason (like having metal parts) they couldn't be.

Oh, and they often fall onto hard floors and they're no worse for wear.

I think for both hot and cold options you're going to have to go with a stainless steel mug, which won't be microwavable (obviously). I swear by this one, since it doesn't tip over as easily as the kind designed for car cup holders. You could easily use a disposable straw with it.

On preview, agreeing with judith on the hot/cold thing.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:27 PM on November 5, 2011

I carried a Vera Bradley diaper bag with my kids -- the fabrics might not always be quite your style, but they're a good size with a water-resistant liner, pockets for organizing, and a zipper top. The bags are washable and sturdy. Here's a used one on eBay in the same style I used (and my favorite pattern, too!). I myself would be comfortable buying used because the one I have is well-made. And it doesn't look like a diaper bag. So many people carry the brand now that it doesn't stand out.

I also started carrying a wristlet. It's big enough to hold my wallet, cell phone and keys, but slips right into a diaper bag (or out, if I'm headed somewhere without the munchkins).

As for travel cups - have you checked They have a wide variety of stuff to drink from, including this insulated glass water bottle that works for both hot and cold drinks.

Best wishes.
posted by hms71 at 5:34 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

fwiw, I've been using a lightweight backpack as a diaper bag. Some stores want you to leave the bag at the counter, you need to check it at some museums, but I get it back if I need it and have certainly never had to explain myself! A lightweight messenger bag or large purse should be able to hold everything, too--just make sure it's washable!
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:38 PM on November 5, 2011

I use the llbean diaper bag and a coach wristlet that I can tuck in. I also have a coach diaper bag but was around $300 and not $50 like the llbean one.
posted by saradarlin at 5:45 PM on November 5, 2011

Also, shop the Contigo site for anything that may work for you. They make all sorts of travel mugs and water bottles.

(I'll quit shopping now)
posted by MultiFaceted at 5:48 PM on November 5, 2011

In terms of the purse/bag situation, I'd definitely look into a more modular system - either a wristlet that can be used on its own or in the bag, or a small insert that can go in a purse or bag.

Queenbee Creations has modified their messenger bags to have enough pockets and such to be a diaper bag. I have just the messenger bag (purchased way before the pockety version) but would definitely consider the diaper version in the future!

I don't have any good suggestions for cups. I think the microwaveable and dishwasher safe requirements are going to be difficult. I have one of those acrylic tumblers with a straw (you get them at BBB or Starbucks) and love it but you can't put it in the dishwasher or microwave. You might be able to find one that's made of tempered glass that fits the bil.
posted by radioamy at 9:01 AM on November 6, 2011

Take a look at the handmade bags on etsy. Here's a search for all bags that have the phrase "side pockets", sorted by price.

You'll want to broaden your search, of course, but you'll probably be surprised at what you might use for a diaper bag that also makes you happy to carry.
posted by wenat at 11:35 AM on November 6, 2011

I've seen a lot of plastic insulated cups with lids that snap on and have a straw. I drink coffee in the car, and prefer travel cups with lids that snap on or have a press-fit with a plastic gasket. I usually won't pay more than 7 for a really good travel mug. There are some nice ceramic ones that are not very breakable. Tupperware may have something useful; their sippy cups for kids are terrific. Tote bags - Trader Joe's has plastic/canvas bags that are a useful size, and they're about 1.99; they don't have pockets, though. When the Boy was in diapers, I just used a canvas book bag, wider than it was tall, and rummaged.

I'm so sorry about your Mom; she's lucky to have you.
posted by theora55 at 12:00 PM on November 6, 2011

At Costco today, I saw that Ziploc has a line of reusable containers - including drink cups with straws. They're marketing them for toddlers but the 4 pack of cups with straws & lids has more subdued colors. The cups are 10oz so they're within your range and not so expensive either.
Your mom is lucky to have you.
posted by jaimystery at 7:09 PM on November 6, 2011

Cath Kidston make a baby bag that looks almost identical to their 'saddle bags' (satchels) but have a lot more pockets and places for cups. However, they cost £50 so probably out of your price range.

What about those bags that scrapbookers/cardmakers use? They have tons of pockets in them. This kind of thing looks useful.
posted by mippy at 4:34 AM on November 7, 2011

These are a bit cheaper than Vera Bradley. I have this one in navy blue, and I adore it. I don't think it looks particularly baby-ish or anything like that. It's been pretty durable so far.
posted by ashirys at 7:57 AM on November 7, 2011

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