By Lindsey Johnson.

Between school and church activities, parties and trick-or-treating we always get way too much candy in October. I’m sure it’s no different at your house. The question is: what on earth do you do with all that candy?!

Don’t you worry, I’ve searched out the cleverest ideas to help you deal with the sugar overload.

Secret #1: Try a communal candy bowl.

I’m not opposed to my kids enjoying some of their haul. It wouldn’t be Halloween without a little indulgence in the treat department, would it? So at our house, when the kids get home from trick-or-treating, my husband and I have them pour the contents of their bags into one communal candy bowl. Immediately, this helps with any competition about who got more. (Or is that just my kids?) It also means we can siphon off a lot of the candy without anyone noticing. My kids are still little enough that they forget about the amount that was in the bowl. (Sneak, sneaky!) This may be trickier with older kids.

Bonus: If you run out of candy for late night trick-or-treaters, you can use the candy in the communal bowl. :)

Secret #2: Space it out.

You probably have your own ideas regarding how many pieces of candy you’ll let your kids have and when. For me, in an attempt to not overload their systems with too much sugar, I let them enjoy a few pieces that night and then a few pieces for the next few days as a little treat. After that, it magically seems to disappear.

If you don’t want to throw it away or donate the candy (see secret #3), save it to use as favors for birthday gift bags, or to fill a pinata. For longer term storage, freeze the chocolate candy.

Secret #3: Donate it to grownups. In theory, they’ll be more responsible about watching for cavities. : )

There are plenty of places to donated excess candy. My very favorite is sending it to the troops overseas who are feeling homesick for familiar tastes and smells. Our dentist does a candy buy back and the treats go straight to the troops. If your dentist doesn’t do this, or if you’d rather do it yourself (or organize a few friends), Operation Gratitude is a good place to start.

Secret #4: Trade it in for an upgrade.

Some families I know do their own candy buy-backs, letting their kids turn in a certain amount of candy to earn something more tempting, like a date with Mom or Dad, or a new coloring book. From there you can donate the bought-back candy, or even send the extra goodies to work with Mom or Dad as a refill for the candy bowl in the employee break room.

Secret #5: Transform it into ingredients.

There are dozens (hundreds of dozens!) of recipes floating around on the interwebs for using chopped Halloween candy in cookies, caramel popcorn, cakes, pies, homemade ice creams, and milkshakes. I’ve seen recipes for melting candy in coffee, even recipes for dissolving candy in vodka to create your own flavored liquor.

You could use the candy for an ice cream sundae bar at the next slumber party you host, or use the Reese’s pieces, m&m’s, and Skittles to create your own trail mix.

Secret #6: Craft it into crafts.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, turn peanut butter cups, peppermint patties, and m&ms into cute turkeys, pilgrims, or cornucopias. Or — and this was one of my happiest memories as a child — you could make Christmas advent calendar ropes by wrapping individual pieces in long strands of plastic wrap. And of course, leftover Halloween candy is just the thing to get creative while decorating gingerbread houses in December.

Lastly, and maybe this is too sticky of an idea, but how about helping kids create artwork by gluing candy to construction paper (mosaics!)? Or letting them use smaller candies for math lessons (graphs, counting, etc.), or even science experiments?

How about you? Any clever ideas you’ve seen? I’d love to hear.

What ever you decide to do with the candy, I hope your family has a wonderful (spooky!) Halloween filled with lots of creativity, and a little something sweet.

P.S. — Love secrets? Love living well? Find the whole series here.