Living Well: 6 Secrets to Dealing With All That Candy

October 24, 2012

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.

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{ 5 trackbacks }

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah October 24, 2012 at 10:13 am

Similar to #4, my family invented the “pumpkin fairy”. We got to choose 5 pieces of candy to eat, then the rest was left next to our bed at night. The next morning, the candy magically disappeared and a toy was in its’ place! :)

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2 Becky October 24, 2012 at 10:25 am

We let our kiddos eat as much as they want that night, and that night only. Once they go to bed, the rest is put on a high shelf and used for the occasional sweet treat – like if we’re having dessert, the kids can choose between the dessert or some of the candy.
The one night of all-you-can eat candy seems indulgent – and it is! – but usually the kids have five or six pieces and then decided they don’t want any more. I think because we let them have control over how much they eat, they pay attention to how they feel rather than if they can sneak more candy without mom and dad noticing.
If my daughter really overdoes it, she gets a tummy ache, so she’s pretty good at self-policing. Plus, the whole family is mostly made up of salt-cravers. Potato chips never last long, but candy always ends up getting thrown away a year later!

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3 Wendy October 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm

In my house we do the exact same thing…but I”m always the one with the tummy ache!

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4 Amber October 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

I can’t remember where I got the idea, but once we took all of the candy leftover after the day of Halloween and we made a huge saran wrap chain with christmas ribbon tied around each piece. Then each day during December it was our countdown chain until Christmas. It was fabulous and we do it every year now!

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5 Corina October 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I really LIKE this idea!!!!

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6 Kate October 22, 2014 at 11:22 am

Excellent idea, thanks for sharing!

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7 Rachael October 24, 2012 at 10:46 am

I pull a some “holiday neutral” candies out and save them for the kid’s Christmas stockings (freezing chocolate). I also pull out M&Ms and other small candies and mix them in with pretzels and other snacks to make a yummy trail mix to send with them to school over the next month or so. The rest I will distribute as dessert after dinner until they forget about the stash up in the kitchen cabinet :)

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8 Sally October 24, 2012 at 10:54 am

We tax our kids. I figure I make the costumes, purchase the candy we hand out at things like trunk-r-treat, take them trick or treating, so they can pay us a little in return. They count it up and depending on how big the ‘haul’ was that year, we pick a percentage they have to pay (hey we’re also teaching math and economics as well:). Half of that percentage they get to chose what they give the other half we get to chose. It whittles it down a little and if it’s been a year with way too much, we donate it to the troops as well.

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9 Ashlea Walter October 24, 2012 at 11:00 am

remembering that we still had a bucket of Halloween candy left when the Easter Bunny came around (!), I need to look into these ideas… thank you!

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10 Kaely October 24, 2012 at 11:01 am

The Great Pumpkin takes ours away Halloween night. Each kids picks out what they want from their stash, a number equal to how old they are, and the rest gets left out for the Great Pumpkin who brings them a present in return.

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11 Meggan Hayes October 24, 2012 at 11:36 am

When my kids get home with their loot I let them eat to their hearts content for the first 24 hours. Usually after that it is mostly gone and the rest goes in the garbage because it’s the stuff they don’t like anyway. We do a good brushing, flossing, and fluoride rinse and we call it good. I find it’s best to just get it out of the way!

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12 Cecilia October 24, 2012 at 11:52 am

We live at a boarding school so some of the candy goes to the 16 hungry teenage boys on our floor! But my son gets to eat what he wants within reason the first few days. Last year he made (in a corner of the living room) a huge Candyland type “board” game! It was so much fun to play the game that the candy wasn’t eaten; it was part of the game, after all. And after that he lost interest in eating it. We’ll see if he does that again this year. I know different kids have different levels of sweet tooth. For us, the focus at Halloween is really on carving the pumpkins, the making of the costumes, and being out in the dark and spooky atmosphere of our village. BTW, I loved the tips on your latest video!

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13 Celene October 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm

great ideas! we let the kids have at it right when they get home from trick-o-treating. enough to make them sick!! then they pick their favorites that will fit in a sandwich size ziploc bag. we put their names on it, then that is their movie candy, whether it’s going to the movies or Friday night movie night,that is their own “stash” to pick from. also, we take all the hard candy (suckers, jolly ranchers,etc) and put little ziplocs in our 72-hour emergency kit back-packs. that sugar may come in handy some day and that hard sugar lasts forever. then, every year we throw out the old and put in the new bag of hard candy.

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14 Christy October 24, 2012 at 12:53 pm

My mom would have us come home and dump our all our candy on the floor and separate it into piles – gum (or lollipops with gum), hard candy, chewy fruit candies (Starburts, skittles, etc.), chocolate, and yucky candy we won’t eat. The yucky candy was handed out to the older trick or treaters who came late at night. The gum was for dad (he had a long commute and gum helped keep him awake during the drive). We could eat 10 pieces of candy that night and the rest was put into bins above the fridge and we could have two pieces in our lunches each day until it was gone. Being an adult now, I know my mom would take the holiday neutral canides and save them for Christmas/Easter, etc. So our lunch time treats never lasted longer than a week.

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15 Hannah October 24, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I plan to bring it to our local pediatric dentists who is participating in Halloween Candy Buy Back Program. They will in return “buy” the candy from you and the candies go to Operation Gratitude …as care packages to our troops oversea. http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/

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16 Chrissy Sparks (Brush Dance) October 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm

These are great tips!! I especially love the idea of using them for Thanksgiving and Christmas projects.

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17 Summer October 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm

These are great ideas! I’m curious though… I, nor any of my friends, grew up with any sort of “rule” for halloween candy. I mean, we had to share with siblings and grown ups, but we got to eat as much as we wanted (which was probably several pieces, but it’s not like I ate the whole bowl. I guess I’m just of the “making something seem ‘bad’ makes me want it even more” group. :P I’m surprised that so many people have a Halloween candy methods.

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18 Laura October 24, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I never really cared how much my kids ate until it started getting tracked all over my house. When I started finding suckers stuck to the carpet in my kids bedrooms and sat-on chocolate on the couch then it became critical to get it all out of my house! We started a candy exchange. I let them eat all they want for 24 hours (strictly in Kitchen! which still never seems to quite happen) then they get to “buy” things like date nights, movie nights, nail polish, extra video game time, etc. with their candy. I keep some for stocking stuffers and a few for random treats in their lunches. It’s been a big hit at our house, but can get expensive if all your “purchasable” items cost money. I try to make sure there’s a variety of cheap and nearly free along with one or two more expensive activities. Then I price them accordingly. 30 minutes of video game time may cost 5-10 candies while a date night may cost 40 candies (depending on how much candy they brought in). It’s worked for us, and the kids look forward to it every year!

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19 Sarah October 25, 2012 at 12:25 pm

same here – i don’t recall the parents paying any attention to this, at all. i let my kid eat whatever he wants on halloween night, then a few a day after that until it’s gone – but that’s definitely not how i was raised!

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20 Carol October 24, 2012 at 8:41 pm

If your kids only trick or treat around the block, they won’t come back with crazy amounts of candy… I know that part of the fun is showing off your costume, but you can do that by passing out treats at the door too.

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21 Laura October 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm

LOVE the color-coded candy pics!

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22 Nicole October 25, 2012 at 12:25 am

I really don’t like candy!! My kids are given it alllll the time it seems. A few years ago we suggested they donate to the soldiers overseas and they were so excited to do that. We wanted to reward them for their choice so now each year we take them -and any friends who want to donate- out for a bowling party! It has turned into a great tradition that we really look forward to…

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23 Martha Frances October 25, 2012 at 5:14 am

Great ideas! Love these comments too. I have no system, now I just need to use one of these ideas…

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24 Laura October 25, 2012 at 7:34 am

the candy fairy visits our house… if you leave some candy out the night of halloween, she brings you a small present the next morning and the candy magically disappears (to my husband’s office) this works pretty well for us.

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25 Daisy October 25, 2012 at 8:14 am

We did a candy auction (similar to your upgrade idea). Our girls had so much fun bidding on things (mom cleans your bedroom, choice of dinner, get a soda with Dad, wear mascara to school, control of the remote for a day, etc). I then took the candy and put it in the freezer to pull out for movie nights, school lunches and long drives.

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26 Sharon @ Discovering Blog October 25, 2012 at 8:31 am

We don’t have any system in our house. They can pig out the first night, and I tend to put a piece in their lunch boxes for the next week or two, but after that they tend to lose interest. I like the idea of a family candy bowl, but I’m afraid that I might enjoy it a little too much!

I do have to say that these pictures are FABULOUS! I’m a sucker for sorting, and for rainbows, and these pics are adorable.

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27 Maria McClure October 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm

We set aside enough candy for the kids to have a small after school treat for about a week after halloween. The rest gets donated to the candy drive at school. This is organized by the 8th graders who collect all the “extra” candy from the school families. It all goes to a local dentist who pays each class a per lb. price and then he donates all the candy to our local veterans hospital and rehabilitation center. His motivation – cavity prevention and a good deed. Each class decides how to spend their money. Many of them choose to donate it to the parish food pantry or soup kitchen.

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28 Daisha C October 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm

We save all the hard candies, skittles, starbursts, dots, ect….. for decorating our gingerbread houses in Dec. My daughter loves to go through it and think of how to use each piece. This works great for us since all the candy is still hers and builds anticipation for the gingerbread house.

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29 Martha October 25, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I keep thinking about this post and wondering why having a plan has never seemed nessicary, then I had a realization. We really don’t take out kids trick or treating. We always have a party on halloween with my family where we play games, show off costumes, eat yummy soup and then hit up a very distinct dozen houses. By the time my husband and I have had a few pieces each there really isn’t much candy to deal with. And when I really think about it, the party is much more fun and memorable than trick or treating.

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30 Sarah Buttenwieser October 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

I buy back and the $$ goes to cause of kid’s choice; because the candy’s a gift and it’s a very easy pay it forward moment. I am easily swayed to double the donation, too.

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31 liz fuller October 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm

great post! amazing pictures- each made me so happy. wish i was there to eat the candy with you! :)

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32 Kimberly October 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm

When the Girls get home before they start eating at the candy we will sit down make up a 4 or 5 candy bouquet. the girls then take them to the elderly in our neighborhood the next day. They really enjoy doing this and the elderly just love it.

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33 Deb October 1, 2013 at 3:51 pm

We use the extra to make care packages for missionaries or others that we know that are living abroad. Speaking from experience, there is nothing sweeter than receiving some American candy at just the right time. :)

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34 Marie October 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm

My parents set a timer every night for a week or so after Halloween and we could eat asych as we wanted in that time. I would guess it was less than 5 minutes but it felt like a long time and was very exciting.

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