The economy of Halloween candy

I joined the Y recently and have been taking a deep water aerobics class a couple times a week. I’m the youngest person there by at least 2 decades. I’m not sure if this is because of the type of class (easy on the joints) or the time of day (I go right after I take kids to school when many people my age are working).

In any case, it’s quite a workout and I’m not sure if I’m spectacularly out of shape or if they’re all faking it. I’ve decided it’s the type of class you can work to your ability level, and when I drag myself from the pool at the end of an hour, I know I’ve been working it. Adam says my behind is getting firmer (“Although I liked it fine before,” he’s quick to add), so it must be doing something.

A recent topic of conversation among us aqua-cisers has been Halloween candy. What candy are we giving out this year? Does Rich, the retired dentist, give out toothbrushes? (He lives too far out to get trick-or-treaters, it turns out.) Should we give out candy, chocolate or something else?

I recommend chocolate (no high fructose corn syrup — because I’m one of Those Moms) and non-food items like glow sticks from the $ store. Then I give directions to the $ store.

But then I confess. This is what I really do at Halloween.

Recycled Halloween Candy
How many holidays can you find in this bowl of Halloween candy?

Where does that Halloween candy really come from?

Let me preface with the defense that I do buy candy each year. Several large bags of fun-size childhood goodness. We live in a popular Trick-or-Treating neighborhood. Hordes of kids swarm up and down the street for hours, knocking on doors and looking cute. We decorate with cobwebs and pumpkins and gravestones. This year we’re adding spooky eyes glowing in the dark. (Toilet paper and paper towel tubes with eyes/faces cut and lit up with a glow stick.) We’ve got to keep up with the neighbors, after all.

And while the neighborhood Halloween spirit is lovely, did I mention the hordes of swarming children? There are lots of them. We don’t count. But there are easily at least 100.

Last year, while I was still out with the little kids — who were determined to hit has many houses as possible, despite the physical impossibility of actually eating all their haul — we ran out of candy. Adam sent me frantic texts. Did I have more candy hidden? What else could he give the terrifying small children?

The Candy-Go-Round

I pointed him to the stash in the upstairs closet — the place where I hide all the presents (the kids all know this, but weirdly don’t go looking). There he found all the leftover favors from birthday party goody bags. And the leftover Easter candy I’d forgotten to add to the Halloween bowl mix.

I also directed him to the top shelf in the pantry where we stash the goody bags the kids bring home from parties and discard, forgotten, around the house. After a couple of days, I round them up, adding to the collection in the pantry. Sometimes they remember they have them. Mostly they don’t. (Sometimes they get smart and put them in their rooms, thinking they can snack on candy any time, but I find those, too.)

Is this wrong? To fund Halloween from confiscated candy? I think not.

Here’s the thing. As a mother, I started out refusing to let my children have any of the following ingredients in their foods:

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Artificial colors
  • Artificial flavors
  • Artificial sweetener
  • MSG

Why? I don’t think those things are food or have any place in our food. And I know the reaction they give my body (mostly migraines, otherwise general ickyness), so why put them in my precious, recently-created children’s bodies?

This has the potential of making things like Halloween and birthday parties tricky. I relaxed about the birthday parties pretty much instantly. A little food coloring in birthday cake. Whatevs.

Those first few Halloweens, though? I picked through their candy, determining which ones it was OK for them to have.

Now? Eh. I cringe and pretend they’re not eating Laffy Taffy.

We talk about ingredients in food. When we’re in the store together and they want something heinous, I make them attempt to read the ingredients. Can they pronounce them? Do they really want them in their bodies? (Why do whine when I try and take them grocery shopping?)

But I get it. They’re kids. I ate all kinds of crap when I was a kid (and my health didn’t turn out so fine, but who knows why). Depriving them entirely isn’t healthy. Eating it all the time just isn’t going to happen on my watch. So I try and strike a balance.

On Halloween night, they get to eat whatever candy they want, as much as they want. One night of gorging until they want to puke (if they choose — we talk about the wisdom of that, too). And then the candy? It doesn’t quite go poof, but most of it does go away.

The Candy Wizard

Fortunately, a newly mythical creature helps me with this. The Candy Wizard. We borrowed the Candy Wizard from some friends. He comes in the dead of night, after children have finally fallen asleep, exhausted from the come down of the sugar rush.

The kids pick through their candy, eating and trading, and putting aside what they can bear to part with. Then the Candy Wizard takes it away, leaving some item of desire in its place. Last year, it was a gift. This year: cold hard cash. The Candy Wizard recently set his rates at $1/lb of candy.

Timing is everything

Here’s a tip: If your kids are little and go to bed fairly early, you can recycle the given-up candy to the late arrivals — the teens still out trick-or-treating at 8 and 9 pm while you’re reading bedtime stories. Ours are getting too old for that, although I’m not above asking for donations if the bowl gets empty by bedtime. Perhaps the Candy Wizard can pay double for those — for doing a good deed and all.

The candy they don’t give up? Well, it may get reduced a little during the night and added to the heap given to the Candy Wizard. The remainder, after a couple of days of eating a piece of fun size candy for dessert, becomes ignored, forgotten — and stashed in the pantry.

And the cycle begins again.