Trick or Treat: What To Do with All That Halloween Candy

Left-over Halloween Candy and Trick-or-Treat Buy Back or Trade

We may all be walking around our neighborhoods Halloween night dressed as witches (note to self: find witch hat in closet), but we’re not really mean; we’re planning to let our kids eat unreasonable amounts of refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and non-organic chocolate way past their bedtimes on a school night - for one night anyway.

The dilemma comes on November 1. When the trick-or-treating is over.

Each year I wonder what I should do with it all. I’ve tried all manner of reasonable solutions. I’ve stuffed it on top of the fridge where my son forgets about it and so do I – resulting in a nasty, sticky mess of old candy stuck to the inside a plastic pumpkin a year later. I’ve bravely thrown myself on the grenade, late night snacking on things I had no business consuming and suffering the distasteful fit of my jeans in the aftermath. I’ve given it away to homeless people, then found myself worrying that rather than feeding the masses I was putting some poor transient into a diabetic coma.

I have friends who rely on someone called the Switch Witch. I don’t know if it’s a 21st century phenomenon or a west coast thing, but for those not in the know, this lady comes in the night, after the Halloween sugar crash, and switches the bag o’ candy for a present, à la Toothfairy. It sounds like a great idea, but I got the memo a bit late; and adding one more mythological nighttime gift-giver after a child passes four years old seems like pressing one's luck.

So this year, I decided to take the candy bull by the sugar horns and level with my son. I proposed a deal, which is that he can eat all that junk that makes my skin crawl for one night, and then choose three items to save for later. The rest he can trade in for a gift from me, the Mom Witch. Luckily, he loved the idea. The only question remaining, therefore, is where to bring the booty, and this time I will not be caught unprepared! I’ve researched a few excellent options for donating Halloween candy:

Halloween Candy Buy Back
This is probably the most satisfying way to deal with the dilemma; participating dentists all over the Southland (and there are about 70 in the greater LA area) collect candy from kids the day after Halloween and trade it for some sort of prize or dental items. The candy is then shipped overseas to troops on active duty through a program called Operation Gratitude. Win-win! Enter your zip code to find dentists near your home.

Operation Gratitude 
Speaking of these folks, families are welcome to remove the middle man/dentist and deal directly with Operation Gratitude. Kids can participate by writing a letter to someone in the armed forces who may receive their candy!

Santa Monica Dentistry for Children
The Westside pediatric dentistry office is running its own candy buy back scheme, independent from the national one referenced above. Kids are given $1/pound for their candy (up to 10 pounds), and the booty goes to the troops. No need to be a patient; treats are accepted through November 7.

Smiles Pediatric Dentistry
Yet another Westside dentist has jumped on the cash-for-candy bandwagon. The bright yellow landmark on Pico is handing kids a $1 bill for each pound of candy (which is then forwarded to troops overseas).

Wahoo's Tacos
Oh, you heard me. If mailing the candy seems like too much effort, if buying gifts to ransom it goes against the grain, how about turning that candy into dinner? Wahoo's offers kids a free meal in return for their Halloween booty each year, generally from November 1-5.

Baking is always an option, too. Local mom and blogging foodie extraordinaire Dorothy Reinhold offers a simple recipe for using up Halloween candy. Or, if all else fails, you could put it aside for gingerbread house construction, which is coming up faster than you think...

Happy Halloween!

Originally published October 30, 2011