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How To: Pick Halloween candy, NEAROF! style

The Halloween candy stockpile at NEAROF! HQ destined to be distributed to little ghouls on October 31.

Halloween is right around the corner, and you haven’t stocked up on Halloween candy yet.

It happens. We won’t judge.

But you might want a few candy selection tips before heading out to your local grocery store, and we’re here for you. Have we ever not been here for you?

First off, NEAROF! has a fair number of international readers who may not understand the Canadian/American Halloween tradition, so here’s a quick primer.

On October 31, kids dress up in costumes and go door-to-door in residential neighbourhoods, knocking on doors and/or yelling things like “Trick or Treat” or “Halloween Apples” (mostly “Trick or Treat,” in my experience). Homeowners open their doors and give the kids candy (chocolate bars, candies, chips, etc.). This goes on for a few hours in the evening. In recent years, parents have started to take their kids (especially young kids) to shopping malls, which give out candy at stores. In Canada, October 31 can be a bit cold, so there’s an extra incentive to stay indoors. There’s admittedly more to it than that (adults dressed up as sexy nurses, sexy teachers, sexy statisticians … ), but that’s the gist of it.

So, with all those costumed kids about to make their way to your doorstep, here’s a collection of helpful tips and pointers before you head to the grocery store to stock up on treats.

Estimate the Quantity: If you know your neighbourhood, you’ll know roughly how many kids came by last year. Feel free to buy a bit extra, just in case you have a bumper crop of trick-or-treaters (nice weather can do this). If you’re new to the neighbourhood, ask neighbours how many kids they tend to get on Halloween.

The Merits of “Fun Size” (a.k.a. a small, snack-sized chocolate bar or candy): As a kid, I always loved it when houses gave us full-size chocolate bars, not three-Life-Saver mini rolls (bloody cheapskates). As an adult who cares about things like, uh, fitting into pants, I’m less enthusiastic about potentially having 50 leftover full-size chocolate bars at the end of the evening. Plus, fun size portions allow you to adjust your candy rationing as the evening goes along. If you hit 7:30 p.m. and the bowl is still half-full, maybe you start throwing in an extra fun-size bar.

What to Pick: It’s good to have a mix. This year, I picked four things:
– Rockets (Smartees, for our American friends), a classic Halloween treat.
– A large box of totally peanutty goodness (includes Crispy Crunch, Wunderbar, etc.).
– A smaller bag of totally peanutty goodness (including both Reese’s Pieces and Reese peanut butter cups).
– A box of certified peanut-free candy (Canadian Smarties, Coffee Crisp, Kit-Kat, Aero). And speaking of which …

Peanut-Free Stuff: Keep some handy, and keep it in a separate bowl. When I was a kid, nobody cared about this. Times have changed, and it’s a nice gesture for little ghouls who may get very, very sick (or worse) if they eat a peanut-contaminated snack.

Unwrapped/homemade/bulk candy?: Don’t do it. This isn’t the 1950s. Parents don’t know you – you’re a stranger giving candy to their kids – and they’re going to treat any homemade baking, baggies of candy corn, etc., with suspicion. Don’t give out homemade cookies: most of them will be thrown out by justifiably concerned parents.

Toothbrushes: Dammit, dentists – don’t hand out toothbrushes on Halloween. Resist the urge. If you have to wave your flag of toothy protest, at least give out some of those packs of sugar-free gum delivered to your office with a forklift. Chucking a toothbrush in a bag of candy is only slightly less evil than passing gas in an elevator.

“Will I Want to Eat This?”: Don’t kid yourself. If you wind up overestimating how much candy you’re going to need, you’re going to have a whole bunch of extra candy left to eat. Make sure you’re picking things you wouldn’t mind eating.

Cherry Pick: Yes, you’re allowed to nab a few primo candies from the bowl before the kids get there. For me, it’s the Crispy Crunch bars. (What? You DON’T cherry-pick favourites before putting the candy in the bowl? Pfffbt. I don’t believe you. No human has that kind of willpower.)

Don’t Buy Too Early: If you do, you know you’re going to end up eating part of your stash of candy, and you’re going to have to buy more.

If All Else Fails … : Bring leftovers to the office.

And now, some questions for you, marvellous NEAROF! readers. Leave a comment, eh?

  • 1. How many candies do you give your trick-or-treaters? One fun-size treat? Two? Three? A full-size bar? A bag of chips?
  • 2. Do you have a standard repertoire of candies you give out every year? Favourites?
  • 3. Are there any candies you refuse to give out?
  • 4. Dentists giving out toothbrushes: for or against?
  • 5. How many trick-or-treaters do you get at your place on a typical Halloween? (Feel free to update with your final tally/analysis on the big night!)

Happy Halloween!

One Comment

  1. Well, we got a measly 4 trick-or-treaters at NEAROF! HQ this year, which means I’m pretty damned happy I made sure I bought candies I won’t mind eating over the next several months. Ugh. Kids these days.