Sunday, October 31, 2010

Are You REALLY Going To Eat All That?! - Other Fun Uses For Holiday Candy

*This post will be updated periodically as I find new links and tips to add, and I will try to re-link to it on my Facebook and Twitter pages around all the candy-giving holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc.) Anything added after the original post was written has been given dates.

Halloween is a lot of fun. Mostly. And stressful. And it has always seemed silly to me how some parents get all lost in the frenzy and lose sight of the fact that, Really. I could just buy my kid this stinkin' candy. Me too. I found myself with 3 Halloween parties with my moms groups (plus the one at my sister's, and the one at my husband's work) plus I found a place offering trick-or-treating the day before Halloween too. And we plan on going out with my other sister and her kids to two places, plus maybe the local 'posh' neighborhood Halloween day.
It's not even like I'm going to let her eat all her candy either. We'd probably throw out a lot of it. Halloween isn't until tomorrow, [Well, today now. I'm up late!] and she already has a year's worth of candy (Daddy's work went super crazy with the treats!) But then I got some great ideas for other ways to use the leftover candy...

Update 10/4/12 - Now that we are artificial-ingredient-free, I will not redistribute any of our candy loot to other kids, just because I don't know if it would affect them too, and I will not contribute to that issue. I WILL, however, redistribute to adults, via donating the the troops, trading with the dentist (who donates to the troops,) and having Hubby take stuff to his candy bowl at work. Most of the kids affected by the artificial ingredients either grow out of it, or the reactions diminish. (I am starting to notice mild headaches and feelings of irritability when I ingest fake colors, but I haven't comprehensively documented or kept track, so it's just a feeling I have, and not a fact.)
The ideas in italics are the ones that I would still consider doing myself, to keep my girls safe, and to not risk harming other dye-sensitive children.

I have also added a bunch more "non-eating" options I've found. By letting her still participate in the experiences, I'm helping her make good choices by CHOOSING not to eat the fake candies. And by experimenting and crafting with them, we get to see just how UN-FOOD-LIKE they really are, and help disassociate them from the other things that we DO eat!

She blinded me with science!
I read a magazine article a year or so ago, about using candy to do science experiments, instead of eating it all. It was really neat, and made my 3 years of Chemistry seem less useless as a SAHM. And then I saw the author's byline.... Loralee Leavitt. Hmm. I knew a girl in High School named Loralee... but a different last name... And then her picture... huh. That looks just like... waitaminnit! How awesome is that? We even took Chemistry together!
She now has a website, which is good, because although I saved the article, it got puked on by a cat and stepped on and torn by the Oompa-Loompa, and thrown out by the husband. She has fun ideas for testing acidity in different candies, getting color separation from the dyes, making chocolate bloom show, testing which candies sink versus float, and more! Did you know that the 'S's on Skittles float off whole when soaked in water?
10/28/11 - Found some new science fun with candy too!

Candy Crafts
11/11/11 - You can also use leftovers in a home-made advent calendar, or glue or tie them together into a holiday garland or wreath. (Thanks Mom On Timeout for the ideas!)
My advent calendar craft ideas: You can use empty toilet paper tubes (or paper towel tubes cut into several smaller parts) or empty kiddie yogurt cups glued to a base to make an advent calendar which has enough space inside for small toys or mini candy bars! Use scrapbook or craft paper circles with countdown numbers on them taped to the fronts to hide the contents! You can even paint or use craft paper to decorate the sides too! To be even MORE festive, if you place them in a triangle with 6 cups/tubes on the bottom, then 5, then 4, 3, 2, 1, and the last 3 under the row of 6 (with brown paper or paint on the outside, to be the trunk,) you can make them into a tree shape! (See below!)
I've also seen ideas for using small boxes, like matchboxes (with beads glued on the fronts, for drawer-pulls,) small gift boxes, or home-made tagboard ones. Or even a storage drawer unit for hardware bits (I like this one, since it's such a great price, but it has 30 drawers. You can find 24-drawer ones too.) You could also use paper envelopesflattened toilet paper tubes with the bottoms glued or stapled shut, or cloth pockets clothespinned onto a string.

12/19/10 - I used a bunch of my.... errr her leftover Halloween candy on our gingerbread houses! Red Vines made a door and roof trim, Nerds speckled 2 side walls, and Ms on the roof! 10/4/12 - This would be a fun craft, provided the kids understood that these were for decoration, and not for eating!

10/4/12 - You can use the candies to make non-edible crafts, like mosaics or artwork using colorful candies and glue. Or make a lovely holiday centerpiece
There are some more kid-friendly non-edible crafts using candy as well. I love the picture frame idea!

And don't throw out those wrappers! You can craft with the wrappers as well!

Gives a whole new meaning to 'Candied Apple"!
Another fun idea is to repurpose the candies. You can slowly integrate them into dessert recipes, like caramel apples, where you can increase the healthy-food-to-candy-ratio that it takes to fill their bellies at dessert time. (You can melt down chocolate bars/Kisses/etc and drizzle or paint it on over the caramel as well. And add small candies, like M&Ms, and/or chopped candy bars. You can do this with whole caramel apples, or sliced ones where you drizzle the caramel and toppings on over.)
Also tasty on or mixed into ice cream, frozen yogurt, or regular yogurt! Chopped-up Skittles might make a nice addition to a fruit smoothie! Or use small or chopped candies to top cakes, cookies, cupcakes, baked into muffins... the possibilities are endless! Here's a fun, quick and super easy recipe for using walnuts, Rolos and pretzels to make your own Turtles!
You can save hard clear candies, like lollipops and Jolly Ranchers to smash up and melt into stained-glass cookies or shaped hard candies (melt into greased cookie cutter or candy molds) or use whole ones to make new lollipops.
And there are loads of sites with more fun recipes and ideas. You can Google "leftover Halloween candy recipes" or find some fun ideas here, or sorted by candy type here, or a few more ideas here, along with other options on alternate uses for your candy.
11/6/11 - Just found this great recipe for leftover-Halloween Candy Bark! Looks SO yum!

Party Ideas
Have a party coming up? Save some Halloween candy for the goody bags! [See shelf-life info below.]
Another fun idea is to tie a leftover lollipop to the ribbon on a present! You could even write on the wrapper in lieu of a gift tag!
11/11/11 - Can also be used to decorate cupcakes, cake pops, or cakes!
Or make a home-made card, using words that are candy names, and gluing the candy on. Some fun suggestions here and here, and some candy inspirations here.
Something like:
I hope you have MOUNDS of fun on your special day!
It's an ALMOND JOY to know you!
I hope your day is GOOD and PLENTY more to come!
This idea also makes for some witty and fun prizes for a baby shower Memory game. Check out here and here for some other candy bar game-related ideas!

Giveitaway, giveitaway, giveitawaynow...
Another option is to have someone (you, spouse, grandparent, whatever) take it in to their office and have a candy bowl/jar at their desk, or dump it into someone else's candy jar.

Food banks accept candy donations too. Obviously they prefer healthier fare, but they'll take what they can get!

You can also ask a local school or public library if they accept candy donations. Some give out candy rewards, use it for parties, or after story times. [Thanks for the suggestion, Ingvild!]

Or it can be sent with care packages to the troops! Click here and/or here for more details on 2 programs that accept candy for the troops! Not only is it a nice treat for the soldiers, but in conflict areas, they give candy and small donated toys [see first link] to local children and get tips on IED locations! Your extra candy could help save lives!

11/11/11 - Ronald McDonald House charities accept candy donations as well! Search for your local branch here!

Trade it up!
You might also search online or amongst friends and local dentist/orthodontist offices - some are offering money or toys in trade for Halloween candy! One by me is offering $1/lb of candy! Yes, that candy cost more than $1. But it wasn't your dollar! Your dollar went towards rotting someone else's kid's teeth! And to a kid, a few bucks to spend can be all kinds of cool! You might even offer to match, if they're willing to sort out their favorite few pieces and part with the rest! Here is a link to some places exchanging candy (but certainly not all of them!)
11/6/11 - I just heard from a local orthodontist that does a candy buyback program that our local food banks use the donated candy to help stuff stockings for less fortunate kids at Christmas! How cool is THAT? Other dentists donate it to the troops, so you can find out who does what and choose where you go accordingly!

Postpone the inevitable...
Anything that will last, you can save for Christmas Gingerbread houses too. Here's a link to candy shelf-lifes, but the most helpful bit is here:
Here's a generalized idea on candy shelf life:
"The softer the candy, the shorter the shelf life, ever had a hard caramel??
BUBBLE GUM - Most gum such as Bubble Yum or Bubblicious Bubble Gum is good for anywhere from four (4) to six (6) months and this guideline applies to regular gums such as Chiclets, Dentyne, Trident, et al
CANDY BARS - The average shelf for a chocolate candy bar is anywhere up to six (6) months, however, certain candies such as Necco Wafers, Smarties, Starburst Fruit Chews or Nerds can last considerably longer due to their consistency.
GUMMI CANDY - Most gummi candies such as gummi bears, peachy penguins, strawberry puffs, etc are good for up to (six) months although they will diminish in quality if exposed high temperatures.
JELLY BELLY JELLY BEANS - The manufacturer suggests that the shelf life for Jelly Bellies is up to eight (8) months.
JORDAN ALMONDS (CONFETTI) -Although the shelf life is said to be up to five (5) months, we suggest that you do not hold them for longer than two (2) to three (3) months to ensure that they are absolutely fresh.
LOLLIPOPS - Most lollipops have a long shelf life but it is important to remember that exposure to high temperatures can cause the candy to permanently stick to the wrappers. Although most lollipops can last up to six (6) months, it is important that they are stored in cool environments.
MandM's CHOCOLATE CANDIES - According to the manufacturer, the life span of M&M's is up to thirteen (13) months providing that it remains in its factory sealed package and not exposed to heat.
NOVELTY CANDY - Most novelties candies are nothing more than candy such as bubble gum or dextrose encased in a plastic outer shell. The life span of most novelty candies is six (6) to eight (8) months and depends on the type of candy chosen.
UNWRAPPED BULK CANDY - Most unwrapped bulk candies remains fresh for five (5) to six (6) months, however, certain items such as Candy Roll Wafers, Runts, Rock Candy Strings and Candy Blocks will last longer due to their consistency.
Candies such as Good and Plenty, Licorice, Mexican Hats or Red Dollars tend to taste better when fresh and we suggest that you store them for no longer than two (2) months.
Chocolate candies such as Bridge Mix, Chocolate Pretzels, Double Dipped Chocolate Peanuts or Malted Milk Balls tend to have a shorter shelf life and this applies to any candy that has peanuts as one of the ingredients,
WRAPPED BULK CANDY - Most wrapped bulk candy remains fresh for five (5) to six (six) months especially if it is a hard candy such as a Butterscotch Disk, Starlight Mint or Root Beer Barrel.
Softer candies such as Caramel Creams or Brach's Royals have a shorter shelf life due to their consistency."

Other Idea Round-Ups
11/1/2010 - Just found an article with more ideas too!
12/19/10 - Even more great ideas! Many of the links here were already added above, but there are some other fun ideas here too!
10/28/11 - Many of the same, but a few new ideas from Parenting magazine!

Keep these ideas in mind after Christmas, Easter, Valentines Day, Birthday parties, etc. too!

However you choose to deal with all that Halloween loot, keep on top of the teeth brushing! If they're old enough, chewing sugarless gum after eating or drinking anything with sugar in it is a great way to get residue and particles off the teeth, especially if you know they won't comply with brushing after lunch or snack at school. (They can just pop it in and chew it until lunch is over, then spit it out, since most schools don't allow gum in class.)
I can tell you right now, I've already set aside some candy to incorporate into fun Muffin Tin Meals and bento lunches. My husband got a mini-candy assortment from Canada that has something like M&Ms, that will be great as eyes or other facial features. Even headlights or small wheels. Nerds for sprinkling on yogurt or to represent confetti or animal spots or something. Caramels, Spice drops and Gumdrops are great to mold into other things, as are Circus Peanuts. Tootsie Rolls, Laffy Taffy and Starburst too (microwave them 8-10 seconds first to make them easier to manipulate.) And I stashed some Gummy Lifesavers to use tomorrow, if I have time to do an MTM this week!


  1. Frankly, one of the reasons I am not thrilled with Halloween/trick or treat/etc is that we don't need the candy. we have plenty of sweets around. I don't like giving people stuff they don't value and I don't like receiving stuff that is just going to be tossed/worried about "What do I do with all this?"

    It's waste not even I can stomach.

  2. So glad you liked the experiments. You'd probably be good at coming up with them too--if you do, let me know. Wish we could tell our high school chemistry teacher about them.

    Another thing you can do with candy is donate it to food banks. They'd rather have nutritious food, but they'll take candy. I called three to make sure.

    Do you actually make all those cookies and things? Good for you!

  3. There's some thrift stores near me (not the big chain ones like Goodwill or Value Village) who often sell their books super cheap - as low as $.15 each (!!!) if you go at the right time. I've heard of several people who stock up on super cheap kids books to give away at Halloween instead!
    I don't want to be the scrooge giving out toothbrushes, so we just arrange to not be home! :)

  4. As a children's librarian, we often give out a treat (one piece of candy per kid) after storytime, and we always appreciate donations of treats. If you have any libraries or preschool programs near you, they might be happy to get your leftovers as well!

  5. Thanks for re-posting this. Great ideas! I love the one about sending the candy in care packages to the troops for them to give away to local kids. We were thinking of telling Corbyn that his teddy bears ate all his candy during the night.

  6. Great Ideas! There is no way our kids need all the candy - thanks for sharing some practical things we can have our kids do with it. Thanks for linking up to TGIF!
    Beth =-)

  7. I don't give those candies to my kids, nor to the others. My kids put all bad candies to the trash (since we know they ARE bad and do not want anybody else to get sick) and I exchange them for a good healthy(organic) stuff I buy. To the kids who came to our door we give notebooks, pencils and other funny stuff.

  8. Anonymous - yes. I wrote this two years ago, before I discovered that the fake colors and flavors harm my child. We will not be eating any. I will still allow her to trade it in at the dentist for money, or have Hubby take it to work, since those get redistributed to adults who are old enough to make their own informed decisions about fake ingredients. Plus the interactions often do not last into adulthood, so they aren't "harmful" anymore. (I will not get into a debate about artificial ingredients having no KNOWN effects still being harmful just by dint of not being natural.)

    I will not distribute candies with artificial ingredients to kids anymore, since many parents are unaware of the issue, and the child is certainly unaware and unable to make a responsible choice!
    But there are several options listed that don't involve eating them. I think that doing the science experiments would not only be FUN, they often show you just how UN-FOODLIKE these are! How much sugar they have, or how the colors spread, how much wax they contain, etc. And by playing with them instead of eating, it helps DISASSOCIATE them with food!

    I will also be adding more non-edible ideas to this post soon!


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