A new calculator helps you decide how many Halloween treats to buy.
What size candy should you hand out? Does it need to be candy at all?
A little thought and care could set your house apart as a Halloween destination.
You don’t want to end up with bags upon bags of extra candy this Halloween, especially considering our current economy of shortages; experts say costumes, decorations, and yes, candy, are all stuck at U.S. ports, as there aren’t enough truck drivers to transport the goods.
Luckily, there’s a new online calculator that uses a simple equation to determine exactly how much Halloween candy you should buy to satisfy all of your trick-or-treaters (without wasting a morsel).
The calculator—jointly developed by Birmingham, Alabama-based delivery company Shipt and Mars Wrigley, a self-proclaimed “leading manufacturer of chocolate, chewing gum, mints, and fruity confections”—is pretty fun, with two sections that have different mathematical goals.
How Much Candy Should You Buy For Halloween?
The first section calculates the gross (no offense, this just means the total) amount of candy you’ll need for your trick-or-treaters. To figure that out, you’ll multiply time × kids × generosity. In the second part, you’ll figure out how much extra candy you need to purchase now if you want to make sure there’s still enough left by the time October 31 rolls around. For that, you’ll multiply the number of days ahead of Halloween it is when you buy the candy × your household size × your sneakiness level.
Finally, the third part of the equation gives you your adjusted candy total. Simply add together the products from part one and part two. It’s worth noting that if the forecast calls for rain, you should divide the total by 1.5, reducing your candy needs by a third overall.
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For this exercise, we’ll assume that you like to buy big bags of variety “fun-size” candy (with 75 pieces per bag) and that you like to hand out three sweets at a time. Your town’s trick-or-treating festivities last for about three hours, according to the borough website, and you expect to see about 70 kids per hour. Today is October 25, so there are still six full days before the holiday, and five people (including yourself) live in your household. Everyone in the house likes candy, and you expect everyone to sneak two pieces per night. The forecast for Halloween is clear.
Part 1: Gross Candy
Time: 3 hours
Total: 3 x 70 x 3 = 630 pieces of candy
Part 2: Extra Candy Needed Leading Up to Halloween
Total: 6 x 5 x 2 = 60 pieces of candy
Part 3: Total Candy Required
630 + 60 = 690 pieces of candy
690 pieces of candy / 75 pieces of candy per bag = 9.2 (round up) = 10 bags of fun-size candy
As the example above goes to show, it’s easier to run out of candy than you may think—and it may cost you more than you expect to buy that candy! A 75-count bag of fun-size M&M’s, Skittles, and Snickers costs about $10 at Target, so in the example above, you’re dishing out about $100 for Halloween treats.
But in a quieter neighborhood, with just two hours of trick-or-treating, 30 kids per hour, and two “fun size” candy bars each, you’d only need 120 pieces of candy, or two of those same fun-size bags (assuming you’re not sneaking any candy beforehand). These scenarios don’t seem super different at the outset, so it’s easy to see how the equation is useful.
What Should You Really Give Trick-or-Treaters?
Here’s the sneaky truth, though. Mathematically, the easiest calculation is one where you plan to give out just one piece of candy (or item—see below!) to each trick-or-treater. And this is where you must ask yourself what kind of Halloween person you want to be. If you’re giving out just one unit at a time, should it be a whole candy bar? At the very least, you might want to hand out true “fun size” candies that are about half the size of a regular bar, not the tiny little “miniatures.”
There are some special considerations when it comes to candy, separate from the math. If you’ve welcomed trick-or-treaters to your home in the past, you might already have a sense for what the rest of the neighborhood gives out. That presents you with the opportunity to become the only house that gives out something a little less common, like Nerds or Bit O’ Honey. Think about what you would have liked to see as a special, unusual candy in your bag, then go for it.
It’s also common to relegate fruit candy to the “meh” pile compared with Reese’s Cups or other high-impact chocolate candies. I get it, but I think this is a big mistake. Plenty of kids love fruit candy of all kinds, especially sour candy. It’s also a way to show that all kids are welcome to trick-or-treat, including those who are allergic to nuts, dairy, and other ingredients way less likely to surface in fruit candies.
How Do I Keep My Family From Eating the Candy Before Halloween?
Let’s pivot back to the calculator, because the section that calculates how much candy your family will eat before Halloween is really important. It’s a risky move to buy candy well ahead of Halloween in the first place, let alone during a pandemic year when many communities are considering cancelling trick-or-treating for the second time in a row. (This is a valid decision—one your family should talk over with your kids, even if your broader community wants to trick-or-treat.)
What’s the best way to mitigate the candy damage your family will do ahead of the big day? As an adult, I now realize that my family likely put this strategy into place well before I realized it: buy candy you hate. Maybe you’re a chocolate eater and you know you won’t mess with the fruity sour stuff. Please dig deeper than a huge bag of SweeTARTS. Buy the candy you hate as though it’s the candy you like.
What If I Don’t Want to Give Out Traditional Candy?
Certainly we’ve all heard (or experienced firsthand) horror stories of receiving toothbrushes or pennies instead of candy—stuff we all agree is rubbish on Halloween. Homemade treats have mostly been ruled out altogether as people grow to know their neighbors less and less over time. However, you can still delve into a whole world of snacks that aren’t candy.
For some people, that might mean tried-and-true snack foods like Little Debbie cakes or Hostess treats, especially if you find a good deal at the factory store. If you really want to shake things up, though, consider a savory snack like lunchbox-size bags of Doritos or other chips. Heck, you could feel almost virtuous if you handed out small bags of pretzels. The vast market for 100-calorie snack packs means you have more options than ever.
Another option that you might not have considered is to hand out a small beverage. One Popular Mechanics editor says she always looked forward to a house in her childhood neighborhood that gave out juice boxes because it was a nice, refreshing break after all of that walking around. Another editor had a neighbor who gave out bottles of water to the kids. Now, even water comes in those itty bitty little bottles just right for tiny hands.
Don’t forget the classic, non-toothbrush toy items that kids may still really enjoy. Think about classic plastic spider rings or vampire fangs, which are often sold in bulk because of their popularity at Halloween events. You could even give out tiny notebooks or coloring books, something you could actually make yourself with a paper cutter and a stapler. You could even take a page from modern wedding decor and give out those little bottles of bubbles with wands. Sugar isn’t the only thing that can capture a child’s imagination!
The hidden upside of handing out snacks, or beverages, or toys (rather than little candy bars) is that these items may more easily find a second life in your home if you have extras—no pressure to eat those two extra pounds of chocolate lying around.
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