October 30, 2005 3:06 PM   Subscribe

What are some good ideas for inexpensive alternatives to candy for Halloween?

I haven't bought any Halloween candy yet, because I've been trying to think up something else to give out that evening. I don't want to buy candy because whatever I don't give away I will eat. I am in a new city, so I have no idea what sort of traffic I will get. I could get 5 kids or I could get 500 (though I will be in class for most of the evening); as I'm a) near a school and b) in a complex with lots of seniors (who probably give out lots of candy), I'm guessing it will be somewhat high-traffic. Aside from the "bowl of pennies," what sorts of things would you suggest giving out?

Also, any ideas on how to study throughout Halloween madness? While I don't anticipate getting much stuff done answering the door every 5 minutes, I don't want to waste the afternoon/evening.
posted by Eideteker to Grab Bag (43 answers total)
Don't do pennies. Kids will remember you as the lamest grown-up they've ever met for the rest of their lives!

What if you did a big, cheap bag of candy and took the remainders to work (and left them in someone else's office)?
posted by kimota at 3:10 PM on October 30, 2005

Go out for the evening with friends or a loved one for a nice, pleasant dinner.
posted by Rothko at 3:10 PM on October 30, 2005

Snack-sized boxes of cheerios, corn flakes, etc. Kids won't be so happy, though.

Also, what about quarters?
posted by delmoi at 3:11 PM on October 30, 2005

Oh, I should add: Halloween, 1976, Auburn, Alabama. I haven't lived there since 1977, but I could direct you to that loser's house right now.
posted by kimota at 3:12 PM on October 30, 2005

and why not give out some popular candy that you, yourself don't like?
posted by delmoi at 3:13 PM on October 30, 2005

I think delmoi's on the right track. Because really, what do the kids want more than candy on Halloween? Nothing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:16 PM on October 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

How about gum? They even have individually wrapped gumballs that look like eyeballs. Or spider/skull rings. Or superballs. There's lots of cheap stuff in the party favor section. Grab a few different bags of stuff and let the kids pick what they want.
posted by jrossi4r at 3:19 PM on October 30, 2005

Another limitation is that if you give out consumables (food), it'd probably be a good idea to give out something pre-packaged so parents won't just throw it away.

Halloween is about candy - ... is there a way to buy iTunes certificates like you can with McDonalds?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:20 PM on October 30, 2005

Yeah, unfortunately, it's all about the (soon to be) rotten-toothed little gremlins. So suck it up, and get 'em something they, and their dentist, will like.*
*Having said that, as a trick-or-treater I kinda liked the Sunmaid miniboxes of raisins, but I'm weird that way....
posted by rob511 at 3:24 PM on October 30, 2005

Oh, and at least in my Hallowe'en days of yore, the bowl of pennies was for the Unicef boxes. Homeowners were expected to fork over both coinage and sweetage.
posted by rob511 at 3:26 PM on October 30, 2005

Just give out chocolate, and as its winding down, give it all to a group of kids.

Kids don't like gum, jolly ranchers, any of that other lame shit. Trust me, I'm not that far off from my trick or treat days. Whatever you do don't try to make something yourself, parents probably won't let their kids eat it.

Once again. Peanut butter or chocolate.
posted by mhuckaba at 3:34 PM on October 30, 2005

Whatever you do, don't give out toothbrushes, as one (quite possibly evil) dentist did in my neighboorhood when I was a kid.

I think it's much better to give out candy, rather than to try to think of some equal alternative (there isn't one, at least not from the kids' point of view).

I've never been big on chocolate, even as a child, so I think it's nice to have some variety in what you're giving out. Maybe some candy corn or skittles (my favorites) thrown in too.

Just give away all you have. I say buy less than you think you'll need and just turn your lights down or off if/when you run out and stop answering the door. I mean, kids aren't going to t.p. your house if you don't answer, right? (Oh, goodness, I hope not.)
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 3:47 PM on October 30, 2005

How about masses of popcorn? Buy a few pounds of kernels, pop them and let the little buggers grab handfuls.
Cheap and not that unhealthy either.
posted by bystander at 3:48 PM on October 30, 2005

kool-aid, play-doh, stickers, pencils.
posted by idiotfactory at 3:49 PM on October 30, 2005

Boxes of raisins! Just kidding. Those are almost as bad as pennies.

I second the "candy you don't like" idea. Something like those super-sour balls with sugar all over them, or Pixy Sticks, or maybe Halloween Peeps?
posted by chickenmagazine at 4:06 PM on October 30, 2005

Comic books. I got one once for Halloween and thought it was really cool. You should be able to locate a big package of older comics on the cheap from a 99 cent store or online. Of course, this require planning, so maybe next year!
posted by falconred at 4:08 PM on October 30, 2005

posted by robbie01 at 4:09 PM on October 30, 2005

How about at like 9pm or so when you suspect that the next trick-or-treater may be the last of the night you just give the remainder of your candy to that kid?
posted by mullacc at 4:22 PM on October 30, 2005

Chocolate covered pennies!

Alternatively, you can get a small amount of candy (enough for 20-50.) When that is done, turn off the porch lights or close the blinds or do whatever must be done to make it uninviting. The universal around here was if the lights were off, no one is home. If you really want to be as inexpensive as possible, do that light thing before any tricker treaters come. This will make your door unpopular, but not memorably lame.
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:39 PM on October 30, 2005

Errr.. don't answer your door?
posted by xmutex at 4:44 PM on October 30, 2005

I vote for either buying candy you don't like (I can't stand Butterfingers, so I like to buy those for the brats). Or, do what my parents do, and just give the entire bowl of leftovers to whoever is the next kid to show up after 9pm (or whatever seems reasonable for your neighborhood), then immediately turn off your porch light.
posted by gatorae at 4:55 PM on October 30, 2005

My vacuum-cleaner coworkers ate enough leftover Butterfingers last year to choke an elephant. You still have to exercise self-control yourself, of course.
posted by gimonca at 4:57 PM on October 30, 2005

"immediately turn off your porch light."

This also works at 5 PM. Lights out, stay in the basement or go out for dinner and a movie.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:02 PM on October 30, 2005

I agree that you should just give it all away. As the crowds start to dwindle, it'll start just being bigger kids who will be really happy if you give it to them by the handful. That's what my friends and I always banked on and we made out like bandits.
posted by wallaby at 5:10 PM on October 30, 2005

I'd just like to comment that it sucks how many people are recommending avoiding making children happy. If everyone ducked out or didn't participate (as they did in my old neighborhood when the kids had all grown up), the young ones that ARE still around won't have that magical experience.
posted by mhuckaba at 5:27 PM on October 30, 2005

Hmm... problem is, I will be leaving my apartment sometime around 6:30, and I'm not sure when I'll return. I don't want to give all my candy away and have none left; nor do I want to keep it and then have no one to give it to. I can't leave it at work; I don't have a job. I don't have a porch light; I'm in an apartment building (though the main door is unlocked). I also will have a hard time ignoring people at the door. Should I just put up a sign "no candy, sorry" and hope I don't get egged?
posted by Eideteker at 5:35 PM on October 30, 2005

The year that the neighbor kids were into Pokemon, I gave out Pokemon card packs & immediately won "best house on the block". You might do a little inquiry with the local parents to find out what the sprouts are into these days & distribute accordingly. You can be a conscientious objector with the sugar and still be alright with the kids.
posted by Triode at 5:49 PM on October 30, 2005

Buy enough candy to hand out before 6:30. If there is any left at that time, leave it in a cheap bowl or bag outside your door, saying "one per ghoul" or something. Then you get to have good karma by handing stuff out until you leave, and you won't have any candy by the time you get back. Win-win!
posted by barnone at 5:52 PM on October 30, 2005

You're not going to get egged, and even if you did it would be the landlord's problem. But a no-candy sign might as well read "Ring my doorbell now, ya scamps!"

You're a student? Drop any leftovers in your department, or the department office for your major. Or bring it to class.

Or just plan to be out until at least nine and it will be entirely irrelevant.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 PM on October 30, 2005

If you leave a big bowl of candy outside, you'll just end up giving a lot of candy to one kid.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:01 PM on October 30, 2005

How about a small, inexpensive toy like high-bounce balls or tiny decks of playing cards. There are lots of things available in the party favor section of stores like Target.
posted by Alison at 6:08 PM on October 30, 2005

So if you're going to be out after 6:30, then if you just behave as if you're out before then (and after, once you get home), the worst that could happen is exactly whatever might happen while you aren't there... see?

OK, lemme try this one again: your fear is if you don't give out candy, the kids'll retaliate. First off... they won't. Secondly, you're already going to be out of the house for awhile, so there'll be ample time to piss off the kids. Tacking on an extra hour won't make much of a difference.

True story why after many holidays on my own, I discovered Halloween was my least favorite: Newly an adult, newly in my own apartment, wanting to contribute to Halloween revelry, bought three bags of candy, then two more a day later. Halloween came. Turned down plans so I could pass out candy. Waited. Waited. No one came.

Now? I turn off the light and ignore the doorbell. Bah. They all had their chance, but where were those bastards 8 years ago? My suggestion is that you do nothing, keep your porch light out and close the curtains. As you're going to class, you can gauge what sort of traffic there is on Halloween there. That way, next year you'll have a better idea of what preparations to make. Take it from me: there's nothing more depressing than buying candy and getting excited about passing it out and then having no one come to your door.
posted by incessant at 12:53 AM on October 31, 2005

No gum, jolly ranchers, cheap candies, or pencils. Kids throw them away in favor of the good stuff- at least my kids and their friends do.

Buy a lot, and donate what's left - to the neighbor kids, the shelter, the food bank.

Don't put up a sign, but do go ahead and leave out a bowl with some of your candy when you leave. Most kids go out early now, not too many are around after 8 or 9.

And if your apartment building isn't very big I wouldn't count on seeing many kids. Sadly, most will be driven to a suburban neighborhood so they can hit as many houses as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Finally, if you don't expect many kids, just buy full sized candy; kids will love you for it and it won't cost anymore than the big bags of little candies. And like others have said, if there begins to be a large time lag in between knocks at your door then things are winding down- dump what you have left in the bag of the last lucky kids.

Oh, and when you're out, just do what everyone else does: scrounge around for spare change or something in the cupboard and when that option is exhausted don't answer the door. You won't be egged.

If you must have something non-edible, get stickers or temporary tatoo's. They're not very cool, but they're inexpensive and the kids will use them.
posted by LadyBonita at 1:14 AM on October 31, 2005

I loved gum, jolly ranchers and similar ilk.
posted by furtive at 5:37 AM on October 31, 2005

here was dentist who used to hand out those little tablets that dyed your mouth red until you scrubbed away all your plaque (and a layer of enamel). My parents hated and scorned him, but we LOVED it (nothing like a screamingly fuschia mouth for Halloween night). I don't even know if they make those anymore.
I have a little cousin who doesn't like candy, so for his treats my mom likes to buy him packs of single servings of goldfish crackers. Arguably just as unhealthy as candy, but perhaps you can resist them in a way that you can't resist a sugar fix.
posted by Sara Anne at 5:52 AM on October 31, 2005

Last year a friend of mine was away from his house for the main part or trick-or-treat, and left a bowl of candy with a sign that said something like, "Take some, but leave enough for others". When he got back, most of the candy was gone. Seemed to work.

This year I will be adding temporary tatoos to the candy mix. I'll let you know how it turns out...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:55 AM on October 31, 2005

Complete copies of the wikipedia on an SD card, or possibly portable firefox, depending on your budget. Kids love teh h4ck, and I guarantee you won't eat the leftovers.

Failing that, some sort of chocolate, but lace it with part B of a binary poison and take part A yourself. Or just tell yourself you did.

Alternatively, buy one chocolate bar and call that the magic bar. Rub it a little for good luck, but not too much because that's weird. When a huge group of people comes to your door, say "Sorry, you should have come by earlier, I'm all cleaned out! I only have one piece left, and you'll have to split it." Don't you feel better making them fight amongst themselves instead of trying to control yourself?
posted by Caviar at 8:08 AM on October 31, 2005

In the last few years, my mom gave out pencils. Sounds kind of lame, but I was surprised at how much the kids seemed to like them. They were *nice* pencils, though, not some cheapo ones.
posted by lester at 8:29 AM on October 31, 2005

Chick Tracts are always stylish! (Or not.)
posted by Remy at 9:52 AM on October 31, 2005

Single cigarettes. You can even be festive and give out menthols. Kids love Kools.
Or a sip of beer. It would be irresponsible to give them a whole beer (and expensive!) but a sip'll do 'em. All kids love Kraft singles, or even supermarket brand individually wrapped cheese slices. And copies of The Watchtower were always popular in my neighborhood.

Leave out a bowl of about 3/4s of your candy. Later on, you can give out the rest. Even better if you have a narrow-mouthed jar, as it's fairly hard to get a massive wad of candy back out. It discourages greed. (Well, until a kid upends the jar). I'd recommend Bit o' Honeys or Mary Janes, as most kids don't like them very much, and so won't take many. You can give the rest to either your neighbors or your department at school.
posted by klangklangston at 10:15 AM on October 31, 2005

We aren't big on the candy either but the kids are so we compromise: we get half decent candy and half small toys. A big caveat: we're careful not to give toys to very young ones who might choke on the small parts.

* Plastic spider rings can be had very cheap.

* Tiny Bubble Soaps are more expensive but make a nice treat for an especially cute costume.

* We also give out ring pops and candy necklaces; which the kids love even though it's pretty terrible candy. We have no trouble resisting those.

The spiders can be had at our local party store and, I don't know how universal they are, but we get the other candy rings, necklaces, and bubbles at our local Smart and Final.
posted by deanj at 1:42 PM on October 31, 2005

Candy necklaces were the awesomest.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 2:05 PM on October 31, 2005

No one came to call while I was home! Thank you all, anyway.
posted by Eideteker at 7:32 PM on October 31, 2005

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