A case for being the house with no candy. 

By Stacey Ballis
October 21, 2019

I have always loved Halloween. Wandering the streets with friends, dressed to shock or scare, bags brimming with wonderful treats. The rituals of sorting your haul at home, spreading the goods out over the floor and counting up the treasure, eleven mini Milky Ways, fourteen Three Musketeers… the little pile of annoying orange and black wax paper twists with peanut taffy that no one wants. 

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When I was old enough to have a place of my own, I vowed that I would always be the house with the really good stuff. No Smarties or lollipops, it would always be fun-size chocolate bars. I dreamt of a day I might be able to afford to be the house that gave away the full-size bars.  Sadly, as I have not yet won the lottery, that day is still a distant dream. 

As it turns out, lucky for me, my house is on a street that sees some of the largest trick-or-treating traffic in the city. On a night with good weather? We will see between 1300-1500 open bags that need filling, coming in an endless stream between 4:30 and 9. Although no matter how much candy I have ever purchased, I’ve never made it past 7:30 without having to shut it down and put up the sign I have for my front gate, apologizing for having run out of treats.  It is amazing to see that many kids, and we get whole families that dress up together too. Last year, we saw The Incredibles, The Avengers, and a family of Lego blocks (bonus points to that family for also dressing up the dog). We bundle up and fill our travel coffee thermoses with negronis, and take turns manning the bowl. Friends who live in areas that do not get trick-or-treat traffic might come porch sit with us to watch the parade.

Having to buy treats at that scale is not an inexpensive undertaking. At my local Costco, the only place to even come close to affordable treats when you have this many to buy, a bag of 150 fun size candy bars is $20. So, in order to handle our volume? We are looking at over $200. Which is what we did for the past few years, and let me tell you, this pricey solution is not without its issues.

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One? Pretty much everyone in our neighborhood is buying the exact same candy variety pack, because to do otherwise is egregiously expensive which means there is no way to be the cool house with the good stuff. (Last year I priced out the full-size option, and if I wanted to be that house? It would cost me over a grand.)

Two, we spend a whole night eating mini candy bars like it is our job, which is not really fantastical for people who are both attempting to eat healthy and are diabetic. Plus, the weather in Chicago is all over the place. Halloween might be balmy and fantastic, or there may be pouring rain or even snow. Sure, we get hundreds of kids when the weather is reasonably fair, but rain? Cuts numbers about in half. Not a big deal when you prep for 40 kids and get 20, but when you prep for 1300 and get 750? You are now awash in leftover candy bars, and since my husband and I both work from home, we can’t even foist it off on an office-worth of colleagues like many people.

But lastly, in a day an age where kids have dietary issues ranging from nut allergies to celiac, there is no such thing as the mix that provides for every kid and their needs, and nothing is worse than facing down a tiny Iron Man who can give once glance into your bowl and know that there is nothing in there that he is allowed to eat.

So, this year?  I thought outside the box.  If I was going to spend a couple hundred bucks on treats, what else could I find?

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Turns out, if you do research, there are plenty of options. I found everything from glitter Halloween temporary tattoos, to miniature rubber ducky’s, to wacky rubber teeth. Do a search on bulk Halloween party favors and you will be down a rabbit hole of rubber bugs, and sheets of stickers, wind up Halloween monsters and other small toys. If you are not in a neighborhood where you get our volume, you’ll be amazed and what kind of cool swag is available at the same price as buying candy.

So, this year? At our house, kids are getting glow-in-the-dark rubber super balls. Some look like eyeballs, others have jack-o-lantern faces, bats, cats, witches or haunted houses on them. I spent exactly what I would have spent on candy, and anything that is leftover is both inedible and not perishable and can get stored for next year. We’ll put them in the sun all afternoon to charge them up and hope for an awesome ghostly glow out of our goody bowl.

And maybe, just maybe, after visiting twenty houses that are all handing out the exact same treats? We might just get to be the cool house after all.

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