Sustainable America Blog

What to Do With Leftover Halloween Candy

Photo: Luke Jones via Flickr

Parent or not, Halloween candy is inescapable this time of year. Between your kids’ haul, the leftovers from what you give out to trick or treaters and the snack bowl at work, most of us are facing more candy than we can or should eat.

To deal with this candy deluge, many people let their kids eat it for a week then simply throw away the rest when the novelty wears off. We get it—we shouldn’t sacrifice our health for the sake of reducing food waste. But before you send that sack full of sugar to the landfill, consider these ideas.

1. Freeze it.
Freezing candy not only extends its life, it also keeps it tucked out of sight so you’re not tempted to eat it all the time. Thaw it out when you need snacks for a car trip or movie night or treats for birthday party goodie bags. You can also “recycle” it by saving it for Christmas stockings, Easter baskets or birthday piñatas — or even keep it in the deep freeze until next Halloween.

2. Donate it.
Halloween candy donation opportunities have exploded in recent years. Many dentists or local businesses do “buy-back” programs, where they pay per pound then donate the candy, often to military troops or veteran groups. Here’s a directory where you can search for buy-back programs in your area. Organizations that accept candy donations include: Operation Gratitude, Soldiers’ Angels, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Operation Stars and Stripes, Operation Shoebox and Any Soldier.

3. Switch it.
If you need a clever way to convince younger kids to give up some of their loot, tell them about the Switch Witch. She visits children who leave out bowls of candy and exchanges it for a small toy.

Candy Bar Blondies

4. Bake with it.
There are dozens of clever ways to incorporate Halloween candy into baked goods and treats for the upcoming holiday season. Save Skittles and Starburst to decorate gingerbread houses. Use M&Ms to replace chocolate chips in cookies, or mix them into popcorn, trail mix or Rice Krispies treats. Top ice cream with melted caramels or chopped candy.

Here are a few other recipes we found:

Candy Bar Blondies (from the blog Dinner at the Zoo, pictured above)

Reece’s Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Mole made with Mr. Goodbars (slide 5)

4. Plan for next year.
One smart thing you can do right now if you tend to buy too much candy to give out on trick or treat night—make a note or calendar reminder of how much you really need so you don’t overbuy next year. (My mom actually used to keep a running tally of how many kids came to the door. I thought she was crazy, but now I get it.)

5. Don’t forget about the wrappers.
If you’re feeling creative, there is endless inspiration for upcycled candy wrapper crafts on Pinterest. Here are a few ideas to get the juices flowing.

For more creative ideas for reducing food waste at home, visit

How to Compost a Halloween Pumpkin
10 Ways to Get Kids to Waste Less Food
8 Ways to Reduce Waste at Thanksgiving

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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