The hardest part of Halloween (besides deciding on the perfect costume for you or your small children) is figuring out how much candy to buy. Running out early is obviously no fun at all — but given that the good stuff costs upwards of $14 a bag these days, neither is overbuying. (It turns out that extra candy is way more fun when someone else paid for it.)
If you’ve ever wished for a magic Halloween candy-buying formula, you may be surprised to learn that one actually exists. Most sources, including Martha Stewart herself, advise you to divide the number of trick-or-treaters in your neighbourhood by the servings per bag of candy. This tells you how many bags to buy. Easy, right? Not so fast! Although this method works in a pinch, it ignores what’s actually in the bag — and how kids act around candy. Here’s a better way.
Get a headcount
First things first: You need a headcount. How many trick-or-treaters are you expecting this year? That’s the number of servings you’ll need. Your estimate doesn’t have to be perfect, but give it your best shot. Use past experience and/or the collective experience and input of your neighbours to inform this estimate.
Once you have a headcount, you can start looking at bags to see how many servings they contain. Unfortunately, you can’t always trust the numbers on the package — suggested serving sizes rarely reflect how much people actually eat, and that’s extra true when you’re dealing with children and candy.
Estimate real-life serving sizes
This bag of Reese’s pumpkins purports to contain 16 servings. Given the suggested serving of two pumpkins, that works out to 32 pumpkins per bag. Here’s my question for Reese’s: In what universe would anyone willingly limit themselves to two of those pumpkins? Not this one! Personally, I’d bump the serving size up to 3 or 4 just to be safe, which brings the “real-life” servings per bag down to 8 or 10 — about half of the manufacturer’s estimate.
Use this method to estimate the actual servings in each bag of candy you buy. (If you aren’t sure about your estimates, ask a kid for feedback.) Ideally, you want the total number of actual servings to match or slightly exceed your headcount. There are two ways to see if you’re on track.
1. Add up the actual servings for every bag, compare to your headcount, and adjust as needed.
2. Subtract the actual servings per bag from your headcount until it hits zero.
These methods won’t tell you how many bags to buy, but that’s kind of the point. Not all bags of Halloween candy are created equal; focusing on the contents will give you a better shot at buying only what you need.
Skip the grab bags and variety packs
Speaking of what’s inside the bags, single-item bags are the way to go. Buying oversized, random assortments of no-name treats is a great way to end up with leftovers that nobody wants.
Popular candy is popular for a reason: Kids know what they like and there’s no point in fighting it, let alone on Halloween. If Skittles and Reese’s pumpkins are the top items year after year, make sure they’re well-represented in your candy bowl. Give the children what they want — buying anything else is a waste of money.