Best Uses for Leftover Halloween Candy (Other Than Eating It!)

For all that we try to keep our kids’ sugar intake at a reasonable level, this is the time of year when candy control becomes a nearly impossible feat. If your house is anything like mine, then the Halloween candy stockpiles are barely depleted before the next round of sweets start rolling in thanks to the winter holidays. Over the years, I’ve tried to come up with creative ways to manage the sugar overflow – from hiding candy, rationing it out on a daily basis…and yes, maybe, eating a bit of it myself. It’s the least I can do to keep my kids healthy, right?

But there are even better ways that we can limit the sugar intake while teaching our kids some great lessons about sharing, donating, and creativity along the way. In this week’s Best of Richmond installation, we’re looking at ways to limit post-Halloween sugar comas in fun ways that not only engage your kids, but make everyone feel good about giving up some of those sugary treats.

To make our list, we looked for organizations and activities that offered the following criteria:

  1. Re-purposing of candy in a productive way (i.e., it doesn’t go straight in the trash)
  2. Easy to do
  3. Offers lessons in giving and/or creativity

Of course, some of these ideas might go over better with older kids who understand the underlying principles you’re trying to instill. We know all too well that trying to convince a three- or four-year old to give back the candy that they worked so hard to collect on Halloween night might be a little easier said than done. So if you’re wanting to participate in some of the following activities, but aren’t looking forward to the meltdown that accompanies prying candy from a toddler’s grubby little hands, try introducing the “Switch Witch.” The Switch Witch is a tooth fairy-like being that collects candy left out overnight, and leaves a small toy or book in its place. Or set up a “candy store” where your kids can use candy as currency to buy other non-sweet treats.

We’ll leave the candy collection up to you, but once you’ve got all of that sugary goodness back in your control, try one of these great ideas….and keep them in mind for when the next wave of candy madness sets in!

1. Donate to the Troops

Halloween candy TROOPS
Operation Gratitude – Halloween Candy Give Back Program / Facebook

There are a number of organizations that collect candy and send them to military service men and women serving around the world. Candy is included in a variety of care packages that you can send yourself, or donate to existing organizations that assemble and send packages on a regular basis. Here are a few of our favorites:

Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude sends care packages to deployed troops and first responders throughout the year and likes to include candy in every package they send. They rely heavily on their annual Halloween candy give-back program to keep their candy supply up. To donate your leftover Halloween candy, you can collect it yourself or start a candy collection campaign at your local school, church, or other organization. Operation Gratitude also accepts hand-written thank you notes, as well as donations of floss, travel size toothpaste, pens and mechanical pencils.

Once your candy and any other supplies are collected, ship your packages no later than November 9, 2018 to:

Operation Gratitude
Attn: Halloween Candy Program
21100 Lassen Street
Chatsworth, CA 91311-4278

For more details about the program, how to collect and send your donation, or to find existing candy drop-off locations in the Richmond area, click here.


Soldiers’ Angels: Treats for Troops

Soldiers’ Angels is a non-profit organization that provides support and care for active military members and veterans. During the month of November, they accept candy donations that will be shipped to deployed service members around the world and distributed to veterans in VA Hospitals across the country. Donations can be collected through a larger organization like a school or local business or you can ship your donations as an individual to support a good cause, allow your kids to earn buyback prizes, and receive a tax-deductible receipt. With four Richmond area drop-off locations, donating is simple. Get all the details here.


Operation Shoebox

With candy collection that runs year-round, Operation Shoebox keeps our troops feeling loved and remembered, especially during holidays when they can’t be with their families. Collecting and donating your unwanted candy couldn’t be easier – simply gather individually wrapped candies, and send them to:

Operation Shoebox
8360 East Highway 25
Belleview. Fl. 34420

Operation Shoebox volunteers will collect all donations and include them in care packages sent to deployed troops all year long.


2. Ronald McDonald House Charities

Halloween Candy RMHC
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond / Facebook

Through local chapters across the country, Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) provides essential care and support for families with a child or other family member receiving medical care at hospitals and medical centers that are out-of-town. They help to alleviate some of the financial and emotional strain that accompanies caring for a sick family member by offering affordable lodging, meals, and a home-like environment.

Here in Richmond, RMHC offers lodging, a Family Room at VCU Medical Center, and a sibling center. Throughout the year, they collect donations to help support their mission. Consider contacting Richmond’s RMHC chapter to donate your leftover or excess Halloween candy and bring a smile to the faces of families experiencing difficult times.

Contact RMCH Richmond at:

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond, Virginia, Inc.
2330 Monument Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23220 USA
Phone: (804) 355-6517


3. Halloween Candy Buy Back Program

Halloween Candy Buy Back
Halloween Candy Buy Back Program / Facebook

The Halloween Candy Buy Back Program started as a way to promote dental hygiene by offering kids a chance to earn rewards for candy they give back to local dentist offices after Halloween. However, since they formed more than a decade ago, they have grown to include other organizations, as well. When a dentists’ office or other local business signs up as a Halloween Candy Buy Back participant, they agree to give kids rewards, and sometimes even money, as a means of encouraging them to skip the candy and think about their overall health. Candy collected from these organizations are then sent to deployed service members.

What we love about the Candy Buy Back Program is how it offers multiple learning opportunities. Not only can you teach your kids about giving back (i.e., giving candy to the troops), but you have a unique opportunity to teach them about making choices (i.e., choosing a reward that is healthier than sugar-loaded candy).

To find a Halloween Candy Buy Back Program participant near you, click here and enter your zip code at the top of the page.


4. Get Creative with Science Experiments!

Halloween Candy Skittles
via Little Bins for Little Hands

Maybe your kids didn’t collect a motherlode of candy this year, or perhaps you’ve already donated (ok, ok…or eaten) the lion’s share of your stash. If you find that you just can’t seem to get rid of the candy stragglers, why not turn them in to a learning opportunity? Candy can be used for a wide variety of fun science experiments that will not only create a great family activity, but get your kids’ minds moving in a non-sugar induced way. Best of all, this is an activity that isn’t limited to Halloween, which means it can be done any time you find your candy count getting a bit high.

Here are a few of our favorites – or do a search for your own!

The Skittles Rainbow
“Dancing” Gummi Worms
 Pop Rocks Bubbles
Spark-in-the-Dark Lifesavers


5. Re-Purpose Candy into Crafts

Halloween Candy Wreath
via Newlywed Survival

Who hasn’t worn a macaroni necklace at some point in their parenting career? And if pasta can be re-purposed, then why not candy? There are all sorts of fun crafts you and your kids can do using Halloween candy. Consider having your kids “donate” candy to a designated crafts box, then use it to prep for upcoming holidays or save it for creative projects throughout the year. We’ve provided a few simple suggestions below, but a simple Pinterest or general internet search will offer even more great ideas.

  • Make Halloween wreaths to be used for next year
  • Set aside a stockpile of candy to use for a holiday gingerbread house
  • Make an advent calendar leading up to Thanksgiving or Christmas
  • Fashion candy into “jewelry”

Looking for even more ways to do something other than binge with your Halloween candy? Don’t forget places like nursing homes, homeless shelters, food pantries, hospitals, and other local community support groups that might be interested in taking some of those extra sweet treats off your hands! Just be sure to call first in case there are any restrictions or guidelines regarding donations.

For even more great resources, activities, and ideas in the Richmond area, be sure to visit our entire Best of Richmond series!