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A Better Buy-Back

Halloween Buy-Backs were all the rage this year, so I decided to get in on some of the action. 

But instead of buying my daughter’s candy back with money, toys, or other non-consumables, I offered to buy back my daughter’s candy with … more candy.   Not just any candy, though, better candy.

Yup.  Instead of trying to de-candify Halloween I upped the ante.  I allowed my daughter to swap any candy she didn’t absolutely LOVE for candy she adores.

Volume is the Halloween problem “poster-child.”

The central food-message of Halloween has got to be gluttony (or is it greed?).  In my neighborhood, some kids use pillowcases to lug around their loot.  And the buy-back programs bring a level of sanity to the situation by reducing the sheer tonnage.

The buy-back programs, however, don’t do much to teach kids a general strategy for surviving other situations where there’s also an onslaught of sweets and treats.  That’s a lesson they really need to learn. After all, kids still have to navigate past Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday parties, the drugstore candy aisle and, of course, Grandma’s house. (And I don't know about any buy-backs for those occasions.) 

The “hidden” problem with Halloween is that it teaches kids to eat what they have, not what they want.

My daughter isn’t the kind of kid who goes crazy for candy.  In fact, it only takes about a week before she’s basically forgotten about the Halloween bag, even though it’s usually still overflowing with goodies.

The mere presence of the Halloween candy bag, however, means we almost never buy candy for my daughter (and she’s too careful with her allowance to buy candy for herself).  As a result, whenever my daughter gets a craving for some candy, her only choice is to go for whatever goods she’s got. And therein lies the problem.

You can only be truly satisfied by eating foods you love.  Unfortunately, Halloween teaches kids to eat what they get. It's a kind of scarcity-response, even in the face of abundance.

Eat what you LOVE, not what’s available.

If there were ever a message that kids needed to learn, this is it.

Instead, the real Halloween lesson goes something like this: eat as much candy as you can even if you don’t like it that much.

And if you have a kid who doesn’t get candy that often, the message goes something like this: you better take advantage of this candy because you’re not getting a lot more of it in the near future.

I was surprised when my daughter sorted her candy to find out how few items made the cut.

And surprised when we went shopping by what she bought instead. (I guess there is no accounting for taste!) But there was even another surprise: my daughter bought less than she gave away, reducing the size of her supply by about one third!

Now, I'm confident my daughter's stash is stocked with delights and that she'll savor every bite. That's the habit I want her to learn for a lifetime of holiday eating. 

~ Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits. ~

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Reader Comments (9)

I'm gonna need a little time for this to sink in, but I think I love it! Did you buy the "bad" candy from your daughter and then she used the money to buy better stuff??

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy


Yes, I bought the "bad" candy for $5, which my daughter thought was a fair price.


November 16, 2010 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

Love it. This is exactly what we do, though I don't actually "buy" the bad candy. I just have the good stuff available for trade.

I blogged about our whole Halloween candy strategy here: http://spoonfedblog.net/2010/10/20/candy-insanity-halloween-here-we-come/ And then did a follow-up here: http://spoonfedblog.net/2010/11/03/halloween-post-mortem-candy-recalls-and-why-teachers-hate-the-day-after/

Lively discussions both times!

Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina @ Spoonfed

Interesting idea. Our 5 year old twins have been given plenty of candy, but we usually buy the things mom and dad like, so they've never been introduced to many of the items they brought home in their Halloween stash. They each had one piece after we got home that night since it was already bedtime on a school night (morning preschool). The day after Halloween, after lunch, I have them their buckets and let them eat as much as they wanted in one sitting. They were allowed to sample and/or eat whatever they wanted. The tasted and discarded a lot of candy. They picked out all the ones they didn't like and gave them to me to dispose of. They actually consumed about 5 entire pieces. After that, they said they were done. Since then, they've asked for 1-2 pieces for dessert and they've asked for one other free for all, which I happily allowed. I'm considering encouraging another free for all to get rid of the last 1/2 dozen pieces of their personal stashes so we can just have a communal candy supply again. I'm tired of those pumpkins taking up space on my counter and they won't hear of Halloween candy occupying another container.

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRhonda

This is SO great! Thinking outside the square for sure, and nailing what other parents struggle with for ages right on the head.

I'm inspired to try this this very weekend at home on my own little glutton.

November 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFamily Matters

This is GENIUS. I am a recovering sugar addict, 12 days sober :-) and I'm looking for ways to introduce sugar back in - in moderation instead of gluttony that I'm used to. Very good advice not just for kids, but for adults. How many times AS ADULTS to we just eat what's in front of us because it's available? Awesome advice.

November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole V


Thanks for your kind words--Genius!! I love it. Seriously though, I agree that adults too often eat what's in front of us, rather than what we really like. Research even backs this up. Good for you for trying to figure out how to put the good stuff back into your life in a reasonable way.



November 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

I don't like the idea of a candy buy-back. It teaches kids that if we don't like something, they can complain and someone else will give them something better. They are getting Hand-outs and shouldn't be picky. If they don't like it, they can choose to eat it or not. If they eat it, then free must have been okay. I don't like the idea of parents upgrading if kids don't like what others give them. Sends the message that parents will give them what they want when others disappoint them. It's better that kids learn to work for something if free isn't good enough and parents should teach kids how to do that. Also, we all have to eat things we don't like. Some people think vegetables are absolutely delicious, but let's face it, most people would rather eat cake if taste were the only consideration. We still need to eat vegetables, You don't need to eat candy, if what you got is not what you like, oh well, learn to deal with disappointment. If you are taking a handout, don't complain. There are plenty of people in the world who don't get candy.

April 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterprincess

Hi Princess,

I hear where you're coming from, and in general, I agree with you that kids should graciously accept what's given to them and then decide whether or not to eat it. On Halloween, however, I think there has to be an exception--because in this case, I think there is a larger lesson. I don't think of people giving out candy on Halloween in the same category as people giving kids presents, and I do think of Halloween in the same category of eating to excess. Nonetheless, I think your approach is pretty good! Thanks for sharing it!


April 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterDina Rose

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