Nfld. & Labrador

$20 Lady: This Halloween, give 'em something good to eat

Halloween is a time of creepy costumes, staying up late and more junk than any kid should ever have to eat. Columnist Dara Squires says parents can do better, and their kids will thank them for it.
Some paper bags and inexpensive snack ideas came together for Dara Squires' plan to give out something special next week. (Dara Squires)

Halloween: creative costumes, staying up late, delightfully frightful fun and … junk.

Oh the junk. Bags full of it. A lot of it is not just junk because it is junk food, but also because much of it is the lowest denominator of junk food: no-name brand chips, stale gum, those rocket candies that no child actually likes. 

I understand why people go for the cheaper, no-name brand or the always-on-sale-because-no-one-wants-them rockets. It’s about affordability.

But you can do better. In fact, you can even go less junky, and still make the kids happy.

I polled my kids and some friends’ kids this year to ask what their favourite "treats" were. They mentioned the expected: Cheezies and chocolate. But they also mentioned things I hadn’t thought of.

A couple of kids said their favourites were things they could bring to school the week after Halloween: fruit roll-ups, crackers, juice boxes. My daughter mentioned how much she likes getting treat bags — they’re like getting an actual present, no matter what’s in there. My boys agreed with her excitedly on that.

My mission is set

So my mission? Get sensible, kid-approved, not-too-cheap Halloween treats for $20.

My first job was to determine how many kids I needed to prep for. It’s our first Halloween in this neighbourhood. After asking a few neighbours, I came to the conclusion of 30 to 40 kids. I aimed for 40. When you think about it, that’s 50 cents per child, which isn’t too bad.

By Dara Squires, CBC News Posted: Sep 24, 2014 7:20 AM NT Last Updated: Sep 24, 2014 7:20 AM NT

But I wanted to avoid the really junky stuff that I knew would already fill the kids’ bags and the cheap junky stuff that I knew no kids would like. That made it a little harder.

A couple of weeks ago, while buying groceries, I saw boxes of Goldfish crackers on sale. Fifty individual bags for $5.99.

I picked up a box for the kids’ school snacks and grabbed another thinking they would be good for Halloween. My original idea was to pair them with some Kool-Aid juice boxes.

Frightful or funny, dressing up Halloween treats can make them even more appealing, particularly in a homemade loot bag. (Dara Squires)

However, when I priced it out, 10 juice boxes at the sale price of $2.49 plus 80 cents deposit would mean that along with the Goldfish crackers I’d almost blow my budget on what didn’t seem like a really awesome treat.

So instead I took my daughter’s advice and made loot bags. Awesome monster loot bags from paper bags that only cost $1.25 for 40.

I nixed the Kool-Aid juice boxes (and that extra deposit fee) and found single-serve Hawaiian fruit punch mixes at the dollar store instead – eight for a dollar!

The money I saved by finding the fruit punch mixes I then spent on glow bracelets – always a big hit with my kids and any other kids I ever give them to! The dollar store had packs of them for six for a dollar.

All told, I went over budget by just 31 cents, but I got a little more than needed, spending $20.31 on 50 bags of Goldfish crackers, 42 glow bracelets, 40 drink mixes and 40 paper bags.

I’ll also spend some quality time with my kids in the next week colouring the bags … and that kind of thing is priceless.


Dara Squires is a single mother of three, working, living, and scraping by in St. John’s.