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Healthy, frugal Halloween treats

My brother, sisters and I all remember the Halloween in the late '70s that Mom decided that instead of candy, she'd give out popcorn. It is referred to as the "Crappy Halloween," specifically because of Mom's attempt at healthy treats -- and she pilfered and ate all of our trick-or-treating chocolate while we were in sugar-induced comas.

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Poor Mom. She tried, but a healthy Halloween is a pretty big challenge.

When I starting handing out treats in my own home, I faced a different dilemma.

Those bags of mini-candy bars aren't cheap when you're planning to feed every child in the neighborhood. I didn't want to be "that house" -- the one with the candy you tricked your younger siblings into swapping with you -- or worse, threw away.

The following healthy and frugal alternatives to candy corn, chocolate bars and other traditional sugar-overkill treats won't break any dental plans -- or your pocketbook. But they will be excellent surprises for the trick-or-treaters who knock on your door this Halloween.

Money
How can money be cheaper than a sugary treat? Because kids don't know the value of it. Ask anyone under 5 years of age if they would rather have two pennies or one quarter. They'll pick the pennies every time. Wrap up the amount you choose in a bit of Halloween plastic wrap tied with a ribbon, or just put all your change in a big bucket and dole it out, reaching into the container like you're The Donald. The kids won't know the difference.

Halloween balloons
These treats are sure to be a hit. You can find Halloween balloons at party supply stores, grocery stores and gift shops. The biggest cost you'll have with balloons is the toll they will take on your lungs. Invite some friends over to help you blow up all the balloons before kids start arriving. You might also consider having the store fill them up with helium for you -- although this might add to the cost. Remember to purchase some matching orange or black ribbon to secure the balloon.

Sugar-free gum
It's sticky, sweet and low-calorie.

Erasers, pencils and pencil toppers
Go to a teaching supply store, office supply store or dollar store and load up on Halloween-themed erasers, pencils and pencil toppers.

Small boxes of raisins
Check a bulk-sales store and compare prices with your local grocery store for the best buy.

Plastic rings
Party supply stores will have plenty of plastic rings decorated with spiders, skulls and pumpkins -- most made to fit little fingers.

Cheese and cracker packs
You'll want to comparison shop at a bulk-sale store and your grocery store for these as well. Watch the price. These can get pretty expensive if you're not careful.

Fruit cups or applesauce cups
Buy the cases with individually wrapped cups and hand out one cup per child.

Make-it-yourself
You'll find lots of recipes on the Web for make-it-yourself Halloween treats -- like popcorn balls, candy apples and cookies. These may be neat and can be less expensive than store-bought candy -- but keep in mind that many parents won't want their children eating anything from a stranger that doesn't come pre-packed. But you can still make them for your guests or for your own children.

Whatever you decide to hand out, you'll have more fun if you get into the Halloween spirit. So grab a mask and some plastic fangs, pop in your DVD of "Halloween V" and invite some friends over for a spooky evening.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy
-- Updated: Oct. 12, 2008
 
 
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Make your own Halloween costume
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