Another Halloween has passed.

Not only was it not scary in our neck of the woods, with no little red riding hoods or big bad wolves; it was barely noticeable. We had four kids in total that came by the house to trick or treat…and three of them were from one family whom I’d directly invited.

The numbers are getting less and less each year so I’m buying less candy to give out to avoid getting stuck with sweets that aren’t worth the calories. Don’t get me wrong – I like my chocolate, but in the mixed boxes, I find we inevitably get at least one or two types of candy that we’re not bothered with, but that get eaten simply because they are there.

Worse than that, the packages of chocolates are offering less and less. Not that many years ago, the mini chocolate bars were e.g. 20 grams each and then got smaller and smaller, working through 18 g, 15 g, 12 g. This year in a box of 45 bars, the total was 500 grams, meaning each bar was barely over 10 grams. A couple of years ago, a similar size box of 40 treats or so would have been at least 650 grams, which was already a solid decrease, so now we’re dealing with another big drop.

Numbers are really important but can be deceiving. Ultimately the true number to go by is the full package’s weight, not the number of bars. A box of ninety bars a few years ago was 1.3 kg but now is less than 1 kg and the prices haven’t fallen. Who else can get away with cutting out thirty percent of the product?

The chocolate bars are truly just one bite’s worth, or maybe two bites for a tiny goblin, barely worth the packaging that needs to be opened.

Awareness for this and endless other products is a good starting point. Comparing one brand to another (including lesser known brands) and one store’s prices to another can also help. The smaller bags usually cost more relatively, e.g. 200 grams for $4, but then again you may not want to buy too big of a box even if it costs less per bar as you’ll pay less relatively but more overall. Buying treats not too far ahead of time (like I used to do, “testing” the chocolates by the beginning of October) but not too late (like I did this year when stores were basically sold out) can help. Generally the sales happen about a week before Halloween, so if you can be a bit disciplined, you can get a big box and hopefully still have half of it left by the time the princesses and pumpkins are out and about.

Unlike other occasions, it can feel limited to find options for Halloween. E.g. I can make some things at home, like cranberry sauce or guacamole, when I find the store version is a rip off, but I can’t just go and make homemade chocolate bars for a bunch of strange kids. They’d think I was strange. It would be even worse than the boxes of raisins we got when I was a kid.

Ultimately though, it’s not specifically just about Halloween. These products are just one striking example of the dramatic shrinking of products. I mean, how low can you go?

What kind of balance can you find to not feel ripped off but to still welcome what comes to your door? How can we rewrite the story on the big bad wolf chocolate companies who eat up our money?

My tale involves buying bigger bars for better deals for the oh so few little tykes that come by, and making sure to turn out the light in time to get our own chocolate dose, so we won’t be deprived.

Like the actual tales of Little Red Riding Hood, there are many possible endings, so you can find the story that works best for you and helps you and your budget sleep well at night.

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