Halloween: The Trick is the Treat

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Trick or treat, smell my feet! Give me somethin' good to eat!

How cute it is to see all the little monsters and witches, superheroes and princesses knocking on your door, begging for a treat. A treat, right? Something good to eat, that's what they're asking for. But is that what they're getting? Are we giving these adorable little urchins something suitable and proper to eat? Hardly. We are filling their bags with sugars, additives, chemicals, fats, and all kinds of junk that serves no purpose other than to wreak havoc on their poor little bodies. We're damaging our kids, one bite size at a time. As it turns out, we've been tricked into believing we're giving these kids treats.

So what is the parent of one of these little panhandlers to do about all of these tricked up treats that are brought home? I'll tell you what we do in our house. Following tradition, the candy is first dumped out onto the middle of the floor so each child can see their spoils (literally, in this case) and admire their own Mt. St. Sugar. As a dutiful parent, I look through each mound, searching first for razor blades and stick pins (yes, I did grow up in the 80s). After removing anything unwrapped or questionable, I go in for round two. Anything that is mostly comprised of artificial dyes and flavorings (with a little high fructose corn syrup mixed in for taste) gets the boot immediately. Each kid is then allowed to pick a certain number of goodies from the remaining not-so-super-unhealthy candy. The rest of their loot is bought out. Yes, I pay my children for all of the junk that well-meaning neighbors donated to them because I happen to place a high value on their health. We take a trip to the store the following day and they get to spend their hard-earned cash on the toy of their choice. The edible goodies they picked out are given sparingly, usually over weeks, until they forget about it.

So what happens to the remaining cavity causers? Garbage. I throw away quite a bit of candy, let me tell you. The first couple of times I felt a guilty little twinge; I know people spent money on those sugary gifts and I abhor waste. In the end, we must do what is best for our family, and I know--and you know--that keeping a giant bowl full of sweets sitting on the counter is no good for anyone. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower for you and your child to resist a limitless amount of candy so easily accessible--get rid of it! Outta sight, outta mind!

Victory note for us: I just threw away some chocolate pumpkins from last year! Note to self: clean out the candy jar a little more frequently.

Okay, I'm not going to leave you hanging. Let's address the question that's been nagging you since my opening paragraph, if it's not good to hand out candy, what should we hand out? You can get bulk bags of toys, trinkets, pencils, puzzles, stickers, etc. for a price comparable to candy. If you have a larger budget, splurge on treats that offer some sort of nutritional value or, gasp!--real chocolate. What about money? My kids must visit at least one hundred houses, if they had a quarter--even a dime from every house they'd be in heaven!

What are your ideas? Can you list some healthier alternatives to hand out to the trick-or-treaters instead of candy? Ideally something that won't risk getting your house egged!

Wilted Lettuce and Fuzzy Grapes: Tips to Save Your Produce From the Trash

Why, oh why do we purchase lush, vibrant, nutrient-packed produce, only to bring it home and banish it to a slow and painful death in the refrigerator crisper? We find the prettiest, healthiest fruits and veggies in the store--bursting with color and flavor--and then we welcome them into our home by stuffing them into a drawer with no light, little air, and only rot for company. We forget about it until garbage night rolls around and we're forced to sort through the stinking, browning, oozing remains; tossing all of the previously beautiful produce into the trash.

Maybe you're like me, heartbroken over the gloriously planned meals gone to waste, or maybe you're like my husband, frustrated by the money spent and tossed right into the garbage. Either way, here are some tips to save your produce and your pennies:

1. Quit buying so many fruits and veggies!

Didn't see that suggestion coming, did you? Obviously I'm a huge advocate of eating fresh produce, and it's great when you go to the grocery store full of good intentions and load up your cart with healthy foods, but if it doesn't get eaten, it was all for naught. Rather than being wasteful and risk having the mindset, "We didn't eat it last time, why should I buy more?" on your next shopping spree, plan to pace yourself. Don't buy all of the stuff you should eat, buy the produce your family will realistically eat. Personally, I never buy plums and peaches on the same shopping trip; there will be far too many casualties.

2. Test the law of supply and demand.

Despite all of my best attempts at mothering, my children still bicker over food. When I don't want to hear them argue, I'll put a fair amount on each plate, but I'm not above using their greediness to my advantage. I'll chop up half a bell pepper and tell them that's all there is, get it before it's gone; the pieces usually disappear before I have a chance to offer some hummus. I like to put out a plate of chopped up broccoli and watch them fight over who can eat the biggest piece, the only rule being if you take it, you eat it. When I have one lone mango remaining, I announce I'm cutting up the last one and listen to them come running for it. Limit the supply and it will increase the demand.

3. Assign a Food Manager.

Give someone in your household the task of going through the produce drawers every few days. Ideally it's not the person who does the shopping (because they already know it's in there and have grand plans to use it!) and bonus if it's a frugal person. Kids would make great managers, as they'd love the opportunity to nag their parents a bit! The food manager's job is to check inventory and remind the household chef to use it, this is not to round up the weekly donation for the garbage collector.

4. Honor their sacrifice.

Okay, so it sounds a little hokey, but maybe we should put more honor and value on our produce. It was part of a living thing and ideally a bunch farmers put a lot of effort and care into growing and harvesting all the fruits and vegetables we find in our markets. Try to appreciate the abundance of vitamins and minerals that produce offers; it's certainly more miraculous than a bottle of supplements.

5. Go on a rescue mission.

Try to salvage whatever you can, however you can. The food manager will play an important part in this, as the fruits and veggies most in need of rescuing must be identified. Some produce that can't be eaten right away can be frozen. An abundance of vegetables can be thrown together to make a stir-fry or a salad. Fruit can also be mixed together in a salad, it can be served as dessert, or you can experiment with ways to incorporate it into a meal (think mango salsa or peach chicken). Be creative and be bold in your rescue mission; above all else, save the celery!

Share some ways you save produce and pennies in the comments below.