There is a simple formula to follow, but like everything 2020 brings, the answer is a little more complex this year.

With the arrival of October comes all of the beloved fall activities, from apple picking and any resulting baking to trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. But this year, as we enter another season of the pandemic, we're all learning to fit past traditions into our new normal. While this certainly complicates things, it doesn't render celebrations impossible. You just have to think creatively when making plans.

treat box decorated like bat with candy corns
Credit: Johnny Miller

Typically, you can figure out approximately how much candy to buy with the help of a simple formula: Divide the number of kids in your neighborhood or your average number of trick-or-treaters by the servings in each bag of candy. If you figure each kid will take one to two pieces, this should give you a pretty solid idea of how much candy you need. And if you're wavering? Opt to buy a little extra. It's always better to have too much (more for you) than to run out and have to shut your porch light off halfway through the evening. 

Of course, this year will be a bit different—especially considering the CDC announcement advising against trick-or-treating this Halloween. "Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses," the statement reads before suggesting other "safer" alternatives to in-person trick-or-treating, including doing a family Halloween scavenger hunt, having a Halloween movie night with people you live with, or carving pumpkins outside with neighbors or friends at a safe distance.

But because trick-or-treating isn't outright banned, you may still get some trick-or-treaters. According to a recent RetailMeNot survey, four in five Americans say that their plans for Halloween will change this year, and 48 percent say they won't take part in any trick-or-treating. Still, that leaves a fair amount of people who do plan to head out on the hunt for candy. A possible solution for these people? An activity the CDC classifies as a "moderate risk" activity: "one-way trick-or-treating," where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance. 

To better determine how much candy you'll need to satisfy anyone who chooses to go this route, first check to see what—if any—regulations are in place in your municipality. A group called the Halloween and Costume Association (HCA) has created an interactive map to help. The color-coded map of the country is based on current COVID-19 case and death count data and details specific Halloween guidelines based on risk level in your area. Here, a truncated breakdown.

Green Zone

In the green zone, the HCA says small parties and trick-or-treating can proceed as usual—as long as social distancing guidelines are in place.

Yellow Zone

In the yellow zone, the HCA says to wear a face mask and only trick-or-treat at places that follow strict safety protocols.

Orange Zone

In the orange zone, the HCA recommends a new system called "trick-or-treating in reverse, where kids dress up and friends or neighbors deliver candy to them in their front yard following social distancing guidelines.

Red Zone

In the red zone, the HCA does not recommend trick-or-treating, citing too many risks. If your town is in a red zone—or you simply decide to heed CDC guidelines and stay home—you can be more strategic about how much candy to purchase, says Kristi Shafer, vice president of marketing at the American Licorice Company. Consider creating Halloween-themed recipes and edible crafts with candy—or dropping off a special "Boo Box" on your neighbor's doorstep to keep the candy-filled Halloween spirit alive, she suggests. 

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
October 23, 2020
I don't know how many kids my house is going to get but my plan is really simple. I'm leaving the candy in a basket with a pump bottle of hand sanitizer and a sign that says: "Please be considerate of the other trick-or-treaters and sanitize your hands before foraging for candy. Thank you."