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Ask the Readers: How do I make frugal party treat bags?

Cathy wrote in with this question:

  I am looking for some more frugal ideas for treat bags for Christmas/Valentine/Halloween parties.   With multiple kids in elementary school, making treat bags can be expensive. (60 treat bags this year for us)

I also face the challenge of accommodating allergies, keeping it healthy and not wanting to waste money on junky party favor type gifts.   Pinterest has some good ideas but I was hoping you and your readers had some more ideas for me.


I haven’t run into a bunch of treat bag situations myself, largely because we homeschool.

(And the parties we have at dance and Kung Fu haven’t been the type that require treat bags.)

So, I am extremely not equipped to answer this question.

Which means that I’m turning to you all for help!   I’m positive there are a bunch of you out there who have mastered this part of parent life, and I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments.

Help Cathy out!

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Jem Horwood

Thursday 8th of February 2018

The idea that schools are now banning homemade treats and that everything must be individually wrapped makes me very sad. It seems yet another way the schools are owned by the corporations and are submitting to a consumerist, bland, one-size-fits-all mentality. What is the reasoning behind it? Is it allergies, knowledge of ingredients, something like that? Whatever the reason, it will drain a bit more of the richness out of some kids’ lives.

Jem Horwood

Thursday 8th of February 2018

Forgot to say, so distracted and taken up by my rant: for my daughter’s sixth birthday we had just bought our first home and it had a hot tub. We were pretty poor otherwise at the time. We went to a place called Imagination Market, where you could buy recycled products from companies, super cheaply. (Like stuff a paper grocery bag as full as possible for $10.) There we’re things like the shiny backing left after the rows of sequins had been cut out, feathers, outlines from around stickers, packing materials, all kinds of things. It was a fabulous place. Then I went to the paint store and got enough of those free hats for all the kids. We set up a craft table outside and they went in and out of the hot tub when they felt like it. The hats were an enormous success and they took them home instead of goody bags. All food and treats we made from scratch using whatever was in the pantry already. The whole party pretty much cost $10 and to this day, both of my older kids remember it as the best birthday party we had over all those years. And that includes some seriously fancier/more expensive ones later on!


Tuesday 6th of February 2018

I went and bought valentines this weekend at the grocery store ($2.99 for 24, they all included some treat— we picked the origami animal option). Then today we got instructions from school—no cards, no candy, they’re doing a book exchange. (Luckily there are plenty of books in the gift closet from duplicates DC2 has gotten.)


Saturday 3rd of February 2018

There are some easy, healthy ideas for Valentine's day and other holiday parties at school on Kitchen Stewardship's website:


Thursday 1st of February 2018

The blog Life with Fingerprints has some very cute free downloadable tags and ideas for both candy and non-candy valentines.


Thursday 1st of February 2018

We also just opt out of treat bags for anything school-related. I don’t even do them for birthday parties any more. We usually do some kind of project or craft the kids can take home, buy small games to play during the party that we then give to the guests (Uno, or other card games), or have the party at a bowling alley that gives the kids tokens for arcade games or coupons for a free game of bowling.

I find treat bags frustrating - either my kids don’t like or need the candy, or the cheap toys break and/or clutter up their rooms.

I do like the idea of stocking up on colored pencils or crayons in the fall for small gifts - not sure I’d remember for birthday parties, though, as my kids are June and July!

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