20 Surprising Subscription Box Ideas
Modena Balsamic Quarterly Subscription
Best for: The discerning home chef
Made in Modena, Italy (so you know it’s the real-deal), this quarterly shipment will delight novice and expert cooks alike who are looking to take a Caprese salad to the next level or make a divine sauce for balsamic strawberries.
Frequency and fees: $194 for quarterly subscription; $8 one-time shipping fee
Pros: The vinegar is certified I.G.P., meaning it has been verified as having been produced where it says it has (Modena).
Cons: The flavor doesn’t change each quarter so if your recipient doesn’t quickly use the vinegar it might pile up.
To order: food52.com.
Fab Fit Fun Box
Best for: Anyone who could use some pampering
Great for a busy mom or on-the-go friend, this box features products from well-known brands and newcomers. Beauty products like nail polish, lip-gloss and shampoo are commonly included, but there’s more to this box of goodies. Past boxes have contained lifestyle favorites like candles, workout DVDs, granola bars, scarves and even umbrellas.
Frequency and fees: $50 for one box; $180 for an annual subscription of 4 boxes; $8/box shipping for Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Pros: The products you get are full-sized, as compared to the travel-size options other subscription boxes usually include.
Cons: The service is quarterly, rather than monthly.
To order: fabfitfun.com.
Gwynnie Bee Clothing Box
Best for: Curvy fashionistas
This clothing rental box allows the recipient to select from a variety of stylish clothing options (like Melissa McCarthy’s new line) from dresses to pants in sizes 10 to 32. Better yet, the site has a size adviser tool which makes trying new styles and brands a cinch.
Frequency and fees: $49 a month for one item out at a time, $69 for two items out at a time, $95 for three items out at a time, and $199 for 10 items out at a time; shipping included.
Pros: Unlimited exchanges are offered within the month and pre-paid return envelopes are included with each shipment.
Cons: Items aren’t brand new, so there may be some wear.
To order: gwynniebee.com.
Try the World Box
Best for: The adventurous taster
Curated by notable chefs, this gourmet delicacy box will make the recipient feel like a world traveler right in the comfort of her own home. Included is a culture guide for each item, which features the story behind the product and recipes that showcase it best.
Frequency and fees: $39 per box for one month, $35 with a 3-month subscription, $33 per box with a 6-month subscription, $29 per box for a 12-month subscription.
Pros: if you like something from the box you can order more of it at trytheworld.com.
Cons: Not good for picky palates.
To order: trytheworld.com.
Best of Mouth Subscription Box
Best for: Hip gourmands
Get this for the friend who’s a fan of unique and little-known food purveyors (Vermont goat milk caramel pumped up with cold-brew coffee, anyone?). Each box features four to five products (from pickles to peanut-butter-and-jelly chocolate bars) made by passionate, indie American companies.
Frequency and fees: $60 per box for three months, $55 per box with a 6-month subscription, $50 per box with a year subscription.
Pros: The digital certificate you receive when ordering doubles as a card that you can print or forward to the recipient.
Cons: Price is a bit steep.
To order: mouth.com.
Stonewall Kitchen Specialty Food Club
Best for: Homestyle foodies
This monthly box is loaded with American specialties with a farmer’s market feel. The samplers have a seasonal spin and feature the company’s wildly popular jams and jellies, cocktail helpers (like sea breeze and island punch mixers), deli condiments, pancake mix and other tasty snacks.
Frequency and fees: $80 a month for three months, $160 for six months, $320 for 12 months.
Pros: Products are seasonal by month (peppermint hot chocolate for December, lemon pound cake mix in April, maple chipotle grill sauce in June).
Cons: Shipping is not included in base rate.
To order: stonewallkitchen.com.
Teavana Tea of the Month
Best for: Teatime aficionados
This is for the friend who always sticks to her ritual of afternoon tea. There’s a new blend or flavor to discover each month. Each package comes with four ounces of the core tea and two-ounce samples of the other featured teas—all expertly curated by tea connoisseurs.
Frequency and fees: $40 per month for an ongoing subscription, $100 for a three-month subscription; shipping free.
Pros: There’s plenty of variety in each sampling of teas. Plus, you can choose to skip a month and if you don’t love one of the teas, you can contact the company.
Cons: You won’t know which teas you’re getting until you receive the box.
To order: teavana.com.
Blooms of the Month
Best for: Fans of fresh flowers
One thing just about everyone can agree on? That fresh flowers on the table make any room a happier place. This year, give the gift that keeps on giving.
Frequency and fees: $32 per month for 12 classic-sized bouquets. Two larger sizes (deluxe and grand) are also available for an additional charge.
Pros: Each month he or she will receive one bouquet, created from a variety of twelve hand-selected stems cut to order from eco-friendly, sustainable flower farms.
Cons: You won’t know what type of flowers they’ll get until they arrive, so no picking favorites.
To order: thebouqs.com.
Sock It to Me
Best for: The professional guy
He probably already has a ton of ties that match his go-to suit. Or, maybe the dress code at his office is on the more casual side. Either way, we’re pretty sure one thing he really does need is some quality, comfortable socks. Over the period of four months he’ll get three pairs of dapper dress socks chosen by the stylists at The Tie Bar.
Frequency and fees: $89 for 12 pairs of socks (including shipping costs).
Pros: In just four months time his sock drawer will have received a total makeover—and he’ll have you to thank for that.
Cons: No mixing and matching accessories—just socks.
To order: thetiebar.com.
Kiwi Crate 3-Month Subscription
Best for: Creative kids
Shopping for kids can be tough—especially if you don’t have your own children at home. Plus, one thing just about everyone knows is how quickly the little ones tire of their toys. Rather than stand on line for this season’s biggest craze, let the experts at Kiwi Crate select the gifts for you.
Frequency and fees: $60 for three months, $110 for six months, and $205 for 12 months; free shipping.
Pros: The lucky recipient will look forward to getting a themed crate, filled with experiments, projects, and games, once a month for a period of three months. Select the appropriate age range to ensure your niece, nephew, or grandchild gets the box best suited for them.
Cons: You could probably buy the raw materials for less, but part of what you’re paying for is the inspiration.
To order: kiwicrate.com.
Box of Style From The Zoe Report
Best for: A fashionable friend
You could get her a trendy lariat necklace or a set of mismatched studs to up her style factor. You could even try your luck at picking out a pair of wide-legged pants or a bell-sleeved blouse to encourage her to try a new trend. Or, you could let the fashionable experts at The Zoe Report make the style decisions for you.
Frequency and fees: Four times during the year (once per season), the recipient will get a box full of expertly curated clothing items, accessories, beauty products, and more fashion essentials. $100 per box.
Pros: The curation makes it easier (and more fun) to try new trends.
Cons: No returns accepted, so what you get is, well, what you get.
To order: thezoereport.com.
Best for: The reader
Lit lovers, rejoice! Now you can get your best pal from book club a gift that you know is sure to be an absolute home run. Get a box for yourself, so you can discuss the picks over coffee.
Frequency and fees: She’ll get three fiction books sent right to her doorstep every three months.
Pros: Each box, which comes tied with a beautiful satin bow, also includes a seasonal gift and a piece of art commissioned by the company’s artist in residence.
Cons: If you like to mix genres, you may miss your fill of non-fiction titles.
To buy: $350 for four seasonal fiction boxes a year, quarterlanebooks.com.
Love With Food
Best for: Discerning snackers
Love With Food is on a mission. Two, actually: To fill mailboxes with hard-to-find gourmet goodies packed in themed sets (healthy, New-Year’s-resolution-friendly treats in January or sweet Valentine’s Day surprises in February), and to fill food banks across the country with meals for those in need. (Every Love With Food box purchase buys one meal donation through the Feeding America Network and Share Our Strength—No Kid Hungry.)
Frequency and fees: $10 per month for 3-month plans (shipping $2), 6-month plans (shipping $1), or 12-month plans (free shipping).
Pros: Subscribers get discounts (and often free shipping) on items in the online shop; last month’s deals included 15% off a four-jar sampler of Fat Toad Farm's Goat Milk Caramel Sauce and nearly half off a variety pack of specialty olive oils and vinegars by Oliovera.
Cons: Some sample sizes might be just enough to whet your appetite—but not quite satisfy it.
To order: lovewithfood.com.
Best for: An eco-conscious friend
Each month, the recipient will get an assortment of seasonally appropriate, environmentally conscious products to complete the featured DIY project. There’s no excess here: Only items with practical, everyday uses are chosen for each box. A wide range of products means everyone from foodies (who will love the homebrewed hard cider) to beauty junkies (who will flip for the homemade soap) will eventually receive something they’ll love.
Frequency and fees: From $34-39 per month in 1- to 12-month increments; shipping varies based on frequency.
Pros: You’ll learn about making natural, organic products for everyday living.
Cons: The kits don’t include excess materials, so if you botch a first attempt, you’re out of luck.
To order: homegrowncollective.com.
Best for: Cash-strapped collectors
It’s like having your own affordable-art curator on retainer: Papirmasse mails out archival-quality prints of emerging artists’ work—paintings, illustrations, collages and more—with a piece of original, contemporary creative writing stamped on the reverse. The format changes from month to month: Past projects have ranged from a 5-by-7-inch booklet to an 18-by-24-inch poster.
Frequency and fees: $5.75 per month (annual subscriptions only); free shipping.
Pros: It's a two-for-one culture fix for the cost of a coffee.
Cons: You'll have to find the frames yourself.
To order: papirmass.com.
Best for: Makeup mavens
There’s a better way to score freebies than stalking your department store cosmetics counter. Birchbox ships out four to five deluxe product samples (think travel-size, not single-use) each month from brands like Benefit, Kiehl’s, Ouai, Stila, and Oribe—some tailored to the recipient’s specific beauty needs.
Frequency and fees: For self-subscription, choose from a monthly ($10 per month) or annual subscription ($110 for a year); for gifting, $10 per month in 3- and 6-month subscriptions or $110 for a 12-month subscription; free shipping.
Pros: Users can earn points to spend in the online shop by referring friends, answering surveys, and purchasing full-size products.
Cons: You can’t apply those points toward your own subscription.
To order: birchbox.com.
Best for: World-class java junkies
Perk someone up with a monthly coffee sampler culled from top micro-roasters and boutique bean companies (Portland’s Coava Coffee Roasters, Miami’s Panther Coffee, New York’s Gimme! Coffee). Each set includes three four-ounce pouches with detailed tasting notes and brewing tips.
Frequency and fees: $25 per month for 3-month subscriptions, $22.50 per month for 6-month plans, and $20 per month for annual plans; shipping free.
Pros: You can choose the grind—French press, flat-bottom filter, cone filter—or have the beans delivered whole (Craft Coffee’s recommended option).
Cons: All shipping is ground, so some of that fresh-from-the-roaster appeal may get lost in transit.
To order: craftcoffee.com.
Best for: Devoted dog-owners
Gift subscriptions from BarkBox let you spoil one pooch while you help save another: The company donates 10% of each sale to local animal rescues. Boxes contain at least four pup-pampering items, from food samples and treats to shampoos and leashes—often from small businesses you might not see in the big-box pet stores. The goodies are even chosen to suit your dog’s size (under 20 lbs, 20 to 50 lbs, or over 50 lbs).
Frequency and fees: $29 per month for 1-month subscriptions, $25 per month for 3-month subscriptions, and $19 per month for 6-month subscriptions; free shipping.
Pros: Shipments often include discount codes for future purchases.
Cons: Prices are higher for gift subscriptions than for personal ones, which shave 15 to 30% off 3- and 6-month commitments.
To order: barkbox.com.
Best for: The world traveler For the friend or family member who is always on the go, enhance their travel experiences by helping them learn a new language. The online software, which is accessible via phone, tablet, or desktop computer, has a wide array of learning tools (including speech recognition!) to help them read, write, and speak a new language with confidence. Available in 30 different languages from around the world.
Frequency and fees: From $119 for six months.
Pros: Real-time feedback and interaction ensures an immersive learning experience.
Cons: They won’t receive anything tangible in the mail.
To order: rosettastone.com.
Best for: Feline fans Help your cat-crazed aunt or uncle spoil their beloved pet. Each month, they will receive a box filled with up to 10 goodies (each box typically contains at least seven items) to care for and pamper their feline friend, from fun play toys to necessary cleaning and grooming products.
Frequency and fees: From $17 per box (depending on how many cats live in the house).
Pros: Subscriptions can be personalized to suit special requests, like color preference or dietary requirements.
Cons: They will still have to head to the pet store for the essentials.
To order: purrpacks.com.