There's always a lot of talk come the holiday season of "the gift that keeps on giving." Yes, Diamonds Are Forever, but Forever also tends to refer to the payment plan. Givers with decimally challenged paychecks and long lists may wish to go instead with a present that will keep giving all year long for a comparatively modest fee, yet still delight the givees: We speak, of course, of Thing of the Month clubs. There's still, alas, the unfortunate whiff of Hickory Farms about them, but really, the stigma should be shaken: From gourmet gumballs to microbrews to panties, nearly any covetable commercial good can now been picked, packaged, and put on a 30-day cycle. Below, some of the highlights:
Mangoes and Macaroon Pies
Who doesn't like to eat? Not counting Calista, everybody likes a munchable, especially when it comes to the door, no questions asked, every four weeks. This may be the most traditional of the Of the Month clubs, but for good reason—superwide appeal. There are literally dozens of fruit, wine, and chocolate clubs, so we've selected some of the more popular. Such as the Delightful Fruit Club (store.yahoo.com/ delightful/fruitclub.html), which operates on a two- to 12-month cycle, depending on your budget, and provides 3.5 to 5.5 pounds of crisp Fuji apples, juicy mangoes, blood oranges, sweet bing cherries, and more for $30 per month. The Bama Pie of the Month Club (store.yahoo.com/delightful/ piemonthclub.html) offers three-, six-, nine-, or 12-month options of decadent treats like cherry almond macaroon, bourbon chocolate pecan, and peach Melba streusel for just under $25 a pie (for cheaper options, check various Cookie of the Month clubs), while the much-lauded Gourmet Cheese of the Month Club (www.cheesemonthclub.com/or 1-800-625-8238) offers international "boutique" cheeses from one of Zagat's top-rated U.S. delis.
Junk Food to Beef Jerky
Less expected: Anchor O'Reilley's Chip of the Month Club (chipofthemonth. com or 1-800-313-2332), which offers three regular styles of potato chips and three flavored brands every month (jalapeno, steak-and-onion, parmesan) from small regional chip makers across the country ($16.95 a month); for the caliente kind, try the Salsa and Hot Sauce of the Month Club (www.salsakiss.com), featuring makers like Original Juan, Dave's Insanity, Mark Miller's Coyote Cocina, and more. Indecisive types and college students will love the Goodie of the Month Club (askitinabasket.com), which offers quirkily packaged treats—cookies, chocolate, nuts, gourmet snacks—that look convincingly homemade. Honorable mentions: Nut of the Month Club, complete with accompanying recipes (www.nutofthemonthclub.com/products.htm); the fairly sophisticated Pasta of the Month (www.pastaofthemonth.com); the beef-alicious Jerky of the Month (www. jerky-of-the-month.com); the surprisingly thorough Ketchup of the Month (www. ketchupworld.com/ketchupclub. html); and the retro-kooky Candy of the Month (www.candywarehouse.com/candyofmonthclub.html) and Gumball of the Month (www.antiquegumball.com/candy/gumballclub.htm).
A Canadian Club Club?
Your adult giftees may also appreciate a fine fermented beverage. The Microbrew of the Month Club (www.beermonthclub.com or 1-800-625-8238) offers up a 12-pack every month in what happy customers call "discreet" packaging. Cellars Wine Club (www.cellarswineclub.com) provides reislings, pinot noirs, merlots, and more for $34.95 a month, while the Wine Club (www.wineclub101.com or 1-877-624-1982) actually offers far more than just basic vino—it also features options for explicitly French, Italian, or German wines, plus champagne and tequila clubs (with a $50-per-month max) and a scotch club ($60 max).
Sex, Ties, and Typefaces
Once you're done damaging the livers and waistlines of your dearly beloved, why not try some nondigestibles? For the Bill Nye fans in your life, we're partial to the Mineral of the Month Club (www.mineralofthemonthclub.org or 1-800-941-5594), which offers two levels—Junior and Deluxe—and provides a "mineral specimen," along with a 3- to 8-page explanatory write-up of stones like the spiky peach Heulandite and deep-red Grossular. Orville Redenbacher and many a college professor will appreciate the Bowtie of the Month Club (www.bowtiesbylili.com/bowofmonclub.html), while a mere $40 gets the graphics/Web person you love one fabulous font per month via the Font of the Month Club(www.fontosaurus.com/fotm.asp). Your extra "friendly" friend could undoubtedly use the Condom of the Month Club (www.condomzone. com), monthly 12- or 24-packs in a variety of colors, textures, and (yep) flavors. The goods at Panty of the Month Club (www.panties.com) are, despite their slogan—" . . . because lingerie is the gift that touches her when you can't"—relatively classy and come gift-wrapped with chocolate, sachets, and more. And speaking of scents, there's the Aroma Thyme Scent of the Month Club(www.aromathyme.com/club.html or 1-888-AROMA-99), which offers three aromatherapy items per month—essential oils, "synergistic blends," candles, incense, and more—with recipes and instructions.
If the clock is ticking and you really can't find anything here, go ahead and go the poopy old gift-certificate route; but we still say nothing says loving like fruit (or jerky! Or panties! Or pie!) that comes, unlike Christmas, much more than once a year.