This article was originally published in December 2019 and has been updated for the 2022 holiday season.
To make a long and boring story about my personal failings and global ambitions into a lede about snack food subscription boxes, let me explain that I recently left the big city I’d lived in for a long time to a home owned by my parents in Utah so that I could focus better on “finishing my novel.” The novel’s almost there, my dog Mars is thriving, and I’m much healthier and happier here than I’ve been in a while.
But you know what isn’t here? Access to the big city snacking to which I grew accustomed — fishy little snack crackers from the H-Town near campus, cookies with more Instagram followers than most Real Housewives, $7 cold brew, and any manner of novelty croissants and bagel varieties to which my endocrinologist would ascribe my “wheat belly.” Thank God I have a PO box and touch-and-go access to the services of UPS and FedEx so that I can get snacks delivered to me on this mountain on a monthly basis. It’s a gift.
In the spirit of holiday giving, I’ve combed through the hundreds of snacking subscription companies that send sundries and (mostly) shelf-stable goods on a bi-monthly or monthly basis to see which ones really cut the house-made mustard. Think that random box of pears or tub of tri-flavor popcorn that would show up at your parents’ house around the holidays, but every month, curated specifically for your friends who are the hungriest and the hardest to buy for.
Classic Bokksu subscription: from $40/month for 12 months
I’m obsessed with cute stuff, so when I opened up Bokksu’s Autumn of Kyoto box, I got a crunchy hit of dopamine like nothing I’d ever experienced. Bokksu is a Japanese company that works with regional foodmakers to ship Japanese-made snacks all over the world. Every month, Bokksu has a new theme; Autumn of Kyoto featured itsy yatsuhashi cinnamon crackers, a yuzu jelly bar, tiny star-shaped rice crackers, and even a matcha chocolate stick cake manufactured under a label called “Cute Selection.” Damn right! Bokksu keeps its theme a mystery month to month, and its design and cohesion among the many snacking options is one of the most thoughtful boxes out there.
If, like me, the recipient isn’t a Japanese speaker, but they are prone to low blood sugar and thus need to have comprehensible snacks in a tote bag at all times, Bokksu comes with a full-color guide book that explains the labels, the history of the snack theme, plus some useful Japanese phrases.
Meat & Cheese Club subscription: from $165 for three months
On the days after school I wasn’t eating a room-temperature pizza bagel that my mom picked up for me at Einstein’s, or preparing my specialty “boil-in-bag rice with soy sauce and butter,” I would make myself a little meat and cheese plate. It was a 3:30 p.m. cocktail party for just me, with no guests and only tap water to drink.
Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, a specialty deli with a cult following thanks to its early adoption of a country-wide shipping model, sends its tasty selections all over the country, unearthing hard-to-find domestic and imported cheeses and meat spreads via a theme each month. Zingerman’s offers several snack packs, including the Frequent Fish Club, the Coffee Cake Club, and the Quarterly Bacon Report Food Club, but its meat and cheese subscription box allowed me to relive my earliest days of snacking alone. The message on the pretty paper-wrapped Piace Vecche slab I received promised a little taste of a parmigiano-type cheese — but it was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. I ate half a pound of it in a day. I grew ill. I still recommend it as a gift to any friend who doesn’t need glitz, glamour, pomp, or circumstance, but loves cheese.
Indie States of America subscription: from $54/month for 12 months
This snack box is for all the girls out there who write strongly worded emails to customer service email addresses but still consider themselves punk as hell. That’s me. The Indie States of America box is comprised of fun little snacks from small distributors, like solar-popped Bjorn Qorn dusted in nutritional yeast, pineapple mojito jerky, and a watermelon margarita mixer I initially thought to be a melon-flavored cold brew. Still good!
I don’t like wacko snacks that exist purely for spectacle. This is the right subscription box for your friend who watches the Bon App test kitchen videos as she falls asleep, but doesn’t deign to follow novelty milkshakes or burgers on Instagram. These snacks were all the right kind of weird, plus the first box came with a cute tote bag that I will be sure to ball up real tiny inside of another tote bag and lose for months at a time.
Monthly pie subscription: $60/month
When I was a young cub reporter at this very website (I didn’t so much do journalism as write the tweets), I once commented on a post to say that pies with hot fruit were disgusting. Several haters in the forum came at me asking how I got this job with an opinion like this. Well the joke’s on them, because I have no idea how I got that job! I was like 12 years old!
I stood by this pie opinion, that is until Danny Meyer’s regional food delivery service Goldbelly sent me an Elegant Farmer apple pie baked in a bag that I hadn’t had since my midwestern youth. It is the perfect pie, the perfect snack, and you can even eat around the apples if you want. I also got to try a condensed milk and butterscotch creation by Royers Round Top Cafe called Texas trash pie and Emporium Pies’s nutty honey pie. Goldbelly’s boxes in general are great for the friend who moved to a new place and yearns for the tastes of their childhood home over dry ice. But its pie boxes in particular are excellent for those who entertain casually and then eat the leftover dessert with their coffee the next day.