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Send everything from healthy snacks to hearty steaks

Help friends and family avoid the postholiday blues by giving them a gift that continues to arrive long after the tinsel and plum pudding have disappeared. Subscriptions to gift-of-the-month clubs spread the joy of giving and receiving throughout the year.

Monthly gift programs started in the 1920s with handkerchiefs and neckties. Today an endless variety of products is available for delivery every 30 days or so. Food options are especially wide-ranging. For example, The Flying Noodle in Waterbury, Vt. (800 566-0599), will ship three different pastas and two vegetarian sauces monthly for $29.95 per shipment. Selections such as spinach angel-hair pasta and tomato-vodka cream sauce are highlighted in an enclosed newsletter that also provides cooking tips and recipes.

SPUDS TO GO. Hard-core carnivores might prefer a meat-of-the-month membership from Omaha Steaks. Quarterly and year-long plans are available ($62 to $659) to satisfy hearty appetites. (Imagine an 8-pound prime rib roast or six 6-ounce filet mignons landing on your doorstep.) Each delivery comes flash frozen and packed in a reusable cooler. And what's meat without potatoes? New Penny Farm in Presque Isle, Me., will send a five-pound burlap bag full of special spuds every month, such as Green Mountain bakers and Katahdin boilers. Minimum membership is three months and costs $51. A full year of taters is $204.

To wash it all down, try wine from Tri-Wine offered by Schaefer's, Skokie, Ill. (800 833-WINE), which has been selling spirits since 1934, and wine by the month since 1990. Tri-Wine members receive three bottles of wine every four weeks. An insert details vintners and grape particulars, and suggests complementary dishes. The 4-, 6-, and 12-month programs cost $119 to $359.40.

One of the oldest gift clubs is Harry & David's Fruit-of-the-Month, which started back in 1936. Still going strong, the Medford (Ore.) company takes orders for 3-, 5-, 8-, and 12-month packages, with charges ranging from $49.95 to $316. Boxes of assorted handpicked fruits, such as Royal Riviera pears, Honeylope melons, and Oregold peaches, come guaranteed ripe and ready-to-eat. Another good-for-you offer comes from Healthy Trader in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (800 231-1822). Each month, a healthy edible, such as organic olives or a mixed-nut platter, arrives. The price is $199 per year, or $19.96 per month.

If your gift recipient isn't the nuts-and-berries sort, Clubs of America, based in Lakemoor, Ill., has cigar-, pizza-, and beer-of-the-month clubs. Every 30 days, there's a new assortment of five hand-rolled cigars ($22.95 per month, 800 MR-CIGAR), three 12-inch Chicago-style pizzas ($25.95 per month, 800 MAMA-MIA), or three four-packs of microbrewed beers ($15.95 per month, 800 TRY-A-SIP). Should the stogie-smoking, pizza-gorging, or beer-guzzling individual like to lounge around in new underwear, Chicago's Presents To You's boxer-of-the-month club will periodically supply a fresh pair. There are 3-, 6-, or 12-month plans ($79 to $299), plus a choice of cotton or silk. L.A. Williams Productions in Fairfield, Iowa (515 472-0227), offers a women's-panties program for $73 to $276.

For a traditionalist with more staid tastes, there's always the Book-of-the-Month Club (800 233-1066). The New York company will send that special someone a recent work reviewed and chosen by their editors. The charge varies monthly according to the book selected. However, prices are generally lower than list. For those who want to continue their literary pursuits while driving to work, Audio Editions in Auburn, Calif., has an audio book-of-the-month club. The plan lets gift givers make monthly selections in advance of books on cassette tape or compact disk.

Audio Editions will also put together a package based on such specifications as best-sellers, mysteries, or preadolescent fiction. The range is $10 to $25 per title.

Finally, it's hard to go wrong with flowers--especially when they arrive every 30 days. Smith & Hawken in Mill Valley, Calif., offers six months (December to May) of windowsill flowers for $98, or $18 per month. Each month brings a recycled cardboard planter, soil, seeds, and planting instructions. Any sunny indoor spot will do to sprout a trough of such flowers as sweet peas and nasturtiums. Smith & Hawken also has year-long flowering plant- and bulb-of-the-month clubs. The only thing better than a gift that comes monthly is one that comes weekly--like a magazine subscription, perhaps?

TIPS: Before ordering, always ask for the catalog so you can see what the products look like

By Kate Murphy


TABLE: Gifts That Keep on Giving

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Updated June 14, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1996, Bloomberg L.P.
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