Stuck at home and bored stiff? Or just looking for new ways you can avoid going to the shops and perhaps support a local business or the environment while you're at it?
Subscription services that deliver regular parcels to your door – bringing everything from craft kits and boutique coffee, gin or wine to practical items such as toiletries and baby supplies – are gaining popularity as we all shop more from our sofas.
Many of us have ordered a fruit or vegetable box before, or perhaps already subscribe to a meal delivery service. But there are many more unique and interesting subscription services you can sign up to for either entertainment or practicality.
In these locked-down times, you can opt for a no-contact delivery
In these locked-down times, you can opt for no-contact delivery, plus enjoy the excitement of receiving a special surprise on your doorstep every month (and let's face it, any extra bit of joy these days is welcome!). Subscription packages can also make thoughtful gifts for loved ones we want to send a bit of happiness to during lockdown and beyond.
Here are some of the most interesting and best subscription services we found, recommended by CHOICE staff and members, plus some tips to help you if you're considering purchasing this type of product.
Why not let your gardening goals bloom with a seed subscription?
For green thumbs
Easy Come, Easy Grow
CHOICE staff member Amy has had a subscription to Easy Come Easy Grow, a monthly delivery of herb and vegetable seeds sourced from within Australia, since July 2019.
"I'm a keen gardener but have always found it difficult to work out what was the best time to plant different seeds," she says. "Easy Come, Easy Grow sends me three packages of seasonal seeds each month, plus sowing instructions and information on when your seedlings will pop up. I just love that each month I have a small amount to plant, and know that the timing is right."
Price: from $10 per month (a yearly subscription is $100 plus $12 postage).
Opt for a three-, six- or 12-month Botanic Box subscription to get a different plant and pot combination delivered to your door every month. They collaborate with small Australian growers, makers and artists to bring you a unique variety of plants and pots each time. Better than taking your chances at Bunnings!
Price: from $49.95 each month (plus $12 delivery to Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victoria).
Get caffeinated the convenient way with an ongoing coffee subscription.
For a giant caffeine hit
Goliath Coffee coffee subscription
Coffee conveniently delivered to your door coupled with the great feeling of supporting a small family business? Sign us up! You'll find many roasters in Australia that will deliver ground coffee or beans, so do some research to find one you like.
Goliath Coffee Roasters, based in Sydney's south west, was set up by husband-and-wife team Clarissa and David Di Pietrantonio and offers flexible coffee subscriptions. You select a blend and beans (or the grind you like) and the quantity you'd like delivered fortnightly. Or if you like a surprise, opt for the 'Singles of the Month' club to receive the roaster's choice.
Price: from $23 per order (Australia-wide delivery included).
Beanhunter Coffee Club Subscription
CHOICE staff members Ashley and Amy both recommend Beanhunter Coffee Club subscriptions.
"Each month you get a 250g bag of beans from a different boutique roaster in Melbourne, plus information about the origins of the beans (who farmed them and where), a bit about the roaster and the flavour profile," says Ashley. "It means you get to try really delicious coffees from around the world that you may not have otherwise known about, and learn about the farmers who grow the beans."
"I really like to make coffee at home, yet always ended up purchasing the same beans/grounds from the supermarket," says Amy. "My Beanhunter subscription means I can explore different types of beans and determine which I prefer. They only ship beans, so you will need a grinder."
Price: from $19.50 per fortnight or month (plus delivery)
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For crafty kids
Parents currently in isolation with restless kids are desperate for new ideas and activities to keep little ones of all ages occupied. Retailers have responded with colourful craft activity boxes you can opt to get delivered on a once-off or ongoing basis to keep the kids' creativity flowing and limit their screen time.
My Creative Box offers a monthly subscription (currently $35.95) for either toddlers or preschoolers. Each month you get a themed craft box full of learning activities based on science, technology, engineering, art and maths.
For wine lovers
Wine subscriptions let you try new tipples and keep your wine rack or fridge well stocked. And some CHOICE members say they've signed up to subscriptions from independent providers such as Naked Wines and Good Pair Days to avoid having to shop at major alcohol retailers and sample more wines from boutique producers.
But with so many options to choose from, how do you choose one that will suit you – and are they really worth it? Our CHOICE experts pored over the pros and cons for you.
Who needs oil or gold? In these viral times, toilet roll is the new reserve currency.
For your stash of loo roll and tissues
Who Gives a Crap?
Who would have thought toilet paper would be the hot commodity of 2020? Several CHOICE staff recommend the Who Gives a Crap toilet paper subscription, for the convenience, and the environmental and social benefits (the toilet paper is made from 100% recyclable paper, comes wrapped in paper instead of plastic, and half of all profits are donated to build toilets in developing countries).
"The thing that appeals to me about Who Gives a Crap is that it's a social enterprise with a great purpose so I'm willing to support it and pay a little extra," says CHOICE staff member, Sarah. "And automatic renewal means I never have to remember to order more."
"I like that it's one less thing I have to remember to buy at the supermarket – and we never run out of toilet paper!" says another CHOICE staff member, Rachel.
Who Gives A Crap tell us they are currently experiencing 20 times the demand they usually have for their product – but you can sign up to a waiting list to find out when their stocks are replenished.
Price: 24 rolls per month for $32.
CHOICE tip: Our lab experts test and review a wide range of toilet paper including Who Gives a Crap, Coles, Woolworths and leading brands such as Kleenex and Quilton. Read our toilet paper reviews here.
Cosy up with a monthly delivery of a good book and a fresh cuppa.
Noveltea Book Club
There's nothing like a good book and a cup of tea to bring comfort, so how lovely if you get a beautifully packaged parcel including just that delivered every month!
The NovelTea Book Club, a Tasmanian small business run by Angie Reader, offers customisable book and tea subscription parcels. Every month you'll receive a hand-wrapped book, a tea (or coffee) sample and a selection of curated goodies.
Price: from $19 for a monthly 'minimalist' tea subscription (which includes a second-hand book rather than new).
Browsing the shelves of a bookshop is off the list for most people at the moment. So why not opt for a selection of the latest new releases delivered to your door, complete with reading notes? With WellRead, you can opt for books to be sent monthly, or bi-monthly, and kids' subscriptions are also available.
Price: $35 for one book per month (or $29 for kids), delivery included.
Little wonder: a nappy and wipe subscription means one less thing to handle when you're juggling a bub.
If you have little people
Few people enjoy shopping for nappies and baby wipes, and they're one of those things you always seem to be running out of. Well, save yourself a trip to the shops and sign up for one of the many subscription services available.
Some subscription services used by CHOICE members include Thank you (which helps fund safe births and healthcare for mums in need); EcoOriginals (various boxes of nappies and packs available for monthly delivery) and Tooshies by Tom ($99 per month for six packs of nappies and four packs of baby wipes, including delivery).
CHOICE tip: Our lab tests and reviews all the market-leading nappy ranges. See how your favourite brand stacks up or if it's time to try something new – read latest nappy reviews here.
To stock the bathroom cupboard
Did you know you're supposed to replace your toothbrush every three to four months? Keep your teeth in tip-top shape and do a little extra for the environment with a toothcrush subscription.
You can sign up to receive a new eco-friendly, bamboo toothbrush delivered to your door every three months for $35 for the year, with delivery included (it's cheaper if you order more brushes for the family).
Get premium razors from an Australian-owned company delivered to your door with an Oscar Razor subscription. For $15, they'll send you four five-blade razor cartridges every four months (plus a handle). But there are other plans available if you shave more often.
As an added bonus, all orders are assembled and fulfilled by a non-profit social enterprise supporting seniors and people living with a disability.
Things to consider before buying a subscription service
When purchasing a subscription box online, here are some tips to make sure the product is right for you and that you're getting a good deal.
- Ensure you understand if you're being 'locked in' to an ongoing subscription, or if you can opt out at any time.
- Check if the subscription will automatically renew and, if so, when. This will make sure you don't incur ongoing charges without realising.
- Check delivery charges or any extra fees before you buy.
- Check the company policy on where they will leave parcels. If you live in a shared complex or apartment, you may be able to organise a safe place for the parcel to be left (otherwise you may be forced to pick it up from the post office every time). Depending on what the product is, they may not be able to leave it in a communal place or a PO box.
- Ensure you're aware of the company's policy on refunds if you don't like the package you receive.
- Before buying a long-standing subscription with a company, check if you get any extra benefits that add value. This could be loyalty discounts or premium membership features such as personalised customer service or access to premium content.
Update: Previously, this article featured No Issues Tissues as a subscription service. Since then, there's been a significant number of complaints online of orders not being fulfilled. If you do choose to use this company, please spend some time researching them first.