Earlier today, I told you that I’m optimistic because Americans are choosing to consume experiences instead of material goods. These choices initially were born out of the fact that we have less money to throw around these days. Fortunately, people are beginning to realize that amassing these experiences is better than amassing stuff. As the economy improves, many of us are still going to choose experiences over material possessions.

Each month, I’m going to give you a list of ideas so we don’t forget to consume experiences all year long.

Volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen. After the holidays, many food pantries probably need a bit of cleaning out and organizing. Soup kitchens still need people to help serve. Volunteer by yourself or as a family for an experience that you won’t forget.

Make a big pot of soup from scratch. Try to use up as many ingredients that you already have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before you shop for new ingredients. Allrecipes.com has a great search feature that allows you to search by ingredients you have on hand. Type in the ingredients you have and put “soup” for a keyword and see what you come up with. When you’re done making your soup, share it with a neighbor or someone else you think may enjoy it.

Borrow some great food-themed movies from the library. Invite friends to bring a snack to share for a movie night in. Chocolat, Diner, Mystic Pizza, Who is Killing the Great Chef’s of Europe, Ratatouille, Babette’s Feast, Bottle Shock, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Scotland, PA are just a few titles to look for. I’m sure you can think of dozens more.

Go to a beer festival. You can experience and taste several local and international winter beers at one of the many Winter Beer Festivals that take place in January. Beerfestivals.org has a calendar of festivals that are happening all over the country and in England for the month.

Attend a chocolate festival. If beer is not your thing, maybe chocolate is.

  • Portland, Ore., is hosting a ChocolateFest from Jan. 29-31 ($8 for an adult ticket).
  • Santa Cruz, Calif., has a Chocolate Festival on Jan. 24 ($5/3 tastings - $20/20 tastings).
  • Norman, Okla., will hold the 2010 Chocolate Festival on Jan. 30 ($20 a ticket).
  • Bloomington and Monroe counties in Indiana celebrate an entire Week of Chocolate beginning Jan. 30 at the end of the month with several activities around the region.

Seems January is the month for chocolate festivals. If you know of one not listed here, add it in the comment section, please. 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

January's 'experience consumption' ideas
Five ideas to help you amass experiences and not stuff in 2010.