Buying Groceries in France
That quote pretty much sums up why the first thing I like to do in a new place is take a trip to the local grocery store. For the most part everything is the same (other than the language on the packaging and signage) but a few things are slightly different. It's in those little differences and quirks that you can begin to see the culture of the place you're visiting.
Wandering through the store and picking up a few snacks to have on hand is a fun combination of guessing game and scavenger hunt. Something as basic as getting groceries becomes new and exciting as soon as you can't read the labels on anything. I have actually become so good at guessing what foods are based entirely on the pictures on the packaging that I'm considering adding it to my resume.
I thought it might be useful to do a series of posts about what it's like to shop in various countries and the prices for some things we normally buy. Keep in mind that we usually make a meal or two a day when traveling and have two small children - our grocery list tends to reflect that.
I don't think I've ever been somewhere where the people are so proud of their food as France is. To be fair, their culinary prowess is pretty impressive but unfortunately eating out has gotten quite expensive over the last few years. Luckily for us, shopping for your own groceries is an excellent alternative.
One really cool thing about Paris specifically (potentially other cities and towns in France as well but I'm not sure) is that it is required for each neighborhood to have a fresh food market at least once a week.
If you're lucky, you'll end up staying in a neighborhood with a different little shop for each sort of thing. We stayed in Montparnasse (a neighborhood in Paris) and on our street there was a butcher shop, a bakery, a fruit stand and so on. I had a lovely time wandering from place to place choosing fresh, tasty food for the day. However you might be in an area with a more modern feel and in which case the grocery stores Monoprix, Carrefour and Franprix are quite nice.
On to the groceries, here are some prices you can expect for common items (Updated February 2018)
It might be helpful to keep in mind that at the time this was written the exchange rate was 1 EUR to 1.23 USD and for my US friends, 1 Kg is 2.3lbs.
- 12 Eggs - 3.05 EUR
- 1 Liter Milk - 1.18 EUR
- 4 Single Serve Yogurt - 1.60 EUR
- 500g Wheel of Brie - 7 EUR
- 125g Butter - 1 EUR
- 1 kg Chicken Breast - 11.53 EUR
- 1 Loaf Sandwich Bread - 1.58 EUR
- 1 kg Flour - 1.20 EUR
- 1 kg Sugar - 2 EUR
- 1 kg Bananas - 2.00 EUR
- 1 kg Potatoes - 1.65 EUR
- 34 Diapers - 10.20 EUR
- 1 Chocolate Bar - 1.70 EUR
- 1.5 L Bottle of Water - 0.76 EUR
In addition to all of the normal things, you'll also find a huge selection of cheeses, cured meats and loaves of fresh bread (perfect picnic foods) for probably the best prices I've seen in Western Europe. Probably my favorite thing about shopping in France is the fresh squeezed orange juice machines that are everywhere, seriously try it. One thing you almost certainly will not find is anything resembling Mexican food so you can kiss those dreams of a late night bowl of chips and salsa goodbye.