Grocery Shopping in France

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If I could only choose one thing to do every time I visited another country, it would be slowly wandering through a local grocery store.  I think that markets say so much about a culture, don’t you?  I wish I could have taken pictures to share of Carrefour, where I went shopping on Saturday during our impulsive trip to France— but I can at least show you what we chose to bring home!
Here’s the list:

  • 7 bottles of wine, most 4 euros or less each
  • 8 bars of 85% dark chocolate, for about 1 euro apiece
  • 5 tubs of fresh cheese with walnuts
  • 4 cans of sardines packed in olive oil and lemons
  • 3 jars of different pâtés
  • Various cheeses– Mozzarella, Comté, Feta, Tomme Noir des Pyrénées and fresh French Emmentaler
  • Olive oil
  • Cornichons
  • Sausages– one with hazel nuts, one herbal, and a bundle of sausage sticks
  • Mixed marinated olives (wish I had bought twice as much!)
  • And a hearty bunch of thyme

Unbelievably, all of this only cost us about £80, €100 euros, or $132.

 Some items came from the open market on the pier on Sunday morning, and one bottle of wine and wedge of cheese came from a specialty shop, but the bulk all came from the grocery store, and it was so cool to find such great products, for much, much better prices than here in the UK!  In fact, many Brits drive across the Channel just to go to a huge warehouse store in Calais, load up their cars, and come back to England.  In particular, they stock up on alcohol and cigarettes, but even the ordinary groceries cost less.
And now, I have to tell you about my very favorite product:

Fromage à Tartiner aux Noix.  I discovered this serious revelation when I was in a supermarket in the suburbs of Paris last year.  I couldn’t believe how good it was, and made a point of going back to the store before we left to pick up a few more to stuff into my luggage.  It’s like whipped cream cheese imbued with the most aromatic walnut flavor– it’s not sweetened at all, but tastes kind of dessert-like.  If you ever come across it, you should definitely try it!  And from the looks of the package, you might be able to find it in German-speaking countries, although I never did.

So far, everything has been really wonderful– no disappointments whatsoever.  Of course, we haven’t tried everything yet, and I’m still a little iffy on thepâté– I am not a huge fan, but I have tried a few that were so good that they made me willing to keep sampling in case I could find others that were so wonderful.  We’ll see!

If you could visit a grocery store in any country, where would it be?  What would you buy?

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33 Responses to Grocery Shopping in France

  1. monika May 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Oh, I’m so homesick looking at these pictures!

    Yes, this used to be my life…

    Never tried the cheese with walnuts because my daughter has (had?) a walnut allergy, but would so love to give it a go!

    • Ariana May 2, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      Sorry to rub salt in your wounds, Monika! How dreamy to have access to these foods all of the time! I imagine you might find a specialty shop where you live, and form a nice bond with the owner there over your love for French groceries? Even a wine shop might have a kindred soul there for you… I wish I could ship you a tub of the walnut cheese!

  2. Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers May 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    You can go grocery shopping for my anytime! 🙂 I’m glad I stumbled up on your post. I really enjoyed hitting the markets in Florence. I’m all about some cheap Chianti!

    • Ariana May 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      Tiff, I’d love to! I LOVE grocery shopping. We went to Italy last year for the first time, but I didn’t actually get to go into a store there– it was off season and probably the weekend, everything was closed in the tiny town we stayed in. In fact, there might not have even been a supermarket there. But I am dying to do that!

  3. Kristen May 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

    Wow! You got some great stuff! I’m like you, whenever I travel I love to walk through the grocery stores and markets. You can find such amazing things. Last time I flew back from the UK, my suitcase was 30 pounds over the weight limit because of all the groceries I brought home! Oops! LOL 🙂

    -Kristen

    • Ariana May 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      Kristen– I am so curious about what you brought from the UK! Marmite and chutneys? I am always wondering what specialty items I can send people, since I had no exposure to British food before I moved here. Do tell!

    • Kristen May 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

      Hi Ariana,

      The staples I bring back are PG Tips tea, black current cordial (and various black current things since that flavor is virtually non-existant here), treacle syrup, Ambrosia Devon custard, Kinder Bueno candy bars, Tunnocks tea cakes, Mr. Kiplings tea cakes (Viennese Whirls, Angel slices, Victoria minis), McVities rich tea biscuits, and more. I also grab Cornish pasties (traditional and curry) and fresh scones to bring home to the U.S. the day I fly home.

      I know, I know. This stuff is so not healthy! But it’s my English comfort food and I don’t eat it very often. I also bring some of that stuff into work on my first day back and my co-workers have a blast sampling all the foods and flavors they’ve never had before!

    • Ariana May 4, 2012 at 8:37 am #

      Kristen, thanks for filling me in! I am now inspired to try the black currant cordials I have seen in the farm shops! Also, I have seen a lot of sloe gin and other fruity liqueurs that look very interesting. We have gluten allergies in my family, and so it seems like such a shame that we haven’t been able to try all of the classic British cakes and pasties– they look really good! And I’m sure your co-workers love you for sharing!

  4. So jealous! looks like so much fun!

    • Ariana May 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

      Hi Heather, thanks for the visit. Yep, totally a treat!

  5. Posie Patchwork May 2, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Oh well hello there, thanks for visiting my blog!! Wow, where to begin, i would love to test out my Japanese speaking daughter at a supermarket in Japan, see if we purchase crackers or washing powder, the errors are surely endless!!
    I lived on cheese, breads & small meat products in Europe, yum. My husband doesn’t like dips, yahoo, all mine, mind you, our 4 children eat anything so i have to share with them!! Love Posie

    • Ariana May 2, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

      I would definitely love to shop in Japan! We had some really good Chinese and Japanese grocery stores in California, and I used to go to those all of the time. I enjoyed taking my daughter to one when we were in Portland, as a cool cultural experience. And my daughter will also eat anything (and all of it!) so that makes foreign grocery shopping even more fun.
      Thanks for coming over!

  6. Valerie (all mussed up) May 2, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    When we lived in Asia, we used to DREAM of cheese and wine. Now that I’m in the Netherlands, both are staples at my table. Happy day!

    When I was in the UK a few weeks ago, I was so shocked by how expensive your supermarket wine is! We often drink a lovely bottle for only 5 euro, and I see now that we’re a bit spoiled. I’m glad you stocked up in France. (:

    • Ariana May 2, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      Hi Valerie,
      When we lived in the Philippines we didn’t drink wine, so that wasn’t on my radar (except when we flew back to the US via China Airlines, and my missionary parents let us KIDS have a glass of wine with our dinners!) But we went far out of our way to get some mozzarella cheese, and visitors smuggled over cheddar for us. I guess we didn’t know what we were missing…
      And you are right– alcohol (besides local beers) is very, very expensive here. It hasn’t really made an impact on the public health concern over alcoholism (a really big deal here,) it just makes everyone poorer! Which leads to more drinking, right? 😉
      I think we’ll need to make regular trips to France, for all sorts of groceries– just about every single item is significantly cheaper the supermarkets. Enjoy!!

  7. Margot May 2, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    I love, love, visiting grocery stores in other countries, always on my list when I am traveling. I usually come home with more food than anything…life really is about food!
    If I could, I think I would go back to Spain ( lived there for many years) to do some grocery shopping and stock up…..also to the Canary Islands, (lived there for 10 years). That cheese sure looks good, I am now hungry and going to go get a snack!

  8. Ariana May 2, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    Hi Margot, thanks for coming over! I completely agree that life is about food, and it’s always good to “meet” others who feel the same way. I am super curious about your background, living in Spain and the Canary Islands. We are hoping to get to visit Spain again this summer. I will definitely be bringing back manzanilla and cheese!

  9. Kristen - Anywhere There's An Airport May 3, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    There are so many things I loved about grocery shopping in Spain! The wine and nut prices for one. The fresh veg and fruit at a crazy cheap price! The interesting aisles of products I had never seen. However, these new aisles replaced the aisles I so desperately wanted. The ones full of coconut milk ice cream and shelves full of salsa! 🙂

    • Ariana May 4, 2012 at 8:40 am #

      I totally hear you on new and exotic vs. the things that you really miss. It’s different when you are living in a new country, and the exotic is all that’s available. It was really nice to go shopping at Trader Joe’s when we got back to the US last year. I can’t think of a whole lot of British items here that I buy that I couldn’t get in the US. Most of these things are sweet, which we don’t do a whole lot of. It seems like places like France, Italy, and Spain would carry many more of the exciting things we’d be into…

  10. Traveling Mama May 4, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    We are exactly the same! We consider it our guilty little pleasure! It’s so much fun to see what other people eat in other places and to try as much as possible! We had a lot of French products in Morocco and there are some things that I really miss!

    • Ariana May 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

      Hi Tina, I would actually really love to do some marketing in Morocco! I’m sure there’s such a great cultural blend of flavors and influences reflected in the groceries there. It’s been a very delicious week over here, savoring our culinary souvenirs!

  11. Diane May 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    I would love to go Italy and visit the local market to get some crusty fresh bread, olives, cheese and wine that my hubby & could take and sit outside and eat watching the people go by. I just found your blog site today and enjoying catching up– Hello from Indiana!

    • Ariana May 6, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

      Hi Diane, I’m so glad you’ve joined us! I love your vision of a visit to a market and picnicking and people watching in Italy– sounds very dreamy! We did something like that in Paris once, sitting in the sunshine along the Seine– very surreal…

  12. Nats May 7, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    I love shopping in France especially at Carrefour, we found one in Slovakia and stocked up on pretty much the same stuff, French mayo and cornichons Mmmm only two months until I can get some!

    • Ariana May 7, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

      Nice! Your comment about Carrefour in Slovakia has made me wonder whether there could be one here in London… Although, the prices would still be much higher, I’m sure! Yes, the cornichons are SO good– it’s only been a week or so, and we are running low in the big jar we bought. Next time, we will absolutely get more olives and cornichons!

  13. Kara @ June & Bear May 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    i have no idea where i would want to shop, but i agree that it seems like it would say a lot about the culture. looks like you got some fabulous stuff.

    • Ariana May 10, 2012 at 8:20 am #

      Hi Kara, thanks for stopping by! We are still enjoying all of our goodies, plotting when to go back to replace them…

  14. Kara @ June & Bear May 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    i have no idea where i would want to shop, but i agree that it seems like it would say a lot about the culture. looks like you got some fabulous stuff.

  15. Kara @ June & Bear May 8, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    i have no idea where i would want to shop, but i agree that it seems like it would say a lot about the culture. looks like you got some fabulous stuff.

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