If you have never travelled to France before you may be surprised at some things with regard to supermarket shopping in this land of cheese, wine and escargots! Read on to make sure you don’t get caught out.
Many food shops close at lunchtime, often from 12 - 2 although these hours do vary slightly from shop to shop. Slowly more of the larger super and hypermarkets are staying open “Sans interruption” ie all day and those that do will mark this prominently at the front. Closing hours are around 7 - 8pm with smaller shops open until 9 - 10pm.
2. Sunday Opening
Large supermarkets are closed all day on Sunday but smaller ones, often in the centre of towns, will usually be open in the morning from 9 - 12 . After that some bakers are open but nothing else, so if you are arriving in France late on a Saturday or on a Sunday make sure you have supplies in.
French supermarkets do not supply throw away plastic carrier bags. You may get a very flimsy bag if your flour is leaking slightly or you buy clothes but otherwise you must supply your own. All supermarkets sell 3 types of bags at very cheap prices. There are large shopping bags made from a very durable material which can be replaced for free when they become too old, although I have never done this and do not know if people do! They cost less than a euro and last for ages. They also sell tough re-useable plastic bags and large insulated freezer bags. Some also have cardboard boxes you can take from near the tills.
4. Use your own shopping bag/basket
When shopping, it is perfectly acceptable to take in your shopping bag/basket and use it for your goods before paying. No-one will think you are trying to shop lift. I just have to remember NOT to do this when I go back to the UK! You may however be asked to show the inside of your bags at the till just to confirm you don’t have any extras in there!
5. Special offers- Offres spéciales or promos
Most large supermarkets have the aisle nearest the door full of their offers of the week and usually imply a reduced price when buying in bulk. Be careful though as these are not always as good as the look as they often pick the higher priced brands and the even with the reduction, other cheaper brands may still be less money.
6. Larger product sizes
In the UK I would always assume that the larger the product the cheaper the price per kilo/litre. That is often not the case here in France and larger packs may actually cost more than smaller ones. It is always worth checking the shelf edge label for the price per kg/l.
7. Les Foires
Supermarkets do however run various “Foires”. At this time of year it is Le Foire aux Vins but throughout the year there will be others. For a Foire aux Vins the shop will stock a much larger range but for Un Foire de Porc for example they will stock pork at reduced prices and in large economy packs that often are cheaper per kilo than normal.
|Foire aux Vins at Super U|
8. Tea Bags
If you are coming to France and hoping to buy some decent strong tea bags you may want to think again and bring in your own supplies. On the tea aisle you may well see “English Tea” (quite possibly Yellow Label) but do not be fooled. This is an extremely weak cousin of anything sold in the UK and fairly horrible!
9. International Products
Larger supermarkets generally have an international aisle stocking products from various countries including the UK. You may well be able to get PG Tips or Yorkshire tea here but you will pay way over the UK price. Other UK products the French think we cannot live without include cheesecake mix, lime marmalade, lemon barley water and tinned steak and kidney pies!
10. Organic products
In the larger supermarkets the organic goods will generally be grouped together on one aisle. There are however a growing number of small organic supermarkets which stock a very impressive range of goods. Look for products marked Bio or AB (agriculture biologique)
Shopping in a French supermarket is often something holiday makers look forward to. Children will love the extensive sweet aisle as well as an impressive range of chocolate cereals and adults may drool over the cheeses and almost faint at the cheapness of the wines. Hopefully now with this little guide to the oddities of French supermarkets you will not get caught out by their varying closing hours, bargains that are not what they seem and the weakest tea bags in the world! Oh and there are several of the reusable shopping bags including a cool bag in the gite if you don't want to buy bags for yourself.
Can you think of any more points of note regarding French supermarkets that I have missed out? And what do you most enjoy about French supermarkets?