Wondering what to buy in a French supermarket? These are our favourite products to hunt out.
I love shopping in French supermarkets; a holiday across the Channel isn’t complete without a trip to at least two. Overcome with “I can’t get this at home” desire, I tend to go a little mad and fill le chariot with all manner of delicious treats. These then used to sit in the cupboard, being kept for a special occasion. Happily, we’ve now decided that treats are to be enjoyed, and that sooner or later we’ll be back to France and wheeling round Leclerc or Carrefour (my favourite shops) again, restocking our shelves.
Now, rather than let our purchases sit on our shelves unused, we pop open the tin, bottle or jar and enjoy. It’s not just food, though; I also I love the stationery – books of clear pockets are especially bargainous. Silicon bakeware is amazingly cheap too.
On our last trip, we had a car in France but were travelling back to London from Somerset by public transport; this restricted the amount we could buy, otherwise I would have stocked up on wine as well. I remember one trip many many years ago when we discovered that we could fit two cases of wine under each of the front seats of the then boyfriend’s Fiat Panda.
My top tips for a successful French supermarket stock up.
- Have a Euro coin handy for the trolley.
- Take your own bags – I have a stash of the large reusable ones – and have collected lots of Brittany themed ones – so much more enjoyable to use than ones from the UK supermarkets.
- Buy stuff as you see it, ranges vary hugely from chain to chain.
- Allow at least 90 minutes for a big shop on your last day before getting the ferry.
- Buy cheese on the last day – remember to take a cool bag and ice packs with you on holiday.
- Be aware of British prices and exchange rates, the days of giant packs of washing powder and razor blades being considerably cheaper are long gone.
- The regional produce aisle is well worth checking out and will have great quality items from small producers.
- I find the Reflets de France range from Carrefour is excellent; but Ocado now carry selected items.
- Make sure you have enough room in the car. It is a long way home if you end up with a case of wine on your lap!
Not pictured is French supermarket “basics” range cheeses, I always stock with Emmental, Gruyère and Comte, all of which are real winners in terms of price and quality. Also worth buying are saucissons, tinned fish – so many more interesting flavours than we have, jars of anchovies and lots of flavoured Dijon mustard.
Also worth consideration for inspiration are French food magazines and delightful themed mini cookbook (Ed, of course, buys all the French sailing magazines, which in turn allows me to buy more cookery magazine and books) Or check out my Three Autumnal Ingredients.
What is your favourite holiday bargain?
Post published August 2013, updated July 2017.
It’s really interesting to see how others find our supermarket food here in France, I do the same when I go to England and bring back a reserve of curry sauces, Yorkshire tea and shortbread biscuits.
However, I think you’ll be disappointed with the canned gratin dauphinois and tartiflette. I find the taste of those particular canned foods acid and artificial. It doesn’t come close to the real thing so don’t let that put you off on your next visit to a French restaurant. In fact they aren’t that difficult to make, although it does take a bit longer than opening a can and reheating the contents but it is well worth it.
The frozen Carrefour meals are marginally better tasting if you’d like that as a homecoming supper after your channel hop.
Oh, I do hope I am not too disappointed by the tinned gratins, they were very cheap and it was an experiment to try them.
Yes they are cheap, you couldn’t make it from scratch for that price! Maybe you could jazz it up with some sautéed lardons and small onions?
I nearly always embellish ready made foods. Looking forward to trying them.
Some great finds. I love shopping in France. My mother in law picked up some little silver spoons there that are perfect for parties. Plus, I’m intrigued by the idea of your “prop box”!
The supermarket trip is an essential part of the holiday. And the prop box is an essential part of a food bloggers equipment!
I haven’t been to France in years, but used to live on the France/Belgium border as a child. When we went to Barcelona a few years ago we went to Carrefour and it was brilliant! I have such vivid memories of food shopping with my Mum in France.
Must get myself back there soon. :)
You must Nelly, before this year we had not had a holiday in France with the car for years.
Jude - A Trifle Rushed
A great list Helen, I love the tartine spreads and I’m going to look out for the gizzards, we’ve not tried them. I’ll be doing my supermarket shop soon so will be taking some advice from you. We have the girl and dog so not too much space, so like you we don’t bother with wine, I’d far rather foodie treats!
I think gizzards might be an acquired taste Jude, but I really like them, fully flavoured and very meaty. Delicious.
So many memories of shopping in France, we went for a month during summer every year for about 15 years when the children was younger, would go now but the Euro is a bit rubbish!
But thanks for the memories.
Becs @ Lay the table
The spreads look amazing! The chesnut cream packaging is so gorgeous and typically french. Looks like you got some good bargains – can’t get over how cheap those silicone pans are – I have a floral one similar to the brown one and cost about £20 from Pampered Chef!
I do love my silicone pans. the way to test them is to fold and pinch, if they lose colour where they are folded they are not pure silicone and will stick. Even so I still use cake release in the more intricate ones.
I am so jealous! I love french supermarket shops! I’m going to Italy on sunday though so i’m looking forward to doing this!
Italian supermarkets! Even better! Have a lovely holiday!
Kerry @ Kerry Cooks
Some fantastic finds Helen! I love wandering around a supermarket in any foreign country, so fascinating
I adore foreign supermarkets! An essential part of the holiday.
Is that Ovaltine spread??! [averting gaze from some of the other stuff here]
It is indeed! Delicious!
My daughter and I enjoyed a trip to cite Europe recently. Found quite a few things cheaper. She has 4 small kids who are always hungry ! She found tinned ravioli went down well for lunches & lots of lovely yoghurt . Kids loved the little wrapped jam cakes.
We are going again & would welcome an idea of what’s cheaper and good to try. I was disappointed with the wine
I bought . Tried wolf blass as good in uk. But it was awful sadly.
Always go for the mid priced French wine. I love that all the supermarkets have a local section too, as long as you stay away from the cheapest lines then you really cannot go that wrong.
Brilliant finds. Always am amazed at the yummy things you can find when on holiday.
My daughter lives in France, and I always head out there loaded down with Marmite, bacon, Wensleydale cheese and Cadbury’s chocolate and come home with the inevitable cheeses plus mustard, lardons, little tubs of fruit compote, chestnut flour noodles, puy lentils, cracotte biscuits and packs of wholemeal muffins.
Always come home with cheese! I did a day trip to Franc with some friends and was travelling home on the tube with a coolbag of cheese that was so pongy that the person next to me was pointedly holding her nose. I think she thought it was my feet!
My partner wants us to go on holiday to France and one of his reasons is the supermarkets haha, he went years ago and still remembers how good they are
It is so much fun Jenni, finding great finds and things you wouldn’t normally buy, or can’t find in the UK.
I remember having a brief encounter with a French supermarket on our way to Germany. I think we all did the ‘ we don’t have this at home, let’s get 10’ thing haha! This has been an interesting read :)
So easy to do, Lily; we can get a little carried away. I find it so exciting though, and so nice to have the treats at home.
I love supermarket shopping when I’m in Europe, I always make sure to stock up on my favourites.
It is lovely if you have a regular favourite you always buy, makes it feel that little bit more speical.
Mummy Times Two
I love shopping in foreign supermarkets when I go on holiday. It’s so interesting to try the new things.
It is a key aspect of shopping in Europe, try new things. A must.
Bintu - Recipes From A Pantry
Interesting post and some fabulous finds. The duck gizzards sound intriguing. Certainly something you wouldn’t find in the UK
Maybe not for everyone, and the name is a little daunting perhaps, but they are so delicious.
Oh my I WISH I could drive to France, stock up my car and drive it back lol. Still, I love those yogurt pots too, and they can fit nicely in a suitcase :) Silicon molds are not terribly expensive here, but proper crepe pans are hard to find! What an interesting list of ideas for my next trip :)
he crepe pan is wonderful. I do like to buy authentic kitchen ware, always feels that little bit more special when using them.
I’ve never grocery shopped on holiday because usually we eat out for our meals, but what a fun idea! I’m sure I could get lots of great things in France that I couldn’t find at home. Next time I travel I’ll be sure to check out a local grocery store.
Lovely to bring some treats home to enjoy once the holiday is over.
This is so interesting and I wish I could try all of those foods. The silicone trays are already in my house and they are pretty affordable her in the US. Thanks for the fun post.
Lovely to be able to take some produce back from your holiday, things you wouldn’t normally buy.
Great finds, I love to wander around in foreign supermarkets too, always you can find something.
So easy to spend over an hour just browsing.
Monica | Nourish & Fete
I love those little yogurt pots, too! My neighbor is particularly creative with them, and uses them for salad dressings and all sorts of sweet little jams and gifts from the kitchen. I also agree about the crepe pan – we have one and don’t even use it for crepes – it’s absolutely perfect for cooking American-style pancakes and bacon!
Living in Brussels, I like a lot of products at Carrefour and Delhaize, as well. It has been so fun and educational for me, an American, to learn about the different products here. Two years in and I’m sure I haven’t even scratched the surface of what all is available!
There will always be new things to try, and new things to discover. One of the joys of it all, nice to be a little adventurous.
I find I use my crepe pan for other uses too, as you say perfect for American pancakes.
This all looks so delicious! I’ve visited supermarkets in France but never actually brought anything back – I did buy some macarons but they didn’t last me very long at all haha. Next time we head over I am definitely going to make the time to actually have a leisurely stroll around one.
Marcarons wouldn’t last long if I bought them either, far too delectable.
We used to shop once a year in July in France and take the goodies back home by car 1000 kms. ^.^
What we would always get is moutarde de dijon, camembert and other cheese such as comté and auvergne cheese varieties, chocolate powder poulain, cookies and mostly galette de bretagne, casse croute for breakfast, lakritz sweet since we can’t get that anymore in austria, sel de guerande, foie gras, french yogurt and especially petite suisse and mint and almond syrup. These were essentials we would by en masse every year without exception, for as long as I remember, so for almost 30 years. Last year I found a lovely tart silicon shape in Auchan, that’s a good buy too as tart molds are usually cheaper in France. Would love to read a post about what to look out for in British supermarkets. Maybe I will make it over the channel someday. :)
Such a wonderful shopping list Helene, some delicious treats.
In comparison, I find British supermarkets a little boring. Although that is only because I am used to them. Maybe something to consider.
We went to France in May and visited a large Carrefour supermarket. They had some great pasta dishes but I hated their tank of real crabs! Kaz
You do find some differences when in different countries, and they don’t always appeal.
Those ceramic yoghurt pots are gorgeous! I love visiting supermarkets abroad, always so interesting to see what’s “normal” shopping in other countries!
I really do like browsing all the different foods, so interesting.
I love French Supermarkets and this has made me excited to visit France again. I love the pastries, sweets and crisps! Anything bad for me!
I use the excuse of being on holiday when I buy the things I probably shouldn’t. Of course taking them home almost breaks the rules, but they are still from holiday, so can almost get away with the same excuse.
Tash @ Food I Fancy
Hey Helen, good shop! I usually stock up on saucisson and cassoulet.
I think I ate the cassoulet before I did these photographs!