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Mar 17, 2014 02:04 PM

What French groceries to buy on a budget

I live in Paris and get my vegetables from a coop. I have a budget of around 60-70 euros a week to spend on the rest of my groceries. I really want to take advange of living in France and make the most of the eating/cooking opportunities here...... especially things that are difficult to get in other places. I like cooking. I also like trying food from around the world.

What shops should I go to? And what should I buy at these shops?

I have read many threads on this board and taken some tips. But I am looking for advice on specifically what to buy for day-to-day living, on a budget, whilst still really enjoying what France has to offer.

Thanks everyone!!

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  1. Try the weekly maraîcher markets in Paris like Maubert, Anvers, St Eustache, etc. The produce is high quality and fresh, and often costs less than regular shops.
    Since you live in Paris, I am sure you know them already, or least can find their timetable easily.

    1. Try going to the open air and street markets just before closing. Great time to get bargains because the stand/shop owners are in a hurry to close up and need to move the perishables. They sell what's left at very good prices. My wife buys excellent fish that way. of course, she cooks it that very evening...I wouldn't store anything like that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hychka

        "They sell what's left at very good prices"
        And the rest they leave out for folks in their boxes. At least in my street market.

      2. I fed a family of three on 60-70 euros per week. That budget for a single person should be a non-issue.

        1. Thanks for your messages! I will check out some more markets.

          I would also like to know what is worth spending extra money for (because it's just so good in France) and what isn't. So, which cheeses are worth going to the fromagerie for and which ones are almost just as good at the supermarket. Whether I should go and buy one of those expensive chickens. Whether I can get my paté at the supermarket or whether I should go to a specific charcuterie? Whether it's worth getting traditional French butter at the Fromagerie. I'm sure it's very much up to personal preferences, but I would love to hear people's ideas! Maybe some Maghrebian grociery products that I should take advantage of buying/cooking whilst I'm in France? I really want to immerse myself in cooking and enjoying the great food that is available here.

          I live by Republique btw. So close to the 3rd, 10th and 11th.

          23 Replies
          1. re: megtenni

            The 10th, near the Républic has the best markets. I am sure you have noticed. Lucky you. I live in the 9th, near good markets myself, but like to trek to the 10th to the rue Fbg St Denis and Marché St Quentin an Marché St Martin.

            "Whether I should go and buy one of those expensive chickens."

            You should not get the cheapo chickens. You need not to get the aristocratic chickens like Géline de Touraine or Barbezieux. A nice poulet fermier like Challan or Périgord is already very tasty.

            "Whether I can get my paté at the supermarket or whether I should go to a specific charcuterie?"

            Go to a good charcuterie of your hood: either in the rue de Bretagne area or Marché St Martin or Boucherie Gourmande on 86 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis.

            "Whether it's worth getting traditional French butter at the Fromagerie"


            1. re: megtenni

              so much of this comes down to personal preference -- why don't you buy a small quantity and decide based on YOUR tastes, rather than ours?

              That's the mindblowing thing about food in France...what gets derided as mediocre in France is sublime anywhere else.

              Explore! You've got more than enough budget to be adventuresome.

              1. re: megtenni

                IMHO it is all a matter of individual taste, willingness to put yourself out to chase down the "best," willingness to pay really high prices for arguable much better food, and how far out on the "foodie curve' you have placed yourself. For example, certainly there are tastier butters than commonly found in the supermarket, but I wouldn't walk up hill to buy it, unlike Parigi above/below whatever. If buying the better butter didn't take an extra trip, I probably would buy the better butter. OTOH my wife insists on a certain olive oil...she buys it in bulk (uses it in bulk) and won't let anything else in the house. Another example, scallops for me have to be purchased "just off the boat" regardless of price. If they are laying around piled up in some big case in a supermarket, I walk on by regardless of price.

                1. re: hychka

                  this -- what I was trying to say, but better-said.

                2. re: megtenni

                  It's really hard to say about the cheeses... I've wondered the same thing before, but I found out that depending on the fromagerie, and on the cheese, sometimes it is definitely worth it to buy it at a fromagerie, sometimes not so much...
                  As an example, I used to be plenty satisfied with supermarket camembert (au lait cru bien sûr), and when I bought it in a fromageries I rarely felt it was worth it. I have now discovered a camembert that I buy from la Ferme de Jouvence... and I can't go back to supermarket camembert...

                  The paté will probably be better at a charcuterie, at least when taking into account the sourcing of the ingredients (but maybe I'm being naive).

                  As for the butter, I disagree with Parigi on this one. Butter in France is really good. Even supermarket stuff. And while it's interesting and advisable to try some nice butters from time to time from a fromagerie or crèmerie, I would not pay the extra cash for my regular consumption.

                  1. re: Rio Yeti

                    agreed -- I'm well-known to splurge on the butter that will be at the table (whether on veggies or toast or American pancakes :) ) -- but if it's going into a recipe, it's supermarket butter.

                    (I do that here in the States, too)

                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                      Rio mio, would you say the same if you could get beurre Bordier aux algues down the street ?

                      1. re: Parigi

                        No, but I would do the same if it was "only" regular Bordier Butter (doux).

                        The beurre aux algues is indeed special, but it is not "everyday butter".
                        For regular use (including cooking, but also morning toast), although I do find Bordier superior to supermarket (obviously), the different price-tag doesn't seem worth it to me.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Come on, Bordier is crap now, not even raw, so expensive. Beillevaire is better in every way. And Dubois has that new Beurre d'exception du Finistère, now that's worth spending a stupid amount of money for a toast in which the butter will always be worth more than the bread.

                          And yes, Carrefour Bio rocks. And Auchan, and Monoprix.

                          1. re: souphie

                            Agreed, Bordier is crap now. Pricey crap.

                            It's amazing how underrated French supermarket food can be. And how overrated some "artisans" who sell regular crap can be. The best butter money can buy (according to me) is ONLY available in supermarkets in Morbihan and in some parts of Finistère. Because it comes from the ferme de Saint-Coal (I've devoted a blog post to it long ago) and aside from selling it directly at the farm, that is the only distribution the producers have found.

                            Reflets de France are really excellent. So is Carrefour Bio, etc. Even Franprix has improved the quality in recent years.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              Good point. Freaking Leader Price ice creams are great.

                              1. re: souphie

                                "Freaking Leader Price ice creams are great."
                                Really, Soup, better than Picard?
                                I must admit I pass by and hold my nose.

                                1. re: John Talbott

                                  They have a line of no additive, all-natural something that's just great. And so cheap.

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      I used to venture to Leader Price for two things:

                                      Flour -- no idea why, but their T65 is closer to American AP than anybody else's T65. (chocolate-chip cookies need T65)

                                      Tortilla chips -- by far the best anywhere (Auchan's are good, but LP's are better)

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        "Tortilla chips"
                                        I've been puzzling over this for a few months.
                                        When I buy any kind of chips, in no matter what stores, they all seem to be disgustingly made in some-other-rancid-stale-oil-than-I'm-used-to.
                                        So sunshine, I'll go to my LP. Thanks

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          The only tortilla chips I found in France that actually taste of corn AND are not too salty (and that don't have a rancid after-taste) are the Doritos "dippas nature" with the light yellow packaging. But they're hard to find as it seems most people prefer the (dreadful) nacho cheese or sweet chili kind, which taste salty and artificial to me.
                                          I'll give the Leader Price ones a try if I can find them at my local Franprix !

                                          1. re: Rio Yeti

                                            barring that, Auchan has a very respectable "nature", as well (their cheese and chili flavors are crap, but the plain ones are pretty decent)

                                            Every summer was a marathon of salsa making and canning -- we went to the cuillette and found the peppers and tomatoes in bulk. The last time we canned salsa, we diced our way through 15 kilos of tomatoes.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Tasted the Leader Price Tortilla Chips !

                                              Not bad, pretty thin (for french standards) which is a good thing. But you should taste the Doritos if you find them, they're slightly thicker, but their corny taste is unmatched by LP's.

                                              1. re: Rio Yeti

                                                We found them to be pretty lacking, especially since Doritos are several times the price of LPs.

                                                Horses for courses.

                        2. re: megtenni

                          If you live in Paris you have lots of time to suss all this out.

                          You can by excellent products in supermarkets, including some supermarkets that have great cheese, pate etc. Equally, there are lots of butchers, fishmongers, bakers, charcuteries and market stalls that are woefully average (if not bad).

                          As others have said some of the best producers sell their butter, meat etc through the best supermarkets i.e. I think some even stock Parigi's beurre Bordier aux algues. Equally some of the renowned specialist shops have foods that are wonderful treats, they make them themselves so only available from them.

                          Just use common sense and explore - really get to know your local shops - its not usually worth travelling across town for most things. Half the joy of living in Paris is the exploration, you will make tons of mistakes and find tons of treasures but both will form your memories of Paris.

                          We still remember the brie bought from a cute little cheese shop. It was wonderful when we ate half of it after dinner, but when we came down the next date it was pulsating with wriggling maggots.....!

                          1. re: PhilD


                        3. Good cheese are expensive. Good bread is not. You should get an awesome, 20€ a kilo chicken once, and also some awesome meat once or twice (boeuf from Boucheries nivernaises, veal from Desnoyer for instance). But in general, the organic chicken at Carrefour is pretty awesome and fairly affordable, and Monoprix works too. Getting your veggies from a coop may or may not be a good idea, you'll see, but I'd keep an eye open for great vegetables.

                          Almost every market has a couple of stands that are both excellent and affordable -- discussing the specifics depends on each market. I know charcuterie from Nougaro at Blanqui and Richard Lenoir for instance are awesome and cheap. At Blanqui (my market as you imagine), there are two good cheap stands for vegetables.

                          Beans and cereals and lentils from Naturalia or another organic store should not be underestimated. Demeter eggs are an absolute must, as is raw milk. All from Naturalia.

                          Most hypermarkets have great deal on meat that is about to reach its expiry date -- that's how you get 10€ Bresse chicken from Auchan.

                          If you have a good fish monger, find out when he gets the sardines and maquereaux -- when they're super fresh, they're wonderful food and very affordable.

                          So where in Paris do you live? That's what we need to know if we're to really help you.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: souphie

                            aaah, I really like the idea of trying these special things once. That makes it a lot less overwhemling. Thanks! I live at Republique, close to the 3rd, 10th and 11th.