Where are the best bargains to be had in France? It used to be the village market and that’s still where you will find the best local produce. But France’s supermarkets are pretty good too.

 

We, along with many other people here in the south of France, have become used to shopping at the local indoor and outdoor food markets. In most villages and small towns it is quite a social occasion, with people stopping to chat, perhaps sitting at a pavement café for a coffee and sharing notes on any bargains to be had. There is less of a frenetic feel to shopping here in France: it is more of a pleasure than a chore.

One handy tip is to print off a recipe in French and hand it to your butcher

Pretty much all of the fresh produce you see at markets here is sold by local producers who will usually have grown the fruit and vegetables themselves. I have never tasted such good tomatoes as the ones I buy here in our local village. As for fresh meat, all butchers are obliged to display a notice showing its origin. Most butchers are from families with a long history in the trade and are proud to show off their skills, so don’t be afraid to let them know how you would like your cut of meat to be prepared.

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The traditional, and economic, way to shop in France. Philip Lange / Shutterstock.com .

 

A handy tip if your language skills are, let us say, not university degree standard, is to print off a recipe in French and hand it to your butcher. I did this in order to make a “cassoulet”, a classic regional dish here, and our butcher gave me all the ingredients neatly weighed out.

Aside from local market shopping, it is usually wise to go to one of the giant supermarkets for general household goods. Leclerc is probably the cheapest overall but Geant, recently renamed “Galeria” in our area, is also excellent. These larger supermarkets don’t close at lunchtime and are also open on Sunday mornings. A good tip is to plan your shopping between 12 and 2pm when the shop is likely to be far less crowded during the lunchtime hours. Yes, the French still consider this a time to sit down and eat, not to shop!

Shopping, cooking and eating, it’s all part of the pleasure in France

We have noticed a recent increase in foreign foods being supplied, with a whole supermarket aisle devoted to foods from the UK, Spain, China, Japan, Mexico and others. Ready meals seem to be on the increase too, although it is not really in the French psyche to buy something already prepared. The French love to cook with fresh ingredients from scratch and are keen to avoid processed foods wherever possible. Shopping, cooking and eating, it’s all part of the pleasure in France.

 

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