French Grocery Store Tips

From giant French hyper-marches to small organic grocery stores, here are a few shopping tips to make your forays for French groceries a little easier…

cloth grocery shopping bagBefore you go, bring your own bag or you will have to buy a new one.  Also you have to bag your own while the cashier just stares at you (see below).

In big grocery stores, you generally have to weigh and sticker your produce yourself.  Look around the produce section and if you see a little electronic scale (usually with other customers gathered around it).  It has little pictures of all the fruit and veggies; you push the button and the price sticker pops out.  Do this before going to the check out line or you will piss off everyone.   If you don’t see the scale, then that means the cashier does it for you.

At checkout, foreigners feel stressed when the cashier wants payment but you are still in the process of bagging, and all the customers in line are impatiently staring. Just so you know, locals totally ignore the stares and calmly bag their groceries, taking their sweet time, making the cashier and everyone else wait until they’re good and done, and only then pulling out their change purse.

Checkout lines in Carrefour Supermarket

The largest supermarket in Nice is Carrefour, a hyper-marche with absolutely everything (and checkout lines to match). From Garibaldi, follow the tram tracks 10 minutes down rue Republique then turn right on blvd Delfino, you’ll see it in the Nice TNL Shopping Center on your left (tram stop Palais des Expositions).

Discount grocery store chains include Lidl, Aldi, and E.Leclerc, where you can save a bundle.

If you are staying in an Airbnb, I recommend checking out Picard, a uniquely French frozen food emporium with stores all over Nice.  Especially great if you are renting an apartment and don’t want to go out every meal, they have a dazzling array of prepared platters to just pop in the oven and voila.

Here are a few things that you won’t find in French grocery stores:

  • Hormones in your poultry or meat (they don’t do that here)
  • GMOs (ditto)
  • Over-the-counter medicines and vitamins (only sold at pharmacies)
  • Contact solution (only sold at optical stores)

French supermarkets have lots of odd little quirks that are quite surprising, especially to Americans… Here is a fun little BuzzFeed listicle that explains a lot: 19 things about French supermarkets that are low-key fascinating

Organic Grocery Stores in Nice

First of all, a little vegetarian vocab:  The word for vegan is the wonderfully melodious végétalienBio (pronounced like BO) is the word for organic, non traitée means no pesticides, and elevage en champs libre or fermier means free range.   Sans conservateurs means without preservatives, but watch out for this one because the word preservatifs in French means condoms, so if you ask for soup without preservatives in English, they will fall on the floor laughing!

In the last year or so, organic grocery stores have been popping up in Nice like weeds (organic weeds with no pesticides), so just do a Google map search with the word ‘bio‘ and you are guaranteed to find a Bio City, Bio Coop, Bioboule, Bio Marche, Bio c’Bon, BionazurArgane Bio, or Naturalia near you!

See Related Pages:

Related Pages on getting by in France:

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Photo Credits:  Grocery bag available at The Green Christian, and Checkout by Ville Saavuori is licensed under Creative Commons. 

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