Skip to main content

Provence Supermarkets Overview

French Supermarkets Overview
The days of searching for groceries on a Sunday or Monday are long gone in Provence.Like their southern neighbours along the Cote d'Azur ,the Provencal retail community is opening all day during the week and “Quelle horreur”even on a Sunday morning.That is not to say all towns have changed but you can safely say that on a Sunday or Monday you should be able to find a store open within walking distance selling fresh bread etc.Stores now proudly display the “sans interruption” banner as they also display the”ouvert le dimanche”.

The French love fresh food markets ,but equally love the convenience of a supermarket. The average French supermarket offers almost as much variety and quality of produce at the classic open air markets. Pantry items are also highly varied and high in quality.

At the front of the store you will almost always find a designated bread and pastry counter along with a non existent queuing system. People tend to spread across the counter in an anarchic fashion with an 'every man for himself' philosophy. Do not be alarmed. Take your place and keep an eagle eye on the people who saunter up after you. When it comes to your turn, make eye contact with the staff member and say clearly “C'est a moi”. Give your order without fuss. Your fellow shoppers are not as brutal as they are in Paris, but one moment's hesitation will see your neighbour bark out their order instead. When you do get served, your change will not be placed into your hand but rather onto a small tray that will be located on the counter.

The other items you will see at the front of the store are trolleys chained into one another. To unlock a trolley, insert a One Euro coin into the slot on the handle and the trolley will be released. When you have finished shopping, slide the cart back into the stack, insert the key back into the handle and your money will be refunded.

Personal rolling trolleys are popular among all age groups in France,and if you are living or staying within walking distance from a supermarket,investing in an inexpensive one for the duration of your stay can be a worthwhile expense. Some apartment or house rentals include them with your stay. Remember to park your personal trolley at the front of the store. This is normal behaviour but if you do see others wheeling their shoppers around, just follow suit.

If you do not have a personal shopping trolley, bring a folding tote sized nylon bag and use it to pack your items. French supermarkets require you to pack your own bags. Some stores are starting to charge per plastic bag provided, so these handy bags can prove very useful.

What to buy? Dairy products come into their own in French supermarkets. Delicious ice creams, yoghurt’s, cheeses and mouth watering desserts are available at everyday prices. Freshly baked bread, pastries, chacuterie and olives make a great picnic meal for next to nothing. You can even buy ready made sandwiches, salads and good quality wine. High quality skin and hair care products are also available, offering excellent value for money.

French supermarkets do not sell fresh milk. Milk is heat treated and you will find it in the aisles and not the refrigerated section. Normally packed in lots of six, but feel free to break the plastic and purchase a single item. It happens all the time. The same principle applies to bottled water. Just rip the plastic and take what you need.

Yes, fruit and vegetables are really a great find in French supermarkets. Feel free to fondle the produce. Everybody does it and nobody will look askance. To purchase, take the amount you require and place into the supplied plastic bag. A weighing machine will be located nearby. Place your produce on the scale, locate the appropriate photo of the item, push the button and a label will be released stating weight and price. Fix the sticker to your bag and pay for the item at checkout.

You will have two choices at the checkout:
Self Service Checkout: These are appearing across Provence and they operate the same way as self service checkouts everywhere. They will be as annoying and temperamental in Nice as they are in New York, Sydney or Hong Kong.

Checkout Operator:When you are ready to checkout, say a polite “Bonjour”. The French are sticklers for courtesy, even in busy supermarkets. The staff are normally friendly and will always ask in French if you want to pack items into your own bags or if you want them to provide plastic bags for you. Just smile and point to either your own bags/personal trolley or gesture towards their own plastic bags.

Supermarket hours can change seasonally and in Summer the hours are longer ,generally non stop Monday to Saturday 8.00 – 20.00 and Sundays until 13.00. Hours and links have been provided in the directory.Stores outside the city walls,have been included ,as well as those within.
Attribution:  Dish of Apples     Paul Cezanne    1876-77     The Walter H and Leonore Annenberg Collection