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Best European Supermarket Finds

Last year on the BOE 14 day trip, I went to a supermarket in each country to buy food/wine/olive oil to bring home. My thoughts were if the Europeans use it on an everyday basis- then it is good for me and a cheaper option. I discovered Monini Originale Olive Oil in Italy. It is smooth, delicious and a nectar from the Gods. I now purchase it online from Amazon and I will never use another olive oil again. I bought it in a plastic container and put it in a zip lock back that I packed in my luggage. I bought Caotina Original Hot Chocolate in Switzerland. It was sold up in Murren for 8 euros a cup and I bought a whole container for $5 euros in the supermarket at the bottom of the hill. I also purchased delicious table wines from both Italy and France in their supermarkets. I spent about 15-25 euros for the bottles of wine. It also was delicious when I opened it at home. What have you found on your adventures that you loved?

Posted by
8660 posts

Probably not a revelation to many people here, but the first time I discovered mustard in a squeeze tube (like toothpaste) I was impressed. Handy for picnicking as well as general use.

Posted by
27447 posts

I confess to having bought single servings of tiramisu in ordinary Italian supermarkets. They were quite tasty. The servings were small enough that I didn't feel terribly guilty about eating them.

Tins of Spanish smoked paprika are great to bring home. Smoked paprika elevates homemade pimento-cheese spread.

Posted by
5162 posts

Paprika potato chips in Switzerland! I don't usually eat chips, but these are heaven! Another poster here ordered them once she returned home!
Any chocolate made in Europe!!!

Posted by
2857 posts

Another poster here ordered them once she returned home!

Pat, I wonder who this person could be. 😊

Posted by
5162 posts

Carrie, no idea, I didn't use any names!😉

Posted by
8884 posts

From decades of travel nothing healthy but throughly enjoyed:

Terry’s Chocolate Orange
Walkers Pure Butter Shortbreads
Toberlone Swiss chocolate bar

Can get them in the States as well.

Posted by
2267 posts

Toothpaste!

I really liked the "Parodontax" toothpaste I used once in Spain—the mint and ginger flavor with baking soda is effective and tastes good, but subtle, not saccharin-sweet. When I got home from that trip I was glad to find the same brand at CVS. Total Letdown—not just a different flavor but a completely different formula. Now I stock up when I'm there. (I may be low on Charmin, but I've got a 3 year supply of toothpaste!)

It's available at pharmacies, not supermarkets. In Spain, at least.

Posted by
7465 posts

I love going to the grocery stores in Europe to see what they carry and also to see what proportion of the aisles different categories of food are given.

I usually just purchase some items for a lunch or an upcoming train ride. The items that actually come home in the suitcase are from the markets, such as spices from Spain or Italy.

If I had unlimited space, I would pack up a suitcase of olive oil & Italian “00” flour! Oh, and the Parmesan cheese & prosciutto from Parma, thick balsamic from Modena….I’m going to need a huge crate! ; )

Posted by
7084 posts

For me, it's just about any type of Spanish canned seafood, except sardines (better in France) and mussels in escabeche (I find them chalky). They are a bit of an acquired taste but they make for delicious snacks. Some good ones are available in France, but the variety is not there and the price is much higher.

And I agree about Spanish paprika (Pimentón de la Vera), the stuff is delicious. Easily available in Paris thankfully.

Otherwise, living in Paris, there is an excellent selection of goods from all over the world, so if I find something somewhere in my travels, there is a good chance of being able to find it at home. Almost 100% if it is from a European country.

Posted by
9899 posts

Oh, and the Parmesan cheese & prosciutto from Parma...

It kills me that in English we use a French word to describe an Italian cheese !!!

Posted by
7084 posts

It kills me that in English we use a French word to describe an Italian cheese !!!

You got all the good stuff through us 😂

Posted by
755 posts

What kills me is how people pronounce it! In English it is ParmeZAN. No shan, no sean. ZAN.

Posted by
11368 posts

Greek honey, French mustards, and olive oil in Italy but they offered such cheap shipping that I bought six bottles! I have bought Knorr mix recipes that you don’t see in the US too like Greek avgolemono sauce. And lots of spices. I have a POUND of Za’atar as that was the minimum amount sold in a market in Jordan. I make a lot with za’atar now!

Posted by
460 posts

I love Nutella biscuits! I also bought some containers of Fleur de sel (sea salt) de Camarague in France. They have cork lids and it makes me happy every time I use it. I also gave a few away to friends. I found these at Monoprix.

Posted by
7659 posts

Kim and rachele, regarding references to Parmigiano-Reggiano, there’s an even more offensive name that seems to be in more and more use, “parm.” Ugh! It’s a really lazy person who can’t make the effort to utter any additional syllables to describe such a fabulous product.

What’s next, calling Stilton “stil?”

Or gorgonzola dolce “gor?”

Posted by
6102 posts

The Coop markets in Switzerland have the most delicious store brand chocolate at fab prices. The truffle one is so good but hard to find.

Posted by
6379 posts

Saffron. It is so cheap in Spain and France. I messed up last year and forgot (forgot!) to pick some up, but I'll make up for it this year.

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7659 posts

Spices have been wonderful to collect - easy to bring home, and to use at home for flavor reminders of travels. Mother-In-Law’s Tongue is widely sold in both Zimbabwe and South Africa, and does have a piquant, biting effect.

On the last trip to Italy, we brought home bags of “00” flour, Roma rice, and 3 big chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that the shop custom cut and vacuum-sealed. Once in France, one person staying with me wanted cottage cheese (in a country with so many wonderful cheeses!?!) and, really not able to read any French back then, I bought about 8 packages of dairy products in the case, trying to get emerging similar. France doesn’t have “cottage cheese,” but we wound up with several other things that were interesting to eat over a week.

Posted by
945 posts

I have to bring back herbes de Provence which I like to buy from the outdoor markets. I look for more lavender in the packets/containers. There's a recipe from the NY Times Cooking that knocks my socks off every time I make it that calls for hdP and I am now out. I won't be back in France until September and I refuse to buy hdP in our supermarkets.
Items which never make it back are the plethora of chocolate that I just have to try (eat all of) and the crazy different flavors of Pringles (Emmenthal anyone?).
What does make it back are Haribo gummy flavors that we don't have in NJ for my "kids" (ages 37 and 41). I also forage for some great olive oil that I've tasted and can vouch for (again, usually from an outdoor market).
Great topic!

Posted by
48 posts

We did this as well when we were in Europe, it was a blast. Prosciutto, Italian wines, Swiss chocolate, etc.

Posted by
7659 posts

I’m bringing pre-measured “00” flour with me to Ireland in a couple of weeks, for an Italian online cooking class (coincidental timing). I’d probably be able to find “00” in Cork, but this will save spending time searching groceries and markets when there’s sightseeing to do.

However, I’ve already got Irish ingredients on my shopping list, discovered on prior trips: Barry’s tea, Butler’s chocolate, and whole-meal flour, for making brown soda bread. It’ll be nice not having to deal with being at a high altitude, which has been making bread baking such a challenge at home!

Posted by
1594 posts

I buy lots and lots of things while in Europe:

-olive oil, spices, and honey from Greece (I sometimes buy online)
-spice mixes, sauces, and spreads from Italy
-spelt pasta from Austria
-healthy flour and herbal tea from Poland
-paprika from Hungary
-Spanish chocolate drink mixes from Spain
-port wine from Portugal (not from supermarkets)
-mustard from Germany

Posted by
4600 posts

I see I'll have to wander the grocery stores in my winter sojourn.
I do agree the Herbes de Provence is so mu h better from France.
Like Stan, condiments in a tube blew us away in 2002..the last time I was in Italy; but it was the mayo we got in order to enhance the daily lunch bunwiches.
Further afield, I have never found a replacement for the pineapple coconut jam I brought home from British Virgin Islands, and I love Tanzania Stoney Tangawizi ginger beer. You can order it in North America, but like many things has been reformulated and isn't the same.....but then I don't have the show of wildebeest and zebra in my backyard.

Posted by
3249 posts

I love exploring grocery stores in other countries.
Even those in Hawaii were interesting.
The ones in Italy and France are my favourite.
I usually bring home some spices and chocolate.
Even the own-brand chocolate is good !
Last year staying in an apartment in Bologna, I didn’t want to buy a bag of sugar for my cups of tea.
I found a small squeeze pouch of honey instead.
Kind of like those baby food ones, same size.
They also had ones with olive tapenade which I bought out of curiosity, however when it squeezed out it was a rather disturbing texture and colour…….tasted ok if you shut your eyes!

.

Posted by
2528 posts

Long ago, I didn't know you could buy good tomato paste or anchovies in a tube - so that was a revelation on my first trip to Italy. I also love buying salts - black lava salt from Iceland, Maras salt from Peru, fleur de sel from wherever there are oceans. I brought back a bunch of unusual spices from Peru and Ecuador that I'm still working my way through. I also loved the paprika from Hungary (definitely buy at a grocery and not in a tourist market - way cheaper) and pimenton de la vera from Spain. Mozart ball candies from Austria and Cadbury chocolate (it isn't the same here).

Posted by
418 posts

My favorite food purchase came from Fortnum and Mason in London. Countess Grey loose tea! Oh how wonderful this is. My daughter orders it from F & M for me every year as a Christmas gift. Also, their Christmas tea is delicious as well.

Posted by
7659 posts

Janet, oh yes, Fortnum & Mason! Lemon curd in a jar - say no more!

Just down Piccadilly from F&M is a T2 shop (tea too). They have several outstanding varieties and blends, but their Scots Breakfast tea is truly fantastic.

Posted by
33339 posts

for me living in England, I stock up in Switzerland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Austria and Italy. Just as well I have a car.

Switzerland for toothpaste and sunscreen, shampoo and conditioner - all Migros supermarket own products. Mountain sausage from Coop. Prepacked 3 packs of Migros Rösti

Germany for mustard, specifically Süss from Regensburg (specifically Händlmaier handmade - by the case), electronic or electrical need (ok want) of the day from MediaMarkt, Black Forest jams (usually own brand from Heiber), Mozart Balls. Spätzle

Austria for Mozart Balls (yes, I like them)

Luxembourg for coffee beans

France and Italy for fresh fruit and veg.

and I don't like shopping....

Posted by
548 posts

like Nigel, I have a bit of an advantag living in Spain. I often go over the border to France, and I alway bring home some potato chips. There is a French brand, Brets, and they have like 2 dozen specialty flavors. Haven´t tried them all but always bring 3 or 4 bags home with me.

When I can I go to the Intermarche supermarkets. They usually have a nice local products selection. In the Hendaye store there is a black cherry jam that I also buy several jars of to always be well stocked.

@kartalcott, without questioning the quality of Monini Olive Oil, please don´t give up other olive oils. There are so many to try...

Posted by
10366 posts

And when I go over the border to Spanish Catalan, I stock up on coffee capsules and canned seafood.

Posted by
2017 posts

This time, I brought back Ritters chocolates, Haribo sour gümmies, and some wonderful mustard not found in America. Plus I bought a bottle of Austrian wine for $5.00 which isn't sold in the states.

Posted by
797 posts

Fantastic topic & I'm going to try the '00 flour', thanks! Here are some Swedish must have items-

  • HTH - (unscented), the ONLY body lotion we use, it's just in a class by itself for smooth skin.
  • "Biskvi" or "Sarah Bernhardt" bakery desserts - cookies with a chewy almond bottom, chocolate butter filling and a chocolate shell, (the Sarah version has orange flavoring & dark chocolate filling). I buy them at a quality bakery & freeze them in a plastic container, they thaw out en route for delivery to friends who now specifically ask for 'those chocolate desserts'.
  • And speaking of chocolate - I too would have reached for Swiss chocolate until coming to Sweden, but I think the milk chocolate here is better, 'Dukat' & "Dubbel Nugart Marabou'.
  • Licorice
Posted by
857 posts

Gum! Freedent Blueberry Mint (can't buy this flavor in the US).
I get my boss European honey - the first time I went to Paris, just got a small bottle from Franprix, this time I got some from Reims.
And French cookies - Bon Maman Chocolate w caramel are my faves!

Posted by
2491 posts

There are these Milka cookies I found during both my trips last year. I can't remember the name. They're round and individually wrapped, all wafer-y and rich. I'm probably going to look for them again this year.

Posted by
107 posts

I love going to grocery stores when I travel, even if it's just to other states - so many things are different!

I haven't traveled as much as others, but when I go to the UK I love bringing back Walker's crisps - they don't last long when they get home but at least I get to extend having cheese & onion and prawn cocktail a little longer! I also love the pink and white marshmallows, though I swear this past time the ones I bought weren't the same (back last time I went they definitely tasted different and melted differently). I also swear by Radox muscle soak (the liquid) - my first trip I bought a bottle and after walking (and walking and walking and walking) I soaked in a bath with that and the next morning no aches. I've bought it on every trip and it always works - the blue one is my favorite but the purple has worked in a pinch :) I also buy ibuprofen gel, as it's prescription only in the US and works great on tired arthritic knees.

For Sweden, I used to bring back Zoegas coffee - loved it, haven't had it in years though. I never had a bad cup of coffee in Sweden.

In France, there wasn't anything in particular I brought back but I regret not stopping again at a grocery store and bringing back butter. Ours just isn't the same. I didn't even think about herbes de provence, darn it! I almost forgot - I did make sure to go to the Maille boutique and got some pouring-room only mustard! The variety I picked has smoked whiskey in it.

My SIL loved the butter in Iceland and was able to snag some from a shop in the airport on the way home (the name is Smjor I believe, Whole Foods allegedly sells it but the ones near us aren't currently offering it). I had picked up a bar of Icelandic Chocolate (brand name) with sea salt on the way into the country, carried it all the way home before trying it, and it's amazingly good. Whole Foods sells it, though the sea salt variety has been sold out lately.

Posted by
8660 posts

Adding Eduscho (Germany) coffee to the list. A former boss asked me to pick some up on a trip once, and I found I liked it well enough to bring some back each time. I know you can find a lot of stuff like that on Amazon, and other places, but it's better as a souvenir.

I got hooked on Schweppes Bitter Lemon soft drink which is almost impossible to find here in my area. None of the distributors carry it so I cant even special order it. I had a multi-year craving for McVitties Digestive biscuits after last UK trip but they're easier to find here locally.

Posted by
6102 posts

I bought chocolate covered licorice in Iceland. I love it! I have tried to find it online or at candy stores ever since. Once I actually attempted to make my own. It was fairly good, but not quite the same.

Posted by
338 posts

Marvis toothpaste in Italy…so many types and flavors! Wish gelato would travel well…..

Posted by
603 posts

Mariage Freres French Breakfast tea, Normandy butter, chocolate from various chocolatiers in Paris, pepper and salt, cloth grocery bags from shops that have them, jam from France or Italy, Sicilian pistachios from Italy….just to name a few favourites. We mostly bring back consumables now as ‘souvenirs’.

Posted by
2253 posts

Kristi--Yes, that Icelandic butter is so good! It is even better with a touch of their salt on top.

Jules--Have you tried Bingo Balls? They are a chocolate covered licorice candy, but different than regular licorice, They are very dense and chewy. My husband has to stock up on then on every trip.

I love wandering grocery stores, and pharmacies, when we travel. In Iceland, we always stock up on the salts there and bring them home for us as well as family.

Posted by
43 posts

From chemists in the UK: Olbas oil (it's a blend of several oils that you sniff or add to steaming water to relieve sinus pain and congestion), ibuprofen gel (as mentioned by another poster), and strepsils throat lozenges, black currant flavor.

Posted by
107 posts

I love wandering grocery stores, and pharmacies, when we travel. In Iceland, we always stock up on the salts there and bring them home for us as well as family.

I looked at those salts and didn't end up getting any - they are on my list for the next time, for sure!!! Thank you!