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Buying groceries [in Paris] [edited]

  1. How are produce sold in grocery stories? Pre-packaged or bag it yourself? Do you have to weigh and price your produce before you get in the checkout line?

  2. Are you expected to bag your own groceries or does the checker do it for you?

  3. Should you bring your own tote bags or are plastic/paper bags available? It the latter, are they free or for a fee?

  4. Are some stores using self-checkout where you scan the barcodes?

  5. Can you purchase your groceries with a credit card or is cash expected?

Posted by
306 posts

Where specifically are you thinking of buying groceries? We have bought groceries in Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Rome, etc and smaller places also. Generally the large grocery stores are just like home, with the exceptions of not providing a bagger nor bags in a few places. Could you provide the places you intend to buy and someone can help with the specifics.

Posted by
2644 posts

I have bought groceries in a lot of countries, and there's going to be some variation for you. However,
in both small markets and larger stores, generally:
1) There is both pre-packaged and non packaged produce. You do have to weigh and price most of it. The systems vary, and when I am confused, I often just show my produce to a local and they are happy to help me with the weight and ticket-printing part.
2) I usually bag my own and that seems to be norm.
3) Try to have little bags with you. They charge in many cities, but not all of them.
4) I have not come across any self-checkouts that I can recall. I am sure there are some out there though.
5) I pay by credit card for many purchases at these stores.

Posted by
1658 posts

For each question 'it depends on the store and the country'

1, Loose produce depends. In Scotland (and the rest of the UK) the till operative weighs the item.
2. The operator in Scotland asks, unless it is one of the bargain supermarkets where it is thrown at you like a pershing missile. I refuse because I can.
3, Bags are always available. In Scotland this is 5p minimum, others it is free, in others it is more, but bags are available.
4. Self checkout is available in the UK and France and Belgium. I don't like it because I feel I am doing someone out of a job and not getting a payment for doing the checkout jockey's job! Socialism and capitalism in one disgruntled Scot!!
5. Plastic is accepted almost everywhere in the EU. I have not paid in cash in a supermarket since 2009.

Posted by
3618 posts

In most of the countries of western Europe, you bag your own in the bags you have brought or in bags available for a small price. I don't remember ever seeing freebies. It is very common for you to need to weigh produce and print out the tag at the produce department. Some supermarkets accept cc's, but some take only their own. Have cash ready. If you are buying produce at small, independent shops, you usually need to ask the proprietor for what you want. Customers do not handle the goods.

Posted by
4 posts

Sorry for being ambiguous about the location. First time posting a question. Mea culpa! I thought I was only posting to the "France" forum but saw that my question came up as one of the newly posted questions that everyone sees. In any case, I edited my original question to include "in Paris."

Posted by
12040 posts

I'll answer based on my experiences at Carrefour in Belgium, which is the major grocery chain in France. The experience may or may not be identical.

1) Similar to in the US. Some produce is pre-packaged, some you bag. "Do you have to weigh and price your produce before you get in the checkout line?" If you bagged it and there isn't already a bar code on the bag, yes. You look up the producre you're weighing on the touch screen, select it, and a bar coded label prints out.

2) You bought 'em, you bag 'em.

3). Bring your own bags, or buy them at the check out line. They're not free.

4) At Carrefour, they have some kind of system where you can scan items as you shop, then you present the scanner to the cashier at the counter. I'm not sure exactly how the system works. I've never seen completely self-check out anywhere in Europe.

5) Either, although I don't know if a credit card without an imbedded chip will work. Even if a magnetic-strip only card does work, the store may not have a system for processing the paperwork.

Posted by
9363 posts

"4. Self checkout is available in the UK and France and Belgium. I don't like it because I feel I am doing someone out of a job and not getting a payment for doing the checkout jockey's job! "

Haha, I feel the same way! I have said I won't use self-checkouts until they give me a discount for doing so. And why should I take someone's job?

Posted by
8889 posts

In many countries (but not in the UK) you have to weight loose items yourself.
Beside each item is a price and a number. You take as much of the item to the scales and put it on. Type in the number. The item and price comes up on the screen (Tomatoes, 525g @ € .../Kg = €.....), and a label is printed. You then attach the label which is read at the checkout. If you arrive at the checkout without having weighed your goods, the cashîer has to take them back to weigh them, and everybody else behind you in the queue moans about tourists holding up everybody else.

You always have to bag your own purchases.

You often have to pay for bags, this is to encourage you to re-use them. Bring you bags back and use them again. The bags are hanging up before the cashier. If you pay for your purchases and then start looking for bags - hard luck.

Posted by
1658 posts

al.milo. Do not be worried. It is actually a useful series of questions for visitors to Europe. Most guide books do not include a 'how do I buy 250 g of mushrooms?' What is logical to me in Scotland is not logical to someone in France, Germany or Italy etc etc.

Buying at a supermarket is similar but not identical because of different customs and laws. From tomorrow (20th October) there is a 5p (US$2bn, though I may have got the conversion wrong) charge in shops for a plastic bag in Scotland. It will take a while to get used to. If I go to Carlisle, two hours on the motorway, one hour with my right foot, they are free. For now.

Don't worry too much. If anything you will have a nice reusable Carrefour/Sainsbury's/Delhaize bag to show off at home.

Posted by
7404 posts

Hi, I love to stop in grocery stores when we travel to pick up items for lunches and also to see what types of food are preferred in the area, i.e. the jam/bread toppings items in Wengen, Switzerland took up an aisle, and coffee was equally long; cereal was about a yard long of aisle space.

Back to your questions, when you're picking produce there may be plastic gloves in the area. Use them to pick up your items. In the USA we tend to touch several pieces of fruit to find the perfect one, but in Europe people you need to pick up just one & take it. If there's a person helping with produce, tell them if you want to eat it today or wait a few days, and they'll pick out one for the ripeness you're requesting.

In Paris, we shopped at the Monoprix stores and always paid cash.

Posted by
751 posts

I was just in Paris last week, so hopefully I can give you some helpful answers:

  1. If you buy the loose fruit/veggies, you have to weigh and price the produce before you get in line. I learned this the hard way!! :)
    At Monoprix, there was an employee in the produce section weighing things for you. At Carrefour, you did it yourself.

  2. You bag things yourself.

  3. You can bring your own bags (this is what most locals do), or if you don't have one then it's .03 for a plastic bag.

  4. I didn't see any self-checkouts.

  5. I always use cash, because I don't have a chip and pin card. It seems like quite a few people were using cards, but I suspect they were the chip and pin. Not sure if a magnetic strip card would work or not.

Have a great time in Paris! Keep in mind that most of the grocery stores are closed, or have limited hours, on Sunday.

Posted by
61 posts

Was in Paris early Oct, and here is what we encountered. We went to two places - Naturalia and Monoprix. Look for "Gluten Free in Paris" for specific details on locations. Monoprix ended up being our favorite for pricing and hours.

  1. Produce was mostly loose. There was some that was pre-packaged on a tray with cling wrap at Monoprix. Bagged salads and such, or extremely pricey onesie/twosie organic made of platinum evidently No having to price it yourself, they weigh and price at the checkout. Little plastic bags to put your stuff in, but not strong enough to use as carry-home.
  2. You bag your own.
  3. Yup, bring yours, or buy from them. Our friends had brought a few with them from US stores.....that got us some second looks when we were carrying back to our apt.
  4. Neither had self-checkout, though Monoprix had a queue for people with few items, but there was still cashiers involved.
  5. Had a CHIP and SIG (BofA Travelcard) and didn't have any problem at either. Cash would always work. Didn't see anyone using a pure stripe card at either location.

Things I wish I had (known) when shopping - a list in francais of the names of the items I was looking for. Knowing the french names for bacon, beef, chicken, etc. will save you a lot of peering at packages and attempting to decipher what is in there. :) Knowing this would have saved us one in retrospect hilarious incident with the laundry washer. Apparently the solid soap cubes we bought made our shirts sparkling clean with sheeting action, if you can catch my drift. Since you can't normally get a cell signal in the basement of Monoprix, Google Translate your grocery list beforehand. GT was also handy when I needed to find a real "pharmacie" later in the week - the "play this" audible option was quite handy.

Plan on shopping every couple of days - EU fridges are not built the same scale as normal NA ones, and besides, its more fun to have fresh stuff. I saw lots of folks using wheelie suitcases or similar to move their groceries around, seemed really smart depending on how far and high, and how many stairs you will need to lug it back to your place.

Monoprix will also most likely have a "para-pharmacie" which will have some soaps, lotions, etc. if you are looking - the grocery store that was in the bottom of the one we shopped at had groceries and cleaning supplies, etc. but nothing in what we would look for in OTC medicine, etc. The top floor had clothing, and a small section of "travelers needs" including power plug adapters (reasonably priced, btw) and straps and such as well as plates, forks, knives, etc.

Breakfast cereal brands were similar - even saw a familiar Tiger from my childhood. Canned goods about the same, some brands that we were familiar with, some that you tend to see at Cost Plus, and some that were completely and totally indecipherable. As in any grocery store, the organic and higher priced items are at eye level and in front. Don't be afraid to wander around.

Bon Appetit!

Glenn and Larsellen in Tucson

Posted by
5 posts

Hi there. If what you're looking for is produce, I suggest you go to the market on the Rue Mouffetard. They have excellent local products and it's a great way to get some groceries AND see this great, lively market. Every time I'm in Paris, I go there for a walk and buy fruits, vegetables, cold meats and baked goods. Take some cash with you (no credit cards)!
If you're looking for a supermarket, Monoprix is ok for basic stuff, though you won't find as many options as in Carrefour. You should take carrier bags with you if you can, since some places charge for them. In these places you can pay cash or by credit card, no problem.

Posted by
850 posts

I think you've got answers to your questions, but if you get the chance, I would try to shop in local markets when you can. Ask around to find one close to where you are staying. Bring your own bag and remember to say "bonjour." You'll have fun!

Posted by
8293 posts

And don't forget, if you find you need milk, cheese, wine or other basics on a Sunday. the little corner shops are there for you.

Posted by
3392 posts

Just one thing to add to the already excellent advice above...your magnetic strip card will most likely not be accepted at grocery stores in France. Make sure to stop by an ATM and have cash on hand. Touristy places such as restaurants, museums, etc., will still take your magnetic card but places where locals shop (grocery stores) are almost exclusively chip-and-pin now and have been for about 10 years.

Posted by
8293 posts

For one of Europe's most up-market grocery stores where luxury goods abound, go to Fauchon on Place de la Madeleine, if only to look and not buy. Everything is so beautifully displayed, it's better than Harrod's food department.

Posted by
4 posts

Just a special "thank you" for everyone's practical advice. It will prove very helpful and come in handy. I will be less intimidated visiting a Paris grocery store next month. I will also be packing a couple of tote bags in my luggage.

Posted by
219 posts

Just a note on tote bags. In both Monoprix and Carrefour they had reusable ones at the check outs for 1€. I bought a few and used them throughout our trip.

Posted by
149 posts

Our last 2 trips, we brought along reusable plastic shopping bags from ALDI. A new store went up in our area and they were giving away their reusable bags. They were nicely folded flat which made it breeze to pack, not to mention carry in our day bag for impromptu shopping. They're big, sturdy, and have handles. They really came in handy.

Posted by
4063 posts

An off-topic comment, but part of the general discussion: In Italian grocery stores, many people use the supplied disposable plastic glove to pick up the fruits and vegetables. Not so common in street markets, although the vendor may want to pick up the goods for you.