Supermarket sweep

When we used to come to France on a regular basis for vacation it was always fun to rent a house or an apartment and pretend that we lived here. Part of the charade was stocking the refrigerator and if we happened to arrive on a market day then that just added to the illusion that we were genuine locals as we went from stall to stall picking up fresh produce. More often than not, however, we ended up going to the supermarket which always meant guessing how something was going to be labeled, how it might be packaged, or even where it would be displayed. Now we’re used to seeing eggs and milk (UHT) displayed side by side on unrefrigerated shelves but at the time it was quite the novelty for us. Prices weren’t a major concern since we simply wanted to get the food bought so that the sightseeing could begin but now as residents, comparison shopping is important.

Photo by Eduardo Soares

One of our newspapers mentioned that the online magazine Femina had an article that compared prices at the major supermarket chains across France. We’d seen these comparison charts over the years and the top and bottom spots never seem to change, including the one below. It seemed that the previous results were derived from a typical shopping cart of essential items or a basketful of only store-brand products all bought within the same week, for example, at stores throughout the country.

This time, however, was a weekly comparison over an entire year of national brand products available in the majority of the stores surveyed. This allowed for the creation of a price index where a score below 100 meant less expensive than the competitors while above 100 was more expensive.  The results:

  • 93 : Leclerc
  • Between 95 et 99 : Casino (Géant/Supermarché), Système U (Hyper/Super) and Intermarché (Hyper/Super)
  • Between 101 et 106 : Provera (Cora/Match), Auchan (Super/Hyper) and Carrefour (Market/Hyper)
  • Greater than 108 : Monoprix and Bi1

These types of charts are fascinating to study and can give you a bit of confidence if you happen to shop at the lowest-price supermarket but the reality for us is that if there’s something that we really want then we pay what we have to pay. For balance, almost all of our fruits and vegetables come from the Saturday open air market where even with inflation we can still find bargains. For coffee beans, paper and cleaning products, for example, we look over the weekly ads from the stores mentioned above and walk or take the bus as required. On vacation we often stay near the train station in the center of a big city where we consistently find a well-stocked Monoprix with that high-rent downtown location perhaps explaining why they are at the expensive end of the list above.

Photo by Gustoavo Fring

Before we moved to France we started consulting the online sale catalogs of the supermarkets in Carcassonne to check prices and simply to see what was available. With the advent of “Click and Collect”, more likely to be called Drive for a supermarket, in addition to sale items you can now see everything a store offers and the corresponding prices. Watch out though, since in our experience just because a product shows up in a store’s listing doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s in stock. Shopping remains an adventure!

Title and photo notes: Today’s blog post title is a nod to the TV game show of the same name that first aired in 1965 and can apparently still be viewed today. The featured photo across the top is from France Info and the one in the first paragraph is from the Intermarché website.

Supermarché comparateur from consumer magazine Que Choisir

6 thoughts on “Supermarket sweep

  1. We’re finding this last year’s rise in prices challenging. Our closest supermarchés are the two cheapest listed, so I guess that’s something! 😃

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  2. Interesting that neither Lidl nor Aldi featured. I used to just buy coffee from Lidl but, with the expansion of its Bio range, find myself buying more and more. However, for meat, fish and cheese I prefer local, specialty stores and markets for fruit and veg.

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    1. Good point. I just reread the article to see that the comparison was based on Drive prices which explains why Lidl and Aldi were excluded.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for teaching us how to use the helpful resources of charts and lists.
    It appears that “Que Choisir” is an important publication for us expats, learning the ropes.

    Have a lovely sunday.

    Susanne from Augsburg, Germany.

    Liked by 2 people

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