French Supermarkets
How to Shop

I love French supermarkets. Years ago during my college years I lived with a French family in the Paris suburbs. I remember being mesmerized by the supermarkets… who would have thought a supermarket could be so fascinating?

…The produce displayed with the eye of an artist, cheese, pastry, pâté – so many choices I never knew existed. And I did not grow up on fast food either, my mother was a fabulous cook but still this stuff wasn’t available or even sought after in New Jersey.

The Big French Supermarkets

Today the biggest supermarkets in France are these Hypermarket chains:

  • Carrefour
  • E. Leclerc
  • Auchan

You’ll see them on the outskirts of towns near the highway. Follow signs that say “Centre Commercial”.

Hypermarkets by definition have everything: food + department store combined. So if you need to buy towels for your rental, like we did or whatever, you’ll find it there.

It’s not old world French culture it’s new world French culture, so not as pretty but very efficient - the fresh food is pretty! The prices are lower than the smaller markets so it’s a good place to stock up for your weekly holiday rental.

These mega French supermarkets are often anchor stores to a Mall, so there will be other shops available to you as well.

French Supermarket Shopping Dos and Don’ts

Shopping carts

In the parking lot you’ll find them stacked together. You’ll need a 1 Euro coin, put it in the slot, pull out the key, the cart is yours. When you’re finished, return the cart, plug in the key (it’s there dangling with the other carts) and you get your coin back.


You must weigh it yourself (they do not weigh it at checkout!). Put your selection on the scale in the produce section, a photo list of produce lists each item with a code. Enter the code; press the button, a sticky label prints, which you put on your bag.

Butcher, Baker, Deli or the like

Someone behind the counter waits on you. You must, by the custom of French culture, greet them first by saying bonjour monsieur or bonjour madame.

Bring your own bag

 - or they charge you for the bags at checkout.

Bag it yourself

 – the cashier scans and takes your money.

Don’t worry about the money thing

If you’re new to it the cashier can help you with the coins, etc. if you get confused. The alternative is to do self-checkout.

Busy on Saturdays

The store is so large it’s not so bad.

In season, resort areas are very busy on Saturdays as all of us are stocking up for our weekly holiday rental.

There are the French supermarkets that are not hypermarkets that you’ll also find. The same rules apply.

Small Food Markets

Aside from the supermarkets please note that when you go to a small market it's usually not appropriate to take what you want yourself. They pick it out for you and you must respect that. You’ll be able to see based on how the store is laid out which way it will be. Or watch what other customers are doing.

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