There are supermarkets in France, many big ones even, but many French people would rather buy their groceries in their local neighborhood shops instead. Especially for bread. In French culture, people would rather buy their bread at the boulangerie, and not at the supermarket!
Let’s talk about grocery shopping, bread and French culture — and learn some new vocabulary along the way.
C’est parti !
In the outskirts of town, you’ll often find big stores from the giant supermarket chains in France. La grande distribution (= large distribution, big supermarkets) in France:
- E. Leclerc,
French families often go to these supermarkets to get their weekly (or more) groceries, for instance driving there on every Saturday.
Click here to find more: Liste d’enseignes de la grande distribution en France
- Faire les courses = going grocery shopping,
- Commander en ligne = ordering online,
- Le Drive = the drive-through,
- Se faire livrer = get delivered
- La livraison = delivery
** Le truc en plus **
Une course is a shopping trip, but it’s also the word for a race (speed competition.) It has nothing to do with un cours = a lesson, a course (silent “s?”)
Ils font la course. = They’re racing against each other.
Some of these big chains have their smaller versions, in city centers. They’re more like une épicerie (= a grocery store), or une supérette (= a convenience store).
Some of them even offer le Drive piéton ! It’s like a drive-through, but you’re on foot. You order online and you can come pick up your groceries at the store. There’s more and more of these!
2) Smaller shops
The big supermarkets are popular and thriving. But some people (like me!) would rather buy their groceries from the markets and smaller specialized shops.
I live in le centre-ville (= city center). In French cities, le centre-ville is often more historical, with twisting streets, older monuments, tourists, etc. It’s hard to navigate by car! It’s become easier to walk around or ride a bicycle. Especially in cities with environmentalism-conscious local governments like Strasbours, Paris, or Grenoble.
So it’s easier for me to ditch the car and the big suburban supermarkets, and simply buy groceries at the local market!
In many French cities and small villages, there’s often a weekly or regular market on a public square or in les halles (= the market hall). You can check the days online, or on a board at la mairie (= the townhall or city hall), and sometimes at the entrance of the village.
But I have to say, only local residents can really buy all their groceries at the market and all these small shops. They’re facing steep competition from the big supermarkets.
Many French people simply buy everything from the big chains instead, as it’s often cheaper. And most people do a little bit of both.
For instance, I go to the small supermarket down the street too, at least to buy les pâtes (= pasta) , le riz (= rice), les produits d’entretien (= cleaning products), and more.
Vocabulary of the local French market:
- Faire le marché = Faire son marché = buying groceries at the local market
- Un chariot, un cabas à roulettes = a rolling shopping bag
- Un marché des producteurs = a farmer’s market
- Locavore = eating local produces only (neologism)
- Bio = “Issu de l’agriculture biologique” = organic
- Un fruit, un légume = a fruit, a vegetable
- Le fromage, du fromage = (some) cheese,
- La viande = meat…
French vocabulary for small shops:
- Un petit commerce = a local small shop, “mom-and-pop.”
- Une boutique = a shop
- Un vendeur, une vendeuse = a salesperson, shopkeeper
- L’épicerie = grocery store
- Un épicier, une épicière = a grocer
- Le primeur = greengrocer (fruits and vegetables)
- La poissonnerie = shop for fish
- Le poissonnier, la poissonnière
- Les fruits de mer = “sea fruits” = seafood
- La fromagerie = cheese shop
- Le fromager, la fromagère
- La boucherie = butcher shop
- Le boucher, la bouchère
- La charcuterie = deli (pork meat, prepared meat)
- Le charcutier, la charcutière
- La boucherie-charcuterie = often together
- Le marchand de journaux = newsstand, “newspaper shop”
- Le buraliste = tobacconist
- Le tabac-presse = often together, same shop selling newspapers and cigarettes
Click here to learn more: Shops in French: Names to know for your trip to France – Comme une Française lesson
** Le truc en plus **
How to say “I’m going to the butcher’s shop” in French? We can use “chez” or “à la” :
- Je vais chez le [boucher / poissonnier…] (“chez” + a person)
- Je vais à la [boucherie / poissonnerie…] (“à la” + shop name)
3) La boulangerie
French people are very fond of their local bakery!
Bread is better there than at the supermarket, of course. But most of all, le bon pain se rassit. (= good bread gets literally stale). French households often eat bread with their cheese during meals (between the main dish and dessert) – or a piece of bread for le goûter (= 4pm light snack) and more. This means: French households often eat one baguette every day.
Some people buy bread in bulk at the supermarket and then freeze it to keep it kind of fresh until the next grocery run. But most people would rather have a new daily baguette. For this, the supermarket is often too far away – it’s much easier to go to the local baker’s store down the street instead.
And that’s why many French people never buy their bread at the supermarket!
French bakery – La boulangerie, Vocabulary:
Bread and bakery:
- Le boulanger / La boulangère = The baker
- Le pain = Bread
- Croustillant = Crunchy
- Meilleur = Better
- Long comme un jour sans pain = “Long (and slow) like a day without bread.”
Asking for a baguette:
- Une baguette bien cuite = Well-cooked, crunchy
- Une baguette pas trop cuite = Not too cooked
- Une baguette blanche = White (softer)
- “Bonjour. Je voudrais une baguette pas trop cuite, s’il vous plaît.”
What else you can buy:
- Une baguette tradition = a baguette with stricter criteria for its recipe.
- Une Banette = a type of bread that’s very close to the baguette.
- Un pain de campagne (coupé / tranché) = a cut loaf of “country bread.”
- Une viennoiserie = a type of bakery desserts like:
- Un croissant = a croissant
- Un pain au chocolat = a viennoiserie with some chocolate
- Une pâtisserie = a pastry shop, or a pastry (dessert)
- Un pâtissier, une pâtissière
- Un gâteau = a cake
- Un dessert = a dessert
- La boulangerie-pâtisserie = bakeries are often pastries too
Dive more into French culture and let’s spend some more time together.
Click here to get your next lesson:
- French People Never Go To The Champs-Élysées
- Why French people never hug
- What French People Never Eat
- A French Netflix Must-Watch to Understand French Culture: L’Agence
À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!
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Your English is excellent! FYI I would say good French bread is “crusty” (croustillant) but not “crunchy”. Et merci pour l’expression “long comme un jour sans pain”–je ne la connaissais pas! This video is full of little nuggets of information. 🙂
I laughed when I saw you had written “courses” is nothing to do with a race.
My friend here in Bourgogne told me in a text “elle dois aller en courses !”
I thought she was running a race somewhere.. 😂 often I see bonnes courses.. and it’s not have a good race 😂
Yes we like to use the boulangerie, but à lot of people where I now live north of Dijon, have to by their bread at the supermarkets to save time., and most villages have no boulangeries any more
Salut Brian! Are you sure she didn’t say “je dois aller en cours”? “Aller en courses” is not an expression and not the same as “faire des courses”. However, “aller en cours” means ‘go to class’…so if she’s a student, that’s more likely what she meant!
Merci, Géraldinen pour me faire inclue dans tes courriels. J’ai pas le temps à suivre un cous maintenant mais j’éspère te.rejoindre l’été 2023!
There’s a UK English joke saying that goes something
like “it’s the best thing since sliced bread”. That could
refer to anything, but never to bread. I wonder Géraldine
if on your travels in UK you have ever sampled the
wonders of Home Pride ? (Yes, it’s sliced white “bread”
in a plastic bag.) Hopefully not ~ it would probably
destroy any remaining affection you have for the place.
When does the next ferry to France set sail, I ask myself ?
Bon appétit 🙂