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10 Frugal ways to food shop in France

Shopping for food in France can be expensive. Here are my top 10 frugal ways to food shop in France.

10 Frugal ways to food shop in France
10 Ways to food shop frugally in France

1 – Bring your own shopping bags – a basic, but essential for the frugal food shopper, the environment and your pocket. Even basic carrier bags also cost money in France.

2 – Make sure you’re paying in euros, not your old/home currency – the conversion on UK sterling debit cards, for example, is eyewatering. Make sure you have a euro card to pay for your shopping with.

3 – If you receive the “pub” or advert leaflets to your home or holiday home in France, be sure to check it out for any offers which you would like to take advantage of. The “foire aux vins” in early summer can be great value.

10 Frugal ways to food shop in France
Love Marmite, hate the overinflated price in France

4 – Bring the “pub” leaflet with you if it’s an important purchase! Sometimes the offer doesn’t show up at the till, or the store hasn’t yet updated their signage to reflect the reduction. If you’re in the right, it will be easier to explain with evidence.

5 – Try out new French foods and avoid only buying the things which you used to buy before. Yes, I know Heinz baked beans taste nice, but they’re going to be MUCH more expensive than the shop’s own brand of “haricots blancs à la tomate”. And don’t even get me started on the cost of Marmite!

fresh fruit shopping in France
Compare the cost per kilo for both bagged and loose produce

6 – Buy in bulk! If you have the storage, there are often offers on buying larger quantities on things which you know you will use and have a long shelf life – for example, washing powder or dishwasher tablets.

7 – Buying in bulk means you won’t need to make so many trips to the shops, which also saves fuel, which saves the planet, and your wallet – an underrated way to tick off one of my 10 Frugal ways to food shop in France.

8 – Check the weight per kilo of loose fruit and veg vs bagged. There’s no hard and fast rule for which will be more economical. Be sure to check both before putting an item in your basket.

10 Ways to food shop frugally in France
Check for reduced items that you can freeze right away, or cook and freeze for later

9 – Check for antigaspi! Aka the reduced-to-clear items with short best-before dates. But do only buy what you need, it’s not a bargain if you waste it!

10 – Think of your freezer – can’t eat your 24 reduced to clear pain-au-raisin in the next three days? No, nor can I, hard as I am willing to try. So freeze them and pop them back in the oven before you need them for a tasty stasis-conserved treat.

How to avoid spending money in times of stress

How to avoid spending money in times of stress

I think many of us can relate to the sense of fun or enjoyment that comes from buying something nice. Something which we’ve wanted for a while, or even an impulse purchase. We feel pleased, we have treated ourselves. But being mindful of how to avoid spending money in times of stress is an important skill that feels particularly relevant right now as we deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Resisting that urge was an important part of adapting to my life in France. Stopping treating all of my time here like I was on holiday was an important element of integrating and teaching myself how to be in this country.

But in times of stress, times of panic and sadness, some of the old tools which we have perhaps used in the past to manage our feelings, can feel closer to the surface. This is the focus of this week’s blog post where I reflect on not spending money while transitioning to life in a new country, followed by how transferable that might be to surviving financially in the COVID-19 dominated landscape which we all now live.

Managing our online spending during COVID-19

If I don my psychotherapy hat for a moment – spending money can be a tool which people use to change their emotional state. Whether we are buying a house or a baguette, the transaction moves us from one place to another. House-less, to with-house. Bread-less to with-bread. I’m simplifying this but if you want to read more on the psychology of state change I’ll save that for my counselling blog…

So when bad things happen to us, or we feel stressed or anxious, it becomes very easy – alluring even – to believe that buying something is going to make us happier. It has maybe done so in the past and we are hoping that it will do so again. This may be all fine and good if we can afford to do so. But what if we can’t?

Stress as a risk to our finances

I found myself thinking about those who were just about scraping by before COVID-19 took hold a few weeks ago (is that all?). I wondered how with the restrictions on movement in place, our ability to shop or refill fuel at the most affordable businesses may have been taken away. For those on a reduced income – as so many of we immigrants – pensioners, those living frugally and self-employed here are – this change could put some families in a distinctly tricky place when it comes to balancing our bank accounts.

How to avoid spending money in times of stress

To my mind, knowing how to avoid spending money in times of stress has never been more important. Resisting the urge to change our emotional state using a tool which isn’t good for us can be really hard when we feel uncomfortable. I’m not suggesting that we close our purses completely, we do need to support businesses and independents in this time where we can do so safely – for example, I have just started online French lessons with a teacher in La Reunion. She is a micro-entrepreneur and so am I. I’m proud to support her business and improve my language skills at the same time. But I am not doing so to distract myself from feeling uneasy about COVID-19.

What can we do about it?

If we do spend money – let us simply interrogate why we are doing so. What does this purchase do for me? Am I buying something which will improve my life or happiness, or am I buying something because I need to distract myself from feeling fearful?

Perhaps coming back to Martin Lewis’ Money Mantra is appropriate here:

“Do I need it? Can I afford it? Will I use it? Is it worth it?

How to avoid spending money in times of stress
Credit: Martin Lewis @ Moneysavingexpert.com

If we can answer all of those questions in a way that satisfies us that the purchase is sound, then we should go ahead. But if we are buying things because we are responding to our emotions rather than our needs, then perhaps we should talk it through with someone else, or delay the purchase by a day to see if we still need the thing that feels so essential right now.

Managing our online spending during COVID-19

Just a few thoughts that occurred to me this week. I hope that you’re all keeping well. Stay safe, L

So you want to eat (all the) cheese in Limoges?

“So you want to eat (all the) cheese in Limoges?” is a phrase which accurately summarises our most recent jaunt into town. Yesterday we enjoyed a day off the usual painting and organising to appreciate the new Halles which have been opened recently in Limoges. The works to restore the building have taken months – and it only recently re-opened at the end of 2019. 

Les Halles Centrales Limoges

The building is gorgeous, with some of the vintage tiles depicting flowers and farm animals preserved high up near to the roof on the exterior, and the carpentry which has been undertaken on the inside is breathtaking. It reminds me of a very nice, new and clean Isambard Kingdom Brunel design, which I should be familiar with after our time in Bristol looking out over Clifton suspension bridge from our kitchen window.

The Brunel-like interior of Les Halles

As lunchtime approached we were fortunate to get a last-minute reservation at a local restaurant called Caseus, it’s just to the right of the entrance to the church SaintMichel-des-Lions in a sweet little fountain decorated square – if you’re in the vicinity I highly recommend it. The focus of the menu is cheese, in all forms, and all its melted glory and if you’re lucky enough to be seated downstairs as the four of us (plus Margot) were, you’ll be treated to a crypt-like experience (though admittedly a clean one, and conspicuously absent are the dead people) underneath the main restaurant. It was incredibly cosy and SO FRENCH. I feel a bit Rick Stein saying that, but I have a feeling you’ll know what I mean.

Caseus, or Cheese Heaven, as it shall henceforth be known

Now, Sunday, its back to the organising, and we have just finished unpacking the office. Well, 95% of it. There are some things which have no home and some things which I refuse to find a home for. But it will all settle eventually.

If you find yourself in this cheese-crypt, go big is my advice

Oh, and the eagle-eyed amongst you will see that I broke my dry-January promise. Red wine and cheese are too good to pass up! Your sympathy please?!

The menu of Caseus in Limoges
The menu of Caseus in Limoges

Laura x

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