On the everyday end of the food shopping scale in Paris, meaning the type of store carrying all the basic needs (kind of like a Target or Walmart, minus the scale of those stores), is Monoprix. I know there are other options somewhat larger or smaller (such as Carrefour, 8 à Huit and the little Monops), but the Monoprix at Boulevard Saint Germain and Rue de Rennes is my neighborhood big supermarket, and a very nice one, notwithstanding the gripes I'd read or heard before I arrived.
|with Saint-Germain-des-Prés just across the street|
I actually look forward to shopping here. At first, it was just fun (and frustrating) figuring out what was what inside the products' packaging (mistakes were made - paper towel packaging is similar to toilet paper roll packaging). It's easier now; for example, I know that I have to get fruit and veggies weighed and price-labeled BEFORE I get to the check-out counter! But the contrasts are still numerous and there's always something new to find out, try or buy.
First off, where else in a grocery store can you buy so many types of wines, many priced under 5 euros? (Oops, the photo is of "les whiskies" - oh well, you get the idea - full service wine and liquor.)
And get to taste a sample of pastis while you shop?
As in all French supermarkets, there are a million yogurts, of course, taking up two dairy aisles, and then another dairy aisle for all the other dairy items (not including the non-refrigerated milk which hangs out by the water aisle). And what a great idea that is - I haven't had milk go bad at all here! PS - "nonfat" is "écremé," and it not impossible to find in a grocery store; however, forget about it in a café. There, you just get the "stupid American" look from the otherwise very nice bartender.
The fresh cheeses and patés, fresh fruits and vegetables are pretty impressive, too, with prices about as reasonable as you're going to find in that part of Paris. And the guy behind the counter is a hoot (he offered to pose for my pictures, for a small fee).
But, really, what's with the Philadelphia Cream Cheese fetish? We need to taste samples of it? I don't think so.
All the world is there on a Friday after work hours, the checkout lines are long but move quickly, and the cashiers are the only ugly part of the experience (and, yes, I'm stereotyping here).
You bag your own items, preferably in your own sacks, but the cashier will part with a plastic bag or two if you look pathetic, and then you get the "stupid American" look back. And the worst is yet to come - if you don't bag your items quickly enough to get them off the counter, the cashier will just halt the entire process and not commence checking out the customer behind you, and then you're getting the evil eye from the entire checkout line! So, I've learned - start bagging immediately, even before you've paid. Whew.
But if you have free time while you're waiting to check out, there's always the TV monitor hanging from the ceiling, offering specials, the weather and, most importantly, today's horoscope.
Practically speaking, for a visitor to Paris, definitely stopping at a Monoprix (or any grocery store) is a must-do. First is the cultural experience (see above). And second, you can pick up sandwiches, water, wine, fruit, croissants, chocolates, picnic supplies, etc. (whether the picnic is in your hotel room, a park or as you stroll), and save a lot of euros on the basics, which can then be spent on something else in Paris. It won't be hard to figure out what to spend them on.