Making Sense of the Supermarket: Part II, The Produce Section

This is the second in a series of posts about the typical French supermarket, a place where I spent many hours during my first months in France.  Today, we tackle the produce section.

Let’s start with the biggest difference between the French supermarket and the one you left back home;  in many supermarkets in France, you have to weigh and tag your own fruits and vegetables.  If you can’t find a scale anywhere, you are off the hook.  Many Monoprix stores, for example, now have a scale at the register just like you’d find in an American supermarket.  But if there’s a scale, here’s what you do.

Put your bag of fruits and veggies on the scale.

On the screen above the scale, select “fruits” or “legumes” (vegetables). 

You’ll then come up to menu, usually a bunch of squares with pictures of different fruits or veggies, and a code number.  If you’ve got broccoli, punch the square marked “broccoli” (same in French as in English!), and the machine will spit out a self adhesive tag.  Stick it on your bag of broccoli and you are good to go.

For apples, oranges, pears, and any other item of which there are multiple varieties, look for the square identifying the variety you’ve selected.  If you’re not sure, look back at the sign over the produce bin where you got the item in the first place.  Usually, there is a code (something like “305”).  Take a look again at those squares appearing on the scale screen and look for the square with that code.

Some items are sold by the piece (la pièce), the bunch (la botte) or the unit ( a l’unité) and thus do not have to be weighed.  Such items might include a head of lettuce, a bunch of parsley, or a large piece of fruit like a mango. You also do not have to weigh anything that is prebagged such as prewashed lettuce, plastic bags of apples, or string bags of onions.  Anything that needs to be weighed will be marked vrac (bulk) or with the price per kilogram (kg).

Bio is the French term for organic.  Many supermarkets offer both conventional and bio produce.  As in the U.S. bio items are often more expensive, but not always.

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