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Apr 07

Price Check: a Ceret Shopping List

Price Check is a series of posts from every destination we visit that could serve as a shopping list to stock the kitchen at the start of your stay, as well as a cost of living index in a way. We’re including some basic items to get you started plus a local specialty or two from the place.

What we are really loving about doing this Price Check series – more than forcing us to do comparison shops at every destination – is that it’s making us pay more attention to what’s on the shelves at supermarkets, rather than what we are buying, and is therefore helping us to understand what people are actually eating in the places we’re spending time in.

Ceret’s supermarkets have proven to be very revealing. Yes, the village is renowned for its Saturday morning market, which we’ll tell you more about in a few days, as well as a handful of excellent butchers and bakers. But it also boasts three very different supermarkets, each telling a very different story about its clients, and therefore the social and cultural make-up of the town.

In the heart of the centre ville is a small, budget-priced Netto supermarket, with little of anything of note and the lowest prices in town; on the outskirts of Ceret is an enormous InterMarche (ironically its website boasts that it’s noted for its convenient location!) with a huge array of products, while in between is our supermarket of choice, a medium-sized Carrefour-owned Champion supermarket.

Our Champion supermarket, like any French supermarket, has all those wonderful products that make it uniquely French that you get excited about when you haven’t been to an European supermarket in a while – the kind of products you don’t find in many supermarkets around the world, and the kind of products that got us excited about going shopping when Carrefour first came to Dubai.

What kinds of products am I talking about? Shelves and shelves, and in same cases row upon row, of fresh and packaged, French regional and local products – everything from bags of fresh escargot, Escargots de Bourgogne, Coquille St Jacques Recette Normandie, terrines, rillettes, lardons, jars of fish soup (Soup de Poisson, see below), cheese soufflés, blini, foie gras, a hundred other duck products, and endless counters of cheeses and sausages, and I could go on. Simply, all of the things we just love to drool over and then take home to devour.

Then there are the aisles that we find odd – considering we’re in France – including a long row of shelves of packaged manufactured desserts, from pomme tartin to profiteroles; several rows of frozen and ready-made meals, including everything from paellas (more varieties than I’ve seen in Spain!) to pastries, madeleines, quiches, and even toasted cheese and ham sandwiches (truly – that was a first for us!). Why odd? Because there seems to be a bakery/pastry shop on every corner in Ceret.

Then there’s the ‘ethnic’ and expat aisle, of which the English shelves are particularly revealing: Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Colman’s Classic Mint Sauce, HP Sauce, Scott’s Porage Oats, Dorset Cereals, Branston Baked Beans, Wilkin & Son’s Orange Marmalade (twice the price of local marmalade), and more.

On the one hand these products demonstrate that the French have some of the most demanding and discerning palates in the world, which is exactly what we love about these people. On the other hand, the products also reveal that the French are just like everyone else on the planet: busy, tired, and after a long day, are happy to microwave a pre-packaged, low-grade, manufactured product containing unidentifiable ingredients, when they could just as easily (and more cheaply and enjoyably) cook the same thing at home if they made the time. That’s disappointing because it shows that the French food culture and lifestyle are changing – for the worse.

But what we hadn’t realised before is that French supermarkets are just as globalised as supermarkets the world over, with their Mexican Old El Paso taco kits and their Heinz tinned foods. Although I guess if we lived in Ceret we’d probably be pleased about that. Spice of life and all that.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about the globalization of food culture?

1.5 litre water €0.32 £0.28 US$0.43
1 litre milk €0.59 £0.52 US$0.80
Bottle of local wine €3.50 £3.07 US$4.74
San Miguel beer €0.98 £0.86 US$1.33
100g Nescafe €3.25 £2.85 US$4.40
250 g Segafredo €3.05 £2.67 US$4.13
Lipton’s tea 50 bags €2.30 £2.02 US$3.12
1 kg sugar €0.99 £0.87 US$1.34
Jar of cherry jam €1.60 £1.40 US$2.17
1 loaf of bread €0.60 £0.53 US$0.81
250g quality butter €2.45 £2.15 US$3.32
200g Comté cheese €3.20 £2.81 US$4.33
500 ml olive oil €3.70 £3.24 US$5.01
1 dozen eggs €3.69 £3.24 US$5.00
1 kilo tomatoes €2.20 £1.93 US$2.98
1 kilo onions €2.80 £2.46 US$3.79
1 kilo apples €2.20 £1.93 US$2.98
250 g pistachios €4.85 £4.25 US$6.57
630g jar Soup de Poisson €6.90 £6.05 US$9.35
Total: €49.17 £43.12 US$66.61

4 comments

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  1. Amelia

    Now I’m hungry! And I can’t believe the price of milk and a loaf of bread. It’s probably all fresher than I can buy here too. I think the globalization of manufactured food is sad. We are definitely compromising health and taste, and we are paying for it in terms of our health issues long-term. I’ve been avoid packaged dinners by making extra food occasionally and keeping it in the freezer to avoid the packaged messes when I run out of time to make a decent dinner.

    1. lara dunston

      Hi Amelia – how much cheaper are the bread and milk compared to where you live? (Where do you live?) I think they have to keep the prices of France’s ubiquitous baguettes low or else the people would riot! Agree that creating your own frozen dinners is better than buying them, isn’t it? Thanks for dropping by!

  2. The Longest Way Home

    Hi Lara,

    Wow, I had no idea you had this series running, it’s great. RSS & booked marked it.

    So useful!

    In The Philippines prices vary wildly.

    Water is around 15 pesos = 33 Cents
    Bread good quality 60 pesos = $1
    Feta Cheese 300grm = 275 peso = $6-13
    1 dozen eggs = 67 pesos = $1.49
    1 kilo tomato = 60 peso = $1

    Looking forward to reading more!

    Dave

  3. Philip

    Terence and Lara, this is an interesting venture that you are on, it must be a life changing experience to travel through so many locations and cultures.

    The price check concept is quite intriguing, it would be interesting to know if a site like MySupermarket did a study comparison of groceries on an international basis rather than comparing supermarkets against each other, and likewise for an all round price comparison site to do the same study on popular consumer brand products and see how they stack up in various countries, as I suspect that less developed countries would be getting a better deal from manufacturers.

    I’ve also noticed on some of my own travels that where there isn’t a popular brand of crisp or other food – there tends to be an alternative which looks the same in branding and packaging but has a different name, I don’t know if those are just imitating or if they are the same company but just presenting themselves differently – I noticed this the most with seeing similarities between Walkers crisp packet packaging and promotions and other ‘generic’ brands in foreign countries.

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