Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hypermarchés

I recently wrote a series of posts about shopping for and preparing meals "the French way." The series received wonderful comments and feedback, but also some emails from curious readers wanting to know where I buy things like cleaning products and paper goods.

I must confess: Target.

Well, actually, the hypermarché, SuperTarget.

Hypermarts are a touchy topic, both in America and in France. The arguments of wages and unions are well known, and the cost benefit is the subject of endless discussion. But, I am asking you, please don't judge me because I shop at Target.

Actually, it was in France, not the US, where I first discovered the hypermarché. About twelve years ago I stumbled upon Monoprix in St. Germain-des-Prés; for someone who seeks quality at affordable prices, Monoprix is a goldmine. Part grocery store, part clothing store, part hardware store, Monoprix has it all. It was there I bought my first piece of Emile Henry, and where I discovered the complete line of Le Petit Marsellais soaps.

A few years later during my first visit to Annecy my sister took me to Carrefour, a hypermarché located just outside of town. Her son, Jules, was still a baby, and Carrefour is where she bought baby products. When I visited I couldn't believe it; a huge store that carried everything for baby Jules, including Petit Bateau at amazing prices. Like Monoprix, Carrefour has a bit of everything.

Back home in the states, I had never heard the term "big box stores," was unaware of the politics surrounding Wal-mart, and Costco had not yet made its way to my area. But before too long, a friend was telling me about this new store, Target, that had everything. She jokingly referred to Target using a pseudo-French pronunciation which made it sound like and upscale boutique. Now, years later, I am a Target shopper.

For those who have never visited a SuperTarget, it's an experience. In addition to the general merchandise you would find in any Target store, there is a full service grocery store, just like the French hypermarchés. I shop SuperTarget every 6-7 weeks. Personally, I like the convenience of shopping there: the store is clean, the aisles are wide, the shelves are well stocked, the service is quick, and the range of products is good.

The francophile in me can also find my favorite products: Laughing Cow Cheese, Le Petit Ecolier biscuits, Maille moutards et cornichons. Also Alessi, Colavita, and SanMarzano brands are less expensive at SuperTarget, which means I can keep my pantry stocked with high quality staples without spending a fortune. And of course, there I can also buy cleaning products, paper products, batteries, and all the other non-food essentials.

So politics aside, does anyone else shop the hypermarchés?

5 comments:

  1. I love SuperTarget. One of my best girlfriends moved to France in 1995, and when she and I were talking on the phone yesterday morning and asked about my plans for the rest of the day (which included a stop at SuperTarget), she sighed and said, "I miss Target." Her French husband loves going to Target when he's in the States; I think he'd be happy to go to a different every day.

    I also shop at Costco. They are very good to their employees and offer a lot of organic or natural foods items (butter, Colemans's chicken breasts, eggs, sugar, chicken stock). I also like their selection of cheese and always pick up big wedges of Parmesan-Reggiano and Jarlsburg (both of which never seem to go bad in block form) and huge logs of chevre. They also carry a hormone-free whipping cream by the quart, which I use to make my own creme fraiche, which also never seems to go bad in the fridge (well, at least not till it's a good six weeks old or so -- not that it ever lasts that long).

    I have been using the Method line of home cleaning products for about four years and am happy to say that I don't have any toxic products in the house at all. I also make my own laundry detergent and use plain white vinegar (sweetened with drops of lavender oil) instead of fabric softener. You can get a massive jug of white vinegar at Costco for about $3, which is also great for all kinds of cleaning tasks in the house.

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  2. Actually, I shop at my SuperTarget a lot. It is close to me and carries many things I need for a reasonable price. I do not like to shop in the big warehouse stores, I am a single girl so I don't really need to shop in bulk, so SuperTarget is a good choice. Wal-Marts are always dirty looking to me so I never shop there. I use the Method products too.

    I love Monoprix. It is always my first stop when I arrive in Paris because I can get shampoo, soaps, bottled water, etc. that I need for my room/apartment.

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  3. Marsi and celiajuno, I'm relieved I'm not the only one who shops at SuperTarget! And, I always see the Method products there, but have never tried them. It sounds like you would both recommend them, oui?

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  4. I love Target....and the first time I had heard of it was with the pseudo French pronunciation too! We don't have any Super Targets here unfortunately. I do remember going to Carrefour when I lived in France....coming from a small town in Ireland I really thought it was amazing...
    I too make cleaning products from Vinegar. I add lemon juice to make a more bleach like product. I'll have to try it with lavender for the laundry...does it really soften the clothes?? With a new baby in the house I'm really trying to use as little chemicals as possible.

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  5. Carrefour is pretty amazing--almost overwhelming--but great fun. I could spend hours browsing the shelves . . .

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