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An American In Paris: How To Food Shop

Grocery shopping in New York City is, like many other New York experiences, incredibly wonderful and unbelievably stressful. Want to have the best selection of healthy stores at your fingertips? No problem. But you’ll have to be ready to lug those groceries up and down the subway stairs … and if you live in a walk-up, well, bonus points for the exercise. Of course, many stores offer delivery, but you’ll pay extra.

Still, New York offers a wide selection of fantastic grocery shopping experiences. Who doesn’t love walking into Whole Foods and ogling the mounds of beautiful, multi-colored produce? And where else can you find ostrich eggs? (Maybe a few spots in Chinatown.) There are the many green markets that you’ll find in Union Square, McCarren Park, Bowling Green, or the one in Inwood where you can go for a hike through the nearby Cloisters for sweeping views of the Hudson River (really, try it out some time). Or, if you’re really ambitious and organized, you can select a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program to ensure seasonal, fresh produce from local farmers. And then, of course, there’s your local bodega, where you can get the basics at 3am.

After leaving New York for Paris, I was worried about losing the ease of safe shopping at Whole Foods and cheap reliable finds at Trader Joe’s. I feared that I would be stuck between deciphering unlabeled items at farmer’s markets and overpriced, boutique organic (or “bio,” as it’s called in France) shops. What is a health-conscious yogi, student, and marathoner now living in Paris to do? Grocery shopping can get a little complicated. As a student, I’m a price-sensitive consumer, but as a yogi, I care about where my food comes from. As a marathoner, I’m not willing to sacrifice on nutrients.

French Market Forelle Pears

So I stole a French fashion secret: combine quality, durable staples with fun, changing accessories. I keep a regular stock of quality “base” foods and add seasonal ingredients for a twist. This keeps variety in my diet and is good for the Aquarius in me, constantly needing to change things up.

What is a health-conscious yogi, student, and marathoner now living in Paris to do?

Take, for instance, breakfast: I start with oatmeal. A large, 8kg bag of organic baby oats is a mere €8 at the Carrefour “hypermarché.” Next, I add flax seeds milled with a hand blender (they keep in the fridge), and add some sheep’s milk yoghurt. Monoprix, which has retail stores throughout Paris, has the cheapest varieties of both of these. To give it a fun twist, I keep a rotating supply of different things: nuts, prune compote, seasonal fruits, cinnamon, bee pollen, and even matcha powder have made their way into my breakfast bowl. The fun part here is it allows me to explore – once, I found myself at a shop in the 12th arrondissement that guarantees Japanese radiation-free, cooking grade matcha powder.

French Market Vegetables

Being health and cost savvy with staple meals like this enables me to still enjoy the treats that help make Paris the most visited place in the world. For splurges on chocolate, I’ll go to Jean-Paul Hévin or Jacques Genin, both near my house. The city is also home to an incredible selection of teas, such as Maison des Trois Thés, or my personal favorite, Le Parti du Thé.

For the next time you’re in Paris, give some thought to staying at an Air BnB to get a more authentic Parisian experience, and try out some of these places to save cash and calories by eating a few meals at home:

And don’t worry – you can be in London by lunchtime if you really miss Whole Foods.

Megan Clayton