Ordering groceries from the UK - why?

Have you shopped this way - and how much does it really save?

10 June 2010
By

GROWING numbers of British people living in France are buying everyday groceries from the UK because they are cheaper - even including the transport costs - according to a report in the Guardian.

The newspaper claims savings of up to 30% are possible - even on basic day-to-day items such as milk. French items such as croissants and wines are also being bought from Asda and delivered.

The report has caused a stir online with fierce criticism from some, who query whether it defeats the point of living in France, a country famed for its food. L'Anglais à Paris blogger Richard Brooks asks: "Why did these Brits travel to France in the first place?"

What do you think? Is this practice right, bearing in mind the added environmental damage from the transport?

Have you shopped this way - and how much does it really save? With the pound-euro exchange rate becoming increasingly volatile in recent weeks, are there still savings to be had?

Here are some of your replies:

Adapt to French food tastes

We do not buy from the UK choosing instead to eat a diet as close to the French norm as our tastes allow. We find our food bills are less than we were spending when living in the UK - by a considerable margin.

I agree that if we did not change our eating and purchasing habits then it would be more expensive - but that was part of changing our life style - for instance you wouldn't live in Italy and not have pasta for dinner, same applies here - even down to regional differences in menu depending on what is seasonal.

If people want Asda or Tesco English food - good on them, that's their decision and their right - but they are missing out on being exploratory when it comes to diet.

Mike.

When in Rome...

I agree with Richard Brooks. When first living in Belgium I watched only BBC TV and went back quite frequently to the UK, to load the car with butter, bacon, ready meals to eat in the office etc.

Now I live in the South of France (Pyrénées-Orientales) and the only thing we ask visitors to bring - or buy ourselves when we visit 'home', are the big packs of teabags, because even if some brands in the supermarket are from the UK, they are packs for one week and very expensive. All other food is locally available (breakfast cereal, marmalade etc), but not 'Danish bacon' here - only the super thin 'charcuterie' kind.

We also only watch French TV (admittedly, helped by having the subtitles in French, if available).

"When in Rome" - and all that, is our philosophy. Although I do miss a good fish and chips, steak and kidney pie and English weak, warm beer. Treats if we visit Blighty.

Martin R Redshaw
Montauriol (66)

Question of taste - and free trade too

Surely it is not simply the cost? If people are buying croissants from Asda thinking they have the slightest resemblance to French croissants then these people simply have no "goût".

The same can be said of any other genuine French "produits alimentaires". Even "industrial" bread from French supermarkets tastes better than that of Asda, or, indeed, Waitrose or Tesco. I agree with Richard Brooks completely.

On the other hand there are genuine British products which are simply not available at least in many parts of France and one has no option but to import them. Carrs Table Water biscuits are but one of dozens.

Whilst many of these products are slowly but surely being adopted by French people (so they themselves are discovering "foreign" products which they like) there is absolutely no reason at all why we, living in France, should, in the meantime, be deprived of them.

Isn't that what Europe is all about? The free exchange of goods?

John Wild

Some items just do not exist here in France

I cannot imagine buying milk or similar perishable items online. However although we live near Lyon, where one can find most products with a bit of effort, there are certain items that we obtain from the UK as visitors, family or friends, pass through.

These include tea (of course) pickled onions, sandwich spread, health salts, 'Bombay mix' and a few choice items such as stem ginger in syrup that the French have never heard of, but which they seem to like very much.

Easyjet and Ryanair have completely changed our travelling habits - before they arrived on the scene we would make a few 'shopping trips' by car each year.

However; apart from the tea the other items mentioned are luxuries that we could exist without. As my French wife is of course very competent in the kitchen we always eat well and sensibly.

Brian Rosen

It makes sense given the circumstances

I think Richard Brooks should not be so judgemental. With the current exchange rate most of my British friends have seen their pensions halve in recent months.

I returned from a short trip to Portsmouth on Wednesday where I noticed cauliflowers selling for 60p in Tesco they were €1.90 in Carrefour this morning.

Most food in UK supermarkets is vastly cheaper & in my opinion often of better quality than I can buy in France - just note the black potatoes we've all been binning.

I do not consider milk a luxury but a necessity and if people can only afford to by milk online then so be it.

It is all right for the rich to harp on about the environment etc but they can afford to, the poor cannot.

Hasn't Mr Brooks heard about the soup kitchens that are now having to cater for the expat OAPs?

Many expats would gladly move back to the UK but are trapped here as they are unable to sell their homes. Those people that have returned virtually gave their properties away (not having been helped by the estate agents) and are now living with family or friends.

I hope and pray that Mr Brooks doesn't find himself in the desperate position that some people are in today.

Marie Connell

Ridiculous idea

I get things brought over from time to time by friends and family but would not consider having my whole shopping sent over. Why move to France if all you want is English food?

When we moved here it was cheaper but you have to take the rough with the smooth.

"Une Eccossaise"

Common sense

One of the principle reasons for people choosing to move to France is the quality of life.

Quality of life is not measured by where the food on one's plate comes from, and it is certainly not enhanced when the price of food skyrockets, as it has over the last two to three years (along with other costs that have affected everyone, not just expats).

This, combined with adverse exchange rate movements, has encouraged people to seek ways to preserve the major elements of their quality of life. If this includes buying quality food where it is cheapest, then that is common sense economics.

Richard Brooks obviously lives on another planet along with other Alice in Wonderland fans, where household economics do not appear to be important in their lives.

Terry Middlemiss

Mark-ups are huge

From personal experience and French surveys we have seen French consumer goods, food included, do have a substantial markup, in fact much more than other countries, UK or Germany for example. While this is already the case for food and other regular shopping items it is even more striking for electronics, white goods, cars etc.

Compare for example books, CD and DVD on AMAZON's German, UK and French websites. Tremendous price differences.

Living in France is less expensive if one counts communal services which can be very low priced otherwise we are not unsurprised that shopping abroad online has its benefits pricewise - environment not counted.

T. Kubot
Antibes

Waitrose

We shop on line at Waitrose and have the food delivered to France. We maintain it saves about 30% on our grocery bill i.e. Cauliflower in France 2.5 euro - UK 75pence. Despite the the 48hour travelling, the food is fresher better quality and far more variety. You may ask why did we move to France, the fact is we were naive and believed France's reputation of being the gastronomic centre. We never eat out now as the menus are always the same and the cost is beyond us. Having had many holidays in France and done much research (3 years ago) we did not expect such a huge rise in prices over the last 2 years. The provision of deliveries from England makes life in France tolerable for me.

J Denham

Wine can't compare

I a amazed to hear that people living in France are buying food in on line from England.We have been in France for just over one year and find that there are so many offers in the supermarkets that you can live quite well, also the wine can not compare with Asda it is so much cheaper in France when you can buy one box and get one free. There is not much you can't buy here now.

Jean

Support the economy

If you opt to live in a country, you should support its economy! However, there used to be things I would buy when we went to the UK - sausages, haggis, custard powder, digestive biscuits... I've 'gone off' the custard powder bit, can live without sausages (I make my own at Christmas) and, occasionally but rarely, a friend brings a haggis The biscuits I can now buy in the local hypermarket. Having lived in France since 1984, our tastes have changed but I still like a bit of cheddar.

C.A. Sandford

We buy some while back in UK

My husband travels back and forth by van to England for work, and also brings us back some groceries, just things which are typically English (ie Marmite). They are certainly cheaper for larger packets than the 'English shelf' in the local French supermarket. We, obviously, have no extra transport costs.

However, we buy 99% of our groceries and fresh food here; I'm certain the quality of the croissants from Asda bear no relation to the croissants from the local baker here in our French home town.

There is more to food than just the cost, and that is where one of the greatest differences lies between most English people and people in other European countries, such as France and Italy. Beyond the price is the quality but many English people don't look that far. How can anything be better in any sense than the local seasonal produce bought at the local market, simply cooked and eaten the same day? And obviously, if you choose the seasonal produce the price is lower.

I often ask the same question as Richard Brooks; why do these people bother, when they are missing the point.

Jane Juran

Sad bunch of Brits

Sausages… at least the French put meat in theirs, not the slurry and scrapings from the slaughter house floor. Chicken fillets cheaper, what twaddle, this week in LIDL skinless chicken breasts are 6,48€ kg, and even at 1.10€ to the pound that makes them £5.90 kg, or am I going mad?

Baked beans, oh dear, have they not tried haricots a la tomate, at least they are not laced with sugar like British ones, and if you need to you can always add the sugar yourself. And bacon, have they not looked around, we have bought excellent alternatives to smoked back and also streaky unsmoked bacon.

We have lived here for 3 years now and would never dream of eating that doughy mushy stuff that passes for bread in England, our boulangerie makes you spoilt for choice and if you need decent English type bread you can always make it in a bread maker, the choice of strong flours gives you a real choice.

Go back to the UK if you are that desperate for what passes as food over there! Gives us French food and a warm welcome when you shop here every time!

Peter Duff

I regularly buy from UK

I have lived here for 16 years and always supported the local shops, but with the exchange rate and the interest rate, it became a joke. I have been UK shopping with various companies now for about a year. I have saved lots of money.
Things I would normaly buy here like hair colour is half the price in the UK and if they have an offer on like two for one its great. An example my dog only eats Purina Pro Plan. One 15 kilo sack here is 78 euros. I can buy 30 kilos have it delivered to my door for 93 pounds.

Hello no contest. That is just a couple of examples. The French should learn about competition and forget Cartel

Ludicrous

Ordering food from the UK! I cannot think of anything more ludicrous. This is typical of many British people who live here in France. They are simply economic migrants who, in many cases don’t speak or won’t speak French, who have a superiority complex and have no intention of integrating at all. They just cause problems for those of us who want to make a life for ourselves here mixing and socialising with our French neighbours and friends. They should just go back to the UK – vite.

John Robinson

How sad

These Britons will now receive the perception that the Dutch already have by the French population; perception: “they load their cars from Dutch supermarkets and avoid spending money in France when on holiday here”.

British residents in France have a responsibility their local, regional and national communities which includes shopping in France preferably for produce and products produced in France. They belong to their chosen communities and should do whatever they can to support those communities; that does not include ‘shopping at a distance’ from a supermarket [Asda] which is owned by an American corporate [Wal-Mart]. There is more to living in a community than selfishly looking after ‘me first’. Those going down the route of buying ‘North of La Manche’ need to need to avoid being seen as from a nation of ‘takers’ but spend a little more time being ‘givers’.

Barry Bawtree

Village shop

We opened our British Village Shop in St Martin d'Ardéche in March this year. The reason we decided to do this was because of the continued desire by the ex-pats to have some favourite products near by, without having to travel to England by car for the sole purpose of stocking up on their marmalades, bovril, tea bags, sauces etc. Also we have had tremedous support from our villager's ( We are the only English residence in the village, it is our only home) and they love to try our products, especially the english cheese. Finally it is a touristic village in summer time with many nationalities who also like to try 'a little piece of England'.

Why do we live here, we love the climate, the way of life, the spectacular country side and the french food. Every so often its natural for people to go down memory lane and want to eat
products from their homeland.

Its unfortunate through life you always meet people with tunnel vision who perhaps have never set foot out of their own country!!

Carole and Steve Brown

Concern

This issue is causing us Brits permanently living here quite some concern...I'm afraid all the usual arguments pale into insignificance when you are up against such a lack of commercial expertise coupled with exorbitant food/grocery prices.

We try to cut back on grocery expenditure and we try not to buy anything from the UK but when you are living on limited means and people are happy to bring things over for you during their holidays, the temptation is there !...We have yet to buy from an on line UK company as I write this but for how much longer...?

We live in one of the most depopulated departments in France and are told its one of the most expensive in which to live...we know the french salaries are not high so are the supermarkets just assuming that the expats will continue to buy no matter what they decide to charge ?

Personally,I think a good spot of old fashioned competition would do a lot to solve the problem...then the french retailers might have to sharpen their pencils...if we had the equivalent of Morrisons,Waitrose,Asda,Tesco & Sainsburys all within a few miles in the big cities and towns,I suspect the prices would come down...

Anyway, we have not reached the same point as our Dutch friends who literally truck everything in from Holland and,if camping,sometimes don't leave the site to spend any money in the local communities !

I think this one will rumble on a while yet....

An interested reader

Other replies...

I think that it's a very very good idea, and use it regularly, we live on one pension. Friends of ours have eight children, the savings a phenomenal.

Jim and Fiona Haggerty

Ideal for those on UK state pension

Yes we like French food and french wine and the French way of life, and that is what we came to France for but, that was when we could afford to do so living on a pension we find the French way of life to be very expensive now. So it is not fair to criticise people when it is purely a question of economics.

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