A Foodie’s Guide to Eating Frugally in Paris

in Trip Locations

The thought of dining in Paris often conjures images of dinners in Michelin 3-star restaurants, sipping champagne and nibbling delicate amuse-bouches.

But if 100 euros a day (or less) is your entire budget and not just your food budget, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways for foodies to enjoy French delicacies while traveling frugally.

Use the motto “eat like a local” as your guiding philosophy. If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen and have some culinary talent, it is easy to whip up tasty light meals using local products (a stroll though an open-air market will provide you with plenty of inspiration). However, if you don’t have access to a kitchen, it’s still possible to eat like a local by picking up prepared foods at local open-air markets, specialty shops or supermarkets or dining in affordable restaurants. During my time living and teaching English in France, I discovered many ways to eat well on the cheap. Here are my top suggestions:

Happy hour à la française, I discovered many tricks for eating well and keeping costs low. Here are some of my suggestions for enjoying France’s culinary culture on a budget.

Shopping à la française

Remember that the traditional French model of food shopping is to go to different shops (la boulangerie= bakery, la fromagerie= cheese shop, la patisserie= pastry shop etc.) to get each type of food product. Also, most French people buy their food fresh everyday. Why not follow suit?

If you’re staying in Paris, head to Rue Mouffetard on the Left Bank (Metro stop Place Monge). This veritable foodie paradise stretches from Place de la Contrescarpe to Place St. Médard. The narrow Rue Mouffetard (originally an old Roman street) is lined with specialty food shops, restaurants and open-air market stalls selling produce and home goods. After the specialty food shops close at the end of the day, Rue Mouffetard’s affordable restaurants remain open, offering a variety of ethnic foods and traditional French cuisine. This area is popular with locals and students looking for delicious fare at reasonable prices.

Here are some “must trys” on Rue Mouffetard. Etiquette tip: When entering a food shop, be sure to make eye contact with the person working the counter and greet him/her with “bonjour madame/monsieur.” You’ll receive a much warmer welcome if you do.

  • Enjoy crêpes and coffee (café) at Oroyana (you must try one of their fresh, sugary Nutella crêpes).
  • Sample a variety of regional cheeses from all over the country at Alain Boulay – Fromagerie Mouffetard,
  • Grab a fresh baguette from Le Boulanger de Monge.
  • Stock up on fresh fruit (I’ve had some lovely cherries and peaches) from the open-air produce vendors.
  • Order a Croque Madame (open-face ham, cheese and egg sandwich), green salad (with a simple house vineagrette) and kir (white wine with cassis liquor) from La Contrescarpe restaurant (near Place de la Contrescarpe at the top of Mouffetard’s hill and around the corner).
  • Enjoy Middle Eastern fare (like and tasty tabouleh paired with sweet mint tea) at Colbeh.
  • Marvel at creamy, flavorful gelato in the shape of a flower atop a huge sugar cone at Gelato d’Alberti.
  • Grab a bottle of wine to take back to your hotel for the evening at one of several wine shops in the area. If you tell them what you’re having for dinner, the salespeople will be happy to suggest bottles to you. By the way, if wine is your thing, consider working on a vineyard in Europe.

Les marchés à plein air (open-air markets)

Open-air markets are ubiquitous in France. Several neighborhoods in Paris host regular markets (always the same day each week), so it’s possible to visit a market nearly every day. The vendors at these markets are usually quite personable and most (especially in Paris) speak at least a little English. Etiquette Tip: It’s considered impolite to touch the produce without asking the vendor first. In addition to produce, meat, cheese, breads, etc., many markets feature vendors selling prepared foods as well (crêpes, roast chickens, etc.) at incredibly affordable prices. Open-air markets are also a great place to stock up on souvenirs like traditional table linens, pottery, and other handicrafts.

Bon appétit!

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