Meal Planning and Grocery Shopping in Lyon & Paris, France

Bonjour again from Lyon! This is my family's first extended stay in France, so it's also the first time I've had the role of preparing meals for my children here. Living here has improved my meal planning skills and expanded our palates, I'm glad to say! I've consistently tried to plan French meals so my children can enjoy one of the best aspects of living in France--the food and the culture surrounding it. Here's what I'm doing differently here:

  My children picking out a sandwich at a  boulangerie  --we ate lunches out fairly often before we settled in to our apartment in Lyon

My children picking out a sandwich at a boulangerie --we ate lunches out fairly often before we settled in to our apartment in Lyon

Our lifestyle in the U.S. required driving to a local supermarket with a list of the items I'd need for a week of meals. In the summer and fall we also picked up vegetables from a farm once per week as part of a CSA membership. Here in Lyon though, there's an outdoor farmers market on the Quai Saint Antoine everyday except Monday, all year round. There's also a smaller organic market near the Cathedral Saint Jean once per week. (Geraldine from Comme Une Francaise has a helpful video about how to ask for items at a French market.) I walk to these markets with my caddy (rolling cart) three or four times per week and buy what's in season: basil, eggplant, tomatoes, peaches, etc. We also enjoy items that we don't have back home such as groseilles (gooseberries) and tiny yellow mirabelle plums. Most items are local, though there are tropical fruits from South Africa, chanterelle mushrooms from Russia, and strawberries from California at times! 

  Returning from the market with our caddy of groceries

Returning from the market with our caddy of groceries

  A large basket of  groseilles  at the open air market in Lyon

A large basket of groseilles at the open air market in Lyon

There are butchers and cheesemongers at the open-air market, but I prefer to go to the local boucherie and crèmerie--the products are high quality there and the vendors can give excellent meal planning suggestions and directions. At the crèmerie, for example, I can get fresh eggs for omelettes or an Italian cheese to compliment my squash risotto. (I usually don't buy dairy products, but I am consuming some here in France because the cheese section is undeniably impressive and I can tolerate unpasteurized products better. That said, I should probably go dairy-free again--dairy products are not healthy!)

  Bread and buyers at the open air market near Place de la Bastille, Paris

Bread and buyers at the open air market near Place de la Bastille, Paris

I also shop two little organic grocery stores: Naturalia (also on the Quai Saint Antoine) and Biocoop (near Bellecour). They have non-dairy milks, gluten-free products, healthy snacks for children, and harder-to-find items like baker's yeast and tamari sauce. It's fantastic to be able to walk to these shops.

Meal planning is a delight when fresh produce is so easily to obtain! I find menu inspiration everywhere--on school bulletin boards, restaurant reader boards, and in library magazines like Saveur. French cooking site Marmiton has an app that allows me to search popular French recipes by ingredient or season, so I can find recipes for dishes such as cabillaud au fenouil now that fennel is arriving at the market.

  My daughter at  Bio C' Bon , an excellent organic grocery chain in Paris

My daughter at Bio C' Bon, an excellent organic grocery chain in Paris

Living in France has improved my menu planning because in keeping with French-style cuisine, I now plan multiple course meals for lunch and dinner. This is easy when boulangeries, boucheries, crèmeries, and markets are all within walking distance! We start with an entrée like a puréed soup (my apartment has an immersion blender!) followed by the plat principal such as Greek moussaka accompanied by haricot verts, salad, and bread. My children know there's always dessert, though it's generally fresh fruit or yogurt. That said, I love to bake and have enjoyed using the fresh fruit for American-style cobblers.

Our breakfasts are less varied here in France, but we're certainly not suffering. In the U.S. we have a rotation of pancakes, eggs, crêpes, and cold or hot cereals, particularly because we live near Bob's Red Mill, a supplier of quality grains to every North American supermarket chain. Here in France though, breakfast consists of a glass of orange juice and a few tartines made with bread leftover from dinner. I miss the variety of our American breakfasts, but slices of baguette with organic jam or chocolate hazelnut spread are perfectly enjoyable for days on end! Oh, and even the small corner markets now sell chocolate hazelnut spreads that don't contain palm oil--more and more French people are avoiding palm oil now.

  A "Big Jules"   baguette  and a  pain aux figues  from  Chez Jules   Boulangerie  here in Lyon

A "Big Jules"  baguette and a pain aux figues from Chez Jules Boulangerie here in Lyon

How has your diet or cooking been influenced by your time abroad? Has your diet changed lately?