How expensive is food and drink in France?

We know taxes are high in France, and that some things can be expensive. But how does the price of food compare to the rest of Europe and beyond? 

How expensive is food and drink in France?
(Photo: Ludovic Marin / AFP)

France has many temptations to woo visitors and foreign residents: its scenery, history, the lifestyle, the food and the drink.

While some things here are more expensive than elsewhere – we’re looking at you, second-hand car dealers – and the taxes are notoriously high, what about the cost of groceries and wine? How do they compare?

Eurostat, which monitors price levels across the EU, EEA and EU candidate countries, measured food and non-alcoholic beverages in France as the 10th most expensive overall (out of 36) – although of course within France there are significant regional variations.

READ ALSO 7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

Overall, food in France is more expensive than the average of the 19 countries that currently use the euro as currency.

According to Eurostat’s data and price level index, food prices in France were 11 percent higher than the EU average in 2021, and 20 percent higher for fruit, vegetables and potatoes.

Non-alcoholic beverages in France, however, were slightly cheaper than average, as were milk, cheese and eggs, while alcoholic drinks were, on average, a small amount higher than average. 

While food is certainly more expensive in France than in most countries, wages are also higher than average. 

Therefore, a more accurate way of measuring the true cost of food would be to measure how much of a household’s monthly income is spent on food. 

In Romania, food made up more than a quarter of household expenditure, making food more expensive there for households as it eats up a larger chunk of consumers’ budgets, despite lower prices than the EU average. Across 36 countries measured by Eurostat, food and non-alcoholic beverages made up around 13 percent of total consumption expenditure by households. 

In France, that percentage was 13.9 percent in 2021, down from 14.9 percent the previous year, which pretty much puts France bang average on the list.

The same report published in 2021 found that the cost of food in the UK was around 26 percent lower than in France. That occurs across most different food types, particularly for fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, where the difference is over one-third.

In France, around 60 percent of all food is purchased in supermarkets. According to the l’Institut de liaisons des entreprises de consommation (Ilec): “Hypermarkets attract more premium, regional or local products that pull the indices up, even if they coexist with a low-cost call offer.”

Dominique Amirault, President of the Federation of Enterprises and Entrepreneurs of France (FEEF) added: “The demand for local, ethical, authentic products is currently very strong [in France]. And these products are not cheaper than others.”

Another reason why French food is relatively expensive compared to the UK at the time of the 2021 report was the cost of labour. In 2021, the cost per hour of work in France – including taxes and social charges – was €37.50, compared to an average of €28.50 in the EU, €37 in Germany, and around €28 in the UK.

Many of these figures are likely to have changed in the intervening 12 months. In the current cost of living crisis, inflation in the UK was 8.2 percent in June 2022, while in France it was edging towards 6 percent.

Anyone wandering around a French supermarket will find the prices significantly higher than in the UK or US. But on the other hand, the fruit and veg have real flavour and the meat isn’t injected with water and antibiotics, so we would contend that it’s worth paying more for.

Numbeo’s cost-of-living index listed France, overall as the 15th most expensive country in the world to live – though it was much closer to both the US and UK (27th and 28th on the list) for food shopping and going to a restaurant.

Another plus, France’s food markets are cultural experience in their own right – AND they are often cheaper than supermarkets.

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France introduces stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés

The French government has introduced stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés, which must now display full information on the origins of all wines they serve.

France introduces stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés

If you’re ordering a bottle of wine it’s likely that the menu will state where the wine comes from, but previously this was not always the case for wines bought by the glass or carafe.

Most French cafés and restaurants offer wine by the glass as well as pitchers or carafes or various sizes, which are also sometimes referred to as un pot, particularly in the east of France.

Thanks to a new law that came into effect on July 24th, if you order any of these, the bar or restaurant is obliged to display full information on where the wine comes from, and its protected geographical origin (AOP) if it has one.

Any establishments that sell wine – whether for consumption on or off the premises – must display the information in full and in writing. Failure to do so makes them liable to a €1,500 fine. 

The law is a revision of the Loi relative à la transparence de l’information sur les produits agricoles et alimentaires, which came into force in 2020 and is intended to protect French farmers and producers.

French vocab

Une bouteille de vin rouge, s’il vous plaît –  a bottle of red wine, please

Une bouteille de vin blanc – a bottle of white wine

Un pichet de vin rosé – a pitcher of rosé wine

Une carafe de vin – a pitcher of wine

Pichet and carafe are just different words for the same thing, and if you want tap water (as opposed to mineral water) with your meal, ask for un pichet d’eau or une carafe d’eau. Carafes usually come in varying sizes, the most common being 50cl or 25cl.

Cinqante centilitres – 50cl, or two thirds of a bottle

Vingt-cinq centilitres – 25cl, or one third of a bottle

Un pot lyonnais – if you’re in or around Lyon, you might see wine listed on the menu as by the pot – this comes in a carafe that is shaped like a small bottle with a very thick glass bottom. The classic pot lyonnais holds exactly 46 centilitres, or just over half a bottle  

Un verre de vin rouge – a glass of red wine 

Encore de vin, s’il vous plaît – another wine, please (the ‘encore‘ lets your server know that you want another glass/bottle/pitcher of the same wine)

Vin bio – organic wine

Vin naturel – wine produced by ‘natural’ methods 

Bio, natural or biodynamic: 5 things to know about organic wine in France

Qui va goûter? – Who will taste? The standard question that your server will ask when they bring the bottle of wine to your table

Un pot-de-vin – a bribe. Not a wine term as such, but if you hear reference to un pot-de-vin it means a bribe. These days bribes are usually paid in cash, but the origins of the term are pretty clear.