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My French Survival Kit (When Everything is Expensive in Canada)

I thought I was going to cry when I first stepped into a Canadian supermarket after coming back from France.

We were only away for seven weeks, so it’s not like I forgot about the inflation and supply chain issues. As far as I knew, it had only gotten worse. The latest official shortage is children’s medications, by the way, you can’t find any Advil or Tylenol anywhere.

Still. I walked into Walmart and for a minute, I thought I had missed the memo on doomsday. It was just a regular Tueday afternoon, but the shelves were empty—bread, pasta, noodles, yogurt, frozen veggies and other staples were missing. The store was gross too, with ice buildups in most fridges.

I know Walmart is a bit of a running joke in North America and I hate this evil global megacorp as much as everyone else but honestly, when the store opened in our neighbourhood over ten years ago, it was a perfectly acceptable supermarket option. Not fancy, for sure, but fully stocked with fresh produce. It was much cheaper than the Loblaws across the road as well, and as far as I know, it’s not like the price difference goes to employees, so fuck paying 25% more just because Loblaws looks nicer.

These days, shelves are constantly empty in cheaper grocery stores like Walmart, FreshCo, and Food Basics. Loblaws or Metro are better stocked but I noticed perishables are often past the best-by date because guess what, dairy, meat, and other “luxuries” are so expensive that nobody is buying.

Prices went up in France but not as much. The only noticeable shortage is mustard… blame Canada, the main mustard seeds supplier. I’m not saying that the economy is doing great but groceries are still very affordable from a Canadian perspective, and “cheap” food is good too.

So this year, I didn’t bring back souvenirs or fancy products. I stuffed my backpack (and Mark’s) with items that are cheaper (or a better overall value) in France than in Canada.

Food, for a start. I brought back my favourite cookies, spices, sea salt, coffee, instant soup and packs of instant dessert mix. I stopped buying yogurt in Canada because dairy is too expensive. To give you an example, I was quite happy with Carrefour plain yogurt, €0.99 ($1.30) for 100gx4. Good luck finding a similar product for less than $3.50 in Canada. So I’m making my own flan—the French version is a light chocolate- coffee- or vanilla-flavoured custard cream. I still have to buy produce and bread in Canada but we mostly live off rice, veggies and eggs.

Instant soup
Instant soup
My favourite cookies
My favourite cookies
Instant dessert mix and instant coffee
Instant dessert mix and instant coffee
Instant dessert mix
Instant dessert mix
Instant dessert mix
Instant dessert mix
Sea salt from the Atlantic coast
Sea salt from the Atlantic coast
Sea salt from the Atlantic coast
Sea salt from the Atlantic coast
Sea salt from the Atlantic coast
Sea salt from the Atlantic coast

I bought over-the-counter medication, plus tons of vitamin C, which works well for me. I should have bought children’s medication as well for Mark, but I didn’t know about the shortage…

Basic over-the-counter medication
Basic over-the-counter medication

Notebooks and pens are a small (cheap) treat, and so is this Desigual pair of shorts I got on sale. I also bought t-shirts and pants for Mark.

Notebooks
Notebooks
Unbreakabe pencils
Unbreakabe pencils
Bic Pens
Bic Pens
Desigual shorts
Desigual shorts

Finally, I bought bottles of shampoo and conditioner (nothing fancy, but again, cheaper than in Canada), face cream, eye cream (it gets very dry when it’s cold here!), facial cleansers, soap bars, masks and cotton (because I couldn’t find any cotton in Canada last spring!).

Soap bars
Soap bars
Soap bars
Soap bars
Soap bars
Soap bars
Face cream
Face cream
Face cream
Face cream
Face cream
Face cream
Eye cream
Eye cream
Shampoo, conditioner and cotton
Shampoo, conditioner and cotton
Facial cleanser
Facial cleanser
Face mask
Face mask

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