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June 19th, 2013 5 comments

Food was certainly on my mind when I weighed in the pros and cons of moving to Paris. Before I actually stepped into my 20 square meter appartement and realised my shoe rack back home was bigger than my new fridge, I fantasised about sunday markets and had imaginary conversations with the neighbourhood cheesemonger. I dreamed of new ingredients and invented elaborate meals worthy of a king.

Back to reality. The apartment I share with my partner is about the size of my mother’s kitchen. I could give you a virtual tour without having to get off the couch. We own 4 chairs that are slowly transforming into clothes hangers. We have inherited a damaged pan and a couple of pots from the previous tenant and have a microwave oven and two electric cooktops. Not exactly cooking material.

When I walked into the house the pantry (all two shelves of it) was completely empty. I had always lived in my family house, and even when I lived there alone, certain basic ingredients were already there. I didn’t have to ask myself any questions. When something ran out, I restocked. The empty shelves starred at me in defiance. So little space, yet no idea how to fill it.

And so it was that I had to go through my first awkward expat experience: the first time I went grocery shopping. If you or someone you know have recently moved into a new apartment and the only thing you bought the first time you went to the supermarket was a jar of Nutella, read on. You can thank me later.

The ones that you will use everyday

The first day you wake up in a new apartment is one of those milestones that an empty fridge can ruin. Stock up on ingredients you will need everyday and make sure you restock when needed. There is nothing worse than running out of butter on a Sunday morning in Paris.

  • Sugar,
  • Tea,
  • Cream Cheese,
  • Spreadable peanut butter / chocolate or jam,
  • Butter,
  • Cereal,
  • Garlic & onions,
  • Lemon,
  • Mustard,
  • Salad dressing.

The ones that (almost) never perish

If all goes well these ingredients will probably outlast your stay in your brand new apartment.

  • Canned foods,
  • Beans,
  • Dried herbs,
  • Olive oil,
  • Vinegars
  • Salt & spices,
  • Rice,
  • Pasta,
  • Cookies,
  • Chips,
  • Nuts such as almonds or cashews.

The ones that will insure your survival

It has happened to all of us. We delay grocery shopping. One day it’s because we have to catch something on TV. The other our friend called us up for coffee and we haven’t hung out in a while. The next we just had to go to the gym right after work. Soon enough the fridge is empty, save for the rotting butter and the mustard jar. Have no fear, buy these items and you will never starve.

  • Potatoes,
  • Toast,
  • Tomato sauce & Canned tomatoes,
  • Frozen pizza,
  • Microwavable meals,
  • Soup cans.

The ones that are good for you

The life of the expat is one full of carbs. Give your body a break and next time you walk by a greengrocer, or manage to make it to the supermarket before it closes grab a few fruits & veggies (preferably local and organic). Typically you will be able to find the following in most supermarkets.

  • Lettuce,
  • Tomatoes,
  • Cucumbers,
  • Mushrooms,
  • Carrots,
  • Green beans,
  • Broccoli,
  • Apples,
  • Oranges,
  • Bananas.

Also, for the love of everything sacred, buy dish soap, and wash your dishes as soon as you’re done with them. Your mother would be proud.

I have to admit, most of the time I don’t have the energy to spend more than 15 minutes preparing a meal for myself. I usually end up having a sandwich, or if I am really lucky some pasta with a salad. But one thing is certain, I never starve and I never eat junk food for lack of a better choice.

I document most of my meals. It’s kind of a personal joke. And now it’s our little secret that even food bloggers eat like college students when faced with tiny parisian kitchens and a schedule that would befit a minister.

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Categorized Montreal, New York, Paris, Travel


  • Serena

    This is a great post and I’ve been living on my own for years!!! I will take it with me on my next trip to the supermarket!
    (an added bonus would have been non-food essential items… dish soap and toilet cleaner and TP and such…)

    • Marilyn Zakhour

      If you’ld like I can link you to a bunch of articles for non food essentials.

  • Hisham Assaad

    That’s avery nice post. I wrote downyour list on my next shopping list.
    The life of foodies, the things we have to go through just to have a meal and not junk or just a can of tuna.

    Hope you’re happy with your new place

    • Marilyn Zakhour

      I am extremely happy living in Paris. Even more so because I get to go to the market every Sunday and dish out on local produce.

  • Abby

    I loved the idea of clarifying what we actually need, usually its hunger strike even for students; the funny part is we don’t feel like cooking so we never know what to buy. Epic idea to help out!!!