Text and images by Gabrielle.
We are moving back to the U.S. so soon! We’re down to less than two weeks, and I can hardly believe it. Today, I started organizing our belongings into “Donate,” “Keep at The Cottage,” and “Bring Back to The States” And it made me realize it’s time to stock up on gifts for friends and family, plus French staples that we’ll want to have in the U.S..
A few months ago, I shared 5 ideas for fun, inexpensive souvenirs you can find at French grocery stores. And today, I’ve got five more ideas! As I pack up for our move, I’ll be filling one of our suitcases with items like these.
First up, simple ceramic bowls and dishes. Every grocery store has a kitchen aisle with all sorts of various ceramics. My favorites are the footed bowls in every shade of the rainbow. We call them hot cocoa bowls at our house, because we were taught that French children drink their morning chocolat chaude from these lovely little bowls. They are very French! And can be found in different sizes and colors for about 1 euro ($1.25) each.
But it’s not just bowls! You can find all sorts of small bakeable ceramic dishes in varying shapes and sizes. I like the ones pictured for their delicate shade of blue/grey. You can use them to bake individual portions, or for creme brulée, or just as small dishes for ingredient prep. Again, they run about 1 euro each.
Stack them up, add a bow, and they make a fabulous souvenir! You could even fill them with French salt as an added bonus.
The second idea is candy. That’s a no brainer, right? But the candy that’s boxed and promoted as a gift can be quite expensive. So I recommend buying some favorites that come in not-that-pretty packaging, and transferring them to a cellophane bag instead.
My three picks: 1) Salted Caramels. Since salt and dairy are French specialities, you can bet they take pride in their salted caramels. Even the inexpensive ones are delicious! The ones pictured are made in France and don’t have any branding on their wrappers. So they look great in a cellophane bag. These caramels run about $2.50.
2) Vichy mints. These are classic. Again, they’re very French with a distinctive shape and branding.
I always keep these in my handbag for quick breath freshening. They’re not too strong and have that perfect texture somewhere between crispy and chalky. A bag runs about $2.00.
3) Licorice gums. Reglisse, which means licorice, is a very popular flavor in France. In fact, you can even find reglisse ice cream! So this is another candy that feels super French.
The texture of these is nice and chewy — more chewy than an American gum drop. And the flavor is perfection, at least, if you’re a licorice fan. : ) Luckily, my kids don’t favor black licorice, so when we buy these, Ben Blair and I get to eat the whole bag ourselves. A bag runs about $2.
The third idea can be found in the grocery store near the aluminum foil and plastic wrap. French stores offer lots of little paper containers for serving individual portions. I love these! And think they make a great gift for anyone in your life who has a thing for party supplies. They can be used for all sorts of things — like party favor holders, dessert dishes, or to organize your jewelry drawer.
Repackage them in cellophane, add a bow and you’re all set. Little cartons like these are around 2 euros (or $2.50) for the whole package.
The fourth souvenir idea is a good one for school age kids, teens, or even adults. Head to the school supply aisle and pick up a fountain pen, and a famed Rhodia notebook. Every French student uses both of these. They are an absolute fixture in French schools.
The pens comes in many designs and colors and they include 2 ink cartridges. (I recommend picking up a bag of ink refills while you’re there.) The pens are about $2 each.
Rhodia notebooks are a French staple. They come in various shapes and sizes, but they’re always the signature golden yellow/orange, and the pages are always small graph lines. A pen and a notebook together make a fun and very French gift.
I think you might laugh at idea number five, but it’s a really good one for foodies! There are tons of amazing and famous French foods but they can be tricky as gifts. For example, foie gras would make an excellent French souvenir for a foodie, but even tiny containers are usually priced starting at $10 and up. And the Normandy butter is out of this world, but how do you transport butter? French mustard is amazing too, but packing up a glass bottle can cause stress. So when I’m looking for foodie souvenirs, I favor items in tin cans. And my favorite pick… is Sardines!
Confession: I don’t actually like to eat sardines. But the packaging is so fabulous, that I end up buying them anyway. Hah! Some come in oil, some in tomato sauce, some with herbs. But they’re all very inexpensive at around $2.50 each. And the cans are so handsome, they are pretty much irresistible.
Stack two or three, add a bow, and you’ve got yourself a souvenir any foodie would love!
There you have it. Five more French souvenirs under $5. Hopefully, between this post and the last one, you’ll be covered on your next trip to France. You’ll buy gifts for everyone you know without eating up your entire travel budget!
And now I’d love to hear. What did I miss? What would you add? And when are you headed to France?
P.S. — When you’re in the school supply aisle picking up a fountain pen, don’t miss the elastic closure and belt closure folders. I adore these! I’m bringing home a stack of them. If you have a friend who crushes on office supplies, these would make a great gift!