Text and images by Gabrielle.
We’ve been lucky to have lots of visitors since we moved here — it’s so helpful for keeping homesickness at bay, especially for the kids. One topic that comes up whenever friends and family are in town is souvenirs.
Plane tickets, car rentals, hotels and train passes tend to eat up most of the travel budget, so visitors love ideas for gifts to bring home to friends and family that won’t break the bank. But they want something more unusual than an Eiffel Tower key chain.
So I’ve made notes over the last couple of years, and have figured out a bunch of fabulous souvenirs you can find in any French supermarket. All of them are non-perishable (in case you’re jaunting to London after your trip to France), and every one of them is bargain. Today I’m sharing 5 of my favorites. Maybe they’ll inspire you to book a flight to Paris!
First up, go directly to the spice aisle and pick up a big bag of famed French Sea Salt. When Ben Blair and I took the cooking class in Louviers, the chef gave this advice: if you buy one foodie item in France to bring home, make sure it’s salt! And she also said the best stuff was the greyish sort from the Brittany region (Bretagne in French). You can see above that this package indicates Bretagne as the source.
If you don’t want to repackage it, you’ll find salt in gift packages ready to go, but a far more economical plan (and I think a more charming one as well), is to buy the salt in a bulk bag and repackage it in ceramic yogurt jars when you get home.
I’ve mentioned these beautiful yogurt jars before. They come in different colors and sizes. Some have words imprinted on the side and others are blank. We use them for all sorts of things — cups, pencil jars, water jars for dipping paint brushes. You can even bake in them! They make great souvenirs as a set (for example a set of 6 for your favorite baker), or, if you don’t have room to carry home a dozen, fill them with salt for an individual gift.
The best part: you get to eat the yogurt during your trip so you can bring home the empty jars. : )
Fill up a jar with the gourmet, greyish salt, put the jar in a cellophane bag, and add a bow.
A bag of salt costs about $1, and will fill about 4 jars depending on their size. Bargain!
Next up is something for the kids. Check out the kiddie aisle and pick up a pack of toy Euros.
American kids will be fascinated by the colorful bills that come in different sizes. Such a change from U.S. dollars! Your kids can use them when they are pretending to be spending the afternoon at a Parisian café. And since you’ll be using Euros while you’re on the trip, they’ll be fun little reminders for you, too.
This pack was priced at about $2.50. (Fun fact: Oscar and Betty are more familiar with Euros than Dollars. We’ll need to make sure they learn what nickels, dimes and quarters are before they go to American schools next fall. Hah!)
This one might be my favorite. Stop in the cleaning aisle and pick up these traditional French cleaning cloths. They come in several styles, but you’ll recognize them because they consistently have red and blue stripes down the sides.
They actually come as two cloths connected together. (See that fuzzy line in the threads that crosses the colored lines? It’s meant to be cut, dividing the very large cloth into 2 regular size versions.)
They’re super thick and crazy absorbent. We like them for heavy duty jobs and washing the car. One cloth (which is actually two cloths) runs about $3.50.
Or, how about a block of famed French Laundry Soap? The French are very particular about their soap and you can expect the quality to be high. Instead of the bath aisle, you’ll find blocks of soap like these near the laundry detergent.
When you get home, ditch the store packaging and wrap the bar with cellophane. Add a bow and you’re all set. At the supermarket, one big bar of laundry soap costs about $2.50. Or sometimes I find a package of 3 cubes for about $3.00.
(Another side note: When I was a newlywed, my mother gave me a block of soap just like this — including the French flag ribbon — that she had found at a gift shop — or maybe TJ Maxx. : ) I loved it! It sat on our windowsill for about a year, because I felt it was too pretty to use. But when I finally opened it, it was my favorite for handwashing my delicates. In case you’re curious, I picked up the ribbon shown here at Michaels.)
Lastly, here’s another one for kids. In the school supply aisle, you’ll find small, rounded corner, two-sided chalkboards. French kids use them in school to practice their script. One side is plain and the other is covered in graph lines. Aren’t they cute?
If you wanted, you could plus it up by adding a little cord for hanging, but they’re just as cute the way they come.
And there you go. Five ideas for fabulous French souvenirs under five dollars. I’d love to hear what you think. I actually have another five ideas to share if you’re interested — let me know if this is helpful!
P.S. — If you have a bigger souvenir budget, might I suggest something lovely from a French pharmacy?