While Geneva restaurant prices may seem completely outrageous, grocery prices aren’t nearly as bad, though they are certainly cheaper in France if you can get across the border to do your shopping (just be aware of Swiss import limits).
There are multiple grocery stores in Geneva, though the most common are Coop, Migros, and Denner.
- Coop – it’s your everyday grocery store. Prices and quality are both good, and it’s the one most likely to be found in your neighborhood in Geneva.
- Migros – I feel like they generally have slightly higher prices than Coop, though only slightly. They don’t sell alcohol.
- Denner – owned by the Migros parent company, Denner definitely has the best prices on most items, though their quality isn’t quite as good on items like produce.
Coop has a website to order grocery delivery, and prices in their online store are the same as in-store. Migros and Denner have a combined online store with grocery delivery as well. Delivery prices are generally high, though they regularly offer free delivery with a minimum purchase. I typically choose delivery for bulky and heavy items.
Coop and Migros both have a frequent customer program, which you can enroll in online. At checkout, you scan your barcode from the app or membership card, and you collect points toward money back. The Coop app also allows you to add additional discounts to your account for certain items, and you can regularly get bonus points for spending minimum amounts as well as acquire free products. When you have enough Coop points to get at least CHF 10, you can cash in for money on your virtual gift card in the app. With Migros on the other hand, they convert your points each quarter to CHF 5 discount coupons, which they mail to you, along with other great coupons like 5x points in one purchase.
Do know that not all grocery stores of the same company are made the same. There are super tiny Coop grocery stores with limited selection, and then there are huge ones like the one at Blandonnet, which have a larger selection. Migros also has a gigantic store at the Balexert mall.
Once you pick your favorite store, pay attention to their schedule for marking prices down on meat and other soon-to-expire items. Coop will often mark down the price of such items 25% the day before it expires and 50% on the day it expires. The one nearest my home does it around 3pm each afternoon. If you can go to the store daily, it’s the best way to save money!
There are also groceries available in the lowest floors of the Manor and Globus department stores. Their prices are generally more expensive, but they offer better selections on some things and better quality than you’ll find elsewhere.
Lastly, there’s a company called Farmy that is online order-only, which carries a great deal of organic foods, and also meal delivery service, HelloFresh, is active here as well. There are two Aldi stores in the Geneva area.
Buying fruits and vegetables
Just so you know, you generally have to weigh your fruits and vegetables here before you take them to the checkout. You enter the product number into the scale, and it prints out a sticker. We Americans often have an awkward first experience with this involving the cashier yelling at you for not doing it.
However, if the label says “piece”, it means that the item isn’t sold by weight. If it doesn’t have a barcode, and you use self-checkout, you’ll need to press the proper button to look it up (just know which produce items are fruits and which are vegetables, such as an avocado being a fruit).
One more grocery thing – Geneva grocery stores don’t have great hours. They typically close at 6 or 7, except Thursdays when they stay open until 8 or 9.
Almost the entire city shuts down on Sundays, at least as far as retail, but also many restaurants are also closed. The grocery stores at the train station and at the airport are open on Sundays, but because they’re the only ones open, they are often very crowded.
Be sure to take your own shopping bag with you when you go shopping. Coop sells plastic bags for 5 cents, and you can get paper bags for 20 or more. But the best grocery shopping bag is the reusable bag you can buy at IKEA for a couple francs… mine is five years old and still in great shape!
Though Denner’s quality usually leaves something to be desired, they have several of my favorite French and Swiss wines. It was also the only place I could find a California White Zinfandel for my mother-in-law’s visit, though we were able to get her to branch out a bit while she was here. If you keep an eye on their sales, you’ll see that they have wine sales every couple months on Friday and Saturday for 20% off – sometimes all wine, sometimes just red, white, or sparkling.
Coop also has 20% off sales on occasion, and it even applies to their online ordering and delivery service.
If you enjoy wine tastings, be sure to read about Switzerland’s Cave Ouvertes events that occur each year in May and June. For the Geneva Canton’s event, it’s CHF 20 for a wine glass and access to unlimited wine tastings at nearly every winery the canton. Some villages have 10+ wineries within walking distance of each other, and it makes for a fun Saturday (though perhaps less fun Sunday!).
While you’re going to find a lot of items in the regular grocery stores here that are comparable to what you know from the U.S., there are likely some cravings that you just won’t be able to satisfy. Luckily, there are stores in the Geneva area specializing in American foods.
- American Food Avenue – store front currently closed but located in Cologny, just outside of Geneva, they have the best prices on American foods. They even carry a selection of seasonal items, including all of the things you need for a Thanksgiving meal (minus the turkey). They also deliver and have great customer service.
- American Market – located in Pâquis, in the heart of Geneva, carries a lot of American food items, though their prices are a bit higher than American Food Avenue. The store is located above American Dream Diner, a restaurant serving American foods. Tip: they might have stopped doing this, but generally if you eat at American Dream Dinner first, they’ll give you a coupon to get a discount upstairs in the store.
You should really just stop at IKEA. The prices everywhere else are ridiculously high. You can go to IKEA, pick your items out, and have them set to be delivered within a few days for a reasonable fee. You can also order items online, though furniture delivery usually takes 2-3 weeks to be delivered, so if you’re in need of a bed, for example, you’ll want to place an order in-store.
IKEA has an app and membership that gives certain benefits. For example, you get free coffee with each visit to IKEA, and many of their cafeteria meals are discounted for members. You also get a free package of napkins when you open your membership, but it’s this specific green color that my husband despised.
IKEA employees have flags on their name badges showing which languages they speak including the British flag representing English, and you’ll find many have it.
With Switzerland not being in the EU, there’s a huge markup on clothing here, sometimes as much as 250%, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get good deals.
The two department stores in Geneva are Manor and Globus. Both have free membership clubs which get you various benefits, and you’ll get special discounts on your first few purchases. I’d suggest signing up for the Manor newsletter, which will let you know when they’re having good sales – the best of which are typically in January and July. For example, if you wait until the January sale to buy your skiwear, you’ll often get 50-75% off. It’s also a great opportunity to get 50% off on a fondue pot, a purchase you won’t regret!
The biggest mall in Geneva is Balexert, which isn’t quite like an American mall, but it is what it is. You’ll also find an H&M nearly everywhere you go in the city.
As far as Swiss stores go, here are some of the most common you might want to visit:
- Fust – electronics store (show membership card to get Coop points)
- Interdiscount – electronics store (show membership card to get Coop points)
- Do It + Garden – garden, home, hobby store (show membership card to get Migros points)
- Franz Carl Weber – toys
- Payot – books (including a large English section in their Belair location)
If you order really large items online, be aware that depending on what you order, they may not deliver the item all the way to your apartment, especially if you live on a high floor. They may even require you to come out to the street, and they’ll call you when they arrive.
You can buy stuff here through Amazon Germany (website available in English) or Amazon France (website only in French), often with free shipping, but not everything ships here. For example, I recently needed to buy a mousepad… Amazon doesn’t ship them to Switzerland. No idea why.
If you buy electronic items from surrounding countries, do know that if the plug has a ground (the third prong), you’re going to need an adaptor here as Swiss outlets vary from the rest of the EU. That’s said, buying the adaptor is still likely much cheaper than buying the appliance in Switzerland.