Food Idioms with Meaning and Examples
Here are 150+ food idioms with their meanings and examples:
(A) Hard/Tough Nut to Crack
Meaning: A difficult problem
Example: The problem of how to motivate employees can be a tough nut to crack sometimes.
(Have) Egg on One’s Face
Meaning: Be embarrassed, feel foolish
Example: Fred had egg on his face after claiming he could climb the tree but then having to give up.
(Put) All One’s Eggs In One Basket
Meaning: Rely on a specific course of events
Example: If we depend on a rise in the price of oil, we’re putting all our eggs in one basket. What if it falls?
A Few Sandwiches Short Of A Picnic
Meaning: Abnormally stupid, not really sane
Example: Sometimes I think John’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic. He never seems to understand directions.
A lot on one’s plate
Meaning: A lot to do
Example: I just have a lot on my plate right now while I’m finishing up my degree and doing this huge project for work.
A piece of cake
Meaning: Easy to do.
Example: The math problem was a piece of cake.
A rolling stone gathers no moss
Meaning: Being constantly on the move prevents stagnation.
Example: He never stays in one place for long; a rolling stone gathers no moss.
A watched pot never boils
Meaning: Time seems to move more slowly when you are waiting for something.
Example: I keep checking the oven, but the cake won’t bake. A watched pot never boils.
Above The Salt
Meaning: Of high standing or honor.
Example: We’ll seat you at the head table-not next to the president, but definitely above the salt.
Acknowledge The Corn
Meaning: Admit to a mistake, especially a small one; point out one’s own shortcomings
Example: OK, I’ll acknowledge the corn. I took the candy bars from the kitchen table.
Meaning: Something one learns to appreciate only after trying it repeatedly
Example: Asparagus is an acquired taste. I hated it as a child, but now I love it.
Meaning: Everything is going well.
Example: Don’t worry, everything is all gravy.
All hat and no cattle
Meaning: Someone who talks big but doesn’t follow through with action.
Example: He talks a lot about being a great businessman, but he’s all hat and no cattle.
All Sizzle And No Steak
Meaning: Failing to live up to advance promotion or reputation
Example: Some people feel the Apple Watch is all sizzle and no steak.
All The Tea In China
Meaning: Great wealth, a large payment
Example: I wouldn’t go out with him for all the tea in China!
Apple of my eye
Meaning: Someone who is cherished above all others.
Example: My granddaughter is the apple of my eye.
As cool as a cucumber
Meaning: Calm and composed.
Example: Even in a crisis, she remains as cool as a cucumber.
As easy as pie
Meaning: Very easy.
Example: Learning how to ride a bike was as easy as pie.
Bacon and eggs
Meaning: The quintessential breakfast dish.
Example: I could really go for some bacon and eggs right now.
Meaning: Someone who is not to be trusted
Example: James is a bad egg. Don’t trust him.
Meaning: Thirteen of something.
Example: He always gives us a baker’s dozen of bagels.
Bar Fly (or Barfly)
Meaning: Someone who spends much of his or her time in bars
Example: The place was filled with barflies and other assorted creatures of the night.
Be like chalk and cheese
Meaning: Things or people who are very different and have nothing in common
Example: The hotels here and in Russia are like chalk and cheese – you’ll find much better service here.
Beat the egg
Meaning: To win or be successful.
Example: She beat the egg and won the competition.
Best thing since sliced bread
Meaning: A new and innovative invention.
Example: The internet is the best thing since sliced bread.
Meaning: An important person in a company or organization
Example: Let’s all be on our best behavior today. The big cheese (the president) will be visiting the office.
Bite off more than you can chew
Meaning: Take on more than you can handle.
Example: Don’t bite off more than you can chew with that project.
Bitter pill to swallow
Meaning: Something unpleasant that must be accepted.
Example: Losing the championship game was a bitter pill to swallow.
Bottom of the Barrel
Meaning: Low-quality choices
Example: Our top five candidates for the job have all turned us down. We’re really getting down to the bottom of the barrel here-maybe we should place a new ad.
Meaning: To surprise or impress.
Example: The music performance really bowled me over.
Bread and butter
Meaning: A basic or necessary item.
Example: Good communication is the bread and butter of any relationship.
Meaning: The person who earns the money for a family.
Example: My dad is the breadwinner of our family.
Bring home the bacon
Meaning: Earn a living or provide for the family.
Example: He works hard to bring home the bacon for his family.
Butter someone up
Meaning: Flatter someone to gain their favor.
Example: She buttered up her boss to get a promotion.
Meaning: An easy task.
Example: The final exam was a cake walk.
Carrot and stick
Meaning: Using both rewards and punishments to motivate someone.
Example: The company used a carrot and stick approach to get employees to work harder.
Meaning: Stop or be quiet.
Example: The police are coming, cheese it!
Meaning: Select the best or most desirable.
Example: He cherry-picked the best players for his team.
Chew the fat
Meaning: Chat or gossip.
Example: We spent hours chewing the fat over coffee.
Meaning: Suddenly stopping a habit or addiction.
Example: He quit smoking cold turkey.
Cook Someone’s Goose
Meaning: To insure someone’s defeat, to frustrate someone’s plans
Example: Let’s steal one of the spark plugs from Don’s car. That’ll cook his goose!
Cook the books
Meaning: Falsify financial records.
Example: The accountant cooked the books to cover up the theft.
Cooking with gas
Meaning: Making progress or achieving success.
Example: We finally secured the funding we needed, and now we’re cooking with gas.
Cool as a cucumber
Meaning: Calm and composed.
Example: She was as cool as a cucumber during the presentation.
Meaning: Trite, silly, or outdated.
Example: That joke was so corny.
Meaning: A lazy person who watches a great deal of television
Example: Mark is a couch potato. I can’t remember the last time he left his apartment except to go to work.
Cream of the crop
Meaning: The best of the best.
Example: These students are the cream of the crop.
Meaning: A small amount.
Example: I only got crumbs of the cake.
Cut the cheese
Meaning: Pass gas.
Example: He cut the cheese in the elevator.
Cut the mustard
Meaning: Meet the necessary standard or expectation.
Example: If you want to work for this company, you have to prove you can cut the mustard.
Don’t cry over spilled milk
Meaning: Don’t worry about something that can’t be changed.
Example: I lost the game, but I won’t cry over spilled milk.
Meaning: Admit to being wrong or mistake.
Example: He had to eat crow after realizing he had made a big mistake.
Eat Humble Pie
Meaning: To admit defeat or error, to accept humiliation
Example: The coach was forced to eat humble pie after confidently projecting victory.
Eat Someone’s Lunch
Meaning: Defeat someone thoroughly
Example: China is systematically teaching people to speak African languages, but very few Americans can speak them. When it comes to trade with Africa, they’re going to eat America’s lunch.
Eat your words
Meaning: Admit that what you said was wrong.
Example: I had to eat my words when I found out I was wrong.
Egg on your face
Meaning: Look foolish or embarrassed.
Example: He had egg on his face after his mistake was revealed.
Meaning: Encourage or urge someone to do something.
Example: He egged on his friend to try the spicy food.
Egg someone on
Meaning: Encourage or provoke someone.
Example: He kept egging her on until she finally snapped.
Everything but the kitchen sink
Meaning: Including everything and anything that is not necessary.
Example: She packed everything but the kitchen sink for her trip.
Famous last words
Meaning: A phrase said before something bad happens.
Example: He said, ‘What could go wrong?’ – famous last words.
Feather in your cap
Meaning: An accomplishment to be proud of.
Example: Winning the top prize in the competition was a feather in his cap, and he felt a great sense of accomplishment.
Fine kettle of fish
Meaning: A difficult or awkward situation.
Example: The car broke down on the way to the wedding, and we were in a fine kettle of fish.
Fish out of water
Meaning: Someone who is uncomfortable or out of place in a particular situation.
Example: He felt like a fish out of water at the fancy party.
Food for thought
Meaning: Something that makes you think carefully
Example: The teacher’s advice certainly gave me food for thought.
Meaning: Something that is prohibited or considered wrong, but still tempting.
Example: She knew she shouldn’t eat the cake, but it was like forbidden fruit.
Meaning: From individual ingredients, not using a prepared mix
Example: I’m looking forward to tonight – my girlfriend is baking me a cake from scratch for my birthday.
From Soup to Nuts
Meaning: Everything; from beginning to end
Example: Amazon started out as a bookseller, but now they offer everything from soup to nuts.
Full of beans
Meaning: Energetic and lively.
Example: He was full of beans after drinking several cups of coffee.
Get egg on your face
Meaning: Look foolish or embarrassed.
Example: He got egg on his face when he tripped on stage.
Meaning: Go crazy or become very excited.
Example: The crowd went bananas when the band took the stage.
Meaning: Become very angry or agitated.
Example: He went nuts when he saw the mess in the kitchen.
Meaning: A situation that is easy and profitable.
Example: The job was a gravy train, with high pay and little work.
Grin and bear it
Meaning: Endure something difficult or unpleasant with a smile.
Example: He had to grin and bear it during the long, boring meeting.
Meaning: Not thought through or incomplete.
Example: The plan was half-baked and doomed to fail.
Meaning: Tough luck or bad fortune.
Example: It’s hard cheese that he didn’t get the promotion.
Hard nut to crack
Meaning: A difficult problem or person to deal with.
Example: Getting her to agree to the deal was a hard nut to crack.
Have a bun in the oven
Meaning: Be pregnant.
Example: She’s not drinking because she has a bun in the oven.
Have a lot on one’s plate
Meaning: Be very busy or have a lot of responsibilities.
Example: She has a lot on her plate with her job and family responsibilities.
Have a lot on your plate
Meaning: Be very busy with many tasks or responsibilities.
Example: I can’t come to the party, I have a lot on my plate this week.
Have bigger fish to fry
Meaning: Have more important things to do or deal with.
Example: I can’t help you with your project, I have bigger fish to fry.
Have egg on your face
Meaning: They are made to look foolish or embarrassed
Example: The CEO really had egg on his face after he went on stage to demonstrate the new product and couldn’t get it to work right.
Have your cake and eat it too
Meaning: Want to have everything, without making any compromises.
Example: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Have your just desserts
Meaning: Receive what you deserve, whether it’s good or bad.
Example: He got his just desserts when he won the lottery after years of hard work.
Hit the Spot
Meaning: Be very satisfying (said of something eaten)
Example: We went to Mark’s Midtown for lunch. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, and it really hit the spot.
Meaning: A controversial subject or difficult project that is best avoided
Example: Tax increases will be a hot potato in this election, and most candidates will try to avoid taking a stand on them even if they think they’re necessary.
In a nutshell
Meaning: In summary or briefly.
Example: In a nutshell, the project was a success.
In a pickle
Meaning: In a difficult or unpleasant situation.
Example: We’re in a pickle because we lost our car keys.
In hot water
Meaning: In trouble or facing consequences.
Example: He’s in hot water with the boss for missing the deadline.
In the soup
Meaning: In trouble or facing a difficult situation.
Example: He’s in the soup with the boss for missing the deadline.
Meaning: Completely full or crowded.
Example: The concert was jam-packed with fans.
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
Meaning: Doing something unpleasant can be made easier with a small amount of something pleasant.
Example: I hate taking medicine, but just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
Meaning: The punishment or reward that someone deserves.
Example: He got his just deserts when he was fired for being dishonest.
Kettle of fish
Meaning: A difficult or unpleasant situation.
Example: The lost luggage was a real kettle of fish.
Meaning: Something that is of poor quality or doesn’t work properly.
Example: This car is a real lemon.
Let the cat out of the bag
Meaning: Reveal a secret or confidential information.
Example: She let the cat out of the bag about the surprise party.
Let the meat rest
Meaning: Allow time for something to settle or for emotions to calm down.
Example: He needed to let the meat rest after the argument with his friend.
Life is like a box of chocolates
Meaning: You never know what you’re going to get.
Example: Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what will happen.
Like two peas in a pod
Meaning: Very similar or alike.
Example: The twins are like two peas in a pod.
Meaning: Easy parts of a task; solutions easy to obtain
Example: It’s easy to solve those puzzles – they’re low-hanging fruit. But the Sunday puzzle is much more difficult.
Meaning: The most important part of a meal.
Example: The main course was delicious, but the dessert was even better.
Melt in your mouth
Meaning: Delicious and tender, often used to describe food.
Example: The steak was so tender, it melted in your mouth.
Milk and honey
Meaning: A place or situation of prosperity and abundance.
Example: They moved to the big city to seek their fortune and live in milk and honey.
More than you can shake a stick at
Meaning: More than you can count or handle.
Example: The store has more products than you can shake a stick at.
Move like molasses
Meaning: Move very slowly.
Example: The traffic was moving like molasses during rush hour.
Meaning: The excess fat that hangs over the waistband of tight pants or skirts.
Example: She needs to lose weight, she has a muffin top.
No use crying over spilled milk
Meaning: Don’t worry about something that has already happened and can’t be changed.
Example: I accidentally deleted the file, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk.
Not Mince Words
Meaning: Moderate or weaken a statement
Example: The boss didn’t mince words in my performance evaluation. She said if I didn’t improve, I’d be fired.
Nuts and bolts
Meaning: The basic details or components of something.
Example: Let’s go over the nuts and bolts of the project.
Nutty as a fruitcake
Meaning: Crazy or eccentric.
Example: He’s nutty as a fruitcake if he thinks he can win the race with no training.
Meaning: An offer of peace or reconciliation.
Example: He extended an olive branch to his former friend.
On a silver platter
Meaning: Given without effort or earned.
Example: She got her job handed to her on a silver platter because of her family.
Out to lunch
Meaning: Being foolish or unaware.
Example: He’s completely out to lunch if he thinks he can finish the project in one day.
Pie in the sky
Meaning: Something that is unrealistic or that cannot be achieved
Example: He keeps talking about how he’ll move to Los Angeles to be a famous actor, but it’s just pie in the sky if you ask me.
Piece of cake
Meaning: Very easy or simple.
Example: The test was a piece of cake.
Meaning: Very hot (generally said of food)
Example: Nothing tastes better than fresh cinnamon rolls, served piping hot.
Put all your eggs in one basket
Meaning: Relying on one thing or investing everything into one thing.
Example: Investing all your savings in one stock is like putting all your eggs in one basket.
Read the Tea Leaves
Meaning: Predict the future from small signs
Example: Everyone says things are going great for our company, but if you read the tea leaves you’ll see trouble ahead.
Meaning: Political appeals designed to excite one’s core supporters; demagoguery
Example: The candidate threw red meat to the base, blaming immigrants for the country’s problems.
Rotten to the Core
Meaning: Entirely evil
Example: Sam is rotten to the core. He steals, he lies, he’s violent. I’m glad he’s in prison.
Salt of the earth
Meaning: A good and trustworthy person.
Example: He’s the salt of the earth; always willing to help others.
Sell Like Hotcakes
Meaning: Be sold very quickly
Example: The new Honda is expected to sell like hotcakes after it’s released.
Selling like hotcakes
Meaning: Selling very quickly or in high demand.
Example: The new phone is selling like hotcakes.
Meaning: Become less angry; regain one’s composure
Example: Simmer down. I won’t discuss this while you’re yelling at me.
Slower than molasses
Meaning: Exceptionally slow or sluggish; not fast at all.
Example: This old laptop my dad gave me is a piece of junk. It’s slower than molasses!
Meaning: Unimportant, insignificant
Example: We’re wasting our time on small potatoes. Let’s get to the big news that made us have this meeting.
Meaning: Disparaging something that one cannot have.
Example: He said he didn’t want the job anyway, but it sounded like sour grapes.
Meaning: A person who is always unhappy or negative.
Example: Don’t invite him to the party, he’s a sourpuss.
Spice things up
Meaning: To make things more interesting or exciting.
Example: We need to spice things up a bit, maybe add some new activities.
Spill the beans
Meaning: Reveal a secret.
Example: She spilled the beans about the surprise party.
Sweeten the deal
Meaning: To make an offer more appealing.
Example: If you include free shipping, it will sweeten the deal.
Sweeten the pot
Meaning: Increase the reward or offer a bribe to entice someone.
Example: He sweetened the pot with a bonus to get his team to work harder.
Take it with a grain of salt
Meaning: Be skeptical or cautious about something someone says.
Example: He tends to exaggerate, so take what he says with a grain of salt.
Take something with a pinch (grain) of salt
Meaning: If you take what someone says with a pinch of salt, you do not completely believe it.
Example: I heard that you can get a free movie ticket if you wear red, but Kevin toldme that, so I’m going to take it with a pinch of salt.
Take the cake
Meaning: To win or be the best.
Example: His performance took the cake at the talent show.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles
Meaning: That’s just how things happen sometimes.
Example: We didn’t get the funding, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Meaning: Children often resemble their parents.
Example: He’s just like his father; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The icing on the cake
Meaning: Something that makes a good situation even better.
Example: Getting a promotion was great, but the icing on the cake was the raise.
The proof is in the pudding
Meaning: The quality or success of something can only be judged by putting it into action.
Example: I think our plan will work, but the proof is in the pudding.
The Whole Enchilada
Meaning: All of something.
Example: No, I don’t want just the basic version of the software. I’ll take it all. Give me the whole enchilada.
There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Meaning: Nothing is given to you without some expectation of something in return.
Example: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. You’ll have to turn over personal information, and it’ll cause you trouble later.
Too hot to handle
Meaning: Something or someone that is difficult to deal with.
Example: The project was too hot to handle for our team.
Too many cooks spoil the broth
Meaning: Too many people involved in something can ruin it.
Example: We had too many people giving input, and it just confused things. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Meaning: The most important or prominent person in a group.
Example: He’s the top banana at the company, everyone reports to him.
Meaning: A person who is strong and able to handle difficult situations.
Example: She’s a tough cookie, she’ll be able to handle the challenge.
Turn up the heat
Meaning: To increase pressure or intensity.
Example: The competition is tough, we need to turn up the heat and work harder.
Under the table
Meaning: Done secretly or illegally.
Example: He was paid under the table for his work.
Use your noodle
Meaning: Use your brain or think creatively.
Example: We need to find a solution, so use your noodle and come up with some ideas.
Variety is the spice of life
Meaning: Doing different things can make life more interesting.
Example: We should try new hobbies, variety is the spice of life.
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Meaning: Stop deluding yourself
Example: Emily, your boyfriend has been seen out with three different women just this week. You need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Walking on eggshells
Meaning: Being very cautious or sensitive in order not to offend someone.
Example: After the argument, they were walking on eggshells around each other.
Meaning: A place where alcoholic beverages are served, a bar
Example: Watering holes in New York City range from simple taverns serving a shot and a beer to spectacular skyscraper bars with 360-degree views and elaborate craft cocktails.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Meaning: To follow local customs or traditions.
Example: If you visit a foreign country, it’s best to follow the local customs. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade
Meaning: Make the best of a difficult situation.
Example: After losing his job, he started his own business. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Whet your appetite
Meaning: To stimulate or increase your desire for something.
Example: The aroma of the food whet my appetite.
Wine and dine
Meaning: To entertain someone with food and drink.
Example: We wined and dined our clients to impress them.
You can’t have your cake and eat it too
Meaning: You can’t have everything you want.
Example: You can’t expect to have a high-paying job and work only a few hours a week. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Your bread and butter
Meaning: The main source of your income.
Example: His freelance work is his bread and butter.
Your goose is cooked
Meaning: You are in trouble and there is no way out.
Example: He knew his goose was cooked when he missed the deadline.
Your just desserts
Meaning: The punishment or reward that someone deserves.
Example: He finally got his just desserts after years of cheating.
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