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35 Popular Food Idioms with Meaning and Examples for ESL Learners

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Food idioms are a fascinating aspect of the English language. They are creative and fun to use, and can add a touch of humor to any conversation. We all love food, and incorporating food idioms into our everyday language is a great way to express ourselves in a unique way.

What Are Food Idioms?

First, let’s define what idioms are. Idioms are phrases that have a figurative meaning that is different from the literal meaning of the words. Food idioms, in particular, use food-related words and phrases to convey a message.

For example, the idiom “piece of cake” means something that is easy to do. It does not mean that you are actually going to eat a piece of cake. Similarly, the idiom “spill the beans” means to reveal a secret, not to actually spill beans.

Food idioms are used in various situations, from casual conversations to formal business meetings. They are a great way to add humor and personality to your language.

food idioms

To help you better understand food idioms, we have compiled a list of the most common ones. Here are a few examples:

Idiom Meaning
Bite off more than you can chew To take on more than you can handle
Butter someone up To flatter someone to get what you want
Cool as a cucumber To be calm and composed
Full of beans To be full of energy and enthusiasm
Gravy train An easy way to make money
Piece of cake Something that is easy to do
Spice things up To make something more interesting or exciting

List of Food Idioms in English

  • (Don’t) cry over spilled milk
  • (Have a) bun in the oven
  • (Have one’s) cake and eat it too
  • (Have something) handed to someone on a silver platter
  • (Not my) cup of tea
  • Apple of one’s eye
  • Bad egg
  • Big cheese
  • Bread and butter
  • Bring home the bacon
  • Butter someone up
  • Carrot top
  • Cheesy
  • Cool as a cucumber
  • Cream of the crop
  • Cup of joe
  • Egg someone on
  • Freeze one’s buns off
  • Full of beans
  • Gravy train
  • Hard nut to crack
  • Hot potato
  • In a nutshell
  • Nuts about something, someone
  • One smart cookie
  • Out to lunch
  • Peach fuzz
  • Piece of cake
  • Put all of one’s eggs in one basket
  • Sell like hot cakes
  • Souped up
  • Spice things up
  • Spill the beans
  • Take something with a pinch (grain) of salt
  • Use your noodle

Idioms about Food with Meaning and Example Sentences

(Don’t) cry over spilled milk

  • Meaning: Don’t waste time worrying about things that have already happened and can’t be changed.
  • Example Sentence: When she dropped her favorite vase, her mother told her not to cry over spilled milk.

(Have a) bun in the oven

  • Meaning: To be pregnant.
  • Example Sentence: Everyone was excited when they learned that Jenna had a bun in the oven.

(Have one’s) cake and eat it too

  • Meaning: To want more than is reasonable or to want to have two incompatible things at the same time.
  • Example Sentence: He wants to be single but also have a committed relationship; he’s trying to have his cake and eat it too.

(Have something) handed to someone on a silver platter

  • Meaning: To receive something without having to work or exert effort for it.
  • Example Sentence: She never appreciates her opportunities; everything has always been handed to her on a silver platter.

(Not my) cup of tea

  • Meaning: Not something one likes or is interested in.
  • Example Sentence: I tried playing golf, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

Apple of one’s eye

  • Meaning: Someone who is cherished above all others.
  • Example Sentence: His granddaughter is the apple of his eye.

Bad egg

  • Meaning: A dishonest or untrustworthy person.
  • Example Sentence: I don’t want you hanging out with him; he’s a bad egg.

Big cheese

  • Meaning: An important and influential person, especially in an organization.
  • Example Sentence: She’s the big cheese around here; her approval is crucial.

Bread and butter

  • Meaning: A person’s main source of income; a job or task that provides steady earnings.
  • Example Sentence: Freelance writing is my bread and butter.

Bring home the bacon

  • Meaning: To earn money, particularly for one’s family; to be the provider.
  • Example Sentence: Ever since the promotion, he’s been able to bring home the bacon for his family.

Butter someone up

  • Meaning: To flatter or compliment someone to gain a favor.
  • Example Sentence: He’s been buttering up the boss in hopes of getting that promotion.

Carrot top

  • Meaning: A person with red or orange hair.
  • Example Sentence: My brother is the only carrot top in our family.

Cheesy

  • Meaning: Lacking in taste, overly sentimental or cliché.
  • Example Sentence: The dialogue in that romantic movie was so cheesy.

Cool as a cucumber

  • Meaning: Very calm and composed, especially in stressful situations.
  • Example Sentence: Even during the job interview, she was as cool as a cucumber.
Related  Have Bigger Fish to Fry | Definition, Origin & Useful Examples

Cream of the crop

  • Meaning: The best of a particular group.
  • Example Sentence: These students are the cream of the crop at our school.

Cup of joe

  • Meaning: A cup of coffee.
  • Example Sentence: I can’t start my morning without a cup of joe.

Egg someone on

  • Meaning: To encourage or incite someone to do something, often something mischievous or risky.
  • Example Sentence: His friends egged him on to jump into the pool from the roof.

Freeze one’s buns off

  • Meaning: To be very cold.
  • Example Sentence: I was freezing my buns off waiting for the bus in the snow.

Full of beans

  • Meaning: Energetic, lively, in high spirits.
  • Example Sentence: The kids are absolutely full of beans this morning.

Gravy train

  • Meaning: A situation or occupation that provides steady income with little effort.
  • Example Sentence: He’s been riding the gravy train ever since he patented his invention.

Hard nut to crack

  • Meaning: A difficult problem to solve or a person who is difficult to understand.
  • Example Sentence: The new project is a hard nut to crack, but we’ll get it done

Hot potato

  • Meaning: A controversial issue or situation that is difficult to handle and which many people do not want to deal with.
  • Example Sentence: The political scandal became a hot potato for the party.

In a nutshell

  • Meaning: Summarized in a few words; concisely.
  • Example Sentence: In a nutshell, the plan is to buy, renovate, and sell the property.

Nuts about something, someone

  • Meaning: Very enthusiastic or passionate about something or someone.
  • Example Sentence: She’s absolutely nuts about horseback riding.

One smart cookie

  • Meaning: Someone who is clever and intelligent.
  • Example Sentence: He solved the problem so quickly, he’s one smart cookie.

Out to lunch

  • Meaning: Not paying attention or out of touch with reality; sometimes used to imply someone is crazy.
  • Example Sentence: You must be out to lunch if you think that plan will work.

Peach fuzz

  • Meaning: The soft, fine hair on the skin, especially that which appears on the face of a young man.
  • Example Sentence: His beard hasn’t come in yet; it’s just peach fuzz right now.

Piece of cake

  • Meaning: Something very easy to do.
  • Example Sentence: I finished the test in ten minutes—it was a piece of cake.

Put all of one’s eggs in one basket

  • Meaning: To risk everything on a single opportunity or plan of action.
  • Example Sentence: Investing all your money in one company is like putting all your eggs in one basket.

Sell like hot cakes

  • Meaning: To sell very quickly or in large quantities.
  • Example Sentence: Her new book has been selling like hot cakes.

Souped up

  • Meaning: Modified or upgraded for enhanced performance, often used to refer to cars.
  • Example Sentence: He’s got a souped-up car that goes from 0 to 60 in just seconds.

Spice things up

  • Meaning: To add excitement or interest

Spice things up

  • Meaning: To add excitement or interest to a situation or activity.
  • Example Sentence: They decided to spice things up in their marriage by taking salsa lessons.

Spill the beans

  • Meaning: To reveal a secret or disclose information carelessly.
  • Example Sentence: He accidentally spilled the beans about the surprise party.

Take something with a pinch (grain) of salt

  • Meaning: To not take something completely seriously; to be skeptical about the truth of something.
  • Example Sentence: I would take his advice with a pinch of salt; he doesn’t always know what he’s talking about.

Use your noodle

  • Meaning: Use your brain; think about something carefully or find a solution by thinking.
  • Example Sentence: You’re going to have to use your noodle to solve these complex puzzles.

Common Food Idioms by Different Categories

Food idioms are a fun and creative way to express ourselves in conversation. They add flavor and color to our language and help us connect with others. In this section, we will explore some of the most common food idioms and their meanings.

Fruit-Based Idioms

Fruit-based idioms are some of the most commonly used food idioms in English. They are often used to describe a person’s personality or behavior.

Apple of my eye: This idiom means someone or something that is cherished above all others.

  • For example, “My daughter is the apple of my eye.”

Banana republic: This idiom refers to a small, politically unstable country that is dependent on a single crop or resource.

  • For example, “The country is a banana republic, relying heavily on its oil exports.”

Cherry-pick: This idiom means to choose only the best or most desirable items.

  • For example, “The boss always cherry-picks the best employees for the important projects.”

Go bananas: To become very excited or angry.

  • Example Sentence: The kids will go bananas when they find out we’re going to the amusement park.

Lemon: Something that is faulty or does not meet expectations, often used to describe a vehicle.

  • Example Sentence: I bought a used car, but it turned out to be a lemon and broke down within a week.

Peachy: Fine or excellent, often used sarcastically to mean the opposite.

  • Example Sentence: Oh, just peachy, now that I’ve locked my keys in the car.
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Sour grapes: Disparaging what one cannot obtain as if it were never desirable in the first place.

  • Example Sentence: He said he didn’t want the promotion anyway, but it sounded like sour grapes to me.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: A child usually has a similar character or similar qualities to his or her parents.

  • Example Sentence: She’s so talented at art, just like her mother—the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Compare apples and oranges: To compare two things that are fundamentally different.

  • Example Sentence: You can’t compare their two situations; it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Not know beans about (something): To know nothing about a particular subject.

  • Example Sentence: I’d like to help you with your taxes, but I’m afraid I don’t know beans about accounting.

Bite the hand that feeds you: To treat someone badly who has helped you in some way, often someone who has provided one with money.

  • Example Sentence: Complaining about your boss in such a manner is like biting the hand that feeds you.

Life’s a peach: Life is wonderful or very satisfactory.

  • Example Sentence: Ever since she got her new job and moved to Hawaii, she thinks life’s a peach.

A plum job/position: A desirable position which is well-paid and considered relatively easy.

  • Example Sentence: He landed a plum job at a tech company without even having to interview.

Vegetable-Based Idioms

Vegetable-based idioms are often used to describe a person’s physical appearance or health.

Carrot-top: This idiom refers to someone with red hair.

  • For example, “My cousin has always been a carrot-top.”

Peas in a pod: This idiom means two people who are very similar or alike.

  • For example, “The twins are like two peas in a pod.”

Couch potato: This idiom refers to someone who spends a lot of time sitting and watching TV.

  • For example, “My brother is a real couch potato.”

Spill the beans: To reveal secret information accidentally or maliciously.

  • Example Sentence: He finally spilled the beans about their secret wedding plans.

Full of beans: To have a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

  • Example Sentence: My grandmother is 80, but she’s still full of beans.

In a pickle: To be in a difficult or troublesome situation.

  • Example Sentence: I’m in a real pickle—I locked my keys in the car.

Cool as a cucumber: To remain calm and composed, especially in stressful situations.

  • Example Sentence: She stayed cool as a cucumber during her job interview.

Dangle a carrot: To offer an incentive or reward to motivate someone to do something.

  • Example Sentence: The company dangled a carrot in front of employees with the promise of year-end bonuses.

Small potatoes: Something insignificant or unimportant.

  • Example Sentence: The mistakes in his report are small potatoes compared to the overall success of the project.

Hot potato: A controversial issue or situation that is difficult to handle.

  • Example Sentence: The political debate has become a hot potato that no one wants to touch.

Tough nut to crack: A problem that is hard to solve or a person who is difficult to understand.

  • Example Sentence: The new client is a tough nut to crack, but I think I’m making progress.

Out to lunch: Not paying attention or out of touch with reality; sometimes used to imply someone is crazy.

  • Example Sentence: If he thinks he can finish that project in one day, he’s out to lunch.

Bean counter: A derogatory term for an accountant or someone who is excessively concerned with numbers and small details.

  • Example Sentence: Don’t let the bean counters control all our decisions; sometimes you have to take risks.

Dairy-Based Idioms

Dairy-based idioms are often used to describe a person’s behavior or attitude.

Butter someone up: This idiom means to flatter or praise someone in order to get something from them.

  • For example, “He buttered up his boss to get a promotion.”

Cheesy: This idiom refers to something that is tacky or inauthentic.

  • For example, “The movie was so cheesy, I couldn’t watch it.”

Cream of the crop: This idiom means the best of the best.

  • For example, “The students in this school are the cream of the crop.”

Milk it: To take full advantage of a situation, usually for one’s own benefit.

  • Example Sentence: He’s been sick, but now he’s just milking it to avoid going back to work.

Cry over spilt milk: To be upset about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.

  • Example Sentence: Yes, we made a mistake, but there’s no use crying over spilt milk now.

The milk of human kindness: Compassion, sympathy, and benevolence.

  • Example Sentence: She is known for her generosity and the milk of human kindness.

Cheese off: To anger or irritate someone.

  • Example Sentence: I was really cheesed off when I found out they went ahead with the plans without me.

Like two curds in a whey: Very close or inseparable friends, a play on the phrase “like two peas in a pod.”

  • Example Sentence: They’ve been like two curds in a whey ever since they met in kindergarten.

Land of milk and honey: A place where there is plenty of everything that one needs or desires.

  • Example Sentence: They moved to the city thinking it was the land of milk and honey.
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No use crying over spilt milk: It’s not worth being upset about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.

  • Example Sentence: I know you’re disappointed that the cake fell apart, but there’s no use crying over spilt milk.

Milk of human kindness: Natural kindness and sympathy shown to others.

  • Example Sentence: Even after being mistreated, she showed the milk of human kindness by forgiving those who wronged her.

Big cheese: An important, influential person.

  • Example Sentence: He’s the big cheese in his company, so his approval is crucial for the project.

Butter wouldn’t melt in his/her mouth: Used to describe someone who appears demure, innocent, or sincere but may in fact be the opposite.

  • Example Sentence: She looks as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but she can be quite cunning when she wants to be.

Meat-Based Idioms

Meat-based idioms are often used to describe a person’s behavior or actions.

Bring home the bacon: This idiom means to earn a living or provide for one’s family.

  • For example, “I work hard to bring home the bacon for my family.”

Chew the fat: To engage in casual conversation or small talk.

  • Example Sentence: We sat around the fire and chewed the fat until the early hours of the morning.

Ham it up: To overact or exaggerate one’s performance.

  • Example Sentence: He loves to ham it up for the camera; he’s such a natural entertainer.

Beef up: To increase or enhance something, often used in reference to physical strength or the robustness of an object or plan.

  • Example Sentence: We need to beef up security for the upcoming event.

Dead meat: In serious trouble or danger.

  • Example Sentence: If the boss finds out who broke the printer, they’re dead meat.

Meat and potatoes: The most fundamental and sustaining part of something.

  • Example Sentence: Let’s skip the small talk and get to the meat and potatoes of the meeting.

Pork barrel: Government spending for localized projects to bring money to a representative’s district.

  • Example Sentence: The bill was full of pork barrel spending that had little to do with the legislation’s main purpose.

Tough as old boots: Very strong or resilient; able to withstand hardship or pain.

  • Example Sentence: My grandfather is tough as old boots; he never complains, even when he’s unwell.

Save one’s bacon: To rescue someone from a difficult situation or trouble.

  • Example Sentence: My colleague saved my bacon by finishing the report while I was out sick.

Gravy train: A situation in which someone can make a lot of money for very little effort.

  • Example Sentence: He’s been riding the gravy train ever since he patented his invention.

Like lambs to the slaughter: To go innocently and unsuspectingly into a dangerous or harmful situation.

  • Example Sentence: The tourists went into the scammy shop like lambs to the slaughter, unaware of the overpriced goods they would

Using Food Idioms in Conversations

Now that we have explored some of the most common food idioms, it’s time to learn how to use them in conversations. Food idioms add spice and flavor to our language, and they can help us express ourselves in a more creative and memorable way.

Let’s take a look at some example conversations between two people, using food idioms:

Casual Conversation:

Example 1:

  • Alex: Hey, how was your date last night?
  • Jamie: It was interesting, but honestly, the restaurant he chose was a bit cheesy for my taste.
  • Alex: Oh no, that’s not a good start. But was the conversation at least good?
  • Jamie: Yeah, we chewed the fat for a while, but I don’t think we really clicked. I might give it another shot though.

Example 2:

  • Pat: You seem really happy today. What’s up?
  • Sam: I just got a bonus at work. I can finally bring home the bacon and take my family on that vacation we’ve been dreaming about.
  • Pat: That’s awesome! Sounds like you’ve been working hard. You deserve it.

Formal Business Meeting:

Example 1:

  • Manager: Let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of today’s agenda. We need to discuss the upcoming merger and the impact it will have on our operations.
  • Employee: Agreed. We should also address how to beef up our marketing strategy to ensure a smooth transition for our customers.

Example 2:

  • CEO: I want to thank everyone for joining this strategic planning session. Our goal is to identify initiatives that will serve as the cream of the crop for our industry.
  • Vice President: Indeed, we’ve been milking the same old strategies for too long. It’s time to innovate and find new revenue streams.
  • CEO: Precisely. Let’s not cry over spilt milk regarding past missed opportunities. Instead, let’s focus on carving new paths for growth.

Idioms about Food | Infographics

food idioms

35 Popular Food Idioms with Meaning and Examples for ESL Learners 1

35 Popular Food Idioms with Meaning and Examples for ESL Learners 2

35 Popular Food Idioms with Meaning and Examples for ESL Learners 3

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