16 Food Idioms with Examples and Explanations [Infographic]


Using these 8 funny idioms about food will make you a big cheese. You will find the examples and explanations of idioms under the infographic.

English Idioms about foodProvided by Kaplan 


1. Egghead
a very studious person, intellectually gifted in the field of academics, a very intelligent person

  • I think Jane will do well in her finals. She has always been a kind of egghead from elementary school all the way through college.

Son: Mum, one of the kids in school called me an egghead today.
Mum: Why did they call you that?

Son: I think it’s because the other kids think I am really smart. They said that I’m always reading books and that I always have the right answer to the teacher’s questions.

Mum: Well, you are very intelligent. Next time somebody calls you an egghead just reply back to them saying, “I know” and walk away with your head held high.

2. Big cheese
an important and influential person

  • Do you know Peter? He’s a big cheese at the company, he may help you to get a good job there.

Mary: I had a terrible day at work today.
Alice: Why?

Mary: Ever since Tom got his promotion he thinks he is the big cheese of the company. All he does is order us around all day.

Alice: Can you talk to him about it?
Mary: I don’t think so, he is too influential now. He could fire me if I do something he doesn’t like.

3. Couch potato 
a very lazy person who watches too much TV

  • My uncle is a couch potato, you never see him without the remote control in his hand.

Jenny: Where is Andrew? He said he would join us for lunch today.

Mary: I went to pick him up earlier and he was in his pyjamas watching Star Wars. I found him in the same spot yesterday when I went to hang out with him. I don’t think he has moved from that couch all weekend.

Jenny: He is so lazy, it is unbelievable! He’s a couch potato, he needs to go outside and enjoy life.
Mary: You’re right, he’s spending too much time on that couch watching television.

4. Tough cookie
a very determined person, durable and robust person, a person who is difficult to deal with

  • There is a tough cookie on the phone, he insists to talk to the manager, shall I put him through?

Mother 1: How is Sarah?

Mother 2: Sarah is great but she is very busy. She is a full-time student and working 30 hours a week to pay off her student loans. I don’t know how she has time for it all.

Mother 1: Wow! She really is a tough cookie! She has a plan and she’s working as hard as she can to reach her goal.

Mother 2: Yes, she is. We are very proud of her.


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5. Top banana
leader, boss, the chief person in a group, the head of a project

  • I don’t know when we’ll finish, ask Jack, he’s the top banana here.

John: Our team is in disarray.
Jeremy: What do you mean?

John: We have no order, no aims and no direction. We need a leader, a top banana that can motivate the team and drive us to the finish line.

Jeremy: You’re right. I think you should be the leader. You’re organised, ambitious, a team player and intelligent. I know the rest of the team will agree. What do you think?

John: I would be honoured to be the top banana of this team!

6. Bad apple
troublemaker, criminal

  • He’s a real bad apple. If I were you, I wouldn’t let my daughter go out with him.

George: Where is Kevin nowadays?
Paul: He’s doing time in prison. He was arrested last year.

George: I’m not surprised.
Paul: Why?

George: He was always the bad apple of the family. They were never able to discipline him whereas his sister was always so good.

Paul: You’re right. I remember in school he was always getting in trouble for fighting and poor attendance but his sister was so friendly and well mannered. She was completely different to Kevin. He really is the bad apple of that family, his poor parents.

7. Sour grapes
pretending to dislike something that you can’t have

  • The losers say they don’t mind that they couldn’t win the cup, but I’m sure this is only sour grapes.

Anna: Did you hear that Kim lost her job?
Melissa: Really? I saw her yesterday and she didn’t say anything.

Anna: She’s pretending that doesn’t care that she was fired but it’s just a bunch of sour grapes.

Melissa: She loved that job of course she cares.
Anna: I know but she wants everyone to think she is happy and didn’t like her job anyway.

8. Lemon law
an American law that protects those who buy defective cars or other consumer goods

  • Unfortunately, his new car had an engine defect, but he received a complete refund in accordance with the lemon law.

Corinne: I can’t believe it! The sound on my new television isn’t working.
Eli:  How did you break your new television already? You have only had it for three days.

Corinne: I think it was sold to me like this, I couldn’t have broken it already.
Eli: If they sold you a faulty television set, you can get your money back.

Corinne: How can I get my money back?
Eli: In accordance to the lemon law you must be given a complete refund if you were sold a faulty product.

Corinne: That’s brilliant, I’ll contact my lawyer now.


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9. A bun in the oven 
this expression is used when somebody is pregnant.

  • I have a bun the oven, the baby is due in 7 months.
  • They’ve got a bun in the oven! This will be their first baby.

Zoe: I went to the doctor today.
Mia: Why did you go to the doctor?

Zoe: I thought I had a virus as I haven’t been feeling very well. But the doctor said it wasn’t a virus.
Mia: So what is wrong with you?

Zoe: I’m pregnant!
Mia: Congratulations! You’ve got a bun in the oven! That’s fantastic news!

10. Bring home the bacon
this idiom describes a person who earns a living or provides financial support to the home.

  • I work hard so I can support my family, I bring home the bacon.
  • You need to find a good job and bring home the bacon.

Lucas: I want to quit my job, but I can’t.
Noah: Why can’t you quit your job?

Lucas: I need that job to support my family, they are relying on my income.
Noah: You bring home the bacon, that must be a lot of pressure.

Lucas: It is. I would love to quit my job right now, but I know I should find a new job first.

11. Cheesy 
describes something that is tacky, silly, inauthentic or cheap.

  • The novel received terrible reviews and was even said to be cheesy as many critics thought it was too predictable.
  • That cliche was so cheesy and expected.

Jack: How was the new movie?
Luke: It was OK, I thought it could have been better though.

Jack: What do you mean?
Luke: I just thought it was really predictable and cheesy. I knew what the characters were going to say before they said it and it just seemed very forced and fake.

Jack: That is disappointing.
Luke: It is, the movie was full of cliches and the storyline was so obvious and has been done before so many times.

Jack: I won’t be going to watch that movie then.
Luke: I wouldn’t recommend it.

12. Full of beans
this describes somebody that is excited about something or very energetic and lively.

  • The kids were full of beans after the birthday party.
  • The supporters were full of beans at the match, they chanted, sang and even danced when their team scored the winning goal.

Maggie: How is Kevin?
Peter: Kevin is great, he is about to start college and is excited to live on campus.

Maggie: I didn’t know he was moving away, is he nervous about living alone?
Peter: Not at all! He is full of beans, he can’t wait to have his own apartment and do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. His parents are very strict so he is looking forward to the freedom.

Maggie: I hope it all works out for him! – I’m sure it will, he’s a very bright, young man.

13. A Piece of cake
this describes something that is really easy to do or takes very little effort.

  • The exam was a piece of cake. I knew all the answers, I was finished within half an hour.
  • Let’s cook this chicken dish for dinner. The recipe is so easy it will be a piece of cake and it will taste delicious!

Mary: Would you mind helping me pack and move my stuff to the new apartment?
John: Of course not!

Mary: Are you sure? I have a lot of big furniture and delicate crockery.
John: I’m positive, it will be a piece of cake if the two of us do it together. We’ll have everything packed and moved by the end of the week.

Mary: Thank you so much, you are a lifesaver!
John: Don’t mention it, I’m happy to help!

14. Spill the beans
this idiom is used when somebody tells a secret that they shouldn’t have.

  • Spill the beans, how did you know the answer to the mathematics question?
  • They spilled the beans last night to their family and friends. They are quitting their jobs and travelling around the world for a year. They kept it a secret for months.

Ella: This brown bread is amazing!
Evelyn: Thank you, I made it.

Ella: Really? I’m very impressed, I would love to try bake it at home. Can I have the recipe?
Evelyn: I’m sorry but it’s a family recipe, I’m not allowed to tell anyone outside of the family, the secret recipe.

Ella: You wouldn’t spill the beans to your closest friend, would you? I promise I’ll keep the recipe a secret.
Evelyn: I wish I could but I can’t, it’s a secret that’s been in the family for generations.
Ella: OK, I understand.


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15. Take with a pinch of salt
this idiom is used when somebody is skeptical about something or someone.

  • Detectives have to be skeptical and suspicious when interviewing suspects. They have to take everything being said with a pinch of salt.
  • The statistics in the report need to be interpreted with a pinch of salt as they don’t include all the factors.

Natalie: Have you talked to Bruna recently?
Vivian: No, I haven’t, have you?

Natalie: Yeah, I was talking to her yesterday. She told me that she is going to book a one way ticket to Thailand and travel around Asia for six months.
Vivian: Wow, that sounds amazing!

Natalie: I don’t believe her though, I always take what she says with a pinch of salt.
Vivian: Why?

Natalie: I think she exaggerates a lot, I’ve even caught her lying before.
Vivian: I know what you mean, I have had to question what she has said in the past, before.

16. Butter up
this idiom is used when somebody flatters somebody else, usually because they want something from them.

  • The students wanted to go outside and play in the yard so they tried to butter up their teacher by saying what a great teacher she is and how much they appreciate her.
  • The employer buttered up to the manager as he wanted to be promoted to the new position in work.

Piper: My son tried to butter me up yesterday because he wants to go to the party tonight. Nora: What did he do to butter you up?

Piper: He started complimenting me and offered to cook dinner for the rest of the family. I told him he could cook dinner but that he still wasn’t going to the party.
Nora: How do you know he wasn’t trying to do something nice for you?

Piper: I know because he hates cooking and he really wanted to go to this party tonight.
Nora: Poor Andrew, why isn’t he allowed to go to the party?

Piper: He’s grounded because he missed his curfew last weekend.
Nora: I understand, at least you weren’t persuaded by his flattery.
Piper: He should know better than to try to butter me up!

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