Almost every language uses food to describe different situations or ideas. The English language is full of them, like butter on bread, (a comparison that means very often).
The following list has some of the most commonly heard expressions with food references.
1. A bad egg
Used to describe a person who does bad things in a family or general society.
- Be careful around Mark; he is a bad egg.
2. A watched pot never boils
This unique comparative expression describes the feeling of a person who is impatiently waiting for something that seems to be taking forever.
It is comparing that feeling to how it feels when we are waiting for water to boil in a pot, it seems like it will never come to a boil.
- You have been waiting by the window all day, you know a watched pot never boils, our father will come when he comes.
3. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. (Stand aloneexpression.)
A very old medical suggestion that has since turned into a common English expression used when speaking about Apples in general. Parents will often say this to young children to encourage them to eat apples.
4. Apple of my eye
Typically used when speaking about another person who is our favorite person or who means a lot to us.
- My wife, Cate, is the apple of my eye.
5. Bigger fish to fry
This expression is used to stress that there is another thing far more important than the other.
- I don’t care about the small house job, I’ve got bigger fish to fry with the High-rise Building project.
6. Bread and butter
In many parts of the world, bread and butter are daily food items; it is, for this reason, called a staple in many western countries. It is no surprise that it refers to the day-to-day work a person does to earn money.
- How do you make your bread and butter? …I am a Butcher.
- I earn my bread and butter as a Computer programmer.
7. Bring home the bacon
Whoever brings home the bacon is the person in a family who works to make money.
- My father is very busy working to bring home the bacon.
8. Bun in the oven
One of my favorite expressions, this humorous saying compares baking bread in an oven to a woman who is pregnant with a child.
- I presently have two kids and another bun in the oven.
9. Butter him / her up
To butter someone up, means to do things to them or for them to convince them to give you what you want.
- My husband doesn’t want to go on vacations, but maybe if I butter him up, he will change his mind.
10. Buy / bought a lemon
If you have purchased a lemon, you have bought something that does not work correctly or keeps breaking when used. It is full of faults.
- The car I bought is such a lemon.
- I bought a new washing machine, but I think it is a lemon because I only used it once before it broke down.
11. Cook the books
An accounting expression used to describe when someone illegally changes financial accounts to steal money.
- We have a large amount of money missing; it looks like someone is cooking the books.
12. Cool as a cucumber
Someone who can think and act very well under a lot of stress and pressure.
- Those firemen were as cool as cucumbers when they put out that fire.
13. Couch potato
Someone who spends all of their time seated watching television or playing games on their couch(Sofa) and doing little else. Often used to describe lazy people.
- John is such a couch potato, no wonder he is unemployed.
14. Cream of the crop
The cream of the crop refers to the best of a group of things or the best in the group.
- Luke is our best football player; he is by far the cream of the crop!
15. Chalk and cheese
Used as comparatives to describe the difference between two things.
- Linda and her sister are complete opposites, like chalk and cheese.
16. Don’t cry over spilled milk
If we spill milk, we cannot go back in time and stop it from happening; it is also quick and easy to clean up, so why make a big deal over a small thing, or, as the expression says why cry over it?
- It’s ok; we have many other cups like the one you broke, don’t cry over spilled milk.
17. Take care, don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
This expression is one of the most commonly known and used phrases in our list. It refers to not relying on just one thing for a solution to a problem. Why? Because, if it fails we will lose everything and have nothing, just like all of the eggs in the basket falling and breaking.
- John put all his eggs in one basket when he gambled on that horse winning the race.
18. Drink like a fish
Fish breathe water like we breathe air. However, this expression compares a person who can drink large amounts of alcohol to a fish drinking water.
- Did you see how much John drank at the pub last night? He drinks like a fish!
19. Easy as pie
When something is straightforward, easy to do, we use this expression.
- I can fix your car, easy as pie.
20. Eat humble pie
If someone says that they can do something better than another person, this is called boasting. But if that person cannot prove it, they will have to admit they were wrong. We use this expression to describe what has happened to that person.
- Lenny boasted he could jump higher than Glen, but he had to eat humble pie when he couldn’t and had to apologize to Glen.
21. Eat you / us out of house and home
When someone or something eats a large amount of food, it can become costly. This expression stresses how expensive it is and jokingly means that the people who are living in the house may lose their home to pay for all the food.
- Our son eats so much he is going to eat us out of house and home!
22. Egg on his / her face
A person who has been embarrassed by something that has happened to them.
- Neil was left with egg on his face after he forgot to bring the contract to the meeting.
23. Egg them on / egged on
If someone teases another person into doing something they perhaps didn’t want to do, it is called egging them on.
- The other students at school egged me on to put water on the teacher’s chair.
24. Full of beans
A person who has lots of energy is said to be full of beans.
- Katie is full of beans today.
25. Go bananas
To act crazily and/or become insane.
- Terry has gone bananas; he is jumping and running around like crazy!
26. Gone nuts
To mentally go crazy.
- The stress caused Patricia to go nuts; she is in the hospital now recovering.
27. Have your cake and eat it too
When you want two things but only one is possible. The expression uses an actual cake as an example, it looks beautiful, and you would like to have it always, but once you have eaten the cake, it is gone!
- You cannot have your cake and eat it too.
28. He/she has butterfingers
When someone is very clumsy and always drops things we apply this expression to them.
- Owen is always dropping things; he has butterfingers.
29. His goose is cooked
To be in a lot of trouble and suffer the consequences of one’s actions. It is a very old expression which most native English speakers would not even be able to say what it’s origin is.
- I can’t believe you shared confidential information with the enemy; your goose is cooked!
30. Hot potato
If something is important, even dangerous and time sensitive, it is called a ‘hot potato.’ You cannot hold a hot potato in your hands without burning your hands. The same idea applies to things that could cause you harm, both literally and figuratively.
- That contract is a hot potato if we don’t get it signed we will be in big trouble with management.
- The soldier handled the bomb like a hot potato.
31. Icing on the cake
Used to describe the last thing that required at a specific moment in time. It has both a positive and negative use.
- When they gave me another box of files to store just before I was about to finish working, it was the icing on the cake, so I quit. (Negative use.)
- At the end of our work dinner they handed out envelopes with our bonus cheques, it was the icing on the cake of a great night out. (Positive use.)
32. In a pickle
To be in trouble.
- Greg was in a pickle when they towed his car away.
33. Keen as mustard
When someone is very willing to do something.
- Wendy was as keen as mustard to start her new job.
34. Knuckle sandwich
A name used to describe the action of punching someone in the face.
- If you don’t give me my money, I am going to give you a knuckle sandwich!
35. Like butter in my hands
An expression describing someone or something that is easily manipulated or handled by another person.
- Don’t worry Tiffany is like butter in my hands; she will do whatever I ask her to do.
36. Like fish out of water
This expression compares our failed actions to how well a fish would do to survive out of the water.
- I did as well at that job as a fish out of the water!
37. Nutty as a fruitcake
Fruitcakes have many nuts in them, a person who is as nutty as a fruitcake is very crazy.
- Rose is as nutty as a fruitcake; she tried to dry her dishes in the clothes dryer!
38. Pay peanuts
To pay very little or a such a small amount for something it was close to being nothing.
- The towels were discounted and so cheap; I paid peanuts for them!
39. Piece of cake
Something that is very easy to do, similar to easy as pie.
- I can pickup your dry cleaning, piece of cake!
40. Proof is in the pudding
An expression we use to say we need to try something before we can decide whether it is good or bad.
- The proof is in the pudding, let’s try it before we buy it.
41. Revenge is a dish best served cold
This is a very old expression, more commonly heard in the movies than in day to day conversation. It refers to taking out revenge on someone in an icy, heartless, unfeeling way. It is an expression used on its own.
- Revenge is a dish best served cold!
42. Say cheese!
In English, a person taking a picture of others will tell them to say this when taking the picture. Why? When we say cheese in English, our faces automatically make a smile to say this word. Therefore everyone in the picture comes out smiling.
- Everyone say ‘cheese’ on the count of three.
43. Something fishy is going on
The word fishy in this expression refers to the smell of fish. It is unmistakable and makes us look for the source of the smell. To say something fishy is going on means you have become suspicious about something.
- I think something fishy is going on at my work because I keep seeing the police coming past.
44. Variety is the spice of life
Spices make food tasty and enjoyable. Therefore, we can compare the many different types of spices to the many different things that you can do in life. Again this expression is used on its own.
45. Take it with a grain of salt
To only believe part of something, especially if it is an exaggeration.
- Howard says he can run faster than anyone else, but I took it with a grain of salt, he is quick, but not the fastest in the world.
46. That’s the way the cookie crumbles
If you have ever had something unlucky happen unexpectedly outside of your control, we use this expression to describe that we have no choice but to accept that it has happened.
- We were next in line when they told us the tickets for the concert were sold out. Unfortunately, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
47. Spill the beans
To spill the beans describes when a secret has become public knowledge by accident or because someone was not careful.
- Logan spilled the beans about our company’s newest product when he left the plans at the café by mistake.
48. Two peas in a pod
If two things are very similar, we use this expression.
- Jack and Jill get along like two peas in a pod.
49. Walking on eggshells
Eggshells are very fragile and break easily, so this expression is about being very careful not to do anything wrong.
- When I work in the same office as my boss, it feels like I am walking on eggshells.
50. You are what you eat
This expression has come to mean that a person who eats healthy food will stay healthy, while an individual who eats unhealthy food will most likely become sick. It is a standalone expression often used by people who enjoy fitness activities and healthy eating.
We hope you have enjoyed our expressions with food, can you think of any others? Then let us know with a comment! Our website has other fantastic posts too; we encourage you to take a few minutes to explore them.