Food Idioms

For ESL levels 4 and up

By user “FotoDawg” ( [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In the past, we have talked about idioms related to time, money, and health. Today, we’re going to talk about 10 idioms related to food. Read the idioms, their definitions, and the example sentences. Then discuss or write your answers to the questions at the end.

  • to have a bun in the oven – to be pregnant
    – Did you hear about Emily? She has a bun in the oven.
    – Angela told me that Susan told her that Katie said that Cindy has a bun in the oven.
  • to butter someone up – to be extra nice to someone for selfish reasons (because you want something from them, or because you don’t want to be punished)
    – Teenagers often try to butter their parents up before asking for money.
    – When my son starts to butter me up, I know that he has done something bad.
  • cup of tea – something you like (usually used negatively to say you don’t like something)
    – Country music is not my cup of tea.
    – Kyle tried to watch that movie, but it wasn’t his cup of tea, so he turned it off.
  • nuts about something/someone – to like something/someone a lot
    – I’m nuts about my husband.
    – Celia is nuts about Justin Bieber.
    – James is nuts about nuts!
  • in a nutshell – in short/in summary/simply
    – (How was your vacation?) In a nutshell, I went to ten countries in two weeks and they were all delicious.
    – (How was the movie?) In a nutshell, it was terrible.
    – I like my teacher for many reasons, but in a nutshell, I think she’s cool.
  • to put all of one’s eggs in one basket – to put all your hope and resources into one plan or idea
    – Jeremy invested all of his money in one company, and he lost it all. It wasn’t smart of him to put all his eggs in one basket like that.
    – I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket at the casino, so I played five different games and lost all of them.
    – I’m putting all my eggs in one basket with this company. I hope it’s successful.
  • to sell like hotcakes – to be so popular that many people buy them
    – Beyonce’s new album is selling like hotcakes.
    – When it rains, umbrellas sell like hotcakes.
    – The concert tickets sold like hotcakes, and I didn’t get one before they sold out.
  • to spill the beans – to tell a secret
    – Emily accidentally spilled the beans about having a bun in the oven when she said she couldn’t drink any wine.
    – Heather spilled the beans to Whitney about her surprise birthday party.
  • to spice things up – to change something boring or routine to make it more interesting or exciting
    – If your writing is boring, you can spice things up by writing different kinds of sentences and using descriptive words.
    – I’ve been wearing the same five outfits for months now. I like the clothes, but I need to spice things up. Maybe I’ll get some new shoes or jewelry.
  • to take something with a grain of salt – not to take something totally seriously because it might not be true (because the person who said it is biased or not reliable)
    – Uncle George tells great stories, but you have to take them with a grain of salt because  they aren’t always 100% true.
    – When you read something on the internet, it’s wise to take it with a grain of salt and do more research before you believe it.
    – You should take all parenting advice with a grain of salt because people have strong opinions, but every child is different.

Your Turn

Answer these questions with your classmates, or write your answers:

  1. Do you know someone who has a bun in the oven now? Who? Tell us about her.
  2. Have you ever buttered someone up? Why? What did you want from them? Did it work?
  3. Tell us something that is not your cup of tea (types of music, musicians, movies, fashion, etc.). Do other people like it?
  4. What are you nuts about?
  5. Finish this sentence with one word: “In a nutshell, I think my teacher is _______________.”
  6. Have you (or someone you know) ever put all of your eggs in one basket? What happened?
  7. Think of product in the U.S. that would sell like hotcakes in your country (a product that does not exist in your country now). What is it? Why would people like it?
  8. Tell about a time when you or someone you know spilled the beans. What was the secret? Whom did they tell? What happened?
  9. Is there an area of your life in which you would like to spice things up? Ask your classmates for suggestions.
  10. What have you heard or read recently that you took with a grain of salt? Why didn’t you trust or believe it completely?

5 thoughts on “Food Idioms

  1. Finish this sentence with one word: “In a nutshell, I think my teacher is ______yong and humorous _____.”

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