French phrase of the day: Mettre du beurre dans les épinards

French phrase of the day: Mettre du beurre dans les épinards
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In France, you definitely want butter on your spinach.

Why do I need to know mettre du beurre dans les épinards?

Because a fun and useful food expression peppered with cultural lessons about France.

What does it mean?

Mettre du beurre dans les épinards directly translates as 'to put butter in the spinach', which is a food metaphor the French use for 'making more money' or 'improving one's way of life'.

It's difficult to translate directly, because it depends on the context, but the general idea is that spinach is dull and plain, and adding butter makes it better, tastier and richer.

So generally it means something along the lines 'it makes you/me/they/us richer and therefore improve your/mine/their/our quality of life'.

Beurre (butter) is a common metaphor for “money” or “wealth” in French – probably because it's rich in calories and used to be a luxury grocery back in the day, according to French online dictionary Expressio.

For example, faire son beurre (make your butter) means 'prosper' or 'earn money'. Another one is avoir le cul dans le beurre (having the arse in the butter), which is a very colloquial expression for 'having lots of money' (generally used about those born rich).

Mettre du beurre dans les épinards is however often used about those who don't earn a lot of money at the outset, so giving them more makes a lot of difference.

Use it like this

Le pourboire est essentiel pour les serveurs, ça met du beurre dans les épinards. – Tips are essential to waiters, it's what puts money in their pocket.

Si tu prends ce job, tu vas pouvoir mettre du beurre dans tes épinards. – If you take that job you'll be able to live better.

Ah, mais tu es chauffeur Uber en plus de ton activité principale ? / Oui, il faut bien mettre du beurre dans les épinards. – Ah, so you're an Uber driver on the side of your main job? / Yes, you very well have to make a living somehow.

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