Please help me to find out the appropriate English idiom for Fry the fish using fish's own oil. This is a Bengali proverb/idiom whose word meaning 'When you are frying some sea fish, initially cook use some oil for frying but within few minute fish emit it's own body oil, and the remaining frying is done by this oil. Literally, this means Somebody has invested some amount of money in some particular purpose but get some extra benefit, as an add-on that save his/her initial investments. Please help me. If I'm not clarify well please ask me. Thanks!


7 Answers 7


You might want a to use an actual, well-known economics term:

  • R.O.I: "Return On Investment"


  • "Pays for itself"

You would then explain how the subject does this.

Or you might want

  • "you can't make an omlette without breaking a few eggs"

suggesting that a price MUST be paid to get the intended benefit.


  • "Killer app", short for "killer application"

which refers to the fact that the very first spreadsheet program for a personal computer allowed accountants|book keepers to justify the entire cost of purchasing an entire expensive PC system because it would divide their workload by a factor of 10 or more. If the computer ONLY ran a spreadsheet, it was worth the price to them. But a computer also does much, much more, like print layout for documents, art, e-Mail, etc..

You might want:

  • "Get the ball rolling"

Which conjures the image of giving a boulder a tiny initial push to start it rolling down a hill, after which gravity will take over & keep it rolling.

  • 1
    +1 for get the ball rolling. "can't make an omelette..." implies that something was destroyed, or that some cost was paid. I'm not sure using a little oil to get going is quite the same.
    – DCShannon
    Mar 8, 2016 at 16:43

After (as rileywhite says) you have 'primed the pump', the enterprise will hopefully carry on under its own steam.

But avoid mixed metaphors even more than 'hopefully' as a pragmatic marker.


You may be looking for something along the lines of "prime the pump", meaning that you put some intial investment into something to get it started, and then it can continue on its own. This is often used in reference to Keynesian economics, but it can be applied more generally, as well.

Literally, it is an expression referring to adding water into a water pump so that water can be extracted from, for example, a well. See this instructional guide.


The gift that keeps on giving.


An approaching idiom is "Wilful waste makes woeful want" [willful in USA], meaning that if you don't spare enough you are going to ruin. The idea is similar but expressed in the reversed way.

  • This may be a familiar saying in the US. Apparently it originated in Scotland. It certainly isn't a saying which an English person would recognise though - we can see the meaning clearly enough, but it isn't a familiar phrase. And it's the exact opposite to what the OP asked for. Some questions are best answered by an opposite, but not ones like this.
    – Graham
    Jul 15, 2019 at 13:45

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

This expression is also the origin of the idiom of booting a computer, since a computer starts itself incrementally in a manner much like this.


These will surely be too general, but I'll mention them anyway.

Know what side your bread is buttered on.
(know where your best interests lie)

There are tricks in every trade.

Tricks are all nice and good, but remember, there is no free lunch.

All right, that's that. Good luck with cooking, and, naturally, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen; you don't want to stew in your own juice.

  • Not the same meaning as the OP asked for.
    – Graham
    Jul 15, 2019 at 13:45

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