I'm looking for an expression similar to "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." This phrase means to make the best out of a bad situation. I am looking for a phrase for when someone did do something great out of a bad situation. I think it goes something like "Was given sh** and made < something wonderful >."

To add a few more details, the situation in particular I'm thinking of is a person who works for an organization that has not been doing well (financial troubles, staff turnover, lots of infighting). They have continually been doing excellent things despite the bad situation. However, they are not necessarily responsible for fixing the problems themselves (to say, the problems haven't been fixed yet) - they have just done a good job of working with/around them.

  • Well, "and made Shinola" comes to mind, but that's probably not what you were looking for.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 20, 2015 at 13:06
  • 1
    You could say "to turn a bad situation around" but I'm not sure how well this could fit in your context
    – blgt
    Apr 20, 2015 at 13:29
  • make the best of something ?
    – ermanen
    Apr 20, 2015 at 14:42
  • "roll with the punches" Apr 20, 2015 at 15:22

2 Answers 2


[She] knew how to make a gourmet meal out of leftovers.

An example, admittedly of the literal usage, can be found in 'Beyond Passing' By Elaine Galindo

The parallel form would be

She made a gourmet meal out of [mere] leftovers.

  • Edwin, did you really just substantiate an answer with a parenthetical reference to "examples on the internet"? (And no, I didn't downvote you, but if it were anyone else, I sure as $#&% would!)
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 20, 2015 at 14:21
  • This is not a point of dubious usage. I've heard the expression (inflected for person and tense), and so have others, as the internet examples show. The situation is totally different from expressions showing questionable grammar. It's a grammatical expression, and a transparent metaphor. Apr 20, 2015 at 14:29
  • If you don't feel you need to substantiate it, then simply don't; the other answerer, Ernest, didn't, and his answer attracted an upvote (not mine). Saying "examples on the internet" adds literally no information to the answer, and in fact only serves to make it look lazy and amateur (and you are certainly neither lazy nor amateur!). Including that language sets a bad example.
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 20, 2015 at 14:36
  • Cool. Good edit. I've upvoted to obviate the downvote the original language had originally attracted.
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 20, 2015 at 14:47
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    You have spurred me on to add an actual instance. I almost always feel a need for an answer to be validated (perhaps you'd noticed). John Lawler is unusual in that he can cite himself. // However, thanks for the encouragement. Though I perhaps should inform you that I'm not remunerated ;-) Apr 20, 2015 at 14:48

Perhaps "snatched victory from the jaws of defeat" suggests what you'd like -- a last-minute success in an unlikely situation.

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