This expression dates back to Ovid who lived from 43BCE-17CE. It simply means to achieve two objectives with a single effort. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau suggests the alternative phrase Chop two carrots with one knife but I think I prefer Feed two birds with one loaf.
This proverb was mentioned in 1546 in a book entitled A Guide To All Proverbs and refers to the use of falcons to aid in hunting prey for humans. It means that it is better to have a small actual advantage than the chance for a greater advantage. Joanne Stepaniak, author of the cookbooks Vegan Vittles and The Un-Cheese Cookbook, suggests A berry in the hand is worth two in the bush.
I heard this expression all my life when someone was ashamed and showing humility for being wrong. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau suggests the simple substitution of Eat humble pie which I rather like because no crows were harmed in the making of the pie.
The origin of this phrase is British and comes from politician John Bright as he tried rouse parliament out of apathy and into action in 1867. I believe what he actually said was that It was like trying to flog a dead horse to make it pull the cart. The compassionate clichés recommended by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau are It’s no use watering a dead flower or It’s no use washing a clean shirt.
This was recorded by George Putnam in 1580 in his book The Art of English Poetry and means don’t try to reverse the accepted order of things because it won‘t work. Two compassionate clichés are suggested by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and they are Don’t slice the bread before it’s baked and my favourite Don’t put your socks on before your shoes.
This expression always horrified me particularly as my mother used to say “Skin the cat” every time she pulled my shirt over my head as she helped me undress when I was a small child. Since there are so many different ways of doing the same thing why not just say There’s more than one way to peel a potato or something like that.