hand to mouth, from

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(from) hand to mouth

With just the bare minimum of money, food, or resources to survive, with little or nothing else to spare. (Usually preceded by "live.") It's been pretty hand to mouth these days. If I don't find work soon, I don't know how we'll get by. With another child on the way, it looks like we'll be living from hand to mouth for the foreseeable future.
See also: hand, mouth

hand to mouth, from

With only the bare essentials, existing precariously. For example, After she lost her job she was living from hand to mouth. This expression alludes to eating immediately whatever is at hand. [c. 1500]
See also: hand
References in classic literature ?
No one knows where his grip may fall, for he is far too rich and far too cunning to work from hand to mouth.
Month after month, the little Bell Company lived from hand to mouth.
five hundred million to the public exchequer and the burden would be borne by the poor masses living from hand to mouth.
Seems to me this Tory government don't care about the working families living from hand to mouth, the unemployed or the disabled.
Let the MPs live in the real world, living from hand to mouth, or from week to week not resting on their laurels.
Chelsea and Manchester United are world class sides built on money and shrewd planning, while Newcastle live from hand to mouth.