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How to Save Kitchen Scraps for Compost

Updated on May 21, 2013

My outdoor compost bin for kitchen scraps

Black heavy-duty plastic compost bin I bought from Sam's, conveniently placed outside my kitchen door, which is a side door.
Black heavy-duty plastic compost bin I bought from Sam's, conveniently placed outside my kitchen door, which is a side door. | Source

Why should you compost?

Composting kitchen scraps goes along perfectly with the green lifestyle. Not wanting to waste anything, composting is something I like to do. Oh, I know; I know that kitchen scraps will soon turn back to dirt anyway, but why not use them for something useful, something that will enhance your garden or even your yard.

If you live in an apartment, there may not be much use for compost unless you have a patio full of plants. If you would like to learn what and how to compost, read on.


Or use a cheap kitchen scraps container

You may have lots of free options for a container around the house to fit in the cabinet under your kitchen sink.
You may have lots of free options for a container around the house to fit in the cabinet under your kitchen sink. | Source

What do you need for composting kitchen scraps?

You will need something to catch all your scraps. Instead of carrying your kitchen scraps outside to the compost bin after every meal (assuming you have scraps after every meal), save your trips by having a container for scraps under your kitchen sink or at some other handy location in your kitchen area.

I keep something under the sink. For a while, I used a 40 pound cat litter bucket. Boy, did it hold a lot of scraps, so I didn't have to lug the thing out to the compost bin very often. It sure was heavy when I did, though, and it took up a lot of space under the sink.

So now I'm using a large coffee can. I make more frequent trips to dump it outside, but it's much lighter and doesn't take up very much space.

For the outside, you will need some type of compost bin. You can build one or buy one. You can even dump the waste in a pile in the corner of the yard, a choice that won't be aesthetically pleasing and will attract all sorts of varmints, including the family pets. I have a large bin I bought that is right outside my kitchen door that is handy for scraps from the kitchen.

I also built one several years ago out of wood scraps. It is in the back yard by the shed and has become the compost bin for dumping yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves. I do put some leaves and clippings in with the kitchen scraps, too.

Find a good spot for the bin for your kitchen scraps. Don't put it so far away that it's too much trouble to take out scraps and you send them down the garbage disposal instead. Choose a place that is convenient but where the bin isn't an eyesore.


What Kitchen Scraps to Compost--and not!

Compost
Don't Compost
vegetables--whole or peels (rotten or moldy is okay)
any meat (includes fish)
fruit (same as above)
milk
egg shells, crushed
cheese
bread, crust, cookies, etc . . . (flour products)
other dairy products
rice and pasta
grease or oil
coffee grounds
bones or any meat waste products
tea bags
limes (due to acidity)
While this list is not all-inclusive, it covers the basics in kitchen scraps that should and should not be added to a compost pile.

What kitchen scraps do you save for compost?

While you can compost a lot of your kitchen scraps, you can't save everything.The list to the right will give you the basics of foods that should and shouldn't be composted.

For the things that can be composted, it's okay if they are even rotten or moldy. For larger items, such as banana peels, breaking into smaller pieces will hep them to decompose faster.

For the items that shouldn't be composted, why? Because they take longer to break down and stink really bad! Plus, they attract animals.

The table gives basic food scraps that you can compost, but there are many other non-food items that can be composted. If you're interested in composting your dryer lint, gerbil droppings, and cardboard tampon applicators (really?), check out TLC for 75 items you never thought you could compost!


My homemade compost bin for yard waste

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A homemade compost bin made from old boards. I put the spare fencing around the top to help keep any varmints out.This compost bin is nothing fancy, but it holds a lot of yard waste.
A homemade compost bin made from old boards. I put the spare fencing around the top to help keep any varmints out.
A homemade compost bin made from old boards. I put the spare fencing around the top to help keep any varmints out. | Source
This compost bin is nothing fancy, but it holds a lot of yard waste.
This compost bin is nothing fancy, but it holds a lot of yard waste. | Source

Composting for Dummies: How do you compost?

Dump your scraps into the compost bin every few days or week or when your kitchen container is full or starts stinking. An air tight lid should help prevent too much smell.

Sometimes all the work I do is carry out the kitchen scraps and dump them in the big bin, taking the lazy way out and just letting the bin set. I do this for at least a few weeks.

While the lazy method does produce some dark rich dirt, the process takes a really long time, and I won't have much compost for my garden the following year.

Plus, if you don't mess with the compost, it will smell pretty bad! So, every few weeks, if you take some time to do maintenance on your compost, the process will work much better and much more quickly.

Here are some tips:

  1. Lift and stir the compost every few weeks to aerate it. A pitchfork works well. Stirring the mound will reduce the smell.
  2. When you stir the compost, add some water to it. Water helps stimulate the composting. Don't get the mixture too wet, but it doesn't need to be dry, either.
  3. When you have a good layer of kitchen scraps, add some yard waste--a thin layer of grass clipping or leaves--to keep down the smell and balance the nitrogen levels. Leaves make great compost.

Some folks like to add worms to their compost to speed up the process. A properly balanced compost bin with kitchen scraps and yard waste that is watered and turned regularly should generate heat to speed up the process of composting. Plus, it will produce its own organisms to help speed up things. You can generate dark, rich soil in just a few months.

Following these methods should give you some rich compost for the following year and save you money on fertilizing your garden, yard, and indoor plants.

How to make compost--tips from Lowe's

Poll: Composting Habits

Do you compost?

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    • mvillecat profile image

      Catherine Dean 4 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

      We are all about composting. We have two actually because we have so much. We got really good amount this year for our raised beds. It really does pay off to make your own dirt.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      mvillecat--I've been composting for a few years, but I've only recently realized that I need to stir and add water to get the compost really going. Because of this, I'm hoping to have much better raised beds next year!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Victoria. Great info, but I wanted to let you know bacteria will digest and utilize meat, milk, dairy products, etc. There is no reason to put things down the garbage disposal and stress already burdened sewage treatment systems. If you are just worried about the smell, add more carbonaceous material (such as grass or leaves) on top. If you are worried about the compost taking longer, use vermicomposting (worms) and the product will be humus, a much higher quality fertilizer. Even if you are a "lazy composter" the worms will do the work for you and produce a high quality product. (Or, you can always keep two composters at all times. I always have three piles at any time.)

      I also wrote a hub about utilizing dog waste in a separate compost system-not a sewage system, as you see recommended all over the internet.

      This should be a part of frugal living!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Voted up and useful. Composting should really be a no brainer. Your advice on making it simple will convince more people to do it.

    • Saloca profile image

      Saloca 4 years ago from Liverpool, UK

      Great hub, I'll be printing that list off and sticking it to the fridge as a quick guide! Will be passing this info onto my Mum as she's shown an interest in composting!

    • rbm profile image

      rbm 4 years ago

      We are big into composting, and always seem to experiment with new ways of doing that. Lately we've found black soldier fly larvae in our compost piles, and are very excited about those. They are ferocious eaters and great feed for our chickens and ducks. And they help turn food waste into soil much faster. We love when everything comes full circle like that and we can be stewards of this natural process.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Hi, Dr. Mark! I put old meat and cheese in the trash since that kind of stuff doesn't seem to do well in the disposal. You make some great points, though. I probably need to be more aggressive in composting more food items than I do. Maybe I need to get worms, too. I want my garden to do a lot better next year, and I know some rich compost will help.

      Sounds like you are quite the composter. I'm impressed and am inspired to try to compost even more. Maybe my hub will get people started, though! Thanks for the input. Much appreciated!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Hey Vicki, I don't usually compost cooked food, just fruits, veges and egg shells. When I place the stuff in the hole, the dogs rummage it if I use cooked items.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 4 years ago

      Huh, this is really awesome stuff! I never would have thought of composting (this is the first time I heard about it LOL I'm so behind on the times...)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      rfmoran--I hope it will encourage more people to compost!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Awesome,Saloca. I've just listed the simple stuff, but every bit helps. Hope you and your mum both start composting!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      rbrn--I love that! Great input. Thanks so much!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Very useful , this is one of the ways we can go green. Great hub.

    • AnnRandolph profile image

      AnnRandolph 4 years ago

      I haven't started composting but have given it alot of thought. This article is so informative however that I think I may start now..

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Cardisa--Right! That is the danger of putting out cooked food--dogs and other animals getting in it. Unless you have it in a bin that keeps them out.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't know why it happens, Vicki, but at times I just don't receive notifications on hubs, and looking at the number of your hubs that I have missed I'm feeling a little pissed off....I'm sorry...it is not intentional, but if I don't get notifications then I forget to check on people.

      This is a great hub; we do this at home religiously and I believe in it. Now that we have a full vegetable garden our compost is going to help prepare soil for next year. Very exciting process and one everyone should do. Great hub!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      KD--Jump on the composting bandwagon! LOL. My mom composted when I was a kid, so I came by it honestly. :-)

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Yes, Vellur, composting is a great way to go green! Thanks!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      AnnRandolph--Yes, start somewhere. It doesn't have to be complicated. Thanks for reading, and good luck!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Composting is great. A way to naturally get rid of stuff that would go in the garbage or disposal. And I imagine it is very nourishing. Just a little extra work. You did a great job as always. Thanks for sharing this information. Voted Up

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      That's okay, Bill. I get the summary notifications, but there is no way I can read all the hubs, and I don't expect to see you on all of mine, either. As long as I see you now and then, you're off the hook! :-)

      I'm going to try to do better with my composting and have a better garden next year.

      Thanks for reading!!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      carol==Not too bad as work goes, but some. Thanks for commenting. You're sweet!

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      A great informative hub. We compost our kitchen waste and lawn clippings. We have horrid soil here so the compost will help break it down and ebrich it. Its something we can all do to help the environment.

      Awesome and voting up

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Rosemay--Exactly! Thanks for the input and votes!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      This is a great idea and really like the hub, Victoria. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to do it but will try now. Organic fertilizer is better any day than those chemical ones.

      Voted up, useful and interesting. Sharing it.

    • Deepak Chaturvedi profile image

      Deepak Chaturvedi 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      You gave a new way to use kitchen wastes for more useful purpose thanks.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Good information Victoria. Should help some people put their scraps to good use. Even planter gardeners, such as myself, can get into this.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Awesome, rajan! Glad you like! Thanks for voting and sharing!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      You're welcome, Deepak! Glad you approve!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Awesome, Angelo! Glad to hear that!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      We use to at our other house. We took a class on composting but here it's just not safe to do with the bears. Voted uP.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, moonlake, for the input. Yeah, I wouldn't compost with bears in the vicinity. :-) Thanks for the vote!

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 4 years ago from Northern California

      We compost as much as we can at our house. We give the animals first dibs and if the horses, goats and chickens won't eat it then it goes into the compost bin which eventually makes it's way into the garden.

      We used to have a dedicated bin as well but it got dropped and broke, now we just use a bowl and dump it in the bin when we go out in the evening to feed the animals.

      Great information, voted up and useful

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      adjkp--That works! You guys are great! Thanks for reading and voting!

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      My wife and I used to collect kitchen fruit and vegetable scraps when we lived in Marquette, Michigan, because it has a town-operated compost pile. See:

      http://www.mqtcty.org/pworks_cleanup.html

      Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      B.Leekley--Wow, that is a very detailed compost operation. How great that the city does that! Thanks for sharing that and for your comments and votes!

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 4 years ago from United States

      Voted Up. Just want to add that lobster shells work great too.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image
      Author

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      MarloByDesign--Good to know about lobster shells, if I ever can afford lobster--LOL! Thanks for reading!

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