6 Quick Composting Tips for Beginners

What kitchen scraps are good for composting? Our 6 quick composting tips cover the dos and don’ts of how to compost at home, including what compost bin to get and services that will take care of it all for you!

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • April 12, 2022

We know that composting can seem overwhelming (and stinky), but we are big fans. Reducing food waste in landfills? Check! Enjoying delicious seasonal produce from the garden? Check! It’s just a win-win.

The good news is that composting is actually very easy to do once you get going. So if you want to watch your garden thrive or simply cut down on your methane footprint that’s contributing to climate change, we’ve got tips for you. Also, if you think you might be too pressed for time to manage your own bin, our last tip is right up your alley!

Tip #1: Choose the Right Composter

Our first quick composting tip is about what container to compost in. But first things first: Choosing a compost bin can be confusing because the term “compost bin” is often used to refer to both the small countertop container that stores kitchen scraps AND the larger container (usually stored outdoors) where scraps and other materials decompose. Here, we’re using the term primarily to refer to the larger bin for decomposition.

When it comes to compost bins, there are a lot of options, and it can feel overwhelming to figure out which kind is the best for what you want to accomplish and for where you live. That’s why we put together this little chart so you can quickly figure out the right type of bin to use if you decide to do your composting at home:

Limited space Some yard space Lots of yard space
Mostly kitchen scraps Worm bin, compost tumbler, or food digester Enclosed bin or compost tumbler Enclosed bin or compost tumbler
Kitchen scraps + yard waste Compost tumbler Enclosed bin or compost tumbler Open pile, enclosed bin, or tumbler
Mostly yard waste Enclosed or DIY bin Open pile or multiple enclosed bins

For most people, one of the best options is an easy-to-use compost tumbler like this Dual Chamber Tumbler. Or to really speed up the process, this Vitamix FoodCycler makes for some super easy composting at home. It grinds and dehydrates your scraps and has them ready to sprinkle over a garden in just a few hours!

You’ll also need a way to store food scraps in the kitchen before transferring them to your compost bin. If you can spare the space in your freezer, you can keep scraps in a gallon freezer bag to prevent them from starting to decompose before they get outside. Or for a convenient countertop option, this Utopia Compost Bin with Lid Filter is just about perfect.

Tip #2: Know What Can Be Composted

Our next quick composting tip is all about types of scraps that can and can’t be composted. It is important to keep in mind that not all wastes are equal in the composting world. There are some you want lots of in your compost bin, and some you’ll want to avoid every time.

If you use a local service to take your scraps away (see Tip #6), you’ll want to check with them on what materials they accept.

For composting at home, here are the scraps to avoid:

  • Meat, bones, or fish scraps (unless your composter is designed to deal with them)
  • Dairy products
  • Non-organic banana peels, orange rinds, and other fruit skins that may be contaminated by pesticides
  • Perennial weeds or diseased plants
  • Sawdust that could contain machine oil residues

What kitchen scraps are good for composting? Here are some examples:

  • Egg shells
  • Fruit and vegetable scraps / peels
  • Leftovers that have gone bad (that don’t contain meat or dairy)
  • Coffee filters and coffee grounds
  • Napkins, paper, or brown bag pieces
  • Tea leaves

Tip #3: Maintain a balance of green to brown

For compost to break down properly, it’s important to maintain the right balance between green materials and brown materials. What exactly does that mean?

  • Green: In this case, green doesn’t always mean strictly green in color. This term refers to wet or recently growing materials, such as food scraps, coffee grounds, and freshly cut grass. Green materials provide nitrogen and nutrients to your compost.

  • Brown: Bulky brown materials, such as dry leaves, paper bags, and wood chips, provide carbon. They also create space for air to circulate in the compost pile, aiding in the process of breaking down the materials.

As a general rule of thumb, aim to maintain roughly this balance in your compost pile:

¼ green + ¾ brown

There is a science to finding the right carbon-nitrogen balance in your compost. We won’t overwhelm you with the details here; there are plenty of resources on that topic only a Google search away if you’re interested. But the above guideline should be enough to get you started!

Tip #4: Create a Stink-Free Zone

If you’ve ever left old food in your kitchen trash for too long, you may be concerned about the smell of a countertop compost storage bin — or the outdoor compost bin, for that matter! Luckily, there are some good ways to avoid the stench of rotten food, whether you are composting at home or have a local company pick up your scraps weekly.

First, make sure that whatever countertop compost storage bin you have contains a carbon filter in the lid (like the one we mentioned above), which will help absorb less-than-delicious odors. Stainless steel is also much easier to clean than plastic when it comes to smells, so make sure to get steel for an indoor bin.

Avoid adding bones, meat, and dairy to your countertop compost scraps or outdoor composting bin, as mentioned above, and don’t leave any food scraps uncovered. Every time you add a pile of food waste to your outside bin, cover it with some sort of dry mulch, like grass clippings.

Also be sure to keep your compost pile moist but not soggy, and turn it often (unless you’re trying the no-turn method we describe in Tip #5). Keeping it warm also facilitates proper decomposition, so choose a black bin or cover an open pile with black plastic, especially during cooler months.

If you’ve done these things and your outdoor composting bin is still wreaking havoc on your nostrils, you probably have too many nitrogen-rich scraps. You see, when you aren’t in the ballpark of that ¼ green + ¾ brown materials rule of thumb, that means there aren’t enough bulky brown materials to let air in. This can make the whole pile decompose slowly, which leaves smells to waft around for days upon days.

You can also try adding ground limestone to your piles to get ahead of the smelliness.

Tip #5: Try the No-Turn Method

Our next quick composting tip is all about ease. Believe it or not, getting out a pitchfork and rummaging through a pile of decomposing matter is not our favorite way to spend a Saturday. But you can avoid this by either getting a compost tumbler or using the no-turn method. For the no-turn method, all you have to do is thoroughly mix in enough of those bulky brown materials when you add new green matter to your pile. Each time you add new scraps, add them on top and harvest your compost from the bottom with a handy bin like this Redmon bin.

Tip #6: Use a Composting Company

Our final composting tip takes the “at home” part out of easy composting at home. We know that not everyone has a garden or time to compost, but still doesn’t like the fact that their food waste is contributing to climate change. Some municipalities provide compost pickup alongside trash pickup, but if yours doesn’t, search for a local composting service. 

Using a local composting service allows anyone to collect scraps throughout the week and then simply hand them off for someone else to use. Most services offer weekly home pickup of compostable materials; some also allow for drop-off at their location. It’s just so easy. 

Plus, we have great news! If you live in any of the following areas and want to try out a local composting service, we are partnering with these companies to bring you discounts with special codes for our cooking community.

  • Missoula, MT – Soil Cycle – @soilcycle

Coupon Code: COMPOST10 for $10 off

  • Houston, TX – Curb to Compost – @curb2compost

Coupon Code: CookSmarts for 2 months free

  • Reno, NV – Down to Earth Compost – @downtoearthcomposting

Coupon Code: send an email to info@downtoearthcomposting.com and include Cook Smarts in the subject line for 3 months free of their drop-off service

You can even check whether your local farmer’s market has an easy composting station, and just bring your scraps along on your next shopping trip.

Now that you’re equipped with coupon codes and quick composting tips to help beginners know how to compost at home, we hope you feel ready to start putting all your kitchen scraps to good use!

If these composting tips have been helpful to you, stay tuned for more infographics and how-to articles by signing up for our weekly email below. Or sign up for a free 14-day trial of our meal plan service and start easily cutting down on your food waste today!

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