Composting is good for the planet and good for your garden, but there are no two ways around it — it stinks. But it doesn’t have to. There’s a slew of automatic, countertop composters and food scrap processors that break food scraps down in hours and keep the kitchen smelling fresh. We recently tested the Lomi composter and the Mill kitchen bin and liked them both, but either one will cost you hundreds of dollars.
There is a better, cheaper way to recycle leftover food scraps without the funk and it doesn’t require any fancy gear or gadgets. If you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s how to start a compost pile. If you want to do it without creating a stench in the kitchen, all you need is a freezer and one simple plastic food container or a few reusable freezer bags or plastic grocery bags.
Read more: Lomi Countertop Composter Is 100% Yuck-Free
Freeze your food scraps until you’re ready to take them out
If you’re planning to start a compost pile, or are already composting but can’t stand the smell, another way to avoid a smelly kitchen when composting is to toss your food scraps in the freezer until you’re ready to take them out to the pile.
It’s a simple adjustment but one that makes composting much more palatable. To freeze your food scraps, either buy freezer bags and use them repeatedly or dedicate a small plastic container within your freezer to hold scraps. I like using a plastic container so I can run it through the dishwasher after emptying it.
Freezing your food scraps — including the smelliest items such as fish skins, spoiled produce and leftovers — until you can transport them to the outdoor pile will keep your kitchen smelling fresh.
I find this particularly helpful living in an apartment in Brooklyn, where it’s harder to make runs down to the compost bin in the front of the building. If you’re worried about losing too much space in your freezer, use freezer bags and take your food scraps out to the pile as frequently as you need.
You can compost most, but not all food scraps
Creating a successful compost routine also requires learning what you can and can’t compost. The bulk of kitchen scraps are compostable — pits, cores, rinds, leftover, meat, dairy and coffee grounds — but foods with high concentrations of oil and sugar are not ideal to add to the pile. If you’re wondering how to start a compost pile, we’ve devised this handy guide for first-time composters.