Composting is an eco-friendly way to recycle your kitchen scraps and leftover food, turning them into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Not only does it reduce waste that goes to landfills, but it also helps create a natural fertilizer that can greatly benefit your plants.

In this guide, we’ll go through the simple steps you need to start composting your leftover food at home.

Understanding the Basics of Composting

Before diving into the process, it’s important to understand what composting is. Composting is a natural process where organic materials decompose into a rich soil amendment known as compost.

This transformation is facilitated by microorganisms, insects, and worms that break down the matter.

What You Can Compost

Here’s a quick list of common compostable items from your kitchen:

  1. Fruit and vegetable scraps: Apple cores, banana peels, carrot tops, etc.
  2. Coffee grounds and filters
  3. Tea bags (without the staple)
  4. Eggshells (crushed)
  5. Nutshells
  6. Bread and grains
  7. Cooked pasta and rice

What Not to Compost

Avoid composting these items as they can attract pests or cause odor problems:

  1. Meat, fish, and dairy products
  2. Fats and oils
  3. Diseased plants
  4. Pet wastes

Setting Up Your Compost Bin

Choosing a Location and Bin

You can compost indoors with a special bin or outdoors in a designated area. For outdoor composting, choose a dry, shady spot near a water source. For indoor composting, a container with a lid under your sink or in your pantry works great.

Preparing the Bin

  1. Layering: Start with a layer of brown materials like dry leaves, straw, or shredded newspaper at the bottom. This allows for good air flow and drainage.
  2. Adding Food Scraps: Place your food scraps on top of the brown layer.
  3. Covering: Cover the food scraps with another layer of brown materials. This helps minimize odors and fruit flies.

The Composting Process

Balancing Greens and Browns

A healthy compost pile needs a balance between ‘greens’ (nitrogen-rich materials like food scraps) and ‘browns’ (carbon-rich materials like dry leaves). Aim for a ratio of about 2:1 of browns to greens.


  1. Turning: Regularly turn your compost with a shovel or fork to aerate it, which speeds up the composting process and prevents odor.
  2. Moisture: Your compost should be moist like a wrung-out sponge. If it’s too dry, add water; if it’s too wet, add more browns.
  3. Monitoring: Watch for signs of decomposition. Your compost is ready when it’s dark, crumbly, and has an earthy smell.

Using Your Compost

Once your compost is ready, it’s time to use it in your garden. Spread it around the base of your plants, mix it with potting soil, or use it as a top dressing for your lawn. Compost provides essential nutrients, improves soil structure, and helps retain moisture.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  • Odors: Bad smells can be due to too much moisture, lack of air, or too many greens. Adjust accordingly.
  • Pests: Keeping a proper balance of greens and browns, and using a bin with a lid, can help avoid attracting pests.


Composting leftover food is a simple and impactful way to contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle. By turning your kitchen scraps into valuable compost, you not only reduce waste but also enrich the soil for a healthier garden. Happy composting!

Remember, composting is a flexible process; don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you and your garden!

FAQs on How to Compost Leftover Food

Q: What types of food scraps can I put in my compost bin?
A: You can compost most fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags (without staples), crushed eggshells, nutshells, bread, and grains. Avoid composting meat, fish, dairy products, and fats/oils.

Q: Can I compost cooked food?
A: Yes, you can compost cooked foods like pasta and rice, but avoid composting cooked foods that contain meat, dairy, or large amounts of oil and salt.

Q: Do I need a special bin for composting?
A: While specialized compost bins are available, they are not necessary. You can start with a simple container like a bucket or build an outdoor compost pile in a dry, shady spot.

Q: How do I balance ‘greens’ and ‘browns’ in my compost?
A: For a healthy compost, aim for a balance of approximately 2 parts ‘browns’ (carbon-rich materials like dry leaves, straw, or shredded newspaper) to 1 part ‘greens’ (nitrogen-rich materials like food scraps).

Q: How often should I turn or mix my compost?
A: It’s good to turn your compost every week or two to aerate it and speed up the decomposition process.

Q: How do I know when my compost is ready to use?
A: Compost is ready when it’s dark, crumbly, and has an earthy smell. It usually takes a few months to a year to fully decompose.

Q: Is it okay to compost citrus peels and onion skins?
A: Yes, you can compost citrus peels and onion skins, but in moderation as they can be acidic and take longer to decompose.

Q: What should I do if my compost pile starts to smell bad?
A: Bad odors are usually a sign of too much moisture or not enough air. Try adding more ‘browns’, turning it more frequently, and ensuring it’s not too wet.

Q: Can I compost dairy products and meat scraps?
A: It’s generally advised not to compost dairy products and meat scraps in a home composting setup as they can attract pests and produce odors.

Q: How can I keep pests away from my compost bin?
A: To deter pests, keep a proper balance of greens and browns, avoid composting meat and dairy, and use a bin with a tight-fitting lid or a secure enclosure.