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Surprising (and Cheap) Things to Add To Your Compost

The compost police won’t like this…

By Haley RymelPublished 7 months ago 6 min read
Surprising (and Cheap) Things to Add To Your Compost
Photo by KBO Bike on Unsplash

I grew up in the south, in a family that was poor enough that our summer garden was a very practical (and necessary) endeavor.

Now that I’ve left home and become an adult, most gardening advice that I see online….is expensive. There’s nothing wrong with spending money on getting a higher yield, but if that’s not an option for you, I’ve got some suggestions.

In this article, I’ll cover some of the ways that you can create cheap compost quickly. Keep in mind that you can something fast, cheap, or good, but not all three.

These suggestions will increase the amount of compost that you end up with, but it may take longer to get to the finished product.

I’m not going to teach you how to min/max an organic composting system, but I will share some of the surprising things that you can compost.

Note: Some of these suggestions are controversial. Where this occurs, I do my best to note it, and explain when I believe it’s acceptable to break some composting rules. I’m not your mama, and you’ve got Google. Make informed decisions.

Your compost bin doesn’t need to be fancy.

Sure, massive compost builds are cool, but you don’t need to buy any special equipment to just be able to compost.

I have a few compost options at my house:

  • A bucket with a lid, for compostables from the house (food scraps, dryer lint, etc.)
  • A large plastic bin that I keep on the patio. This is used to collect yard waste, or the house compost, before it goes to the large compost pile.
  • An $80 plastic compost tumbler from Amazon
  • A large compost pile, far away from the house. It’s two pallets forming a wall, with a pile behind it. (It’s on a hill, so I only need one wall to keep it in place.
  • A section of my yard for yard composting.
By Conscious Design on Unsplash

Did you say, yard composting?

Yeah. It’s my favorite.

The process is pretty simple. I have a half lot to the side of my house, that I’ve had trouble getting plants to grow.

In the mid 1990s, researchers dumped 12,000 metric tonnes of orange peels on a plot of land, and left it alone for a decade. The desolate landscape became a lush forest.

I don’t have 12,000 tonnes of orange peels. But I do have quite a few oranges, lemons, and melons that go bad.

So I throw over-ripe fruits into the side yard, where I leave a leaf pile to decompose over the course of the year. We don’t use the side yard, and the neighbors aren’t close. So there’s very little risk of a slimy melon rind negatively affecting anyone's day.

I am mindful about what I throw for yard composting. I stick to over-ripe fruits and vegetables.

It’s easy, and my side yard showed enormous amounts of growth within a year of doing this. Now a piece of useless land, has a healthy top soil and is hosting a number of native fall plants.

If your neighbors are nearby, you have small kids, wildlife is an issue, or if you’re somewhere where grass lawns are the norm, this may not work for you.

By Adrien Sala on Unsplash

Raid your fridge and pantry.

Remember how I said that some of my advice is controversial? This is it.

If it’s food-related and biodegradable, it goes in my compost. This includes meat, expired processed foods, cooked foods, grain products, items that contain sugar, and some fat.

The standard composting advice is to not add dairy products, cooked meat or bones, or items that contain oil or fat. I ignore all of that. The only off-limit items for my compost are: metal, glass, and plastic.

The traditional compost rules keep your compost from being invaded by animals, creating a smelly mess, and keep your compost, composting effectively.

I prefer to reduce my amount of food waste in landfills, and instead compost almost everything, and make some small adjustments to my composting system.

What kitchen items do I add to my compost?

  • Any and all biodegradable waste from creating the meal (vegetable, fruit, and meat scraps)
  • When I clean out my pantry, I empty all expired foods into the compost before throwing away any wrappers. Same with the fridge.
  • That bowl of leftovers that got pushed to the back of the fridge
  • Slimy lunchmeat
  • Crackers, bread, and other grains. This is normally firmly on the ‘do not add’ list, however, I have ran into almost no problems, so long as they’re added to a pile that is already composting and diluted with other material.
  • Coffee grounds
  • Tea bags (the bags and tags — remove the staple)
  • Scraps from plates after a meal
  • Cooked and raw animal bones (I always put these in a contained composting system)

But what about the animals?

Listen. If a squirrel gets some over-ripe squash or a fox manages to grab part of a leftover pork chop, I’m ok. The little critters actually help to turn the top layers of my compost, and lord, I hate turning compost.

Unsure if this advice would work for you?

Start small with new additions, and keep an eye out for changes to the health of your pile. Most composting issues are issues balancing your greens and browns.

You can also allow for food-related scraps to begin composting in a household bin, or an intermediate locked bin before adding them to your pile.

By vianet ramos on Unsplash

Use your household waste for compost.

By adding both your household waste and food waste to your composting system, you can greatly reduce the amount of household waste sent to landfills.

  • food scraps
  • cardboard toilet paper rolls (make sure they don’t have a thin layer of plastic on the inside)
  • used paper napkins
  • newspaper
  • cardboard (the brown kind, no shiny printing on it)
  • dryer lint
  • dust piles after sweeping
  • dead houseplants (and their dirt)
  • ash (use sparingly unless you have a large compost pile)
  • ground up, broken terra cotta
  • wax (biodegradable, natural wax. You could add your Yankee Candle remnants, but that could take up to several years to fully decompose.)
  • yard clippings
  • wooden items (used toothpicks, bamboo skewers, old furniture chopped up)
  • any non-shiny paper (kids art projects, bills, junk mail, books that are too ruined to donate)
  • pet fur or feathers
  • balloons or gloves made from ORGANIC latex (synthetic latex is not biodegradable or compostable)
  • nail clippings
  • 100% cotton clothing, cotton balls, or q-tips

Pee on it.

Urine holds a ton of nutrients, and a compost pile needs to be kept wet to compost quickly.

So, if you’ve got enough privacy, go ahead and whiz on your pile.

If you’re feeling a bit more crunchy, you can collect urine, and then apply it to your compost pile for a cheap nutrient boost, and a reduction in your water bill.


There are many strange things that you can add to a compost pile, but be sure to start small with new additions, and keep an eye out for changes to the health of your pile. Most composting issues are issues balancing your greens and browns. Unsure if this advice would work for you? Try it out!


About the Creator

Haley Rymel

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Comments (12)

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  • Rasheek Rasool14 days ago

    Amazing Article

  • Sukuna3 months ago

    Amazing knowledge

  • Thanks for the great read. We're often encouraged to compost, but nobody gets into the nitty gritty in the way you have here. Thanks for sharing your experience and insights.

  • Gina B.4 months ago

    Pee on it! That got me :)

  • JamieAd5 months ago

    This is really interesting as I have just made space for composting.

  • Thanks for sharing 😊 It was a great read. All the best and happy writing.

  • Sinovita 7 months ago

    Excellent post. hopefully to see more posts coming from you!

  • Peeping_Soul7 months ago

    Very informative article.I am currently buying compost from the market. Your article has given me good ideas to create my compost. Thanks for sharing.

  • Vanessa Taveras 7 months ago


  • kajikoinu7 months ago

    I've never seen that last one before! My mom doesn't do meat or anything like that so when I first saw someone throw a piece of meat into their compost pile, I was flabbergasted. I've looked it up pretty recently and I think the concern is bacteria forming.

  • Tracy Willis7 months ago

    Thank you for the non-traditional insights - super helpful info!

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