Start Composting for under $20

grab a bin and get to drillin’

Composting came onto my radar really quickly. I’ve always loved the idea but I just didn’t truly think about doing it ourselves. I thought it was hard and science-y. When I was looking at some of my goals for 2019 to be more green, I decided on a whim that we should start composting.

Cue a lot of Googling… and Pinterest searching. And then me promptly giving up because some of the starter kits involved worms (nooooo thank you) and the others were $120+. Heck no. Nevermind, I guess I’m not composting.

But it stayed on my heart. I read that modern landfills don’t actually allow most natural-based trash to degrade simply because of their design. In order for things to decompose/degrade, they need water and oxygen. When these things are jammed into a crowded landfill, they don’t get enough access to oxygen - plus, I learned that 25 - 50% of waste is food or yard waste (which is normally compostable)! Waste minimization is a huge part of living a more sustainable lifestyle because our waste is piling up in every corner of the globe. Plastic is in almost everything we eat, landfills pollute our atmosphere with harmful gasses and chemicals and our garbage is ruining the environment for plants, animals and ourselves. I hate to break it to you, but recycling is not enough. The United States bundles most of our recyclables and sells them in huge chucks to other countries but we are not doing enough to actually recreate items from those recyclables. We need to be doing more. 🌍

So, away I went to start researching how I could begin composting for just a few dollars without worms!


How to start composting on less than $20:

  1. Buy a garbage can with a sturdy lid or a plastic tub with a sturdy lid. We got this 20 gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck one! I preferred that it was small so that I could shake it or roll it around the yard since we weren’t investing in a pricey tumbling bin.

  2. If you’re worried about pets getting into your compost bin or the lid blowing off, pick up a flat bungee cord like this one for over the lid.

  3. Start drilling! Using a small drill bit, drill holes about 4 - 6” apart down all sides and in the lid of the container. Yes, you’ll be creating A LOT of holes! This is essential for your bin getting enough oxygen.

  4. Wipe out the inside of the bin and remove all of the plastic pieces that fell inside while you were drilling. You won’t want those in your compost.

  5. Start researching! Pinterest is a great tool for easy infographics about the basics of composting. Take some time to really learn what “green” and “brown” materials mean, what you can and cannot compost and when to stir your mix!

  6. Promptly begin trying to compost everything!

If you’re new to all of this, outdoor composting is the best way to go. Find somewhere outdoors where your compost bin can live that is easy to get to because you will hopefully be adding to it pretty often! Ours is along our fence at the back of our yard - I may move it closer to the door though soon!


  • Fruit & vegetable scraps

  • Egg shells

  • Hair (human and pet) and dryer lint

  • Tea bags (these need to be the regular ones not the fancy plastic sachets)

  • Coffee grounds

  • Cooked rice and pasta

  • Stale bread, tortillas, chips, cereal, etc.

  • Old herbs and spices

  • Shredded paper (non-glossy with only blank ink)

  • Paper towel and toilet paper rolls

  • Leaves and yard clippings

  • Dead houseplants or leaves pruned from houseplants

  • Grass clippings


  • Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange)

  • Fats and oils (olive oil, coconut oil, bacon grease, etc.)

  • Meats

  • Processed foods

  • Dairy

  • Cooked leftovers

  • Pet waste

  • Diseased plants

  • Glass, plastics, ceramics, pottery

  • Coated or glossy paper

  • Weeds (they won’t break down, they’ll root and grow!!)

  • Nut butters

  • Cat litter

  • Stickers

  • Toxic chemicals


  • Your items should be small! Crush your egg shells, tear up your paper towel rolls, rip stale bread into small pieces.

  • Start off your bin with a hearty layer of “browns”/carbon materials like lawn clippings, fallen leaves, straw or if none of these are available to you, put in a bag of potting soil to start yourself off on the right foot.

  • Learn the balance between “greens”/nitrogen materials 🥬  and “browns”/carbon materials 🍂 and how they need to both be present for composting.

  • During the winter, be patient. Nothing much will happen but you can still add to your bin.

  • During the rest of the year, keep your pile moist. 💦 Each time you add to your bin, give it a shake or roll it around your yard then water it when you see it drying out.

  • You may find it handy to have a kitchen compost pail. After about a week of filling up a glass container with a lid almost daily, I purchased this bucket to keep under our sink. I take it out to the bin outside only once the inside bucket is full.

Ok… so what do you do with your compost once it’s finally that rich, black gold? We plan to create two small vegetable planters this summer for cherry tomatoes, peppers and maybe some herbs. We’ll use the compost as fertilizer for those plans but it’s also going to be wonderful for my houseplants inside! You can sell your compost, use it on your lawn or share it with your neighbors! Either way, you’re reducing the amount of waste you would typically be sending to a landfill! 🌱

Other Resources

DIY Compost Bin | What you Can and Cannot Compost | Composting for Beginners |
100 Things You Can Compost | How and Why To Compost | Composting 101

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