What do you do with your food scraps? If you're like most people in an urban environment, they go in the trash or, sometimes, down the garbage disposal. Waste-free solutions, like composting, can seem unapproachable in a small apartment with no back yard. You have no place to store a compost bin, nothing to use the nutrient-rich compost for, and don't want to deal with the smell.
But guess what? If you have a freezer, composting--even in an apartment--is easy, frugal, and time-saving! Freezing your compost prevents any bad smells and won't attract insects, mold, or fungi. Once your compost bag is full (we find ours fill up in about a week), you can drop it at a local community garden or composting site. You can also set aside your vegetable scraps to make a hearty, mineral rich broth that makes an excellent recipe base. Freezer compost is a simple, minimal-effort way to reduce up to 50% of your landfill waste.
What is compost?
When organic matter decomposes naturally, it becomes a dark, crumbly material packed with nutrients for soil and plants. Gardeners and farmers love it; compost is a major factor in growing healthy, tasty, nourishing fruits and vegetables.
How do you compost?
Place your food scraps and other organic material in a reusable or recycled bag and store in your freezer until full. In Atlanta, the Wylde Center accepts compost drop offs any day of the week during daylight hours. They have gardens in Oakhurst, Edgewood, and Sugar Creek, and other organizations have drop off locations throughout the greater Atlanta area. You can even sign up to have your compost picked up from your door! Services like CompostNow will collect food scraps and organic waste weekly or biweekly and compost them for you.
Pro tip: If you store your compost in a paper bag, you can drop it off at the compost site too! (No clean up and no plastic bag to bring home.)
What is (and isn't) compostable?
Each compost donation site has its own list of what is and is not acceptable to include. Most compost sites will not accept meat, cooked food, oil, bread, or cheese. These items attract pests and disease and are not good for plants and healthy soil.
- Fruit and vegetable scraps
- Egg and nut shells
- Soiled paper towels (as long as not soaked in oil) and paper towel holders
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Tea bags and loose tea
- Toilet paper rolls
- Burnt matches
- Meat, fish, or egg scraps
- Dairy products
- Oil or fats
- Charcoal ash
- Diseased plants
- Pet waste
- Plants sprayed with pesticides
Veggie Scrap Broth
Once you've got the basics of composting down, why not take it to the next level and reuse some of your veggie scraps to make a versatile and healthy broth? Rather than getting stock in a carton or in a concentrate from the store, make your own mineral rich broth from veggies you have on hand. Storing your veggie scraps in the freezer means you're never caught without the ingredients you need--they stay fresh and nutritious until you're ready to use them! At Copiana, we call that a win-win.
All you need is a separate bag in your freezer for your stock scraps. Then, everytime you peel carrots or onions, crush garlic, deseed peppers, or pull the stems off mushrooms, add the discarded bits to your stock bag. This way, you're utilizing all the nutrients from the vegetables you buy and you're reducing your waste.
Pro tip: Just make sure none of the veggie scraps are spoiled or diseased, as that flavor will transfer to and ruin your stock.
Veggies to avoid
Most vegetables are excellent for stock, but avoid using cabbage and brussel sprouts, which will turn your stock unpleasantly bitter. Instead, put your cabbage and brussel sprout scraps in your regular compost bag.
Veggies to savor
These vegetables are especially good additions to a stock:
- Onions and onion skins--essential to a stock!
- Garlic and garlic skins--also a must-have ingredient for savory stock
- Celery, including the leafy tops
- Carrot peelings and ends (this goes for parsnips and other root vegetables, too!)
- Mushroom stems
- Leeks--similar to onions, but we think the delicate spring flavor is extra special!
Making a Veggie Scrap Stock
- Once your stock bag is full, empty your scraps into a large pot. If you have any fresh veggies on hand to add to your stock, toss them in too. Flavor your stock with pepper, sea salt, fresh herbs (I like thyme and a bit of rosemary), and a dried bay leaf or two. This makes for a nice versatile stock that can easily suit a variety of cooking styles and cuisines. You can always add more flavoring when you go to use some stock for a specific recipe.
- Cover your vegetables with water and cook on high until the water boils, then bring the heat down to a simmer for two hours. If any scum comes to the surface during cooking, skim it off and discard.
- After the two hours is up, strain the stock to remove all the solids. Place a colander over a large bowl and empty the pot into the colander. Gently press on the vegetable solids to get all the good nutrients in your stock. You can then add the solids to your compost bag.
- Strain the stock a second time through a muslin cloth or a fine sieve into a glass jar or other storage
container. The broth should now be fairly clear and free of particulate.
Homemade vegetable broth will keep 5 days in the fridge or several months in the freezer. It makes a great base for soup or chilli and can be used to cook rice, quinoa, or even pasta. The flavor add is unreal, and so are the extra nutrients!