Kitchen Compost Bucket – DIY, Easy, and Frugal

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Making Dirt – Part 1

Note: This is part one of a two part article on compost.

Read part two – DIY vermicomposting worm farm – here.

I knew I was getting old the day I started to think that making my own garden dirt was cool.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t think I’m old, and I don’t dislike the fact that I am getting older, actually I think it’s pretty cool. I just find it amusing the way our thinking changes as we age. The one wish I do have is that I knew what I know now when I was 16!

Kitchen Compost Buckets

Today I want to follow up on a promise I gave to several readers in my “Breaking Free From a Culture of Temptation” article a while back. I promised I would write a post detailing how I constructed a kitchen compost bucket for very little money. In the original article I mentioned how I was tempted to purchase a kitchen compost bin rather than make my own. Here is the snippet from the original article:

A store-bought kitchen composting bucket ($20) Here again, I made my own… and only spent $1.50! This will likely be the subject of a forthcoming post.

Both of these compost-related purchases were very tempting, and I really had to fight the urge to buy and instead choose the frugal road. Beyond saving money, I have more pride in these possessions — partly because I made/improved them, and partly because I know that I sacrificed my short-term wants for my greater goal.

Making my own bin was easy, cheap, and satisfying. Much more satisfying than buying one for $20, or worse yet buying one for $50! If you are not into making your own, you can purchase one of the two I was debating between. They are both high quality options that I would have gone with if I weren’t über frugal!

Store bought kitchen compost bins

  • The $56 option – a stainless steel kitchen compost bucket that employs a charcoal filter to eliminate smells.
  • The $20 option – this bucket is constructed of plastic and also employs a charcoal filter.

As I mention above, each of these are a solid option if your are not trying to play the role of Fruggie McFrugalpants. Prices posted were taken at the time of writing.

So What Did I Do?

I made my own of course!

My homemade, DIY kitchen compost bucket

  • The $1.50 option – an empty plastic coffee can with its very own built-in charcoal filter.

Here’s how I did it:

  • An old empty coffee can or similar free container with a resealable lid (I got a few from the office that were being tossed)
  • A package of charcoal filters from your local pet supply store – they sell them for kitty litter boxes (this eliminates the odor)
  • A drill with a 1/4″ bit
  • A hot glue gun (super/crazy glues should work fine too)

1.  Start with your parts and tools

2.  Drill 10+ holes in the lid with a 1/4″ drill bit

3.  Hot glue the charcoal filter to the lid

4.  Voila – the finished product

We store our DIY Kitchen Compost Bucket under our kitchen sink so food scraps can easily be added to it during food preparation. My wife is very particular about smells and was happy to find that no odor came from our homemade bin, thanks to the charcoal filterJust like with any other bin equipped with a charcoal filter, you will have to replace the filters every few months if you want it to remain effective.


About Matt Jabs

Matt loves to inspire others to save money and live more sustainably. He is passionate about eating local, living simply, and doing more things himself. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

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  1. Maureen says

    The one you have listed for $56, I got at a store called World Market here in Ohio for $30. Same size, I believe. I know you can put coffee grounds in your composter but what about the filters? I’ve read that they should be unbleached but the only filters I can find are white so I’m assuming they are bleached (?). Guess I need to find one of those reusable filters to fit my coffeemaker. I think I read somewhere that you should put shredded newspaper in the composter too…not sure if there was a specific reason.

    • Matt Jabs says

      Some people are really picky about their compost, only putting in “organic” scraps, others put in anything… including bleached coffee filters – use whatever you’re comfortable with. Also, you should buy a reusable coffee filter… we have one and love it. Anytime you can get something reusable over something disposable – do it.

  2. Laurie Nasca says

    Do you have a problem with fruit flies with your homemade compost pail? Unfortunately, I, too, just paid for a plastic bin…

    • Matt Jabs says

      No, in the years we’ve been using our compost pail we have never had fruit flies in it. Ours is always covered and the flies cannot get through the charcoal filter – neither can the smells. If you have flies you need to dump the contents of your bucket outside, wash the bucket thoroughly, then start over… just make sure that it is sealed tightly and that you don’t leave the lid off when using it. Put the scraps in a bowl until you’re done cooking, then put them into the compost pail all at once.

  3. Jim says

    I’m just getting started with composting. Last summer I was using a similar coffee can to collect used coffee grounds. If I waited too long (maybe 2 or 3 days) before taking the coffee grounds out, I noticed a white substance (mold?) growing on the damp grounds. Will that substance have any bad affect on the compost?

  4. Deanna C says

    I am loving this. Just found it and plan to make a lot of homemade products from now on. Have been working at going natural already. I do want to remind everyone that you should NEVER, NEVER put any meat products in the compost pile! Only things like peels, rinds, shells, etc.

  5. beatrice says

    I love this idea of a compost pail. what other containers can be used i wonder other then plastic. I have wanted to compost for a long time but it just seemed to much to pay for a compost bin, outside lawn compost or even water barrels.why is anything to help better our environment always cost more?

    • Diane says

      Beatrice – You don’t have to spend alot of money on an outdoor compost pile. I use the “open pile” method screened by some azaleas and it works just fine: decide where your pile will be; dig up the soil/dirt where you are going to place the pile; lay down a nice bed of twigs or small sticks and start adding your chicken scraps and yard waste. Don’t bother with a “starter” or compost enhancer; just toss some dirt on the pile from time to time. You can water it and turn it, but even if you don’t do these things, you will get wonderful compost in several months or a year. Just remember to add green waste (lawn clippings, plant cuttings, kitchen waste) and brown waste (shredded newspaper, shredded leaves). If my pile gets too “wet”, I just shred up some newspaper and mix it in.

      Good luck!

  6. Victoria says

    Thank you for this post. I just finished mine yesterday and it works out great.

  7. Shirley says

    If you use a container lid that’s larger than the filter, does that really matter as long as you only drill enough holes to fit the filter size?

    • diyNatural says

      Um, you are likely to have better results if the lid fits securely on the container, but you can give it a shot.

    • brad says

      I was wondering about this as well. I Think diyNatural misunderstood your question. I think you’re talking about a container with a lid that fits securely but is larger than the filter. In which case you would ither have to drill many holes and use multiple filters, OR only drill enough holes to cover one filter. I can’t think of any reason why the latter wouldn’t work just fine.

  8. Al says

    Just wanted to thank you for the inspiration. I found an asparagus steamer pot at Goodwill and a lid with a steam vent valve that fit the pot just right. No drilling needed! In and out in $5 and it looks darn close to the $56 number. *pats self on back*

  9. anh says

    great diy! i am thinking of making a compost as well. i am going to go home and look for a plastic bin with a tight lid. thanks for the excellent idea!

  10. Darla says

    We just use an old half gallon ice cream bucket with no filter. It is twice the size of your coffee can which seems small for us. Smells are no problem due to high amount of coffee grounds maybe, real cheap filter. I have always been attracted to those pretty ones in catalogs and online but never caved in because you cannot beat free.

    • Melynda says

      This is what I have on hand also but I do not have coffee grounds….I use instant since I a lone drinker of the juice! lol Guess I’ll buy the charcoal filters. Can’t wait to start my frugal bin!!!

  11. Diy Tools Expert says

    I have all DIY tools to make my own and so cheap kitchen compost bucket except the hot glue gun, I will purchase it for sure cuz in future I can save many dollars and can make a bucket for each room separately as cost is too much low, will suggest my friends to view this post to save the money.

  12. Jean says

    Hi Matt – I made one of these kitchen compost buckets from a small white bucket (larger than a coffee can). It works very well, no smell at all. It sits on the floor next to the trash can and amazingly, my family actually uses it without even being asked! Thanks for the DIY instructions! I see a worm bin in my future…

  13. ArtVandelay says

    @Matt How often do you empty the container i.e. when full or every few days, etc? How do you replace the charcoal filter….just rip it off? Did the filter fit without trimming?

    • Matt Jabs says

      Mr. Vandelay…
      We empty it when it gets full (we NEVER smell it). To replace the filter – yep… just rip it off & glue a new one in its place. We have had ours for several months now and are still using the first filter. It started to get a little mold on it, but the mold disappears after you empty it and rinse it out. We will not replace it until we can “smell” the bucket.

      • Michelle says


        That’s a great idea for when the weather turns bad & running the kitchen accumulation outdoors to the big tumbler becomes dreadful. I’m gonna try it.
        In the meantime, what do you suggest (other than a large garbage can & heavy-duty shredder) to collect the various cardboard boxes? We have a family of 5 and cereal boxes, frozen meal boxes, etc accumulate quickly & become a tedious chore to tear down to prevent a tower from forming on the counter.

        • Cynthia says

          I cut cereal boxes into strips and put them through the paper shredder, then into the compost! They make a great form of “brown” material. This is fine is you’re putting it in flower beds or other locations where non-edibles are grown. If you’re using the compost in vegetable or fruit growing areas, you should probably omit any printed material as you don’t know what’s in the ink.

          That said, I love putting shredded paper, paper towel rolls, etc. into the compost.

        • Matt Jabs says

          The filters are a 5″ diameter. They fit perfectly in that coffee lid as purchased – I did not have to cut them. I bought them at Pet Supplies Plus.

  14. Alyson says

    Very cool idea and so easy to make.
    Just the ticket! Thank you!

    Alyzabeth’s Mommy for Eleven Months!
    .-= Alyson´s last blog ..Book Swap Package! =-.

  15. Robert says

    Interesting idea here, I have been wanting to do some organic gardening and this looks like a great idea to help that. I would have probably just went out and bought some compost.

    Thanks for the good information.

    • Matt Jabs says

      making your own compost has so many benefits, and this cheap and easy bucket to throw kitchen scraps in is a great way to get started! enjoy…

  16. Mom says

    Hey, a 35 pound kitty litter bucket works well for compost too. (After it is emptied of original contents, of course!) Could also be adapted with the filter. Has a built in hinged cover that seals. Cant wait to hear about the worm bin! 🙂

  17. Paul @ FiscalGeek says

    Wish I would have seen/thought of this last year when I spent flipping $20 on a stupid plastic pail. We take ours out to our worm bin.
    .-= Paul @ FiscalGeek´s last blog ..The FiscalGeek Cell Phone Trade In Program: Free Cell Phones for Life =-.