Home and Garden

Energy Saving, Home and Garden

Why Filling Your Freezer Can Save You Money & Energy

why you should fill your freezer to save energy

It sounds wild, but here’s why filling your freezer can save you both money and energy.

For the last little while, I’ve been sharing easy energy-saving tips that anyone can do, regardless of whether you own your home or not.

Many energy-saving tips focus on the big stuff. Things like insulating your walls, or switching to double or even triple glazing. These are very valid energy-saving tips. However, as someone who rented for many years, I remember the frustration at having ambivalent landlords who didn’t care that my energy bills were sky-high. I also remember the frustration of lacking the autonomy to be able to make these improvements. Hence my focus on more accessible energy-saving tips.

The other week I spoke about the importance of dusting your fridge to help save energy. So, today, let’s get right back to your fridge freezer with today’s tip.

Fill Your Freezer to Save Energy

why you should fill your freezer to save energy

Is your freezer looking a little bit on the empty side?  Perhaps it’s a few days before you do a food shop and all you’ve got in there is a bag of frozen peas and an unlabelled tub of indiscriminate contents? We’ve all been there.  Or maybe you never really have much food in your freezer, to begin with.  Well, you could be pouring energy down the drain.

You see, freezers work best when they are full.  This is because freezers expend most energy when they have to cool down the warm air that gets in when you open the door to take food out.  A packed to the brim freezer means there is less room for warm air to get in. What’s more, the frozen goods in the freezer cool down any warm air that does make its way in, meaning your freezer doesn’t have to work quite so hard. So go wild and fill your freezer to the brim!

What If I Can’t Afford to Fill My Freezer?

The good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune on food to fill your freezer. Empty plastic bottles filled with water will do the trick, as will freezer bags filled with ice cubes.  Styrofoam packing blocks will also do just the job – and it’s a good way to recycle this otherwise unrecyclable material.

My top tip is to keep your frozen food near the front of your freezer, so it’s easy to hand. Having to rummage through your freezer, past styrofoam, and water bottles to find your food, will quickly negate any energy-saving benefits. The key to maximum energy-efficiency with your freezer is to get in and out as quickly as possible.

A handy bonus is that if your freezer is filled with frozen water bottles, then if you have a power-cut it will take much longer for your food to defrost.

I’d also recommend defrosting your freezer on a regular basis, for maximum efficiency. You might be able to save up to £200 a year!

A Word On Fridges

Fridges are slightly different beasts.  If you pack your fridge too tightly then you’ll over-work your fridge, using much more energy that you need to.  Your food will cool too much, and perhaps even freeze. Trust me, nobody wants frozen lettuce.  Other food might not cool enough, and nobody wants a tummy bug either.  Especially not frozen lettuce and a tummy bug at the same time!  So make so you don’t overpack your fridge and that air can circulate easily.

You won’t save hundreds of pounds following this tip. But if you change your habits and implement little energy-saving steps here and there, like the ones that I’ve mentioned throughout this series (tips that don’t take too much effort), then these savings will soon add up. Things like not charging your smartphone overnight, setting your boiler at the right temperature, and using a lid whilst you are cooking all help. Which is no bad thing in the face of impending energy bill increases in 2021.

Garden, Home and Garden

How to Make Compost

how to compost

Let’s talk about how to make compost today. Why not try making your own peat-free compost.  It’s really easy – here’s everything you could ever want to know to get started!

Did you know that we Brits throw an estimated 4.5 million tonnes of food and drink in the bin each year?  A staggering amount, I’m sure you’ll agree. This is a huge problem as when food is sent to landfill, as it decomposes without any oxygen, it releases a greenhouse gas called methane. Methane produces 21 times as much warming to our atmosphere as carbon dioxide, driving climate change at a much faster rate. It’s therefore vitally important to avoid sending food to landfill as much as possible.

Undoubtedly the best way to reduce food waste is to plan your food shopping carefully and freezing leftover. However, composting also has a vital role in reducing the amount of food sent to landfill.  

how to make compost

Composting kitchen waste isn’t hard to do and, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t a smelly job if done correctly.  So I thought I’d show you how to make compost at home, odour free!

And if you don’t have a garden, check out this guide on how to compost in a flat.

Start in the Kitchen 

It can be hard knowing where to start, but I think the easiest place is to start in the kitchen. By gathering the supplies you need, and getting your indoor setup together gives you good momentum for moving on to the next stage.

First of all, you need a lidded kitchen caddy to hold your kitchen waste. I have one like this* that I sit on my countertop. However, if you have a tiny kitchen then you can even get a caddy that hooks onto the wall or inside a cupboard*.  

Next, think about you would prefer to use your caddy. Some people like to line their caddy with a compostable bag*. It does add additional cost, but it does mean you don’t have to wash your caddy every time you empty it.

A low impact and low-cost alternative is to make your own bags out of old newspaper. Sounds complicated? It’s really not! Here’s a 30-second video showing you how to do it.

Other people eschew the bag and go bagless. If you don’t mind washing your caddy every time you empty it then go for it!

What Can Go In Your Kitchen Caddy?

You can place all sorts of kitchen scraps and waste in your kitchen caddy for home composting:

  • fruit and vegetable peelings (citrus skins don’t compost well)
  • fruit and vegetable scraps,
  • salad leaves
  • tea leaves and bags – not PLA based teabags or teabags made from polypropylene. Confused? Check out my guide to plastic-free teabags to see if your preferred tea brand is compostable or not
  • coffee grounds and filter papers,
  • crushed eggshells
  • nutshells
  • hair and pet fur

Onions should be added sparingly, as worms are not keen on onions.

What Shouldn’t Go In Your Caddy

Conversely, if you are composting at home then there are a few things that you don’t want to put in your caddy. Avoid the following items helps stop odour problems and rodents:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs (crushed eggshells are ok)
  • Poultry scraps
  • Dairy products
  • Fats, grease, lard, or oils

It’s also not a good idea to put some products labelled as compostable in your caddy, such as compostable cups. Read here for why you can’t compost compostable cups at home.

garden composter compost bin

Next, Consider Your Garden Setup

Now you’ve got your kitchen set up, it’s time to think about your garden.  

The Compost Bin

A garden composter is invaluable.  You can make your own, like the one pictured above. Here’s a guide on how to make your own compost bin from pallets.

Alternatively, you can buy a compost bin. We have a standard plastic one*, which we find is good for trapping heat and helping our food waste break down quickly.  However, there are many different types of bins available, such as the Hotbin*, which can create organic compost 32 times quicker than a standard bin. Or the Green Johanna*, which also speeds up the composting processes.

Where to Site Your Compost Bin

Once you’ve picked your bin, you need to consider where to put it. The best place to site your compost bin is in a sunny spot on bare soil.  The sun increases the temperature in your bin, making your waste break down faster. Meanwhile, bare soil allows for worms to enter your bin, which is essential for composting.

If you don’t have any bare soil and need to place your bin on slabs or tarmac then don’t worry. Just make sure you place a layer of paper and twigs at the bottom of the bin before you start emptying your waste into the composter.  This helps creatures such as worms to be able to colonise your composter.

How to Make Compost

Now you’re all set up you can start composting your kitchen waste.  Here’s how to make compost.

Compost Your Food Waste

vegetable scraps

For most of the year, you probably won’t have to empty the caddy every day – just when it gets full.  In our household (of three) we find we empty our caddy into the composter every two to three days, and our kitchen is odour free.  If you live by yourself you may want to empty it before it gets full to avoid odours, as you will likely be generating less waste.

In summer, fruit flies can be a problem, so I empty the caddy every day. See here for more tips on how to get rid of fruit flies naturally if you find that they become a problem.

Don’t Forget Your Garden Waste

When making compost, it’s vital to add a mix of different materiasl to your bin. Things you can add include:

  • flowers
  • spent plants from your garden
  • nettles
  • rhubarb leaves
  • grass cuttings
  • fallen leaves
  • twigs
  • garden trimmings
  • hay and straw

I would avoid composting the following garden items:

  • Diseased or insect-ridden plants as diseases or insects might spread
  • Invasive plant species
  • Anything from the garden treated with pesticides as it may kill vital organisms

And Don’t Forget The Other Items You Can Compost

When making compost, I would aim for a balance between green waste – this is your kitchen scraps as well as your grass clippings and weeds – and brown waste. This brown waste includes dried leaves and twigs from your garden, however it should also include:

  • cardboard (torn up)
  • egg boxes (torn up)
  • scrunched up paper
  • toilet roll tubes (torn up)

These types of material are slower to rot, and add carbon (essential for providing energy for the worms and other creatures in your composter) and create air pockets.  These pockets provide vital oxygen to your compost, and help stop your composter from smelling.  It’s particularly important to do this if you’ve added grass cuttings to help promote the flow of oxygen.

Composting No-Nos

As well as the items already listed, there are a few more composting no no’s:

real compost

How Long Does It Take to Make Compost?

In your composter, your kitchen and garden waste can take anywhere between 3 and 12 months to produce garden-ready compost.

The good news is your compost will be fantastically nutrient rich. It will be great in borders, vegetable and flower beds, for potting plants in, and for feeding shrubs and trees.  Your compost may have twiggy bits in it – you can sieve these out if you are particularly pernickity about your compost!

How you’ve found this guide on how to make compost useful!  If you have any other questions on how to compost then do feel free to ask in the comments below!