Buckets of Solutions

By Kellene Bishop

I’ve have to admit I’ve got buckets on the brain right now. A friend suggested that I share with you why that’s the case. To put it simply it could just be because that’s how I alleviate anxiety. But for some of you, buckets may be a way to peacefully organize your storage items, including food and preparedness supplies, in a more strategic manner.

5 Gallon Buckets with Gamma Lid photo c/o Home Food Storage 5 Gallon Buckets with Gamma Lid photo c/o Home Food Storage

I’ve stored food, medical, camping, and many other supplies in plastic buckets for as long as I can remember. They are tough enough to store nails in and very versatile. If there ever is a flood, I’ve ensured that a lot of the supplies in buckets

will be undamaged, and if there is an earthquake, a great deal of the items will stay in tact and unbroken. I make sure that I use food-grade buckets only. When it comes to the lids, I use regular 5 gallon lids, but I have several gamma lids also. I replace the old lid with a gamma lid once I’m getting into the bucket regularly for items such as wheat, beans, and rice. The gamma lids have a great seal on the bucket, but can be easily unscrewed in the inner circle of the lid for my use. The gamma lids cost about $5 to $7, so that’s why I don’t just use them on all of my buckets. The 5-gallon buckets also have “toilet seats” for emergency sanitation. (I’d like to pat the guy on the back who came up with that idea.) I’ve been using 5 gallon buckets to store a great deal of my items almost exclusively until about 2 years ago. That’s when I discovered the 4 gallon square bucket.

4 Gallon Square Bucket with Flip Top Lid 4 Gallon Square Bucket with Flip Top Lid

Although only 42 years old, it doesn’t take much for me to throw my back out, so hefting a 5 gallon bucket isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do. Also, when I see a group of round buckets, I can’t help but notice the space I’m wasting—both inside and outside the buckets. So when I discovered 4 gallon square buckets, my biggest concerns were alleviated. They are manageable to lift, they store nice and tight with the wall and other items, and are easy to fill more thoroughly. They can also stack about 6 or 8 high comfortably (depending on the weight of the contents). While there isn’t a “gamma lid” contraption for the square buckets, there are rubber sealed lids with essentially a flip open top. Much like I use the gamma seal lids, I use these more rugged lids in place of the standard ones when I’m regularly using the contents of a square bucket. They even have a nice little “stay open” feature when I’m scooping contents out. Then all I have to do is snap the lid back into place.

Since discovering the 4 gallon square bucket, I’ve begun using them even more than before. One way I utilize them is by storing all of the contents of a particular meal in a bucket along with the recipe. This way, I don’t have to go hunting for the various ingredients when I go down to my pantry. And in the event of a survival situation, I can give myself some peace of mind without having to stress “what will I cook?” since I label the buckets according to the meals that are inside. Sometimes I have enough for 20 servings in each bucket, sometimes 50. It all depends on how “ingredient intensive” the meal is. For example, for my Chicken Poppy Seed casserole, I put the Rice-A-Roni in a FoodSaver bag (in its original box), along with the cans of chicken, cream of chicken soup, Ritz crackers, poppy seeds, powdered sour cream, salt, and pepper with a large label on the bucket that says “Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole.” I’ve created several recipes for items which are “pantry friendly” that I know the hubby and others already love and have buckets of these meals stored accordingly. Can I just tell you what kind of a peace it gives me to go into the pantry and see buckets of meals that actually sound good and are easy to make? I mean really, which would you rather see? A bucket labeled “wheat” or a bucket labeled “Beef Stroganoff?” :)

When I use items from the buckets (which I do all of the time) I simply replace the ingredients with future grocery shopping trips OR with other items I have in my supplies. Either way, what I don’t want is a false sense of security when I see labeled buckets. I want to know I can rely on them to have the meals inside. It’s also MUCH easier to take a semi-annual accounting this way.

Stacking Square Buckets photo c/o Preparedness Pro Stacking Square Buckets photo c/o Preparedness Pro

Buckets are also great to keep other types of contents in them. For example, I’m frequently getting good deals on small bottles of olive oil. (Thank you, coupons!) Instead of stacking them on a shelf and leaving them to the wiles of an earthquake, I wrap them up with newspaper (again--thanks to coupons) and place them in a bucket marked “olive oil.” (Yes, I came up with that brilliant label all by myself. Hee hee.) Now, with these square buckets full of olive oil, I can easily and securely stack them on top of each other. Whereas with my large containers of olive oil that I got from a warehouse, all I can do is have their big selves take up space on the shelf or floor in a single layer. That sure is a waste of height, don’t you think? This way I’m not forced to shell out for expensive shelving for everything. The same goes with BBQ sauce, spices, salad dressings, etc. Some items simply come in awkward sizes and shapes, but the buckets sure make things nice and organized for me. Since I don’t buy my items “by the case” usually, I can’t store them that way.

 

Here’s another thought. If I had only a day’s notice to move all of my things, wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot easier to take buckets out of the pantry than stopping to pack regular sized bottles or boxes of food and supplies?

 

I also use buckets for storing medical and hygiene items, as well as groups of supplies such as cheese waxing, egg preservation, sewing, dental, etc. This prevents me from purchasing or paying “too much”. What I mean by that is when I see deodorant on sale for 59 cents, I may think that’s a good deal. But when I go downstairs and see two buckets marked “deodorant,” I’m easily reminded that anything more than FREE is a bit expensive to me. In other words, when I know I’ve got a bucket full of a particular hygiene or medical item, chances are I already have enough and don’t need to spend the money.

 

Now remember, you can put diatomaceous earth IN your buckets of goods and prevent the insect critters from bothering anything. I would definitely put the DE in the bucket if it’s a grain, legume, rice, or pasta. But when you have a cluster of buckets full of items that don’t already come with their own supply of insects *grin*, then you can simply sprinkle DE around your grouping of buckets instead of putting it inside of them.

 

Where do you find these buckets? There’s several options. “Wally World” sells them, but I hate their prices. You can easily get used buckets that were used for food grade purposes in a myriad of locations--though you'll have to work at it. During the harvest season you can get them directly from fruit growers for $1.50 or so. You can also obtain them from bakeries in your local grocery stores for FREE. So try making a few calls and make the most of those options first. However, in many areas I’ve lived, getting them year round has been a challenge. Thus I’m in love with Five Star Preparedness as my bucket source for this reason. They have used, 4-gallon, food grade buckets all the time, and tons of them too. (You can get about 25-28 pounds of grain and such in each bucket.) Each used bucket and lid are $2 each. They guarantee that each bucket and lid will be in sound condition or they will replace it cheerfully. Even better, for those of you who are in Utah or who come through the area, if you pick up the buckets yourself they are only $1.50. They will ship them in increments of 20 all over the continental U.S. with no additional handling charge. Another option is that you can have them make a massive delivery to your area based on a minimum bucket order--that will dramatically cut down on the price and the shipping. Apparently there are requests frequently from church and community groups that request these by the hundreds. The minimum bucket count for the order depends on where they are being delivered. You can also get the new lids that I mentioned as well for only $2.50 I found these same lids at “Wally world” for more than 3 times their price! You can visit them online at www.fivestarpreparedness.com or you can e-mail them at fulfillment [at] fivestarpreparedness [dot] com and their direct contact info is there too.

 

So now perhaps you’ll look at buckets a bit more differently. Didn’t you know? Plastic is the new gold? :)

 

For any questions or comments on this article, please leave a comment on the blog site so that everyone can benefit!

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Comments

Five Star Preparedness.com takes me to the solar ovens or back to you what am I doing wrong here??

It sounds like these buckets are so much better than the round ones. Space is a big problem for me, and anything that improves that situation is welcome.

Thank you for the information.

Believer

I use 4 gallon buckets I got from a fruit place in UT. I live in Oregon but I was visiting. Thanks for the inspiration to actually use more of them. Great ideas!

You knew I needed this, didn't you? :) Space conservation is key around our place. I'll have to get an order in for some of those square buckets . . .

I resolved any doubts by calling the company that manufactures the orange 5-gallon buckets for Home Depot. They are indeed NOT food grade. That cuts it, I'm going to get the 4-gallon square ones. I had hoped to use the orange ones, them being only a bit over $2 plus another $1 for the lid, but the 4-gallon ones have several advantages (price, food-grade, storage efficiency and stackability). No doubts now. Thanks for the article.

Folks, don't forget the mylar bags for foodstuffs that you're not putting in Foodsaver bags. I plan on dehydrating a lot of food, then vacuum-sealing them in mylar and sealing them up in buckets. Those ought to last for a while - little moisture or oxygen, no light...little decay over long periods.

The idea of putting non-food stuff in the buckets as a way of organizing is fantastic. Organizing our bullets, beans and bandaids is now a snap (and prevents lost time and money).

Thanks so much for the bucket connection. I was just getting ready to order more buckets from Emergency Essentials (hate the price), but had no other recourse.
I have a pandemic bucket, a water filtration bucket, and others. Really appreciate your furthering my sites in this regard.
I have been saving my square laundry detergent buckets from Costco too. I keep non-food items in those, stacked in my garage.
Love your site and that you keep up the frequency of your postings!

I do not like the buckets from Emergency Essentials cause they have their name on them...I do not want to advertise to everyone that it may be preparedness things.
I have my canning jars of food in boxes and I abriviate what is in them so at a glance people may not know.
I want to do the dinners in the buckets!
Why do you put the box of rice a roni in a vacum seal bag.... in case of bugs?
I would like that recipe.
Thanks for all you are doing!

I need more buckets! Thanks for the information.
I usually get my buckets from my local grocery store bakery for $1 each.

Being low on funds, I only use free buckets - and here that means round ones for food. I get them from the bakery dept of one of my local grocery stores, in 2, 3.5, and 5 gallon sizes (with gaskets) and 4 gallon ones without gaskets. Food goes into the ones with gaskets.

I store non-food items in the 4 gallon round ones, as well as any 4 gallon square ones I can get through Freecycle. Those square one aren't food grade, and used to hold cat litter. I suppose I could wrap and store cans and bottles of food items in them, as you point out!

Frondly, Fern

I seal them due to the hydrogenated oils to keep them from going rancid sooner rather than later...also to keep out bugs.
The recipe is on this site. Do a search on "poppyseeds" It's my hubby's favorite casserole.

Their site isn't up yet. You can only snag them via telephone. Taking back to us? That must having something to do with the executive office set up that we share. Sorry. Direct calling is all that I have to recommend right now.

I definately would not use kitty litter buckets for ANYTHING. The ones I've recommended are definately food grade. And you know me, I'm always a sucker for something FREE that's useful as well. I have several bakeries locally that have started using the square buckets for the same reason that I have. So keep checking with them. I've even found them in 2 gallon square sizes as well.

I wrote an email to them and asked several questions. They were prompt in their replies, and seemed willing to help. I inquired about what the minimum might be on a bulk order - 600 buckets! I live in KS and she indicated that if we purchased 600, there wouldn't be any shipping charges. At first I thought this a daunting endeavor, but as I sat and started making my bucket "wish" list, I had need for over 50 myself. I'm going to attempt to put together an order if there is any interest. However, without folks first seeing one, this makes it difficult. I indicated to the company that perhaps I should just order myself so I would have a sample bucket to show folks. Would have been nice for the company to offer to send me one for that purpose when we are considering so many. Ahhh... I guess the old days of that kind of customer service are gone. I'll keep you posted moving forward. I have not yet ordered anything from them.

Ok. you know the 600 buckets is only a minimum for them to drive them out to you, right? (you gave me a heart attack there and I had to check with them. :-)

How it works with them is that they have several churches and communities that want really large orders. So, if a minimum amount of buckets is ordered then they can save the folks a lot of money by driving it there. Their formula is 100 buckets for every hour of driving. Actually KS is more like a 16-20 hour drive. The owner has fvamily in KS so he was willing to do it for only 600 buckets instead of the 2,000.

I also asked them about shipping a bucket to you. They had sent pictures. Apparently it costs them almost the same amount of shipping to send one as it does to send 5. They have had "requests" for over 30 "free" buckets just in the last week. And their margins are too small to handle that. That sounds very reasonable to me.
Keep me posted. Thanks!

You know I've been wondering. IF you are going to use mylar bags, then is food grade buckets really a priority??? I can see if you were dumping stuff straight into the buckets but with the bag I would think you could skimp there and use regular cheap buckets??? Just curious what you think Kellene and Texan...

I use the buckets for different things. I never use both a bucket and a mylar bag though, if that answers your question. Although there's a certain "overkill" kind of company out there that markets their wheat that way and charges more for it. But that's a bit goofy because the weevils are already inside.
In my opinion anything you use to store vital supplies should be safe and protective appropriately for those supplies. I rarely find "cheap" things that I would trust to protect my food.

Just to clarify what you wrote above, if I am storing pasta or flour in a food-grade bucket, you would not recommend putting the pasta (or flour) into a mylar bag first? Would you store the pasta in its own box or just dump a bunch of boxes of pasta together in the bucket? Thanks.

Flour, I would likely put in a mylar bag first, because I don't need an oxygen exchange for that and flour is so volatile anyway, you need all the help you can get. The same can be said for anything that's already prepared from flour. It's whole grains that I don't see any sense double packaging when Diatomaceous earth is available and you actually WANT the grains to breathe for future sprouting and optimal nutrient content.

Kellene,

I know we discussed The Bucket Guy on a different post (I cant rememember which one) but he did call me this week and delivered to Reno, 150 4 gallon buckets at $4 each. I swear the lids look new. Very satisfied and worth the wait. I was VERY surprised to even hear from him! Since I believe it was June when I placed my order and had the kafaffle. I had a doctors appoitment in Reno that day and he met me there and loaded the truck with my Dad while I was in my appointment. Very nice young man. After a rough start I am glad I waited. I wanted you to know because I know you rely on him as well.

I know I have been MIA awhile due to a nasty MS attack and not doing well but I am ready to dig back in as there is still a lot of work for me to do! :) I have missed reading every day as it is part of my daily ritual! Hope all is well with you.

Ready to try your breads next!

Woodirae

I'm glad you got your buckets, Woodirae. I guess when they are doing a delivery they have to take some time. Five Star Preparedness has taken this over for them now so that it shouldn't be bad in the future, and the buckets won't cost $4 each...unless you do get the new lids. :-)
I hope your health improves and that you have a Merry Christmas!

Lowe's buckets and lids are 3.50 and walmarts are $7.00---I learned the hard way...now I get all at Lowe's.

@Johnathan You're right, Johnathan. I believe the previous posts were referring to used buckets. But I don't think Five Star has those anymore unfortunately. The price of resin has risen so much in the past 2 years that the folks who were selling their old buckets for a song now make more money recycling them. Also note, the article you've commented on was posted in Oct. of 2009. Some of the articles are time sensitive. Sorry for the misinformation.

That explains it! I keep reading recommendations of getting used icing buckets/lids from Walmart, but when I called today they told me they recycle them and will not give them to me. I said, "But *I* can use them, why throw them out?" Now I know... $$$

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