Can I Store Food In Just Buckets?

Food-grade buckets are an excellent way to store most foods, especially dry staples like rice, beans, and wheat. If you are looking to store foods for a shorter period, say 1 to 5 years, buckets work great. Buckets alone aren’t enough protection for most dry staples such as rice, beans, and wheat.

You can store salt and sugar in just buckets. For maximum shelf-life Other dry foods such as rice, wheat, beans, rolled oats and other bulk emergency foods should be stored in food-grade buckets lined with Mylar bags. Plastic buckets are not an oxygen barrier. Foods that oxidize (most dry staple foods) will oxidize, and bug eggs may not be killed.

White rice stored in buckets alone may keep for five years. Conversely, line a bucket with a five mil Mylar bag and seal it with oxygen absorbers inside, and the rice will keep for thirty years. Let’s take a look at the pros of using buckets to store food.

Pros of Storing Food In buckets

Buckets make food storage easier and take up less space because they can be stacked. Buckets are somewhat waterproof, so they will keep low moisture foods relatively dry.

Buckets also protect food from light exposure and Mylar bags are protected during long-term exposure from physical damage and chewing critters.

Foods I have stockpiled in buckets include white rice, wheat berries, rolled oats, dry beans, salt, and sugar. I used buckets, Mylar bags, and oxygen treatment to package all but the salt and sugar. These foods will all keep for decades and I do not have to rotate them. As long as they are stored cool and dry I can virtually forget about them until disaster strikes.

Scott Ready Squirrel

Let’s move on and check out the cons of storing food in “just buckets.”

4 Cons of Storing Food In Buckets

#1 Oxygen Transfer

The plastic in buckets does not block oxygen transfer, so food will oxidize decades earlier than if you use Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.

#2 Oxygen Levels

Buckets with oxygen absorbers may not kill bugs, eggs, and pupae because oxygen levels may not get low enough without Mylar.

Storage Tip: Sugar and Salt can be stored directly in food buckets without Mylar for indefinite shelf life because they don’t spoil by oxidation.

To Learn More read the Ready Squirrel article, Store Food in Buckets and Save Money.

Following are eleven tips that will help you when storing food in buckets.

11 Tips For Storing Food In Buckets

Following is a list of things I’ve observed or experienced when prepping survival food in buckets. I’ve made some mistakes along the way so you don’t have to.

#1 Consider Size and Weight

A 5-gallon bucket filled with food can weigh 25 to 50 pounds. Make sure you can handle moving the buckets around once they are filled or pre-stage them where they will stay.

#2 Food-Grade Buckets Only

You can indeed use clean non-food-grade buckets if you line them with Mylar, but I suggest using food-grade buckets.

It is helpful to have food-grade buckets for hauling water, pickling, and fermentation in a survival situation. If your buckets aren’t food-grade, they are no use for direct food or water contact.

As a side note, food-grade buckets aren’t more expensive than the non-food-grade versions.

To learn more, check out the Ready Squirrel article, What’s the difference between food and non-food grade buckets?

#3 Mylar Bags

By lining plastic buckets with Mylar, you will increase the shelf-life of foods by decades.

Only store foods oxygen-free if they contain 10% moisture or less, or you risk botulism food poisoning.

For more information about Mylar, read the Ready Squirrel article, Mylar Bags For Food Storage: Beginner’s Guide.

#4 Oxygen Absorbers

Foods exposed to oxygen in the air will oxidize or spoil quicker than those packaged in Mylar with sufficient oxygen absorption. Oxygen absorbers are little packets of metal shaving that eat the oxygen in a sealed bag—placing enough cc of oxygen absorption in a sealed Mylar bag is how to create an ideal atmosphere for decades of food storage life.

Chart #1 Oxygen Absorbers Required By Food and Container Size

Container TypeWheat/Flour/Grains/Rice
More Dense/Less Air
Pasta/Beans
Less Dense/More Air
Food Storage Pails#Of Each Size Absorber# Of Each Size Absorber
6-gallon100cc: 20
500cc: 4
1000cc: 2
2000cc: 1
100cc: 25-30
500cc: 5-6
1000cc: 3
2000cc: 2
5-gallon100cc: 20
500cc: 4
1000cc: 2
2000cc: 1
100cc: 25-30
500cc: 5-6
1000cc: 3
2000cc: 2
Mylar Bags
20in. x 30in. (4.25, 5, and 6 gallons)
*Used to line food-grade bucket(s)
100cc: 20
500cc: 4
1000cc: 2
2000cc: 1
100cc: 25-30
500cc: 5-6
1000cc: 3
2000cc: 2
18in. x 28in. (4.25, 5, and 6 gallons)
*Used to line food-grade bucket(s)
100cc: 20
500cc: 4
1000cc: 2
2000cc: 1
100cc: 25-30
500cc: 5-6
1000cc: 3
2000cc: 2
14in. x 20in. (2.0 gallons) 100cc: 10
500cc: 2
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
100cc: 15-20
500cc: 3-4
1000cc: 2
2000cc: 1
14in. x 18in. x 6in. (2.0 gallons)100cc: 10
500cc: 2
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
100cc: 15-20
500cc: 3-4
1000cc: 2
2000cc: 1
12in. x 18in. (1.5 gallons) 100cc: 5-8
500cc: 1-2
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
100cc: 10-12
500cc: 2-3
1000cc: 1-2
2000cc: 1
12in. x 16in. x 6in. (1.5 gallons)100cc: 5-8
500cc: 1-2
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
100cc: 10-12
500cc: 2-3
1000cc: 1-2
2000cc: 1
10in. x 14in. (1 gallon)100cc: 3-4
500cc: 1
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
100cc: 4
500cc: 1
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
8in. x 12in. (1/2 gallon)100cc: 1-2
500cc: 1
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
100cc: 2-4
500cc: 1
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
6in. x 10in. (1/4 gallon)100cc: 1
500cc: 1
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
100cc: 1-2
500cc: 1
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 
6in. x 8in. x 2in. (1/4 gallon)100cc: 1
500cc: 1
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
100cc: 1-2
500cc: 1
1000cc: 1
2000cc: 1
Ball or Canning Jars
1 Quart Jar100cc200cc
1 Gallon Jar400cc600cc



To learn more check out the Ready Squirrel article, Oxygen Absorbers: Why You Need Them For Emergency Food Storage

#5 Store Unused Oxygen Absorbers

Use a lidded ball jar or a sealed Mylar bag to store any left oxygen absorbers after packaging food. If exposed to air, oxygen absorbers will continue to work until they are spent.

#6 Label Packaging

Using a black permanent marker, write the type of food stored outside the Mylar bag or on the food-grade bucket. If you don’t do this, you’ll create more work for yourself by sealing and unsealing bags to find out what is inside.

#7 Heat Seal

Use a regular house iron to seal Mylar bags. I put my iron on the linen setting (the highest setting) and placed the top of the bag over an old 2×4 to seal, but you can use any stiff edge like a broom handle or the edge of a rigid box.

#8 Food Rotation

If you are sealing rice, beans, oats, wheat, and many other staple foods in Mylar and buckets, there is no need to rotate the food because these items will last 20 to 30 years.

If you store food in buckets alone, foods do need to be rotated depending on the shelf-life of the specific food.

#9 Storage

This is especially important if the floor is concrete. Concrete and plastic may have a chemical reaction that could ruin your buckets and food.

Raise buckets up off of the floor If storing food in a basement where sump pumps can go out or on a first-floor area prone to groundwater flooding.

#10 Stacking

Buckets conveniently stack for storage but avoid going much more than three high.

Stack too many buckets on top of each other, and they will crack or fall off the top onto a passing person or pet.

#11 Get Some Help

It’s a lot easier storing food in Mylar and buckets if you have some help. I usually do it by myself, which can be a pain if you hold bulk bags of rice and beans. I’ve wasted a lot of food, pouring it all over the floor.

#12 Gamma Lids

Use gamma lids for easy access to the food you use regularly. Once sealed on a bucket, Gamma lids have a centerpiece that easily screws on and off to access the contents. Gamma lids are also outstanding for ammo storage, for a range kit, and on a bug-out boat or vehicle.

#13 Food To Store In Buckets

You can store almost any food in a 5-gallon bucket, from potato chips to hostess cupcakes but for emergency survival and long-term food supplies, I suggest you start by storing the proven dry staple foods. Every culture on the planet depends on rice, beans, and wheat for survival. I suggest you do the same.

To Learn More, Read these Ready Squirrel articles,

What Foods Can I Store In a 5-gallon Bucket and Pounds of Food in a 5-gallon Bucket?

This Ready Squirrel video shows you how you store food in buckets.