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. Buckets are tough, so they protect food against physical damage. They also protect food from light oxidation and moisture.

Buckets are also stackable and take up less space than other storage containers.

Buckets used by themselves are not ideal for long-term storage because plastic is not an oxygen barrier. Foods stored in just buckets will oxidize, and bugs may not be killed.

If you are looking to store foods for a shorter period, say 1 to 5 years, buckets work great.

For example, rice stored in buckets alone may keep 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.

To obtain the maximum shelf-life of foods, they should be used with Mylar bags and treated with oxygen absorbers.

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

Any dry food with less than 10% moisture can be stored in buckets with Mylar and oxygen absorbers.

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 protect food from light exposure. Buckets protect sealed Mylar bags for long-term storage.

Cons of Storing Food In Buckets

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

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.

Read the Ready Squirrel article, Store Food in Buckets and Save Money.

11 Bucket Storage Tips

#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.

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



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 Mylar Bags

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 Not Necessary

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.

It’s probably a good idea to use the food to get comfortable cooking with it, but it is unnecessary.

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

As a side note, salt and sugar can be stored in buckets alone. Neither salt nor sugar oxidizes and has an indefinite shelf-life.

#9 Store buckets off the floor

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

Also, raise buckets off 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 Stack Buckets 3 High

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.

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