What’s The Difference Between Food and Non-food Grade Buckets?


One of the staple tools of the prepping community is food-grade buckets. They are used to store rice, wheat, and other staple foods. Also used to pickle and ferment. One of the first questions I had when storing rice was what kind of bucket I should use for food storage. In those early stages, I didn’t even know what a Mylar bag was.

Food and non-food grade buckets are different. Non-food-grade plastic buckets’ are made using chemicals, solvents, and dyes that are not safe for direct food contact. Recycled plastics contain toxic chemical residue like pesticides that may be present in non-food grade buckets.  

There are two toxic chemicals used when making non-food grade buckets. The mold release compound is used to get the bucket out of the mold and non-food-grade dyes. These buckets may be manufactured using recycled plastics, which previously contained toxic chemicals such as pesticides.

Even if you are using Mylar bags with your buckets and I suggest that you do. There are other reasons to use food-grade and not the non-food grade buckets for you prepping.

Can I Use a Non-food Grade Buckets to Store Food?

You can definitely use non-food grade buckets to store your staples in a pinch, but I suggest that you don’t because it cuts way down on their usefulness. If you don’t have mylar bags for the next batch of food, then that bucket can’t be used with food-stuff.

Long-term food supplies can be stored in non-food grade buckets as long as they don’t directly contact the plastic. Use properly sealed Mylar bags as a food barrier to avoid chemical contamination and off-flavors.   

How Can You Tell if a Bucket is Food Grade?

A food grade bucket will indicate “food-grade” right on the bucket. If a Bucket doesn’t say it’s food-grade, then proceed as if it is not. In the past, it was said that all HDPE containers are food grade. They are not.

HDPE plastics can be made from recycled plastics that contained caustic materials before they were recycled, and the manufacturing plant may not adhere to food-safe guidelines.

A good example of a non-food grade bucket is the Orange Homer bucket, made from HDPE plastic.

If you are getting white buckets from bakeries or other businesses that use the buckets to store food, you can be fairly certain they are food grade. Make sure they weren’t used to store anything non-food grade after storing food.

Fact: Most food grade buckets are made from white HDPE Plastic indicated on the bottom of the bucket with a #2 recycling symbol, but again that does mean a white bucket with the #2 recycling symbol is food-grade.

Fact: New Food Grade Buckets sold retail will normally be marked as food-grade.

Why You Should Avoid Non-food Grade Buckets When Prepping

You can use non-food grade buckets if you use Mylar, but they aren’t the best option. They have limited usefulness in food prepping. Remember that you want all of your prepping supplies to provide as many uses as possible in an SHTF scenario.

Non-food grade buckets reduce flexibility and food storage options. When the bucket is empty, you may want to carry water from a stream, ferment garden vegetables, or make mead, wine, or cider. If the bucket isn’t food grade, you lose the option. Without Mylar, there aren’t any food-related uses. 

Why Should I Use Buckets and Mylar Bags To Store Food?

Used together, Mylar bags and sealed plastic buckets are one of the best storage options for dry goods like wheat, dried beans, and white rice because they provide the best shelf-life and protection for dry goods.

Mylar bags and sealed buckets provide a reliable storage solution for dry goods, providing 30 years of shelf-life. Mylar bags are an excellent Oxygen barrier, but pests and rough handling easily damage them. Buckets are not good at keeping out oxygen, but they are tough and protect the Mylar bags.

Fact: Some preppers swear by storing dry goods in just food-grade buckets without Mylar. There are also examples of buckets not keeping a seal and heading south.

For a little added expense, you can use buckets and Mylar together for peace of mind. You don’t want to find out 15 years from now that half your buckets didn’t keep a seal, especially if you are in the middle of an SHTF situation.

What Size of Mylar Bag Should I use In a Food Storage Bucket? 

When I first started prepping, I figured the best size of Mylar bag to use for a given container was one that matched the size of that container. That isn’t always the best option.

Use a 5 gallon Mylar bag to store dry goods in a 5-gallon bucket if you use the food within one year. If you aren’t using much of the food product, consider using multiple small Mylar bags to limit the amount of food exposed to oxygen when opened. Once opened, food goes bad at a quicker rate.

How Should I Store My Food-Grade Buckets?

Food-grade buckets should be stored the same way the rest of your emergency food is stored. The storage location should be

  • Cool
  • Dry
  • Clean
  • Up off the floor and away from the wall for ventilation
  • Not stacked to keep the lids from buckling.
  • Free from pests
  • Do not place buckets directly on concrete, or there may be chemical leaching and moisture issues.
  • For Long-term storage, use the correct number of Oxygen absorbers and combine properly sealed Mylar bags and buckets for the highest level of protection

Where Can I Find Food Grade Buckets?

There are so many places that can provide you free-buckets. I had a neighbor who owned a bakery. He had so many buckets left-over from premade frosting, flour, and other baking ingredients he didn’t know what to do with them.

7 Places You Can Get Free Food-grade Buckets

  • Grocery Store Bakeries and Delis
  • Walmart Bakery
  • Restaurants
  • Mom and pop bakeries and delis
  • Ice Cream Shops
  • Cake and Confectionery Shops
  • Coffee Shops
  • Donut Shops
  • Fast Food Restaurants
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • McDonald’s
  • Burger King

8 Places You Can Buy Food-grade Buckets

You may not have time to travel around looking for a free-bucket, or you have a large stash of dry goods you want to get done. Consider the following resources if looking for buckets right away.

  1. Uline
  2. Walmart
  3. Home Depot
  4. Lowes
  5. Tractor Supply
  6. Home Brew Stores
  7. Amazon
  8. Yankee Containers

If you don’t mind asking around, you are pretty much guaranteed to find food-grade buckets for free. Good luck, and see you next time.

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