How Long Will Food Last In a Bucket?

Storing food in food-grade plastic buckets is one of the quickest ways to build a mountain of dry staples or package food in bulk to save money. You can store certain foods for two to thirty years, depending on how they are packaged in the bucket. I’ve accumulated hundreds of pounds of beans, rice, and wheat in buckets lined with Mylar, and I expect to get at least thirty years of shelf life.

How long will food last in a bucket?

Foods will last two to thirty years in a bucket. How long foods last is affected by the storage environment, which should be cool and dry. Also, if buckets are lined with Mylar bags and treated with oxygen absorbers, foods will last decades longer than if just stored in a bucket.

Let’s look at foods typically stored in buckets and how long they last in just a bucket vs. in a bucket lined with Mylar and treated with oxygen absorbers.

Cost To Feed One Person For A Year

What Types of Food Can I Store In a Bucket?

5-gallon buckets are among the top storage containers for the DIY prepper, and I consider them the best storage container for cheap bulk food storage. Most of the foods in my long-term pantry are stored this way because it is so easy to repackage hundreds of pounds of food inexpensively.

If buckets are food-grade plastic, there aren’t any types of food you can’t store in them.

Foods typically stored in 5-gallon buckets are dry staples like polished white rice, wheat berries, dry beans, cornmeal, hard and soft grains, salt, and sugar. All kinds of commercial foods are stored in buckets, from pickles to frosting.

To maximize the shelf life of dry staples in buckets, consider lining buckets with Mylar bags and treating them with oxygen absorbers to increase the shelf-life by decades.

Foods That Will Last 30 Years

White Rice Stored In Buckets

White rice stores well in a bucket; it’s cheap and considered a superstar survival food.

Expect rice to last two to five years stored in a lidded bucket without treatment.

Rice may be edible beyond five years, but the overall quality, including taste, texture, and nutritional value, may be affected by the storage environment.

Learn more about storing rice in buckets, read the Ready Squirrel article, “How to store rice in 5-gallon buckets.”

How Much Survival Food Do I Need?

List Of Rice To Store In Buckets

Rice TypeShelf-life in Years
Bucket
With A Lid
Shelf-life In Years
Mylar Bag, Bucket, Lid
and Oxygen Treatment
Long-grain White Rice (polished rice)2 to 530+
Jasmine Rice2 to 530+
Basmati Rice2 to 530+
Arborio Rice2 to 530+
Converted Rice2 to 530+


Soft Grains

Most soft grains store well in buckets but expect less shelf life than you’ll get from hard grains like wheat and rice.

Rolled oats are an exception to the rule. They will store up to 30 years if you use Mylar, and they are outstanding food for the prepper pantry.

List of Soft Grains To Store In Buckets

Soft Grain TypeShelf-life in Years
Bucket
With A Lid
Shelf-life In Years
Mylar Bag, Bucket, Lid
and Oxygen Treatment
Quinoa2 to 320+
Hulled Oats2 to 320+
Pearled Oats2 to 320+
Rolled Oats2 to 330+
Rye2 to 320+
Barley2 to 320+
Shelf-life is for Grain stored oxygen-free in sealed Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or purchased professionally packaged in #10 cans.

Wheat and Hard Grains

Wheat and other hard grains like dent corn were made for storing in buckets because they keep for decades. Hard grains are at the top of my list for budget-friendly food storage of all the foods you can store in a long-term pantry.

The list of hard grains below is not all-inclusive, but it will get you started.

You might notice that certain grains are not included in the list. Remember that grains high in oil content like brown rice have a pretty short shelf-life of 6 months or less. For the average person, they aren’t worth storing in buckets.

List of Wheat & Hard Grains to Store in Buckets

Grain TypeShelf-life in Years
Bucket
With A Lid
Shelf-life In Years
Mylar Bag, Bucket, Lid
and Oxygen Treatment
Hard White Wheat2 to 530
Hard Red Wheat2 to 530
Soft White Wheat2 to 530
Soft Red Wheat2 to 530
All-purpose White Flour2 to 510
Triticale (Hybrid of rye and wheat)2 to 530
Ancient Wheat (Einkorn, Emmer, Spelt)2 to 530
Buckwheat2 to 530
Grain Corn (Field or Dent Corn)2 to 530
Millet2 to 530
Kamut2 to 530
Dry Pasta2 to 530
Shelf-life is for Grain stored oxygen-free in sealed Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or purchased professionally packaged in #10 cans.

Beans

Beans love being stored in buckets, and they are an outstanding addition to any long-term food pantry. Most types of beans will keep for up to thirty years if appropriately packaged, and if poured into a bucket with a lid, they will last two to five years.

Beans store well, and they, and they but will harden over time. Consider storing dry beans with buckets, Mylar, and oxygen absorbers for the most extended shelf-life. Following is a list of beans you can keep in buckets.

Storage Tip: Hard beans can be softened by adding baking soda to cooking water or milled into flour and used as a thickening agent or added to soups or stews.

How Long Does Food Last In Food-grade Buckets?

List of Beans To Store In Buckets


Bean Type
Shelf-life in Years
Bucket
With A Lid
Shelf-life In Years
Mylar Bag, Bucket, Lid
and Oxygen Treatment
Adzuki 2 to 530
Kidney 2 to 530
Pinto 2 to 530
Mung Bean2 to 530
Soybean Dehydrated 2 to 310 to 15
Split Pea2 to 530
Black Turtle Bean2 to 530
Black-eyed pea 2 to 530
Black Bean2 to 530
Navy Bean2 to 530
Lentils 2 to 530
Lima Bean2 to 530
Pink Bean 2 to 530
Garbanzo2 to 530
Cranberry Beans 2 to 530
Pigeon Peas2 to 530
Cannellini 2 to 530
Information Compliments of the USDA

Condiments

Store salt and sugar in a bucket with a lid, and you are good to go. Both of these foods will last longer than you or I. Salt and sugar may get hard, and soak up the flavors around them, so try to keep your bucket sealed to avoid having to break up a five-gallon rock of sugar or salt.

List of Condiments to Store In Buckets

Bean TypeShelf-life In Just a Bucket With A LidShelf-life In Years
Mylar Bag, Bucket, Lid
and Oxygen Treatment
White Granulated SugarIndefiniteNot Recommended
SaltIndefiniteNot Recommended
Pure HoneyIndefiniteNot Recommended

“What Foods Can I Store In a 5-gallon bucket?”

Is a 5-gallon bucket foodsafe?

A 5-gallon bucket is food safe if marked as food safe. Avoid storing foods in a food-grade bucket used to store cleaners, solvents, or anything you wouldn’t want in your food.

“What’s the difference between food and non-food-grade buckets?”

Can I store food in a regular 5-gallon bucket?

You can store food in a regular 5-gallon bucket as long as the food doesn’t contact the plastic. Regular plastic buckets may contain recycled plastics used to hold pesticides and solvents, chemicals you don’t want transferring to your food.

Food-grade buckets shouldn’t be used to store your food if something “not” food grade was previously stored in them.

I suggest using food-grade plastic buckets because they don’t cost any more than the standard Home-depot bucket made from non-grade plastic.

If you decide to store food in a regular bucket, make sure to line the buckets with a food-grade material like Mylar bags to keep food from making contact with the foodstuff.

Why should I use mylar bag with buckets?

Line buckets with Mylar bags and treat with oxygen absorbers if your goal is to stockpile food for long-term emergencies or prepping.

Food stored in Mylar bags five mils or thicker and treated with the correct amount of oxygen absorption protect food from oxygen and light, keeping food for decades longer than if stored in buckets alone. Packaging foods in Mylar with oxygen absorbers also kills bugs, eggs, and pupae, present in most grains, within two weeks.

Remember that the plastic in a bucket wall and lid is not a true oxygen barrier, so oxygen will transfer in and out of the bucket so bugs may not be irradicated and food will go bad quicker.

Learn how to store dry staple foods in buckets. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Mylar bags for food storage: Beginner’s Guide. “