AYWtGS: How to Get FREE to Low-Cost Five-Gallon Buckets for Food Storage

In this post, A Year Without the Grocery Store talks about How to Get FREE to Low-Cost Five-Gallon Buckets for Food Storage as well as types of lids.

When people talk about what you need to buy as a prepper, I once heard it boiled down to: “Beans, Bullets, Bandaids.”  I believe it was James Wesley Rawles of The Survival Blog that coined the phrase.  The “Beans” in the saying represent your food storage.  And if you have food storage……you probably have or use five-gallon buckets (or sometimes six-gallon).

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How to Get FREE to Low-Cost Five-Gallon Buckets for Food StorageFive-gallon buckets have become expensive!

But those can be stinking expensive!  Have you looked at prices for them?  Amazon has 5-packs of buckets WITH lids for $53.99.  This makes the buckets $10.80.  If you’re wanting to purchase a single 5-gallon bucket from Amazon, the best price that you’ll find is $13.99.

Another place that I’ve had friends purchase five-gallon buckets from is Wal-Mart.com.  On Wal-Mart.com, you can purchase a 10-pack of five-gallon buckets WITH lids for $120.99.  This makes them $12.00 each.

I personally have purchase five-gallon buckets WITHOUT lids through Azure Standard.  A 10-pack of buckets WITHOUT lids for $72.55.  So the cost per bucket works out to be $7.26.  But then you will need to purchase additional lids.  A regular ‘clamp on’ lid costs $3.25 each. For specialized lids called Gamma Seal lids (I’ll cover these lids later), it’s an additional $8.02.  So the cost per bucket for clamp-on lids is $10.51.  Your cost per bucket for Gamma Seal lids is $15.28.

You Can Get Buckets Cheaper!

A friend of mine recently talked about Covid Scalping.  One of the reasons that buckets (and canning jars, and canning lids, and so many other things) are so expensive is because the demand for them has gone up exponentially because of Covid.  So this – in many ways – is an example of that Covid scalping that was mentioned.

But there is another alternative to paying exorbitant rates for buckets!  You can get buckets for either FREE or very cheap.  Today while I was at Wal-Mart, I swung by the bakery.  When I was greeted by a bakery worker, I asked if they had any empty five-gallon frosting buckets.  They had three.  It took her a few minutes to find them and bring them out.  Now before today, when I had gotten these buckets from Walmart, they were free.  Today, however, when she brought them out, they had a $1 price tag printed for each of them.

What I have discovered to this point is that while you can still get buckets for free at some places, some places have begun charging a marginal amount.  In our area, we can still get buckets free at Kroger and Schnucks.  Walmart now charges $1, and Costco charges $2 locally.

The best way to figure out if a store charges and how much they charge is to call them.  It’s also the best way to find out if they have any buckets to sell/give away so that you don’t drive there to find out that they don’t have any to give you.

Bucket Lids

I know that this sounds a little unusual when talking about getting buckets for free.  But these things actually tie together.  There are three main types of bucket lids that I’ve come across.  Some of them are better for food storage than others.  So if you get your buckets for free, you may still need to purchase lids depending on what you’re using your buckets for and what type of lid came with your free (or cheap) buckets.

How to Get FREE to Low-Cost Five-Gallon Buckets for Food StorageShallow snap-on lids

When I got my lids from Walmart today, this is the type of lid that came with the buckets.  These lids have a lip that measures about 3/4″ deep.  These lids are fine for long-term food storage.  In other words, if you’re going to put food into mylar bags and use oxygen absorbers, this is a fine lid.  If, however, you plan just to use the bucket for short-term food storage of large quantities of foods, don’t use this lid.

Deep snap-on lids  How to Get FREE to Low-Cost Five-Gallon Buckets for Food Storage

These are the type of lids that you can purchase from Azure Standard and they measure just about 1″ all the way around.  First off, these lids will fit on the same buckets as the 1/2″ deep lids do.  This means that if you get free or cheap buckets with the 1/2″ deep lids and you want to do short-term food storage of large quantities of foods like oats or wheat, you can use these lids to do so.  You can get your buckets free and purchase your lids from somewhere like Azure.

Gamma Seal Lids

These lids cost the most of any of the lids, but there is a reason for it.  These lids come in two pieces.  The outer ring snaps down on your five-gallon bucket – or even your six-gallon bucket.  The inside part of the lid screws into the part that snaps onto the bucket.  Why these bucket lids are so amazing is that you can easily use them for short-term or long-term food storage.  These will keep the air and critters out, but will allow you access to your short-term food storage very easily.  That is part of the reason that these lids cost so much more.

If you purchase Gamma Seal lids from Amazon, these lids cost $68/6 or $11.33 each.  Azure Standard, however, has these same gamma seal lids in a 12-pack for $79.45 or $6.62 each.

Cleaning Your Buckets

Before you can use the buckets that you get for free or cheap, you will need to make sure that you clean them.  When I get buckets, I go through a two-step process to clean them out properly.

First off, you want to make sure that you clean out your buckets with warm soapy water.  I like to use Dawn dish soap as it removed the frosting residue from the buckets very well.

After I’ve cleaned the buckets out with dish soap and water, I then clean it out with a solution of bleach and water.  The dish soap will clean out the residue, but the bleach solution will take care of any bacteria.  I use 1 T of bleach and enough water to cover the bottom of the bucket and then use a rag that you don’t mind getting bleach on and wipe down the entire inside of the bucket.

Once you have done that, dry the bucket out and it’s ready to use whether you are using it for long-term food storage or short-term food storage.

Why Would You Use Buckets for Short-Term Food Storage?

I’ve mentioned several times that you may want to use these same five-gallon buckets for short-term food storage, but why might you want to do it?

Purchasing foods in bulk makes sense not just for long-term food storage, but for short-term food storage as well.  We purchase items like oats in 25 – 50-pound bags because it’s cheaper than buying the canisters of oatmeal.  We can store these items short-term in buckets and save ourselves money because we are storing our food in five-gallon buckets…