Time to give you one of my super frugal food storage secrets. Getting food grade buckets cheap or free. Lots of times you can get bulk foods like oats or wheat or beans in a sack LOTS cheaper than buying it in a can or bucket. But keeping your food in a sack is not a good idea long term. It invites bugs and rodents that can ruin all that good food and then you just paid for mouse food. Not good. If you have access to an LDS cannery, you could rent the canner and can your bulk foods up at your house, but sometimes it’s easier or cheaper or works better for you to put it in a bucket.
Here’s where you want some food grade buckets. There are buckets out there that are not food grade. It’s not a good idea to put your food in them. They can be made from plastics that held paints, tar, etc. Yucky stuff. Food grade buckets have the recycle code “2″ in the triangle. You can purchase these buckets new, or you can find a place that will sell them to you used for way less–usually $1-$2 per bucket and sometimes they just give them to you for free. Yep. True story.
Here’s the catch. The buckets will be random sizes and may or may not have lids, and will rarely be cleaned out, but remember, you don’t have to buy or take any you don’t want. So if uniformity is important to you, just go looking for a specific size and pass up the ones that don’t fit your needs.
Here’s where to get them. Any store that has a bakery section may have buckets for sale. All that delicious chocolate frosting and creamy gooey donut stuffing come to the bakery in buckets. When the buckets are empty, some places just stack the empty buckets in the back hall or wherever waiting for someone to come ask for them. Really, maybe they’re waiting to be thrown away, I don’t know, but all it takes to find out if there are any is to ask, “Hi, do you have any empty plastic buckets?” They’ll either say yes or no or ask you what size you’re looking for. Every store will have a little different policy about their buckets, and they may or may not have any when you are there, so just keep asking. Here’s a few different sizes a friend and I have rounded up lately–tall fat ones (standard 5 gal size), squatty fat ones (3.5 gal, hold 25 lbs of beans just right), and smallish ones ( 2 gal, I split 25 lbs of macaroni between the two and had a bit left over to make dinner):
For storing food, it’s best if the bucket lid has a black rubber gasket around the inside of it. That will give you a better seal than a lid with no gasket. You can also buy a new lid or a gamma seal lid if you want which will fit the larger sizes of bakery buckets. If a bucket comes with no lid or a lid that doesn’t seal well, all is not lost. Buckets are amazingly handy to have around even if they don’t have good lids. We use them to feed the chickens, water the dog, haul grain to the horse and other animals, and for a trash can in the shop. You can also store non-foods in buckets, like a bucket of soap or a bucket of shampoo. Who cares if your lid seals air tight on your bucket of batteries? See?
And if you’re planning on storing foods long term it’s a good idea to use 2-3 oxygen absorbers per bucket when you seal them up to keep the food fresh longer. Approximately 1500-2000 cc of oxygen absorption for a five gallon bucket. You could also put the food in Mylar bags before putting it in your bucket. Really, buckets are useful things and when you can get them for little or no cash out of pocket plus a little time to fetch and wash them, they’re a really good deal.