Best Food Grade Buckets and Alternatives

by Tommy Grant

Nobody knows when people first started lugging around buckets, but it was at least over 5,000 years ago. Since then, we’ve learned plenty and have come up with a lot of uses for them. One use they happen to be good at is long-term food storage. There are many types of buckets to consider, but the best food-grade buckets are made of quality materials and have a consistent seal.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best food-grade buckets, tested them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade option. If you need to stash food away for the long haul, one of our picks will seal the deal.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


The Best Food Grade Bucket

5-Gallon BPA-Free Screw Lid

Three-pack, Tight Seal, and Quality-Made

Lock your dry food away in the best food-grade buckets using tight twist seal lids with plenty of strength to stack.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Store your dry food like the pros with screw-lock lids that ensure you are getting a great long-term seal.

We’re highlighting the 3-pack here, but you can get a better cost per bucket when you buy them in larger quantities.

Here is everything you get with these buckets:

  • 3-pack
  • HDPE plastic (food-grade)
  • 5-gallon capacity (each)
  • Screw lid seals
  • Stackable design with handle
  • 12″ x 12″ x 14.75″
  • 3.1 pounds (each)
  • Made in the USA

With simple effectiveness and solid quality, it’s easy to see why the House Naturals 5 Gallon BPA-Free Buckets with Screw Lids 3-pack tops the rest.


Budget Food Storage Bucket

4-Gallon BPA-Free Square

Three-pack, Efficient, and Durable

Rectangles are more efficient than circles, so these 4-gallon buckets let you easily maximize your food storage space.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Box-shaped buckets are stackable and packable, making them ideal for maximizing your storage area. Their snap and fold lids are easy to seal and use and offer plenty of support to stack to multiple levels.

If you plan on storing a variety of goods inside of these, you can get different colors for better organization. The universal prepping color codes could be used, but I personally just use white buckets with tape to identify them.

Here is how these buckets measure up:

  • 3-pack
  • 16 color combination options
  • HDPE plastic (food-grade)
  • 4-gallon capacity (each)
  • Snap lid seals
  • Stackable nesting design with handle
  • 10″ x 11″ x 14″
  • 1.9 pounds (each)
  • Made in the USA

If you are inexpensive buckets that stack and nest to take up the least amount of space, these House Naturals 4-Gallon BPA-Free Square Buckets with Lids are the best option.


Upgrade Food Storage Containers

Gamma2 Vittles Vault

Stackable, Accessible, and Durable

This container marketed for dog food is one of the best options for human food storage as well.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Just because it’s marketed to pet owners doesn’t mean you can’t use this stellar solution for long-term food storage. It is made from (human) food-grade HDPE, has an excellent screw seal at an angle for easy access, and the containers stack.

The 60-pound version is the equivalent of slightly more than three 5-gallon buckets of food storage in a convenient rectangle nesting and stackable profile. Plenty of preppers have upgraded to these food vaults that make it especially easy to rotate through your food stores (which is the best practice).

Here are the specs:

  • HDPE plastic (food-grade)
  • 16-gallon capacity (60lb version)
  • Gamma2 twisting lid seals
  • Stackable and easy-access design
  • 14.5″ x 22″ x 19″
  • 5.9 pounds
  • Made in the USA

If you need the best dry food storage solution, the Gamma2 Vittles Vault is a great choice that many long-time preppers recommend.


Everything We Recommend


The Buckets We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to a few buckets and containers that we compared: Gamma2, House Naturals, ULine, Lowes, Tractor Supply, Home Depot, Leaktite, Century Container, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We considered a wide range of buckets and containers across many different manufacturers. Comparing only food-grade containers is easier than it sounds since it only rules out PVC and Polystyrene. PETE and plastics in the “other” category aren’t the best options, so that narrowed it down even further.

We’re always looking for new and better supplies, so if you have containers that are sturdy and effective, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best food-grade buckets have a few features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Capacity
  3. Seal Type
  4. Durability
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find the perfect container to store your dry food. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the buckets that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a simple storage bucket shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. You can oftentimes store dry goods in the original packaging for long periods, although not as long as sealed with an oxygen absorber.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, even when it comes to food storage. It’s better to diversify your spending to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.

Capacity

What’s the point of a great bucket if it can’t hold very much? Capacity is king when it comes to storage, and food-grade buckets are no different.

When you start storing large amounts in buckets, they can get heavy. You’ll need to plan ahead if you think you may need to move them for access or mobility.

Seal Type

A tight air-tight seal is required to trust any food placed in long-term storage. Temperature fluctuations, humidity, and other factors shouldn’t impact a bucket’s seal.

Some buckets use snap lids with or without gaskets to create a seal. Some of the better brands use screw-type lids so that you can torque the seal down and easily access the contents later without a bung wrench.

Durability

Durability is the main concern since ‘food-grade’ reduces the types of plastics you are comparing. The main types of plastics include:

  • HDPE – high-density polyethylene
  • LDPE – low-density polyethylene
  • PP – polypropylene

HDPE surpasses the other two types in rigid durability, so wall thickness and design of the container are the rest of the equation.

Versatility

Handles and other features improve a bucket’s versatility. Just because a bucket is food-grade doesn’t limit its use to just food. There are many uses for buckets, from food storage to bucket commodes– and everywhere in between.


How to Store Food in a Bucket

First things first, you’ll want to prep the bucket for use. Clean the buckets well with soapy water, rinse them, and let them completely dry. Using a wet bucket is a surefire way to have a mold issue.

Next up, dump the dry food into the bucket that you will be storing. Some of the best foods to store long-term in food-grade buckets include:

  • White Rice – rice is always a staple, and white rice has a longer shelf life.
  • Brown Rice – great for working through meals.
  • Dried Beans – one of the few protein sources that can be bulk stored dry.
  • Salt – there are many types that you can store with a wide range of uses.
  • Flour – useful for a wide range of baking recipes.
  • Rolled Oats – cheap in bulk and lasts for a long time.
  • Sugar – keeps for a long time and even has some first aid uses.
  • Brown Sugar – store supplies that your family eats.

After you’ve filled the bucket, but still left room for the lid, I suggest adding oxygen absorbers. These aren’t always necessary depending on the food type, but it’s better to include them rather than worry about food safety years down the road.

Next, seal the bucket with the gamma-style screw lid or the snap lid. Place it in a cool, dark room for storage. You can stack some models, or use racks for storage.


Who Needs Food-Grade Buckets?

A bucket is an extremely versatile resource. We’re focusing on food storage and food-grade buckets, but we consider those essential for a few kits:

They aren’t essential, but depending on your vehicle type you can consider them for:

If you find yourself with extras, they are useful around the house and usually nest when they aren’t used for convenient storage.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best food-grade buckets are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

Fathallah, F., et al. (2016). Development and Evaluation of Ergonomic Interventions for Bucket Handling on Farms. Human Factors. Volume 58. Issue 5. Pages 758 – 776. (Source)

Gonzalez, M., et al. (2011). Phthalates and Bisphenols Migration in Mexican Food Cans and Plastic Food Containers. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Volume 86. Pages 627 – 631. (Source)

Ogden, L., et al. (2010). Can Grain Be Disinfested In 5-Gal HDPE Buckets Containing Oxygen Absorber Packets? BYU ScholarsArchive. Faculty Publications. Volume 91. (Source)


The Final Word

To take your food storage to the next level, you’ll need bulk food storage- and these are the best containers for it. Make sure you’re keeping up with your water storage and other pantry supplies as well.

Here are a few other gear reviews and guides our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our testing found the House Naturals 5 Gallon BPA-Free Buckets with Screw Lids 3-pack to be the best solution given its value, capacity, seal type, durability, and versatility.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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