Food Grade Buckets and Why You Need Them

food grade buckets

Some buckets are labeled food grade.

I see a lot of discussion about storing food in plastic five-gallon buckets and whether or not they are food grade.  This is a topic that concerns me.  There is a lot of misinformation being spread on this subject.

A wide spread rumor is that having the recycling number 2 in the small triangle on the bucket means it is food grade.  This does not mean that it is food grade.  It just refers to how the bucket needs to be recycled.

Many people feel that if they store food in Mylar Bags inside the buckets the food will be unaffected. To the best of my knowledge, this is correct, but I still feel there is an advantage to using food grade buckets.

The difference between food grade and non-food grade is the types of dyes used for coloring and the type of chemicals used to release the buckets from the molds.  It has nothing to do with the sanitary conditions under which they are made.

The problem I have with non-food grade buckets is that in the future you have no idea what that bucket will be used for.  In the future, I intent to use my buckets for storing fresh foods, pickling, brining, processing olives and carrying fresh water.  I don’t know what affect the chemicals and dyes might have on my family or me.  For instance, the salt in brining may leach the chemicals out.  I just prefer not to take the chance.

Food grade buckets are easy to find and often can be obtained for free.  Check with your local bakeries and supermarkets, they often will save them and give them to you for nothing.  The buckets often are not marked as food grade.  The store you purchase them from should tell you if there are food grade or if they contained food products.  Most food grade buckets are white.  i have went so far as to call the manufacturer when there was some doubt.  They were very helpful and provided me with the information I needed.

Sealing Food in 5 Gallon Food Grade Buckets

The other day I had to seal some popcorn and millet in Mylar bags and five-gallon buckets.  It is quite easy.  Open the Mylar bag and put it in the bucket. Fill the Mylar bag with your product to about two inches from the top of the bucket.  You will notice that the bag is a lot taller than the bucket, rather than cut of the excess I seal it right on the edge.  If I open, the bucket to rotate the food this leaves me plenty of material to reseal the bag.

I use an old two-foot metal hand level and an electric iron to seal the bags.  The level is just the right length and thickness to make a good seal.  I do not use my wife’s good iron, some Mylar bags leave residue on the iron. I got the cheapest one they had at Walmart.  This keeps me out of trouble.

After putting in the oxygen absorbers, I set the level across the top of the bucket and lay the Mylar bag against it.  I then iron it to make the seal.  Leave a small opening in one corner.  This permits you to squeeze out the excess air. You then make a diagonal seal across the corner.  Since I get my oxygen absorbers from the LDS cannery and they are the 300CC type, I always put in 5 absorbers.  You can get 2000cc absorbers in Disaster Stuff in Roseville.  Fold the Mylar Bag into the bucket. Put the lid on the bucket, label it and you are done.

The Long term Bug Free Storage of Dry Foods

Freezing dry foods as recommended on many internet sites can be an effective means of killing insects.  The problem is that there are questions about whether or not freezing kills the eggs of all the different types of insects that can infest grain.  Remember insect eggs survive outdoors in cold snowy parts of the country.  So if you use this method, it would be a good idea to watch your products to see if insects do show up.

Personally, I like oxygen absorbers, but even with them, you have to be careful.  Studies conducted by BYU show that oxygen deprivation is an effective method of disinfestations, when the oxygen content is held below 1% for at least 12 days.  The thing you have to be careful of is the type of container you use. Number 10 steel cans are an effective and reliable container.  Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) (Recycling number 1) has also proven to be an effective container to be used with oxygen absorber packets for disinfestations, but for long-term storage the buckets will breathe.  High-density polyethylene (HDPE) (recycling number 2) 5 gal buckets are very popular storage containers for dry foods.  Tests show that oxygen absorbers will not reliably keep the oxygen levels below 1% for 12 days unless you use Mylar bags.

Personally, I use Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers for any dry products I store in plastic buckets other than sugar or salt.  This is the best method to store your foods for long term storage and maintain peak nutrition. I know it adds a small amount of cost, but when you need your storage, it will be worth it

Physical Storage of buckets

Do not stack buckets more than 2 to 3 high.  More than that, weight becomes a problem and the lids can break collapsing inward.

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8 Responses to Food Grade Buckets and Why You Need Them

  1. LindaG says:

    Thanks for this information.
    I find the food grade buckets from a local ag store actually cheaper than the five gallon buckets elsewhere.
    How do you close your buckets? The flat lids, or do you use something else?

    • admin says:

      I normally seal them with the flat lids they come with. Since you are using Mylar bags it is just to protect the bags. Sometimes for convenience I will use the gamma lids.

  2. I never knew that the small triangle at the bottom of plastic buckets does not mean they are food grade packaging. We are preparing a large supply of food storage to go in our basement. Thanks for the tips on finding the right kind of bucket for storing food.

  3. Daniel says:

    I’m confused about a few things;

    1) What difference does it make if the plastic is ‘food grade’ if the food is in mylar? Shouldn’t any good plastic bucket that keeps out moisture and air do the trick? It isn’t in contact with any food, after all.

    2) For something like pasta or rice, is mylar even necessary, so long as you have a food grade bucket with oxygen absorbers and a seal on the bucket, what big benefit is there from having the mylar?

    Thanks for your thoughts

    • Noah says:

      If you’re using a mylar bag as a liner, the bucket can be any type of plastic. I’ve never heard of a non-food-grade plastic affecting food inside a mylar bag unless, perhaps, the mylar bag tears or a rodent chews through it, etc. Mylar does a better job than a plain plastic bucket in protecting food from oxygen and light. Both will deteriorate food. Having said that, we have wheat and beans stored in food-grade buckets without any mylar, just a few oxygen absorbers.

      • Daniel says:

        Thanks! That seemed like the obvious answer to me in regards to some dried goods like beans, rice, wheat. Even pasta in it’s original packaging, I wager.

        • Blair says:

          I had the same question along with how I might be able to figure out if my containers were properly sealed up to allow the O2 absorbers to properly work (5 gal. buckets with Gamma lids). Here is a response I got elsewhere. Thoughts?

          “Heya, thanks for the question. 2 things…first, you’d normally use 7-8 of this sized absorber for a 5 gallon bag. However, these won’t work correctly in many buckets. If your bucket has a gasket to make it airtight, then the contraction caused by the absorber will likely cause the gasket to lose its seal and let air back in. If your bucket doesn’t have a gasket seal, then it is not airtight, and using absorbers won’t help. This is why most folks use Mylar bags in their buckets. The bucket is to protect the bag, and the bag protects the food. Thanks!”

          • Noah says:

            Blair, some of this is accurate and some I disagree with. I have had many buckets of 5-gallon food, some with the mylar bag/bucket combination and some without, and have never had an instance of the contraction mentioned here. The mylar bag/bucket is preferred for the the reasons given and is my best recommendation. However, if you use the proper size of oxygen absorbers, there shouldn’t be a problem with the bucket losing its seal.

            I don’t know what size of absorbers you have, but there’s more to this than just “x-number of oxygen absorbers”. A lot depends on the type of food you’re going to store. In the case of macaroni pasta vs. cornmeal, for example, there will be comparatively large gaps of air between the pieces of macaroni that don’t exist in cornmeal. So, you would need more or larger absorbers in the macaroni bucket. This chart will help you figure out more precisely your oxygen absorber needs per bucket,

            Put on your calendar a “bucket check” reminder so you can physically and visually check not only the seals but the condition of the buckets themselves for any sign of leaks, contraction, or expansion. Good luck!

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