free five-gallon buckets

Free Five-gallon Buckets are Yours for the Asking

I have recently received several email inquires about how to get hold of inexpensive or free five-gallon buckets.  Now I have a lot of five gallon buckets, some I have paid for, but many that I have gotten for free.

Let’s talk about good sources for purchasing five-gallon buckets first.  Both Home Depot and Lowes have good quality buckets on sale for a reasonable price.  But they are not all food grade.  Unless they are specifically labeled as food grade, assume that they are not.  If they are food grade they will normally have a sticker that says food grade.  Home Depots orange buckets are not food grade.  I even talked to the manufacture to be sure.

In our area, a good place to purchase food grade buckets is the local Winco.  They often stock Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers and Gamma lids as well.

But let’s talk about free five-gallon buckets.

Both the nearest Sam’s Clubs and Costco have been good sources for buckets. Go back to their cake baking areas.  Ask and they will often give you a bucket or two.  When I was in need of free five-buckets, I used to ask whenever I went to the supermarket.  The bakery and deli departments are the best places to get them.  Not every store would give them to us, some recycle their buckets, but it was surprising how many would give them to you. Sometimes the buckets would be in various sizes running from about one gallon up to six gallons.

Here is a list of locations in which we found free five-gallon buckets.

  • Bakeries
  • Delis
  • Construction sites
  • Supermarkets
  • Coffee Shops
  • Farm Stores
  • Restaurants
  • School Cafeterias
  • Car Washes
  • Buffets

We had our best luck at deli’s and bakeries.  Once people found out we wanted them they often saved them for us.  If you have friends that work in any of the above listed businesses, they are often good sources.  You can think of an excuse for needing them to protect your operational security.

The one thing we always do with our buckets is mark them to show whether or not they are food grade.  Most of the time it is pretty easy to tell when you first get the free five-gallon buckets, the ones from the stores that held food normally need to be cleaned out.

If you are in doubt, mark them as non food grade.  Here is a link to another post that tells you why you need food grade buckets.  Food Grade Buckets and Why You Need Them

Have fun collecting your free five-gallon buckets.


6 thoughts on “Free Five-gallon Buckets are Yours for the Asking”

  1. thanks I never would have thought of that i will check with some local restaurants . all I new was ace hardware sold them but there probably not food grade.

  2. Its amazing what you can get just by asking. Many places have to pay to get rid of stuff like this that is just trash to them. I saw a guy with a bio diesel engine that went to restaurants to get their used oil for free. Then he would convert it into usable bio diesel fuel. Your advice also works well for cardboard boxes.

  3. The stores are often no longer offering buckets, even if you are willing to pay for them. I have been to several over the past few months, and all of them said they were no longer doing this. Some just put them in their dumpsters, and to go through those is illegal here. Others are using them in house for their janitorial staff. It is ridiculous that they will trash them over even asking a nominal price for them to those who are willing to take them out of the garbage system and put them to good use.

    1. That’s interesting. I haven’t tried getting them lately, but will start asking around. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. I tried to get them from local stores, and big box stores. They all say the same thing. “We are saving them to give to schools for recycling”.
    “We are no longer allowed to give them away to the public”.
    I like them for grand children’s toys and games. I label them and all the parts and pieces stay together. If anyone figures out a place to get them please advise.

    1. I think whether or not you can get the buckets for free or at a very low cost depends on location. Quite a few people have contacted me to say they can get them at Firehouse Subs, Shipley’s Donuts (or maybe other donut places), Brookshire’s bakery, Walmart bakery, and BBQ restaurants. It helps to know why kinds of foods come in the buckets, so you know where to ask: pickles, frosting, fillings for cakes and donuts, and I’m sure there are others.

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