GearHow ToSurvival

8 Ingenious Survival Uses for Five Gallon Buckets

The best places to procure buckets, for little or no cost, are: bakeries (that use icing buckets,) ice cream shops, or restaurants (though their buckets often smell like pickles.) Alternatively, food-grade buckets can be purchased at Lowe’s or Home Depot. – Life on the homestead requires a lot of creativity and frugality. The “5 R’s” seem to be constantly in play: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Re-purpose, and Repair. Nothing ever goes to waste on the homestead! Today’s waste simply becomes tomorrow’s resources.

When buying something new is necessary, I usually try and make sure the item fits into one of the following criterion: First, does the item have more than one alternative use or purpose? Second, does the item take up minimal space? Third, is the item inexpensive?


This entry will be about my absolute favorite “tool” on the homestead that incorporates all three criteria! This wonder tool is no other than the five gallon plastic bucket! Not only do these nest neatly into a tidy stack, they also have a seemingly unlimited amount of uses. Whether you are into Homesteading, Preparedness, or Permaculture, five gallon buckets are essential tools of the trade!

Oh, I almost forgot about the third criterion, Price! If purchased from a hardware store, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3 – $5 dollars per bucket. But you can acquire them for FREE from your grocery store’s bakery department. All you have to do is ask nicely for the buckets that their icing came in. Other sources include pickle buckets from hamburger joints, soap buckets from car washes, and lard buckets from Mexican Restaurants. Be prepared to clean them!

So what exactly can you do with a five gallon bucket once you procure them? I thought you would never ask! Below I will showcase some general ideas that I use quite frequently. If you’re keen on any given idea, more detailed tutorials can be found all over the “interweb,” as my dad calls it.

First and foremost, five gallon buckets make outstanding container gardens when you drill drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets. While permaculturists might frown on the idea of container gardens, they are quite useful if you want to keep invasive (opportunistic) plants such as mint from taking over your garden. Additionally, in a grid-down situation you can easily secure your food indoors overnight to protect from potential looters. That brings a whole new meaning to “food security!”

Another clever use of a bucket is by growing edible and medicinal mushrooms in them. Just drill staggering holes in the sides of the bucket, fill the bucket with free coffee grounds from the local corner coffee shop, and inoculate with the spawn of your favorite mushroom.

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