The first time I thought about using 5-gallon buckets to organize my food storage, I wondered which buckets I should buy. The orange ones from Home Depot are a great price. Can you store food in Home Depot buckets?
Food should not be stored in an orange Home Depot bucket, as it’s not made of food-safe plastic. Even temporarily storing sealed food in orange buckets is still not ideal. Other pails may be okay. Home Depot clearly labels their buckets as food grade or not to help customers stay safe.
Okay – so the orange buckets (despite their great price) aren’t a great choice for storing food, as they’re not food grade. But here are some ways to figure out which buckets ARE food grade – and where they are at Home Depot (or anywhere else). Ready? Keep reading – and we’ll cover all of this and more!
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Home Depot’s Orange Buckets Are Not Rated Safe for Storing Food
The orange bucket (called the Homer bucket) is a classic mainstay of the Home Depot life. And while their stores don’t quite list the same information as their website, a quick website search for the classic, Home Depot orange “Homer” bucket shows this important information in the product overview:
Buckets are not food gradefrom Home Depot’s Homer bucket product overview
Okay, so technically that particular bullet point is about halfway down the list. To go see it in a new window now, just click here. It’s kind of buried in there, but it’s an important point. Homer buckets, while great for painting or any other project, aren’t made from food-grade plastics.
As such, they aren’t great (or even safe) for storing food. But could you use them for holding packaged food storage? Or for temporarily storing food?
Can I Use Home Depot Buckets for Food Storage?
Could you? Yes, especially if you are using a food-grade plastic liner or pre-sealed food. But should you? Probably not – it’s a paint bucket, not a food-grade plastic.
And if you’ve already used your Homer bucket for paint or another job that would have left the bucket contaminated? Please do not ever store food in an already-used bucket. That’s just asking for a problem – and contaminated food. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve washed that bucket (food-grade or not). It’s a no-go if it’s been used for other projects.
Now, if you’ve got some food that’s stored in a food-grade, non-leaching container, then it might be okay to store it in a Homer bucket for a little while.
For example, those #10 cans full of wheat might be totally safe to store in a Homer bucket. But that won’t save you a whole lot of space, as you’re only going to be able to store a couple of those in there, max. You’d be far better storing those #10 cans in a sturdy cardboard box that you can stack up on a shelf.
You might also be okay to store a Mylar bag full of food you’ve freeze-dried in a Homer bucket. However, for an extra $1, you could buy a food-grade 5-gallon bucket. So why not spend the extra buck and be certain your food storage is safe?
Here’s a peek at how we store our freeze-dried food. Spoiler: we don’t use Homer buckets.
We use food-grade 5-gallon buckets to hold our bulk items we’re actively using, though. They hold our wheat, rice, sugar, and flour. I did swap the plain lids for twisting gamma lids, though, as they’re much easier to use. Gamma lids are twisting, sealing lids – click here to see what they look like on Amazon. An important note, though, before you click that link: from what I’ve seen, Home Depot and IFA both sell gamma lids (or an equivalent product) for much less.
Now, back to storing food in a Homer bucket. What about storing fresh food in a Homer bucket. Could you do that, even temporarily? It depends.
Some years ago, I used a clean Homer bucket to hold produce while actively harvesting food in my garden. It made my husband nervous, so I swapped the Homer bucket for a food-grade one from IFA. Why an IFA food-grade bucket? Well, that was before I knew that some Home Depots sell food-grade buckets.
And we’ll get to that in a moment. But first – let’s talk about the difference between regular (Homer) and food grade 5-gallon buckets.
What’s the Difference Between Regular and Food Grade Buckets?
Not all 5-gallon buckets are created equal. Some use food-grade plastics. Some use plastic that’s not rated safe to hold or be around food. And other buckets (of both food-grade and dirty jobs style intended uses) have different thicknesses.
Here’s what I can tell, based on my research. Most “project” buckets are made of 70 mm thick regular plastic. Food-safe buckets are made from 90 mm, food-grade plastics.
In other words, there are a lot of 5-gallon bucket options out there. The main and important difference, though, is the type of plastic used to make the bucket.
Plastic that is safe to be around and hold food is just ever so slightly different than a regular plastic. And so if you’re going to want to use that bucket to hold food, make sure you’re using a food-safe plastic bucket.
Look – I can’t tell you much about the differences beyond that. I’d have to ask my chemistry friends to explain it more. But when they tell me that there is an appreciable difference? I believe them. Especially since the FDA agrees. If you really want to read what the FDA says about food packaging, you can click here to open a new window and see their guidelines.
How Can I Tell if a 5 Gallon Bucket is Food Safe or Not?
5-gallon buckets are supposed to be labeled as food safe or as not graded safe for food. That way, you aren’t guessing if it’s safe or not.
Here’s my rule of thumb to see if a 5-gallon bucket is safe for food: if the bucket doesn’t say it’s food-grade safe on it, assume it isn’t. And always verify the bucket’s food safety rating by checking the display and/or the website’s listed information.
Remember how we looked up the Homer bucket on Home Depot’s site? It’s been labeled as not graded for food. It’s not on the bucket, but it is on the website in the product information.
However, not all stores have good online information. So if that’s the case, check the display information. Or see what’s on the bucket itself. Food-grade buckets are usually labeled as such. Asking an employee is an option, but don’t count on this as a reliable option. Most employees don’t memorize which plastics are graded as food safe.
Where Can I get Food Grade 5-Gallon Buckets?
As I’ve looked on Home Depot’s website at various times, they have sold food-grade buckets at my local store from time to time. To date, they’re all white. However, not all white buckets are food-safe. So make sure you’re double-checking – even if the bucket is white.
Personally, I like to get my food-safe 5-gallon buckets from IFA. Home Depot only has them sometimes, but IFA (a local feed store) has them all the time. So any time I need a food-graded, plastic, 5-gallon bucket? I head to IFA – and I grab the bucket and a gamma lid from the food storage section of the store.
How Do You Store Food in a 5 Gallon Bucket?
First, make sure that your 5-gallon bucket is rated as safe for food.
Then, decide if you want to add a food-grade plastic liner to the inside of the bucket. They’re a good idea if you live in a humid environment – as they add an extra layer of protection against humidity. You may also want to use an oxygen or moisture absorber.
Add your food and cover the bucket with the lid of your choice. Open and use the stored food as needed.
What is the Best Lid for Food Storage in a 5-Gallon Bucket?
In my experience, not all 5-gallon buckets come with lids. And not all plastic lids are rated as food-grade.
If food-grade buckets do come with a lid, it’s a very basic (but rated food safe) one that’s next to impossible to get off the bucket unless you’ve got this bucket lid opener (click here to see the price on Amazon). I like the yellow version because it’s harder to lose.
However, if you’d like to skip the hassle of trying to find your bucket opener every time you need to get some flour, then the absolute-best lid option for a 5-gallon bucket is a gamma lid (click here to see what it looks like on Amazon). Locktite sells a similar lid, though I prefer the Gamma brand. Both are rated as food-grade plastics, but feel free to always double-check my work.
I prefer the gamma brand as it has four gripping sides – making it easier to turn no matter how it’s aligned. Locktite only has two gripping sides, though that may be sufficient for you. With small kids helping out, I like having all four options.
In any case, I actually don’t recommend you buy the Gamma lids (or Locktite lids) from Amazon, even through my links above. Why? One simple reason: cost.
Gamma and Locktite lids are between $6-8 if you buy them in-person at Home Depot or, in my case, at the local IFA feed store. Amazon sometimes has them in this price range, but it’s definitely something you need to price check.
So if it is that price online, go ahead and snag it. Otherwise, head to Home Depot or your local feed store to grab one.
Can You Refrigerate Boiled Water? Putting boiling water in the fridge to cool is possible but not recommended. Hot dishes (and liquids) in the fridge raise the fridge’s temperatures to unsafe levels – for both the whole fridge and surrounding foods. This can promote bacterial growth and the risk of food poisoning. For more information, read my article on why this is unsafe and can also break your fridge (and what to do instead).
Can You Store Food Outside in the Winter? Storing food outside is specifically mentioned by the FDA to be unsafe. However, there are a few ways to make use of the cold to safely cool and store your food. Read my complete guide to storing food outside in the winter for more information.
Can You Store Food Under the Sink? Storing food under the sink is never recommended, as it shortens the shelf life of food and can contaminate the food with chemicals, cleaners, or germs. For more information on why under-sink food storage isn’t safe (and what to do instead), read my article on it here.