Free 5 Gallon Buckets With Lids

free-5-gallon-food-grade-bucketsI’m excited to tell you my experience in getting free 5 gallon buckets with lids.  I wanted to use these buckets to store food in case of emergencies as well as use some for medical supplies so they had to be food grade 5 gallon buckets.  After searching online, I found that these can cost anywhere from $5 to as much as $15 per bucket!  

I also found forums that told me there were places you could go where you might be able to get them for free.  So this morning I made some calls and a few extra stops while out and ended up with 8 five gallon food grade buckets and only spent $4.  Below you will find the details.

Types of 5 gallon food grade buckets

It didn’t take long for me to realize that there are basically 2 types of food grade buckets you can get for free from deli’s/restaurants.  These are pickle buckets and frosting buckets.  The pickle buckets obviously need to be cleaned and soaked to remove the pickle smell if you want to store food in them.  Some of the frosting 5 gallon buckets were already cleaned from the deli but the others I had to clean so they would not draw in bugs, ants.. ect.

Where to Get 5 Gallon Buckets Cheap

Some of the places I stopped at offered me their used buckets for just a small fee.  Here’s where I got them.

  • FireHouse Subs – They sell their pickle buckets for just $2 each and donate the money to Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation so that was fine with me to pay the $2 for food grade buckets.  They are also a bright red color which is pretty cool.  They only had one, so I grabbed it.
  • McHappy’s – We have a donut and coffee shop called McHappy’s and they offer their 5 gallon frosting buckets for $3 each, I didn’t buy any of these but might later.
  • Foodland – We have a local grocery/deli called Foodland and was able to pick up 2 – 5 gallon buckets for just $1 each.
  • Lowes – Not sure if they are the cheapest 5 gallon buckets, but Lowes has decent quality food grade buckets online for $3.97 then an extra $1.97 for the lid.
  • Home Depot – Likewise, you can buy the buckets here for a reasonable cost.

Where to Get 5 Gallon Buckets For Free

While out, I made some extra stops and was glad I did because I ended up getting most of my buckets for free.

  • Sam’s Club – Back in their cake area, they had about 5 buckets setting on their sink.  I asked if they give them away or would sell them and they asked me how many I wanted.  I said 2 and they just gave them to me.  Was a great extra stop and I plan on going back for more.
  • Wendy’s – I was able to pick up 1 – 5 gallon pickle bucket from Wendy’s for free while out.
  • Dunkin Donuts – I was told they just throw away all their 5 gallon buckets and couldn’t believe it.  I was able to snatch 2 of them before they tossed them for free.
  • Tim Hortons – Again, they use their buckets for frosting and after asking, they just have me 2 of them and said they would call me when they get more.
  • Chick-Fil-A – Said I can pick one up tomorrow for free.

Unsuccessful Stops To Pick Up Food Grade Buckets

  • Walmart – They said they recycle their buckets
  • McDonalds – They said they don’t give them out
  • Golden Corral – Said they don’t get any 5 gallon buckets?!
  • SubWay – Was told they don’t get pickles in buckets so they didn’t have any.

My suggestion is to find deli’s that make cakes and restaurants that sell baked goods such as donuts as their frosting comes in these buckets.  You will have most success there as well as places like FireHouse Subs that gets lots of pickles.  Speaking of pickles, here’ s the ultimate solution to get the smell of pickels out of buckets.

How To Get The Smell Of Pickles Out of Buckets

FireHouse Subs gave me this recipe to get rid of the pickle smell from their buckets and it works great, just know that if you have quite a few of them, then you will really go through the Murphy Oil soap.

  1. 1/3 cup bleach
  2. 1/3 cup murphy oil soap
  3. 1 gallon hot water

Just rub the inside of the bucket well and let it set for a few hours.  Can also be used for cleaning your bathroom.

Understanding Food Grade Buckets

When storing food in 5 gallon buckets, you want to look on the bottom of the bucket and make sure that the numbers in the triangle are either a 1, 2, 4 or a 5.  The best being the “2”.  Keep in mind that if you are using Mylar bags inside your bucket, you don’t HAVE to have food grade buckets.  But if you want to be extra cautious as I am, then look for a food grade bucket that is solid in color so light does not penetrate it and it’s marked with a 1, 2, 4 or 5.  Most of the buckets you get from deli’s that make cakes and baked goods are #5 which is what I have most of.  If you get pickle buckets, they should be in a #2 bucket, but you will have to get rid of the pickle smell.  I found the best overall buckets to come from FireHouse Subs as they are #2, bright red and have a metal handle, so the $2 is a no brainer.

Hope that helps.  If you know of other places to get buckets or want to share your experience, please leave a comment below as I am by no means an expert!