Choosing the Best Buckets/Pails for Long Term Food Storage

Order Wheat and Buckets

by Phil Wenneker

The pails should be made of HDPE (high density polyethylene). This is normally indicated by the letters HDPE being formed into the outside bottom of the bucket. HDPE is also indicated by the number “2” inside the “recycle triangle” that is also formed into the outside bottom of the pail. I prefer white since there is then no consideration for the dye chemicals associated with colored pails (but this is not an overarching concern and I would not oppose using colored pails for short term storage).

Bucket Thickness

The pail wall thickness of the HDPE is something to consider. The wall thickness measure is often formed into the outside bottom of the pail. When it is a decimal number like 0.075 or 0.090 this is indicating the pail wall thickness in thousandths of an inch. Alternatively the wall thickness measure may read something like 70 mils. A mil is one thousandth of an inch. So 70 mils is equal to 0.070 is equal to 70 thousandths of an inch. Standard pails have a wall thickness of 0.075 while premium pails have a wall thickness of 0.090. Thicker walls allow pails to be stacked higher or deeper. A 0.075 can be stacked a maximum of three high or deep for 5 or 6 gallon pails while 0.090 could be stacked four high or deep.

Recycling Used Buckets

Previously used pails should only be used for food storage if all prior uses were for food or potable water. Note that HDPE pails are used for many other materials besides food (like paint and motor oil).


A six gallon pail will hold approximately 45 pounds of wheat berries/seed/grain. A five gallon pail will hold about 37.5 pounds. This something to consider if you are filling pails from 50 pound bags of grain. Generally one will desire to fill the pail as full as possible to make the most effective use of the pail and storage space while concurrently reducing the air/oxygen content in the pail.

Saving Money

It is my experience that the most cost effective way to acquire pails is to acquire one’s early orders of grain already loaded into pails. This saves one the effort of transferring grain from bags to pails, such pails already have the air/oxygen driven out, the price of the pail is reasonable, and the pail can be re-used for storing future grain purchases or whatever.

That said, the pricing on pails and lids from this co-op is very competitive as opposed to executing your own low volume order and experiencing large shipping and tax charges.

Related links:

Gamma Seal Lids

Proper Wheat Storage