8 Ingenious Homesteading Uses for Five Gallon Buckets

8 Ingenious Homesteading Uses for Five Gallon Buckets

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From Marjory Wildcraft’s GrowYourOwnGroceries.org

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.

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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 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!

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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!”

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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.

Five gallon buckets also make for a great tool bag. Hardware stores sell organizers specifically made for buckets that have all kinds of compartments. The outside sleeve compartments of the bucket are ideal for your smaller tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers. On the inside of the bucket you can store your heavy duty tools like your hammers, axes, and saws.

You can even make wine with a five gallon bucket. Simply pour in some apple cider (sans preservatives), sugar, and yeast. Drill a hole into the lid, insert a rubber grommet, and then insert an airlock bubbler (available for $1 at most homebrew stores). The Big Bird/Cookie Monster style explanation is that the yeasties eat the sugar and essentially poop out carbon dioxide and alcohol. The airlock bubbler allows the carbon dioxide to escape, but prevents oxygen or other contaminants from entering your wine. There are a few more specific steps and ingredients that go into producing quality wine, but this is the basics of how wine is made! People drink alcohol in both good times and bad. Wine making can prove to be a very valuable and profitable skill in a grid down scenario.

One of my favorite uses of a five gallon bucket is for a vermicompost system (a worm bin). I have not seen anyone out there use my design, but I feel that it is the best design out there that uses a single five gallon bucket. If there is enough interest, I will make a YouTube video and write up with detailed instructions. Red wiggler worms are veracious eaters. I feed them my shredded junk mail and food scraps. In return, they give me “black gold.” If mushroom compost is the Cadillac of compost, Worm Castings are the Rolls Royce of compost!

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In addition to vermicompost, compost tea happens to be the secret of many master gardeners. And with a five gallon bucket, you can brew your own compost tea right at home. All you need is an aeration air pump, some worm castings (compost), non-chlorinated water, and a few other ingredients. After two days of brewing it is ready to spray on your crops using a pump sprayer. Your plants will grow twice as big, twice as fast!

Have a mouse problem, but don’t have the heart to set out a traditional mouse trap? Well you can make a catch & release mouse trap out of a bucket and a few pieces of wood and peanut butter for bait. The contraption reminds me of the board game “mousetrap” I used to play as a child!

Lastly, you can make a heavy duty water filter from two 5 gallon buckets stacked on top of each other. The top bucket has a ceramic water filter that filters out the dirty water dumped into it. The bottom bucket has a water spigot that allows you to extract the newly filtered water.

I hope you enjoyed some of the examples I have provided of why five gallon buckets are the absolute best and most versatile tool for homesteading, preparedness, and permaculture. Five gallon buckets not only serve as a container to grow your food in, they can be used in creating the fertilizer that enriches your food. To top it off you can use buckets to collect and ultimately store your bountiful harvests!

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John Bush and his lovely wife, Catherine Bleish, along with their two children, have been working towards a more sustainable and voluntary life for the past several years. In addition to getting off the grid, John and his wife also operate Brave New Books in Austin, TX, John also is a co-host on Be Brave Radio which airs every Saturday from 11 AM to 2 PM CST on LogosRadioNetwork.com and in Austin, TX on 89.1 FM and hosts a bitcoin podcast called SovereignBTC. You can see the family reality show here:

19 COMMENTS

  1. I would love to see your design for the worm bin.

  2. I would love to see your design for the worm bin. Thanks for the article

  3. What veggies do you store in buckets?
    I am trying to find a way to store potatoes and our basement is too warm and garage is too cold. Any suggestions? Thank you. Loved your article.

  4. Id love to see how you make a vermicomposter in a bucket. That would take up much less space and I happen to have a few buckets already. Email me if you do a video. Thanks!

  5. Great article! I would be very interested in learning how to make the worm bin from a 5 gallon bucket. My wife and I just started looking into this and it seems like there are a lot of different designs out there and some expensive contraptions as well. Thank you for all the information!

    Conrad

  6. I would be very interested in seeing the vermicompost project.

  7. love a link to your worm video!

  8. I live in an apartment and grow my garden in these buckets. One plant per bucket. I am very interested in the vermicompost process. Can you please send me plans on how this is done?

    Thank you very much!

  9. We are a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
    Your site offered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done an impressive job and our entire community will
    be grateful to you.

  10. I simply could not go away your website prior to suggesting
    that I actually loved the usual info an individual
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  11. If you’re planning on using a plastic bucket for winemaking, be fussy about what it was used for previously. A carwash soap bucket would be highly likely to introduce off-flavors at a minimum to your wine and is not likely to be food grade plastic.

  12. I am very interested in the vermiculture bucket. Please email me when you develop a tutorial.

  13. I am very interested in your vermicompost bucket. Please email me when you have a tutorial.

  14. We made the bucket worm bin and have been using it for a few months. We have some questions for the creator of this or other users but can’t find a source to discuss some of the issues.

  15. “catch & release mouse trap”
    All you are doing is giving the mouse a free trip. Unless you take it far away, it will just find it’s way back. And I can tell you from personal experience, there is no shortage of mice. One fall I trapped at least 6 or 7 pair that were trying to make their homes in my basement. Each time I got rid of 1 pair, another pair moved in. It wasn’t until the freeze that I managed to rid my basement (until the next fall).

    • Fill the bucket half-way with water and make it simply, a ‘catch trap”.

  16. I’m interested in the instructions for these uses. That was the reason I came to the article anyway. This was just a what you can do not a how to.
    I have one bucket I keep clean and use it JUST for brining meats including turkeys.

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