(video) Most Overlooked Homestead Tool; The Lowly Bucket

This video shows the most common and under appreciated tool on your homestead – but it is a critical item.  For those of you with lists of things to stock up on, this is definitely one to add.  Without a few of these around, believe me, your workload will be much more difficult.  Fortuantely these aren’t that expensive, and you can often get free ones.  Watch this video to find out just how long they last, what they are good for, and why you should be appreciative of the – lowly bucket.

Here is a link to that off-grid air conditioning system that I mentioned in the video. Off-grid A/C

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This post was written by Marjory


  • Jon Gallo says:

    The only buckets I use are from bakers. I befriended a worker at a local coffee/donut shop and got buckets for free!!!!!!!!!!!! They were going to throw out all the buckets that contain frosting. They are food grade quality buckets and are free!

    Try your local donut shop.

    Take Care

    Jon Gallo
    Grand Island, NY

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Jon, awesome info.


  • Howard Boldt says:

    Good point about durable buckets. Don’t forget about stainless steel. These are sometimes on sale for a reasonable price and if they’re made of thick enough material, should last a lifetime. Also saw canvas buckets recently, which are very portable (can be folded up) and can be handy. Not really great for homestead use, but more for camping. I suppose people might also get back to making buckets out wood when hard times come. This seems a nice, useful craft. Perhaps after some years of the long emergency existing buckets will become rare, so a demand for those made of wood and other materials may come about. Thanks for your efforts. – H

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Howard, yes, I bet a lot of older crafts will become a valued work trade in the future. There will be lots of surprising opportunities, as well as, well lots of difficulty.


    2. Maritha says:

      I had a good connect with the local dump. I scored several stainless steel pans and metal buckets. The pans we use with water to cool the chickens in Texas. This is a great series idea Marjory. Also loved your gardening with guns article!! With a SHTF scenario, there are many things that become absolutely necessary! May I suggest also in one’s spare time making sand bags out of old material and string from feed bags. 16″ x 24″ is standard and you can use an old street caution cone for filling it quickly, takes 2 people and a shovel. This is a “must have” in a time of need and hundreds can be stored in a small place in an attic or shelf. Keep up the good work, this one also could save lives!

  • Leo says:

    I’ve found that black plastic products will last far longer than any other colour. Clear plastic and white plastic are the fastest to degrade when subjected to UV.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Thanks you Leo. White and clear also grow alge and yuck faster.

  • John Galt says:

    If you could identify what kind of plastic the black ones are, it would be helpful. Where did you find them?
    A couple things that are useful for maintaining metal (buckets & etc)
    1: phosphoric acid, available from home Depot etc chemically converts rust into a black, cold galvanized surface. Great product.
    2: Rustoleum makes a cold galvanize zinc spray paint that is very good. Has a matte gray finish.

  • Sheila says:

    Yes!!! Buckets are wonderful. I have about 30 5-gallon plastic buckets that I bought from the local Walmart bakery for $1 each. They get frosting and creams in them, so they are food-grade quality. But I’ve used them often for many chores around the yard, everything from transporting dirt to harvesting lettuce. If you get them with the lids for long term storage of everything from food to ammunition, you will want to get a special lid opener to save your fingernails. I even have 2 buckets set aside with with toilet seat lids for emergency potty use! You just can’t have enough buckets around! ha!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      That is a great idea for sourcing – the Wal Mart bakery…


  • Sheila says:

    Wow! I just realized the same thing, and we can even be at a serious loss without them too. I really like the metal buckets, they work great for me, and I look forward to seeing how your new buckets work. Can you tell us who makes them? I would like to give one a try too.
    Thank you, Great video!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Sheila,

      Hmm, Iook and see if the tag is still there. I bought it at Tractor supply. They are thick and strong.

  • gwyn says:

    Regarding the black buckets that are made of the same heavy rubber material as the feed pans, I have been using them for more than 15 years to feed my horses and for general use. The buckets themselves are still good as new, but about half of them have lost their metal handles.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      15 years? Yeah, the handles are the weakest part.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • Jack says:

    Hi M. I’m in my mid 80’s and have been preaching ‘bucket importance’ for the past 20 some years… I actually have buckets that I’ve had for 40 years and am still using on a daily basis… I not only use them for all the stuff you mentioned but for quite a few others as well… turn a 3 gal. pvc bucket up side down and it’s a good base for a 3 gallon double wall galvanized poultry waterer, like the one behind you in your video. I’ve got galvanized buckets I bought in Mexico (where they make really good galvanized stuff) over 40 years ago, before you could buy cheap PVC buckets. One good source of less expensive heavier plastic buckets is in wholesale grocery/reastaurant supply stores, altho not quite as thick cost much less than half of what the real thick ones cost in the feed store. On our farm we have 3 residences and several workshops that are all heated by wood stoves and in each we have a set of several nested buckets for ashes that won’t catch fire if you happen to put hot coals in them… you can also put some cold ashes in the bottom of an empty one to insulate the bottom of bucket so it won’t burn the wood floor under the bucket when you do put really hot stuff. I have a special section in one of our tool sheds just for buckets. I also keep a couple broken broken thru negligent or careless handling as an example when I’m training newbies who come here to work on the farm.
    You may or may not know that “containers” were one of the most important breakthroughs in the evolution of civilized society… 1st gatherers used baskets for collecting seeds, roots, plants etc. for their food, then later lined baskets with mud or pitch from pine trees to hold liquids, mainly water for drinking and cooking. At some point a mud lined basket got burned in the fire pit accidently and how to fire pottery was discovered by accident… and as you follow the advance of civilization thru the eons it is the advances in containers of one sort or another that parallel advances in our comfort levels. Wheel barrows and carts were just containers that allowed one to ‘carry a bigger basket’ from one place to another with less effort… then of course animals, (goats, oxen and horses)pulled even larger “baskets” and if you use your imagination just a bit were the predecessors of trucks and cars.
    I’ve lectured till blue in the face to handle buckets ‘gently’.. we easily have over a hundred buckets here on our little 8 and a half acres, many of which are used multiple times daily.
    Certainly glad to hear someone else singing their praises. Keep up the good work.

    Jack in N. N.Mex.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Jack,

      thank you so much for your post. I try to keep the videos fairly short which means I don’t get everything int here – I use buckets fo all kinds of things too. As I said, I am always looking around for a bucket – they are so useful.

      I do need to take better care of mine. Hah, and yes, I use them till they fall apart finding much use for them with broken handles, cracks, or splits.

      I will have a lot more to say about containers. We take so much for granted and containers are really magical in a way.

      Andy yes, your comments about our civilization and containers is right on. There is no way to store grain without clay pots. Rodents can eat through or dig to anything else. The relationship with cats helped a lot too! LOL.

      Thanks so much for your support and comments.

  • Back on the retired farm I grew up on.
    We used a same size galvanise bucket, seems for-ever. It was used to place kitchen food craps in under the out-side terris. It had a good life in those conditions. Back then we dump the craps in a compost pile, burn the burnable’s in a burning barrow then took the rest to the City dump. I now use buckets from Wal-mart & Home Depo. Ya, heat
    ruin’s every thing. Wow have I heard those words be-for…
    Nice touch. Buckets or container’s they were a basic need in our simpler past. You got to get water some how. Buckets and water went hand in hand or across the shoulder’s is the story I was told.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Shannon,

      Years ago I lived in a small fishing village on an island just a short ferry ride from Hong Kong island. The lot in front of my flat was tended by an ancient Chinese man who used the yoke and buckets to water his amazing production of vegetables.

      Every time I turn on a faucet I feel incredible magic in the water that comes out.

  • John says:

    Hello Marjory,
    Another great video, thanks.I have been getting 5 gallon food grade buckets from a local sandwich shop for free and plan on finding lots
    of uses for them in the future.
    I have three questions, when I stack the buckets in my shed for any
    of time I notice when I go to pull them apart they will stick together
    and they are hard to get them to separate, any suggestions?
    Also I have about twenty 55 gallon food grade barrels that I plan on
    lining along my garden to catch and store rainwater so I can water my
    garden and have some in store for dry spells, the only trouble I can
    see is that they are white do you think I could or should spray paint them black? What can I pour inside the buckets to help combat algae
    and also keep the water fresh? Thanks so much.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi John, oh the dreaded white bucket… LOL. They all seem to be white don’t they? And yes, that tends to grow alge much mor ethan the dark green or black.

      I paint my bigger water containers – yes, 55 gallons and more. That glidden primer I mentioned in the Grow Your Own Groceries video has worked very well on these plastics (uh, polyethelyne – is that correct?). Use the primer so the paint will stick. You can probably just use the primer, or add another color. I tried making a homemade color by grinding up some of the reddish rocks around here and ended up with a pink stucco type covering that makes me laugh whenever I pass it – its funny because it didn’t turn out very well, but still works. And it is pink which sort of makes it funny. .

      Keeping the containers m in the shade of the roof from which you are collecting also helps.

    2. Catherine Sutton says:

      Here’s how I keep those white buckets from getting stuck inside one another. Take a nice long piece of medium rope and tie one end to the handle of the bottom bucket. Then loop the next section of rope down into the bucket before putting a new bucket inside. Loop the next section into that bucket, and continue adding bucket until you need to lengthen your rope or your bucket stack hits the ceiling! Finally my buckets don’t stick inside each other any more.

  • Gail says:

    I really enjoyed this. I am a total “bucket hound”! The lady at the animal shelter asked me if I’d like the ones their dog vitamins come in and I snatched them up. They live in my car and are trotted out whenever I find a wild berry patch in my travels.
    Thinking about buckets has also caused me to look at more than food when I garden. I think it will be easier for me to fashion gourds into containers than to learn coopering on the fly! I’m also learning a lot about willow. You can’t eat it, but it sure is useful! It can be fashioned into baskets and trellises, cure a headache (white willow), help root plants and be fed to rabbits (according to the guy at the Urban Rabbit Project).
    Thanks again for a great article and website!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Isn’t it funny how ‘basket weaving’ was considered a total waster way back when? LOL. Now I am so impressed by anyone who can make a basket….

  • LeAnn says:

    Glad I’m not alone! I hoard buckets like a monkey! Usually get them free at my grocery stores bakery/deli. Nothing makes my day like free buckets! I have also been thinking about stocking up on nails, screws, and zip ties just to stow away for whatever may come.

  • I watched this again, since I enjoyed the first time so much. I have never seen a bucket that wasn’t worth saving or repairing. Buckets are handy for so many things. I have a yard tool bucket, a carpenter hand tool bucket, a truck wash bucket, a small stick & scrap wood bucket, & otherwise, have a collection to call on for anything else. One time, I bought a bucket, as I was away from home but, otherwise, all my buckets are from paint, drywall mud, laundry detergent, and, kitty litter. I may start a 5 gal. compost bucket, since I’ve started & stopped composting due to worries about attracting rodents. A city problem. 🙂

  • Kathy G says:

    I am so happy to know that I am not the only person hoarding buckets. They truly are indispensible. No matter how many I have, I’m always needing another one, so the tips on acquiring some free ones is quite helpful. I recently had to resort to using a plastic wading pool to store some garden and tree trimmings until I can get them into the composter. Another great post, Marjorie!

  • william says:

    I save and use a lot of buckets. I save paint 5 gals for rocks or dirts or sand etc. I wife get a lot of buckets from hotel use for sauces foods etc , I also recyle them after use. Buckets are very useful save a few at hand, u never know when ??????

    thanks for the reminder

  • Thersa sent this in and I am posting for her:
    I just want to share a little something with you. The local pool supply store gets their pool supplies in buckets from one gallon to 5 gallon in size. The larger pool stores even get the 7 gallon size. These are good strong buckets and have easy to open screw on lids The owner gives the buckets to people that ask for them. When I’m in town and go by his store he always has several put back for me free of charge. I am sorry to be so late with this comment but feel free to share this info if you want I enjoy reading your articles and watching your videos. Keep up the good work

  • Darryl C says:

    Check with your local grocery store – their bakery gives away “free” buckets that the icing comes in.

  • Tom says:

    Buckets are right up there with the wheel, in my opinion. And the wheelbarrow is just a big bucket with a wheel on the front. My wheel barrow multiplies the time and effort saved by a regular bucket many times over, especially if you are putting in a new bed or just need to move dirt, compost, manure, rocks, kids, anything really. But, of course, sometimes a bucket is the right tool for smaller jobs like feeding chickens…

  • Deborah says:

    Hi Marjory, I’m with you – buckets are invaluable. I stumbled across this post while searching for free 5 gallon buckets and it had some ideas I’d never thought of – fivegallonideas.com/sourcing-buckets/. Thanks for all of your great videos. I always learn something new.

  • Gudrun B says:

    Cool, a video on buckets 🙂 I love buckets! 🙂

  • Samantha L says:

    I think there is a place for the black rubber bucket. Not for food or water use for you or your animals though. They leach ethoxyquin, heavy metals and other toxins.

  • Jonnie C says:

    Marjory – We have had two of the rubber/fiber buckets for over fifteen years. We have bucket fed calves, water and grained horses, now they are being used to water our dogs. They freeze without breaking, and get stepped on by horses and cows. They work well in the garden and yard. The only thing I do not use them for is hauling liquids for human consumption, due to the back rubber. They are great for picking apples and berries too. They also make great camping buckets and I use them for hauling compostables to the compost pile. Hope yours serves you as well as ours have served us. Jonnie

  • Zola says:

    I still have and use the Fortex heavy black rubber feeders and buckets that are 20-25 years old. They are the best!!!

  • Mary says:

    You are so good – I wish I knew where you lived so maybe when we hopefully get to travel this year we could come to see you and your gardens!

  • Daryle in VT says:

    The ubiquitous 5 gallon bucket can tell you a story, if you know what to look for. When you look at a bucket, remember the more ‘ribs’ at the top, the stronger the bucket.
    Also, think about what a used bucket was originally hauling. I like buckets that held sheet rock finishing compound. A five gallon bucket of that stuff weighs 60 pounds or so.
    Then check the rim on the bottom. A bucket with a pronounced rim will last longer than one that has been ground down by dragging the heavy bucket over concrete.

  • Qberry Farm says:

    One secret is to always store buckets on their side. They shed rain that way. If you are carrying tools in a bucket make it a habit to leave it on its side. You may intend to pick it up and take it somewhere in just a minute but on a homestead there are lots of interruptions and you are likely to come back later and find a bucket of rusty tools.

  • Lucy says:

    Hi Marjory – I love my black rubbery trugs for carrying things around like compost etc. I’ve got loads of them and I keep finding more hidden in the undergrowth. I guess they came with the property 🙂 I’ve been using them now for 4 years and they are still in the same condition as I found them! I have large and medium sized ones, so I use buckets when I want something smaller or more stable, or if I want to cover it like I do when making my comfrey tea. Thanks for all the great info Marjory 🙂 Lucy

  • Jay says:

    Tubs (large but shallow), sold for mixing concrete, are very useful around the garden. I use them for mixing soil, carrying raked up organic debris, skidding heavy plants around, etc. I have two kinds. One is a rubbery material and has squared off bottom corners. The other kind is made of a rigid plastic and has rounded bottom corners – these are imported from Israel. I don’t recommend this second kind because it cracks when stressed near the rim.

  • Gregory says:

    Look to earthships for inspiration on natural air conditioning, or think of it like this – hot air rises and cold air falls. Use the venturi effect or solar pipes to create air flow in the house. If you have lots of water, use the Coolgardie safe. Hang a wet sheet across a line and as the wind blows it will create a cooling breeze. This works great with curtains in the bedroom to cool you when you’re trying to sleep on those hot summer nights.

  • Bruce Oliver says:


    Metal buckets are awesome, but as you so aptly point out, they rust. Protect your bucket with a coat of paint, urethane, spray on rubber, or one that should be near permanent is “submarine sealer.” It will be used for food grade purposes stick with the urethane as once dried, it will off gas less. Also, repair your old bucket. Protect the old metal by painting the exterior and interior metal that is left on the bottom. Then, cut out a wooden round, just slightly larger than the circumference of the bottom of the bucket. Seal it, and drop it in from the top. It should sit on the remaining bottom metal. Next drill holes just through the remaining sheet metal on the bottom near the outer edge where the metal still has some integrity (remove the wood round prior to this step. Once you have drilled the holes, replace the sealed wood round in the bucket. Place the bucket, with the wood round inside over something that you can press down on. Next use sheet metal screws that are short enough that they will not pierce the interior wood, and some washers to spread the pressure of the screw head, and screw the bucket to the round. Lastly, silicone around the edge of the round on the interior of the bucket, and wa la. You have a nearly new bucket that should last another eight plus years.

    Thanks for all your great info.

    Bruce Oliver

  • Sandy McKinnon says:

    Excuse me for laughing but many city-bred neighbors ask why so many buckets? Now they see potatoes, sweet peas, radishes, and other things growing out of them!

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