8 Genius Uses for Buckets on the Homestead

Here are 8 excellent (and surprising!) uses for buckets on the homestead and in the garden—plus tips on how to get 5-gallon buckets for free!

Life on the homestead requires a lot of creativity and frugality. The “five R’s” seem to be constantly in play: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Repurpose, and Repair. Nothing ever goes to waste—today’s trash simply becomes tomorrow’s resources.

When buying something new is necessary, I usually try to make sure the item fits at least one of the following criteria:

  1. First, does the item have more than one alternative use or purpose?
  2. Second, does the item take up minimal space?
  3. Third, is the item inexpensive?

My Favorite Homesteading Tool

Here are 8 of our favorite ways to repurpose 5-gallon buckets on the homestead or in the garden. (The Grow Network)

Here are 8 of our favorite ways to repurpose 5-gallon buckets on the homestead or in the garden.

My absolute favorite “tool” on the homestead actually fits all three criteria: none other than the 5-gallon plastic bucket. Not only do these wonder tools nest neatly into a tidy stack, they also have a seemingly unlimited number of uses.

Whether you are into homesteading, preparedness, or permaculture, 5-gallon buckets are essential tools of the trade! The list below offers just a few of the many uses for buckets on the homestead and in the garden.

Getting Buckets for Free

A note about price: If purchased from a hardware store, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3 to $5 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 free sources include pickle buckets from hamburger joints, soap buckets from car washes, and lard buckets from Mexican restaurants.

Of course, be prepared to clean them!

Uses for Buckets

The Bucket List: 8 Uses for Buckets on the Homestead and in the Garden

So, what exactly can you do with a 5-gallon bucket once you procure it? I thought you’d never ask! Below, I showcase some general uses for buckets I put into action quite frequently. (If you’re keen on any given idea, more detailed tutorials can be found all over the Internet.)

1. Container Gardening

First and foremost, an excellent way to repurpose 5-gallon buckets: They make for outstanding container gardens when you drill drainage holes in the bottom of the buckets.

You May Also Enjoy:

“Fertilize Container Gardens: 4 Steps to Success”

“15 Simple and Inexpensive Homemade Fertilizers”

“Jump-Start Your Compost With These 5 Free, DIY Compost Activators”

While some 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 the words “food security!”

2. Growing Mushrooms

Uses for buckets on the homestead are plentiful -- including this idea for growing mushrooms. (The Grow Network)

Uses for buckets on the homestead are plentiful, including this idea for growing mushrooms. Source: https://www.shroomery.org/forums/showflat.php/Number/18900009/fpart/all/vc/1

Another clever use for buckets is growing edible and medicinal mushrooms in them. Just drill staggered 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.

3. Organizing Your Tools

Reuse 5-gallon buckets by adding "tool belts" to them. (The Grow Network)


A 5-gallon bucket also makes for a great tool bag. Either online or at your local hardware store, you can buy organizers that are specifically made for buckets and have all kinds of compartments.

You May Also Enjoy: “No More Disappearing Tools With This Simple Trick!”

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.

4. Making Wine

Uses for Buckets

You can even make wine with a 5-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 a dollar at most home-brew 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 basically 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.

5. Feed the Worms

Reuse your 5-gallon buckets as worm farms. They're perfect for vermicomposting! (The Grow Network)

Reuse your 5-gallon buckets as worm farms. They’re perfect for vermicomposting! – Source: Mizzou CAFNR – Used Under License: CC BY-NC 2.0

One of my favorite uses for a 5-gallon bucket is as part of a vermicompost system (a.k.a. a worm bin). Red wiggler worms are voracious 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!

You May Also Enjoy:

“Turn Your Trash into Black Gold with this Amazingly Simple Vermicompost System”

“Simple & Effective Worm Composting (VIDEO)”

“Small-Space Vermiculture, Step-by-Step”

6. Make Compost Tea

In addition to vermicompost, compost tea happens to be the secret of success for many master gardeners. And with a 5-gallon bucket, you can brew your own compost tea right at home.

All you need is an air pump for aeration, 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!

You May Also Enjoy:

“Compost Tea: An Easy Way to Stretch Your Compost”

“Aerobic Compost Tea, Worm Tea, and Leachate—A Clarification”

“Extreme Composting: Say Goodbye to Landfills and Hello to Soil Fertility”

7. Make a Mousetrap

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

8. Filter Water

You can use two 5-gallon buckets, plus some additional components, to create a water filter. (The Grow Network)

More information about bucket filters is available here: http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?pid=S1816-79502013000400002&script=sci_arttext

A final way to repurpose 5-gallon buckets is to 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’ve provided of why 5-gallon buckets are the absolute best and most versatile tool for homesteading, preparedness, and permaculture. 5-gallon buckets not only serve as a container to grow your food in, they can be used in creating the fertilizer that enriches your garden. To top it off, you can use buckets to collect and ultimately store your bountiful harvests!

What Do You Think?

What are your favorite uses for buckets on the homestead and in the garden? Share your best ideas for repurposing 5-gallon buckets—and where to find them for free—in the comments!


This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on May 10, 2018. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!

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This post was written by Brian Moyers

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