Mercy Buckets

Reader Michael made a very good suggestion about putting some food buckets up and having them handy to give out to folks who are having hard times.

Lord knows they are coming for all of us but there are already lots of people in need right now.

I am going to copy and paste his message to me. It took me a second because I just got home from work and I am tired but you will see some abbreviations in here. WM= WalMart and GV= Great Value, their In House brands.

I’m sure you can substitute anything that meets the same requirements from any supermarket brand.\

2 X 5 gallon Buckets and lids = 9.28
2 X 8 pound dried GV pinto Beans = 11.96 100 calories per 1/4 cup dry (or about 1/3 cup cooked) 8 grams protein x 206 servings = 20,600 calories and 1,648 grams protein
1 X 20 pound GV White rice  = 8.98  160 cal per 1/4 cup dry (or a bit over 1/2 cup cooked) 3 grams protein X 202 servings = 32,320 calories and 606 grams protein
6 X 12 ounce GV luncheon loaf various flavors = 13.08  180 calories per 2 oz serving, 7 grams protein X 36 servings = 6,480 calories and 252 grams protein
26 oz container Iodized Salt 54 cents
3 oz black pepper 2.68
2 oz jar chili pepper (pick the spice you like here) 3.98
4 pounds pure cane sugar 2.08 Calories NOT Counted just flavoring for Japanese Sweet Beans, Sweet Rice and so on.
16 oz cooking oil  2.00 (Get the BEST Bottle you can leaks suck) Calories not counted just needed for cooking say refried beans and such.
130 count adult multivitamin 4.88
120 count 500 mg Vitamin C 3.96
25 +25 Beef and Chicken Bouillon cubes 3.76
Box of 100 black tea bags 1.00
Total cost 68.36
Total calories 59,400 /2,000 calories per day adult = 29.7 Man-days
Total Protein 2,506 / 30 days = 83 grams protein daily WELL over min needed here. 

 Mercy Bucket part two adds one more 5 gallon bucket with lid, an extra 20 pound WM GV White Rice and space for extras to double the 30 man days to 60 with still 40 grams protein. Cost + 8.98 for rice, + 4.64 for bucket and lid (WHY do folks spend so much time looking for “Free Buckets” and wash them forever…) = an additional 13.62 or about what I spend on a Burger Combo and a Shake….
Just for fun I did some “research” on “Survival Foods” and most “Servings” are about 140 calories mostly carbs and very little protein. AND from my asking about very FEW Folks have ever cooked some up and tastes them. I have several I’ve tasted. Worse was *Cough Wise *Cough*.
Move it or lose it, these prices and availability of cheap food will NOT last.
And again Phil sorry I forgot to mention in the email that you can PLANT and grow more pinto beans from those dry beans. I use them as seed in my garden yearly.

A great idea and my thanks to Michael for taking the time and effort to put this together and for sharing it.

I am going to add one thing here from some recent experience.

I don’t know if anyone else has run into this but Lowes had some Food Grade buckets on sale here a few months ago so I bought five of them. They were about $3 each. The store had stacks of buckets all over the place but no lids near any of the stacks. I wandered around until I found some help and they directed me clear back to a far corner of the store near the ABS pipe and stuff. That’s where they were hiding the lids and I’m here to tell you that they didn’t have near as many lids as they had buckets.

They also cost dang near as much as the buckets.

What I ran into later was that after I used a couple of the buckets for things people use buckets for, throwing stuff in, hauling stuff around, two out of the five busted open on the sides and one started leaking out of the bottom because it cracked.

So what I’m saying here is that you need to be careful when you are buying buckets anymore, apparently there are some seriously inferior ones getting into circulation.

I have never run into brittle plastic buckets until now.

33 thoughts on “Mercy Buckets

  1. When storing items such as rice, you might want to freeze it for 48 hours before storing because you might find weevils when retrieving your food. Also, consider vacuum sealing any loose items like rice or beans. Vacuum sealing allows you to store sealed bags on their side thereby saving room. And I would consider including flour in the bucket, after freezing it for 48 hours as well.


  2. I made an math error on the part two Mercy Bucket as 20 pounds WM GV White Rice is *only* 32,320 calories so about half for a 30 day man day supply of 2K calories per day. Protein ample at 40 Grams daily due to the excess protein from the Mercy Bucket part one’s excess. A 5 gallon bucket is a tight fit for two 20 pounders sorry but I am sure folks can figure out what mix of say oil packed tuna, pouches of instant potatoes (YUM) or such to fill up the “Extra space” adding an extra 32K calories and different flavors.

    YMMV but I have eaten a LOT of white rice and dried beans over the decades (of various storage age) kept cool and dry and NEVER found bugs a real problem. My Grandmother always used a screen sifter to screen out rocks, bugs and such out of her rice and beans. Dried beans over a couple of years get hard and Pressure Cooking them makes awesome chili or any normal bean style dish out of them. Or for the pressure cooker phobic triple the slow cooker time seems to work well enough.

    Freezing IS a viable effort BUT involves CARE as not to create the moisture problem from condensation. Slightly damp rotting rice and beans kind of defeats the Dry Beans and Rice storage thing. The process is complicated due to the Excellent Insulation value of Flour and other dried good (cough Rice) making GETTING that Freezing Temperature ALL the way through the package to kill off probable bugs AND them carefully “Warming” that package up in a Refrigerator for a couple of days to avoid getting condensation moisture in that package.

    Flour is nice as is Dry Pasta. But you *might* want to add some knowledge about sourdough and such Or plenty of dry yeast as LAST Toilet Paper “Crisis” there was NO YEAST to be found in my stores.

    Best Food Storage Idea friends is two fold. Rotation of food stuffs as even canned chili can hide in the back long enough to get rusty-nasty AND Store what you EAT, EAT what you store.

    Make a pot of beans today folks, LEARN how to use them and what seasonings you prefer.

    Beans are EXCELLENT meat stretchers. White Beans are mild goes well with pork and chicken dishes. Black Beans are meaty goes well with hamburger dishes, Pintos are earthy flavored needs strong flavors like Chilis.

    Food is a weapon don’t be disarmed.


    • Thank you for posting this info. Things are going to be getting skinny in the coming months and it’s a good idea to be able to get food to people who are more isolated.


  3. Employee-owned grocery chain ‘WinCo’ usually carries food-grade five-gallon buckets.
    They often carry stumpy three-gallon and Wilt Chamberlain six-gallon versions.
    One lid size fits all the bucket sizes.
    An alternative lid is the ‘Gamma’, a bright orange lid with a spinner opening inner-lid.
    We use these for frequent-access goods we must keep dry.
    One example — medical supplies such as bandages and goop.
    Or puppy-chow.
    Rolls of toilet paper (aka ‘bath-tissue’).
    A ‘must-have’ is a lid-wrench.
    These are essential, so we have the dang things all over the place.
    Reaching for a leash behind the seat of the Dodge, I found a lid-wrench.
    And ‘yes’, a bucket of bath-tissue is on a shelf in the boom-box, so a Gamma lid keeps events flowing smoothly.


  4. Ask the bakery department of any grocery store if they have any buckets and lids. Usually they will give them to you to save the trouble of recycling. For some reason, offering to take the dirty ones really work, if you don’t mind washing them yourself.


    • That reminds me…
      Eugene, Oregon.
      Hawai’in Time restaurant on West 11th (across from Fred Meyer) has stacks of many dozens of white five-gallon buckets in the Dumpster enclosure.


  5. This is what I do now, mostly. For a few extra bucks when shopping these days, you can build a pretty deep larder. My problem is when herself sees this food she gripes – “Your buying stuff I we don’t eat” – to which I say, we don’t eat “Now”. I just went through a canned “danish” ham I got at wally world nearly a year ago. Wasn’t bad. Not fine dining, but went well with beans or eggs.

    Beggars can’t be choosers, as my mom would say.

    I was thinking of buying that ‘prep’ food, but I’m thinking carb dense is probably not worth it. You’ll probably get as good nutrition out of beans/rice, beans/cornbread. BTW – flour and cornmeal, you can make tortillas and other flatbreads and not have to sweat yeast. Biscuits are, after all, a food group unto itself.

    Peter over at Bayou Renaissance has a piece on this today. I’ve already stored up oil filters, air filters, oil, Stuff that I’ll need for the car and house this year. After reading his post today, I’m heading to Home Despot to grab some AC filters. Get them now while they are affordable.

    This is also why I buy more parts than I need when fixing something. A friend of mine had a fitting fail in his master bath at 3AM. A day later he’s sending me pics. True, it was installed by monkeys, but fixable. He’ll have to call a plumber. I wouldn’t. I have pex, pvc, and copper fittings out the ass.

    When I was growing up, I wondered why my friends dads (who lived through the depression, and were poor anyway) had shelves of parts and various other stuff. They rarely threw anything away.

    Now I know. I’m like that.


    • That’s where I got it my grandfather grew up during the depression and my grandparents raised me quite a bit so I’ve been a pack rat since I was a little kid. I have also taught myself how to repurpose things like he did.


  6. I hate to sound like a cold hearted asshole, but every time I have heard of this sort of mercy handout idea, it started well and within a few days had every miscreant in the area looking for a handout and getting really pissed off if they did not get it. And every brother sister cousin aunt and uncle will come looking too. For a real life current description look up lagnippes lair recent post on the NOLA hurricane.
    And if things really get sticky they will kill you for the food.


  7. The BIG problem I see with charity buckets is this: When neighbor Nancy and her two hungry kids show up at the door and you give her one, it won’t be but a matter or minutes or hours until you have a line outside your door. Or worse, Officer Friendly of the local PD who says, “We know you have supplies. You need to share them for the good of the community.”
    A big part of OPSEC is keeping your preps out of sight. The best answer I’ve been able to come up with for the above is to tell neighbor Nancy that “We gave our charity buckets to pastor XYZ at the ABC church. You need to go talk to him.”
    Great comments above about process and techniques. I endorse gamma-seals. They aren’t cheap, but work very well. And for regular lids, Marge is right. I have a lid-wrench, but I probably need to get several more. I went looking for mine last week, and it took an annoying amount of time to find it.
    Do NOT be the only house in the neighborhood with lights. Even worse, running a genny to keep your freezer cold that can be heard from the street. Gotta be the grey man. Yeah, some of us have been at this for a LONG time now.


  8. Folks OPSEC is a real concern. The scripture about being wise as serpents comes to mind. Seems even in Paul the Apostles time folks would betray you to “Athorities “.

    If you read the article you would see it’s for “normalcy bias ” but otherwise good folks you WANT When things go sideways. NOT Random Karen’s.

    OR maybe for a few friends that just got burned out by fire and NEED food?

    MAYBE YOU Might be THAT Unlucky neighbor Needing a Mercy Bucket?

    Really the Point of this article is to give you ideas on how cheaply you can do long-term foods. I am so tired of folks that make excuses about food while bragging about their newest “freedom toy” and THEY have at most a week of non-electric depending Foods.

    Are they going to eat ammo or just rob folks for food? YES You Can Survive without food for about 3 weeks BUT your NOT going to Like it.


  9. The dear wife & I have had this conversation multiple times. She is not in favor of mercy buckets & I’m of two minds about it so we haven’t prepared any. (And even after 10+ years of fairly dedicated resiliency planning for ourselves we still feel like we’re not fully prepared for what is coming.) In the end it comes down to OPSEC, not just our immediate area but also that of the people to whom we provide aid. For example, we have immediate family that live in an apartment complex about 20 minutes away. Our home is too small to take them in when SHTF. They know that we’ll assist them as much as we can, but their living situation creates its own security problems. If the neighbors are all hungry, where do those family members cook without bringing down trouble on themselves & possibly down on me as well? Would a stranger, or even a coworker, hesitate to dime you out to a hungry neighbor, or to any aggressive hoodlum/LEO/gov’t spy/ etc. that confronted them over “where did you get that?”
    I’m not without charity but I’m not going to put my family at risk to help strangers. If anyone has a bulletproof way for a solo dude to render aid without risk I’m all ears. I don’t think there is one.


    • When the time comes to dispense your goodness. Do not fucking do it from your porch. Tell the needy where to go as in a written note on the locked fence (local church, homeless shelter, fucking outhouse a few miles down the road…..not your place) that’s where the goods should be issued from. Easy peasy

      That motherfucker Bert


  10. Lowe’s buckets are the worst I have seen…don’t ever leave ’em out in the sun. HD buckets fair much better, and for long term food storage, get a real food grade bucket with a hammer down lid. Don’t forget those lid remover thingies…


  11. You folks worried about starving need to wake the fuck up.

    Tons of good meat is pouring in via the southern delivery route.
    Embrace the ground brown. Low fat! Gluten free!
    That motherfucker Bert


  12. A big way to save on ac / furnace filters is to buy wholesale from a supply house. A dozen 20x20x1 was $34.00 2 months ago when (2) of the same size at the big box store were $17.00.


  13. Well, when the balloon goes up, I’m basically screwed. Yes, we have food/water/fuel storage.
    The problem is… me. I’m highly allergic to beans, the best protein on the planet! My allergy spectrum is as wide as the Missouri river, so I shopped around carefully and found that My Patriot Supply has the most amount of emergency prep long-term-storage food that I can tolerate. I got a two years supply many years ago. I wonder what it costs now. Yes, it’s quite edible, I tested it first.

    Thank goodness I’m not allergic to reloading…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Any colored big box store bucket is pretty much not food grade even if they so claim and are thinner wall and base than prior US made stuff.

    Most food grade I have are white and they tend to be thicker plastic,much less brittle. Find them surplus and the surplus guy gets them from food processors packers in the area.


  15. I was concerned about food for the two of us living here and put this together.

    I was interested in not going to bed hungry and minimal cooking.

    I wanted ‘something’ that was not super expensive (like the commercial freeze dried buckets) so I could put it together, set it off in the corner and forget about it until the stores were empty and we were hungry. If that never comes around there is so little cash in it that it can sit there forever.

    30# of white rice in six 5# bags @ $3.62 ea
    12 cans of chili @ $1.36 ea
    12 cans of beef stew @ $1.74
    4 cans of chicken meat @ $2.18
    2 cans of tuna fish (larger cans, like the canned chicken meat) @ $1.98
    30 cans of vegetables @ 50 cents ea
    Bullion cubes, 2 @ $1.88
    Salt 0.48 cents
    Sugar, $2
    Pepper, $1.87
    Garlic powder and assorted other spices, $2
    cooking oil. $2.13

    $80.16 is what it all came too

    I was able to put it all into an 18 gal rubbermaid tub, well the small bottle of cooking oil did not fit…

    I did not do the calorie math but it is all something we will eat.


  16. Meat and meal is all well and good. You just better damned well have a plan to keep it. Theres nothing more dangerous than a parent with starving kids.


    • “You just better damned well have a plan to keep it. Theres nothing more dangerous than a parent with starving kids.”

      Keep it or defend it. Desperation goes both ways when threat of starvation is on the line and a person has a right to keep what they put back and earned themselves.


  17. Vacuum pack the rice, four and beans before the freeze cycle. Condensation during thaw won’t be a problem. O2 absorbers are a good level of insurance. Write dates on everything inside and on the bucket, also contents. One bucket per person per month, family of 4 needs 48 buckets for a year. I’d include some sweets like hard candy/dehydrated ice cream per bucket. Your kids will love you for that.



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