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10 inexpensive shtf barter items to get now


In this article we’ll discuss 10 relatively cheap items you can begin stocking up on to be used for bartering should times get tough or the grid goes down.

Before we jump in, I just want to say that these are 10 items I think will be useful to have on hand for bartering should times get hard in our economy or things hit the fan. Many of the items in the list have been used in our history when things got tough economical, so they’re not just hypothetical items to barter with. Another thing worth noting, bartering should not be your plan A. Being able to produce what you need and having a large inventory stored up in advance should be plan A. Bartering is simply a plan B approach.

When thinking about what items you want to stock up on that you would consider bartering, here are 3 principles to consider:

  • Stock up on items that relatively inexpensive. In the event a calamity never strikes, it’s no good to have stocked up on a ton of things that were expensive and that you can’t use anyways.
  • Stock up on items that will store long term. No reason buying a bunch of stuff that will go bad quickly.
  • Stock up on items that actually have value to you and you can use anyways. Think about it from the perspective of having some additional items that you already could use.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 cheap barter items:

1. Alcohol or Tobacco

I put these 2 first on my list as vices are going to be hard for people to break. While I’ve never personally smoked, I know for many people it’s hard for them to stop and many will do whatever it takes to get them. Also, alcohol can serve many purposes including medicinal purposes and as fuel. When things are difficult and people want to take their minds off of things, alcohol is a good escape and stress reliever.

2. Salt / spices / seasoning

While I lumped salt in with spices, just to clarify, salt is not a spice but rather a mineral. If you study ancient history, you can see how valuable salt was. It was even used as a form of currency at one point. Salt can be used for many, many things apart from just flavoring your food like food preservation and for medicinal purposes. Be sure to note though that’s there are different types of salts that serve different purposes like sea salt, iodized salt or Epsom salt.

While salt and spices are technically different, I lumped them together for their primary uses in bringing flavor to food. Again having spices and seasoning will help make the food that people will have to begin preparing much more editable if people have to begin to rely on gardening and hunting.

3. Sugar / honey

Like seasoning in our previous point, sugar and honey will help a great deal with making bland food editable. It will serve as a very valuable item to help create comfort foods which have a huge psychological boost. During difficult times is often rationed and can be stored indefinitely if done correctly.

4. Coffee / tea

Coffee is another one of those items that offer a great psychological boost and you can expect people will be really excited to get their hands on if they can. During the Great Depression, coffee was very hard to come by and so many people in that generation would stock up on it when they could get their hands on it.  Tea is also a solid alternative to coffee as well.  I hate to admit it, but I go through a lot of both of these on a daily basis and would be hard pressed to not have them in the event they were in short supply.

5. Fresh vegetables / fruit

This, among many reasons, is why I got into gardening. I did a video recently on creating a raised bed vegetable garden and in the coming months, I plan on building several more. In the video, I discussed the book I used to get me started which I’ll provide a link for in the description below.  Regarding fruit trees, this is an area that I need to get serious with. I planted a few fruit trees a few years ago but haven’t been working with them like I should. This is definitely something on my to-do list.

While on this point regarding growing vegetables, think about how many people in your neighborhood have gardens and fruit trees. In mine, not many…I only know of a few that understand how to do a garden at any level. If things go bad for a long period of time, having the ability to produce your own fruit and vegetables and barter for them will be invaluable.

6. Heirloom seeds

Like the previous point discussing gardening, obviously having seeds to barter with will come in handy.  One word of caution, I often hear many preppers discuss storing up seeds to use if things get bad. If you’ve never planted a garden before in your life, there’s a lot more involved than just going into the backyard, digging a hole in the ground and then watering it. Learning this skill now while there’s no stress for relying for on this food for survival is critical. Discussing specific skillsets if the grid goes down is something we’ll discuss in another video.

If there’s a prolonged grid down scenario, most people will have to switch over unused land to grow crops. And if you’ve got seeds, you’ve got a valuable commodity that will be in demand.

7. Toilet paper / wipes

I don’t know about you, but I’d be hard pressed to survive a long term grid down situation without toilet paper and moist wipes. Just say’n. I remember as a child listening to my grandfather talk about having Sears catalogs and corn cobs in their outhouse to wipe their backside. Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to have to do this if I didn’t have to, so stocking up on an item we’ll be using anyways is a good idea. The great thing about stocking up on this is that it won’t go bad due to heat or cold so storing this in the garage will be easy.

8. Toiletries (toothpaste, soap, deodorant, etc.)

Like toilet paper in our previous point, stocking up on this these little items that people take for granted will come in handy.
Also if you visit hotels often, be sure to pick up these items that they give you for free in your hotel. After enough time, you could easily stock up on enough of these items to have a nice little supply of small bargaining items on hand.

9. Medication (antibiotics, pain meds)

After a prolonged event, you can expect people to rush the local pharmacies and clean them out. Why? Well, for different reasons. People may be looking for narcotics initially but items like antibiotics or insulin will be in very high demand as well. Obviously, the problem is you can’t stock on these items without a prescription. But if you have any left over after a surgery and can hold on to them, do so and be sure to store in a cool dry place to try and keep them stabilized as long as you can. In addition, simple items like over the counter pain meds can be very useful when it comes to bartering. Also, you might want to give consideration to items like Pepto-bismol or Immodium AD as many people will probably experience upset stomachs. That was one of the things I remembered about my time in Afghanistan, people there experienced a lot of stomach issues due to the unsanitary living conditions experienced in 3rd world countries.

10. Ammunition

I’ll probably get a lot of flack on this one. Regarding ammo, I wouldn’t barter this with anyone I didn’t know. Out of all the items on the list, this is the one that I’d probably only barter with people I trust not to send it back to me at 2500 feet / second. Also, people often point out that end up using it against you, but if someone already has a firearm and they’re wanting a specific ammo, there’s a good possibility they already have this ammo. Maybe not a lot, but they probably have some so I don’t think I’ll be giving them something they don’t already have. Again, if you’re going to use this one, use extreme caution.

So why isn’t gold and silver and other precious metals on this list?

Precious metals is a long-term approach. If I’m hungry, need meds or need something that I can use right now, what value do precious metals offer me? I’m not saying you shouldn’t have them, but are they going to feed someone right away? If someone is suffering and in pain, will gold relieve that bodily pain? I think precious metals is going to be good if you’re thinking long-term but I wouldn’t count on them for short-term value.

As always, I’d love to get your feedback and please post the items you are storing up as bartering items in the comment section below.

As always, be safe out there.

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City Prepping's goal is to help people understand the basics of prepping in urban environments.