Once the SHTF, you will realize there are things you need that you don’t have on hand. Paper money may not hold any value at this time. Rather, you need to have items or skills on hand that you can use to barter with others for your essentials.
Even those of us who believe they are fully stocked should consider bartering items. Centuries ago, bartering was a normal event before the concept of money developed.
If your neighbor had extra chicken eggs and you had more beans, a trade was the obvious way to get everything you need. Unfortunately, our society typically casts an ugly look at bartering, instead opting to purchase items rather than turning to neighbors and family.
We’re talking more in-depth about bartering and how you should do it here, but for now let’s focus on all of the things you could trade to get what you need.
They are in no order of importance! Don’t worry; you don’t need to have everything on this list for barter. Pick a few and plan to barter those!
#1. Bottled Water: If we look at situations such as after a hurricane, the first thing that flies off of the shelves is bottled water. People need and want water. Having a large stock on hand is easy.
#2. Chickens or Eggs: If you raise a flock of chickens, you are in luck. Eggs are a common desire when bartering. If you have a large flock of chickens, you can also learn how to hatch fertile eggs, allowing you to barter chicks to others around you.
#3. Water Filtration Tablets: These tablets are rather inexpensive. One day, the water around you may not be healthy to drink without ample filtration. There will be people who don’t know how to filter their water.
#4. Skills: Bartering doesn’t always have to involve trading items. What if your wife is a skilled midwife and your neighbor is pregnant? That is a great skill! You might be a skilled hunter or have a great understanding of medicinal herbs.
You can trade your skills for the items you need. An example would be that you teach your neighbor how to identify local, wild herbs and how to use them in medicinal ways. In exchange, your neighbor helps to build a fence around your livestock.
#5. Canned Food: When you think of bartering, canned food is probably one of the most obvious choices. We need food. However, food will go bad and spoil eventually. Canned food is shelf-stable and lasts for years, even home canned food. Having a large stock is beneficial for you and adds versatility and flexibility to your meals.
#6. Dried Foods: Dried foods are in the same category of importance as canned and bottled foods. Dried foods have the benefit of being lighter and very easy to transport. When society is in transition, you will find that people want and desire dried foods.
Dried foods provide those necessary calories while living in a tent and moving. Some examples are dried soup mixes, rice, beans, granola, and jerky.
#7. Baking Goods: I could group these with dried foods, but they hold other purposes. Flour, yeast, baking soda, baking powder and salt are vital for things such as bread.
#8. Cast Iron Cookware: Far too many people do not own any cookware designed to be placed over an open fire and used. Cast iron and camping cookware items will be in high demand by anyone who does not want to attempt to survive the apocalypse eating only raw food – or drinking creek water without at least boiling it first.
#8. Soap: I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stink even if the SHTF. After the calm has come, people are going to want to clean themselves. You can purchase bars of soap for pennies or free if you know how to coupon right. Cleaning wipes also will be valuable.
#9. Detergent: Very similar to soap, people will need detergent to keep their clothes clean. You can get small bottles of detergent at the Dollar Tree. I recommend stocking up on those rather than expensive name brands unless coupons and sales make it cheaper!
#10. Knives: Many people don’t own survival knives. While you might not want to give away your best choices, you can find some survival knives that are under $20. People will need knives for dozens of tasks. Having extra on hand will allow you to trade for things you need.
#11. Charcoal: People who don’t have access to firewood will want to stock up on charcoal quickly. It is one of the first ways that people will think about cooking their food. Charcoal could be bartered quickly after the SHTF.
#12. Coffee or Tea: Let’s be honest; coffee and tea are not essential. However, once things have calmed down, people will want to have things that relax them and make them feel comfortable. A caffeine fix will be appreciated, or a glass of nightly tea can be something many people want, as well as yourself!
#13. Shoes: I don’t suggest you purchase the entire shoe department or devote a whole room to a shoe collection. However, shoes wear out, and people need shoes.
Even maintained, shoes would eventually need to be replaced. Adult and children alike will need shoes. If you have kids, you probably have extras they quickly outgrow If you have extras on hand, people will want them eventually.
#14. Fishing Gear: I would never recommend using guns, ammo, bows, or even a machete for barter.
Trading a weapon that could be used against your family just does not make good sense. Fishing gear on the other hand, can still allow a survivor to search for food without posing any harm to you and your loved ones.
#15. Batteries: It would be wise for get rechargeable batteries with solar chargers, but many people don’t think about this.
Small 4-packs of batteries will be hot ticket items. You can get generic ones for fairly cheap at dollar stores. Big boxed stores, such as Sam’s Club or Costco, also sell batteries for great prices.
For bartering purposes, do stockpile batteries in all sizes, especially those commonly used in flashlights and handheld radios.
#16. Seeds: If you are a gardener, you are in luck. Start growing your heirloom garden now in preparation for this. After the collapse of society, you will need a garden to survive, but there will be nursery or stores to purchase those seeds.
From a small garden, you can collect seeds from all of your necessary plants. Then, barter those seeds for things you truly need! People will need those seeds, making them a valuable commodity.
#17. Sewing Supplies: Needles and thread will be important for you to have for mending. For bartering, you could make small kits with thread and needles. These will be easy to make and cost effective.
#18. Fabric and Yarn: Eventually, the clothes on your body will wear out, and you will need clothes without holes. At some time, the weather will change, and your hands will need gloves. For now, fabric is available everywhere, but it will be a hot item someday.
One layer of fabric can be the difference between fine and hypothermic. Having a collection of yarn and skills with crocheting or knitting is also great bartering item. In the winter, you can create gloves, hats, and scarves for your family, as well as having some for trading.
#19. Pepper Spray: You may not want to barter firearms and ammunition. In the United States, we are free to purchase pepper spray as wanted. It would be a great barter item, especially if you don’t fully trust them.
#20. Information: In times of need, when events will unfold with the speed of light, people will want to know what roads are safe, how car is the disaster or enemy, and many other such things. Or, they may need advice to do or fix something. We live in an information age, and this won’t change when SHTF.
#21. Flashlights: You will need to have batteries on hand, but people will want batteries. A LED light in the woods is very helpful. There are plenty of small flashlights that take a single battery to run, and some that are even hand-crank, which means yo don’t have to worry about dead batteries anymore.
#22. Cigarettes: You may not be a smoker (I’m not), but I recognize the value of cigarettes. People who can’t live without them will barter high for a pack of smokes. However, they are pricey to stock up. Another option is to learn how to roll your own and purchase supplies separately.
#23. Matches and Lighters: Matches are inexpensive, allowing you to gather a huge stock of them. Fire is a necessity for survival. Just like water filtration, you can even give these away to save lives. Lighters are a great choice, especially if you feel as if you can’t store the matches correctly. Matches have to be in a waterproof container.
#24. Sugar: My great-grandmother once told me a story about how her mother rationed sugar each week. If they didn’t use a lot, she would bake them a small cake.
Sugar is precious. One day, people will want to create sweet treats or sweeten their coffee. Bags of sugar are inexpensive, but sugar needs to be stored correctly to last long-term.
Grow sugar beets, stevia, and stockpile sugar to trade as a morale booster item – this will be especially in demand during the rebuilding stage when survivors are settling into the new normal.
#25. Solar Lights: Buying landscaping solar lights for your local Dollar Tree of similar store can be used in place of flashlights – which require batteries. Eventually the solar lights will stop functioning, but not for a vastly extended amount of time, They are safer to use inside that candles, which pose a fire hazard and constantly need replaced.
#26. Toilet Paper: Yes, you can use things like newspapers and leaves to wipe, but some people will barter for toilet paper.
#27. Salt: For thousands of years, salt was a precious commodity. Nowadays, we forget just how essential salt is for our lives. Post SHTF, salt is an important nutrient and acts as a way to preserve meat.
The great thing about salt is its current price. You can buy a pound for around $.50, a fantastic price that allows you to have a hefty stock immediately.
#28. Candles: There might not be electricity, so candles are a great bartering item. Taper candles are inexpensive and do their job lighting up a room. If you have the ability, making your candles is a useful skill.
#29. Vitamins: Stockpile both manufactured and natural nutritional supplements. Most spices have at least some medicinal value. Learn how to make your own medications and purchase a low-cost gel capsule maker (manual tool) to create your own vitamins and other medications using common spices and honey.
#30. Diapers and Wipes: Kids will be there after SHTF as well, so we need to think about them. While our family opts for cloth diapers, many families don’t. You can purchase disposable diapers rather cheap with coupons or invest in cheap cloth diapers to offer as barter items.
#31. Outerwear: Our clothing will wear out a lot faster during a SHTF situation due to rugged daily use. Staying warm and dry will also be a constant priority to both maintain good health and to complete potentially life-saving tasks.
Search yard sales and clearance racks for coats, winter gloves, hats, scarves, work gloves, and not outerwear, but thick socks and thermal underwear, as well.
#32. Handheld Radios: These will replace smartphones as the devices held in the hands of Americans after a SHTF scenario.
Keeping in contact with loved ones when they are out hunting, fishing, or scavenging for goods, and to communicate with the outside world to get news about a roving horde of violent marauders, a spreading illness, and bad weather, can make a life of death difference in a SHTF world.
#33. Hand Tools: My husband’s grandfather had a motto: why have one when you can have many. Because of this, we have a huge stock of hand tools such as hatchets, saws and other fix-it tools.
One day, someone else might need a saw or extra screwdrivers. If you want to invest in these items but don’t want to spend too much money, check out yard sales!
Manual drills, hacksaws, bolt cutters, scythes, two-man timber saws, manual lawn mowers, etc. Don’t forget to purchase multiple super cheap manual can openers, it is shocking how many people do not keep several of these in a kitchen drawer.
#34. Alcohol: Once the SHTF, we all are going to need to drink some alcohol after the worse passes. Even if you don’t drink, you want to have bottles in your storage. It can be used as a cleaning liquid, a solvent, a fuel and a preservative.
Alcohol stores forever so long as the bottle is kept closed. If you find the right person, they may consider a bottle of whiskey or vodka extremely valuable!
#35. Painkillers: For obvious reasons, people are going to want painkillers. You might not have access to prescription pills, but you could stock up on things such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
#36. Powdered Milk: Unless you have cows or goats on your property, you will want milk. However, we all know milk spoils quickly. Powdered milk is the easiest choice. It has an extended shelf life. You could also purchase canned milk, but it is hard to transport.
#37. Condoms: I know you are thinking “really,” but you have to remember that life will resume a normal sooner or later. Post-collapse, an unplanned pregnancy could cause disaster. People will still make love afterward. Condoms help to prevent pregnancy and STDs. They are relatively cheap if bought in bulk!
#38. Morning after pills: With no pharmacies, and possibly no condoms, the morning after pill could be worth a lot for some.
#39. Feminine Hygiene Products: For very obvious reasons, women will want these. For yourself, I highly suggest you look into something reusable, such as the Diva Cup.
#41. Spices: Eating bland food gets boring rather quickly. We already mentioned salt, but other spices will be in demand as well. You can get spices cheap!
#42. Fuel: Gas, diesel, propane, motor oil, and kerosene will be in high-demand. You need to make sure that you have enough stored for your family.
These items are essential for running generators, lamps and vehicles, along with appliances. Parting with even a little bit of your own fuel stockpile would require perhaps a dire need.
But, purchasing more gasoline, diesel fuel, 2-cycle oil, kerosene, and propane than you think you will need, along with stabilizer, will give you a commodity that will truly be worth its weight in gold. Learning how to make your own bio-diesel fuel and stockpiling the supplies to create it, would also be well worth the financial and time investment required.
#43. Duct Tape: Duct tape is a fix-all solution for many people. It has hundreds of uses, making it a great item for bartering. People will want and need a versatile option like Duct Tape.
#44. Books: Books of all kinds will be beneficial post SHTF. If you are a homeschooling family like mine, we need books to teach our children. However, people will also want books because they can learn new skills from them or just simply to relax and escape from reality for a bit. Books that offer information about gardening and foraging could be valuable.
#45. Chocolate: Just like books, people love comfort items that take them away from the issues at hand. Chocolate is a comfort item that someone may value more than you. The only problems with stockpiling chocolate for bartering is the shelf-life, and the deserve to eat it before bartering!
#46. Firewood: No matter if you live in the city or the country, you need fire to stay warm. Having a large stock of firewood to barter is a great thing to trade. Some people may not have the physical ability to chop wood or lack the tools.
#47. Livestock Feed: Hay and straw only keep so long, and would have to be rotated out of your prepper stockpile to avoid waste.
Stock up on feed for livestock both big and small and store in airtight containers or an old refrigerator turned on its side to keep bugs out and the feed safe to consume for several years. Pour diatomaceous dirt into the feed to help prevent any bug infestation.
#48. Natural Pesticides: Typically, I don’t encourage the use of pesticides. However, in this scenario, growing your food is a matter of life and death.
There won’t be a supermarket down the road if your crops fail for the year. Unless you have decades of experience under your belt, get some pesticides.
#49. Toothpaste: Although it is unlikely toothpaste will fetch much, everyone needs it to keep their mouth healthy. Unclean dental hygiene can lead to even more problems. You can get tubes of toothpaste for free with coupons!
#50. Reading Glasses: Reading glasses are cheap! You can get a pair for less than $5. People will have eyesight issues forever. You can accumulate a random collection.
#51. Mylar Blankets: To avoid hypothermia, warmth is a necessity. You could trade blankets, but they are large and harder to carry. Mylar blankets are cheap, sold in packs of 10 for less than $20. Also store regular blankets, sleeping bags and eve tarps.
#52. Plastic Bags: we all have too many of these, but when SHTF, there won’t be that many to go around. So if you don’t have a bag of bags at home, then you’re probably not a prepper, sir (or ma’am)!
Anytime you find a great deal or have extra money, invest it in bags of all types and dimension. Food storage bags, garbage bags, backpacks, canvas totes, etc. Basically anything type of bag that goods can be carried in on the body for transient survivors, to and from an emerging marketplace, to pack the garden harvest, etc.
#53. Phone chargers: why throw them away when you could store them in a safe place, possibly in a Faraday cage, to give to someone else?
#54. Shoe laces: you can get these at shoe stores or on Amazon really cheap. Shoes typically outlast shoe laces, so unless you want to use floss to tie your shoes, get a surplus of these.
Disclosure: This post has links to 3rd party websites, so I may get a commission if you buy through those links. See my full disclosure for more.
#55. Small Tents: Shelter is one of the most important items needed to stay alive. Consider purchasing a few small tents to have on hand. But don’t spend too much money on them, and consider ways to use them in the meantime, such as in camping trips with your children.
#56. Toys and Coloring Books: Parents will want to keep their children busy post-collapse.
#57. Combs and brushes: these are dirt-cheap today, so why not stock up on extras that you could share with others?
#58. N95 Respirators: These will be of high value in case of a volcanic eruption, and nationwide riots. They are so cheap on Amazon, it just make sense to get as many as you can.
#59. Razor Blades: A long beard could potentially be a health hazard, and shaving could potentially avoid sanitation issues.
#60. Chewing gum: It’s not only a stress reliever, but will also help keep your teeth clean. It has a pretty much an indefinite shelf life, as well as some nifty alternative survival uses.
Item’s to Think Twice About Before Bartering
#61. Bleach: Diseases and infections spread rapidly in unsanitary conditions. Bleach allows people to disinfect water, clean clothes or keep their living area clean. You could trade bottles for many items!
Bleach doesn’t have a long shelf-life, so you probably don’t want to trade it in a long-term disaster – how will you ever find more yourself?
#62. First Aid Supplies: Before you barter any first aid supplies, you need to ensure you have enough for your family. If you intend to barter with these items, it would be a great idea to make pre-made kits now ahead of time or buy small kits.
Things such as bandages, gauze, tape, triple antibiotic cream, allergy medication and more will be in demand. Just remember not to barter these unless you feel your stock is substantial for your group.
#63. Canning Lids: Canning jars might be reusable, but most canning lids are not. You can get a 12-pack for less than $1.75. Once things reach a sort of norm, people will want to preserve their harvest. Canning lids will be right at the top of their list.
The reason I’m putting lids in the “you may not want to barter list” is because in a long-term disaster, it’s unlikely you’ll find new ones. In order to do your canning every season, you cannot reuse old ones, so avoiding to barter them could be a smart move.
#64. Antibiotics: In a post-collapse world, the environment could be questionable. A simple cut could lead to an infection. Antibiotics have saved millions of lives. Chances are you can’t get your hand on a huge stock of Amoxicillin. You can use animal and fish antibiotics, which are usable for humans as well.
#65. Precious Metals: Immediately after an SHTF event, people won’t care about gold or silver coins. However, as things relax and the economy starts to rebound, gold and silver will be important.
For thousands of years, precious metals were the way to purchase items. Right now, we consider gold and silver valuable because it is harder to get. One day, a stash will allow you to purchase or barter what you need.
Careful, though. You don’t want people to know you’ve got gold and silver reserves. They might assume this anyway, if they know you’re a prepper. You many want to spread them in various secret hiding places.
#66. Guns: I want to start this off by saying you should only barter guns with those that you know and trust. You don’t want a firearm to end up in the wrong hands, potentially leading to harm for you or your loved ones. There is a chance they will simply turn the gun on you and use it after bartering.
#67. Ammunition: Guns and ammo will be hot ticket items post SHTF. People will need and want ammunition. Hunters need it to provide for their family, and everyone needs it for their defense. There are few things as valuable as firearms when the SHTF. A hefty stock of ammunition is one of the best things you can invest into for bartering.
You could also purchase .22 rifles, which could cost as little as $150 depending on sales. There are many people who believe you should never barter with ammunition. This decision is individual and entirely up to you and your family.
Never Barter the Things You Might Need
The things you should never barter are the ones you cannot live without… the things you’ll need. Think first aid supplies, your last cans of food, your last bottle of water.
Use your best judgement when bartering anything; try to anticipate what will happen in the near future, and only let go of something if you know for sure you won’t be needing it again.
Here’s a video of Tara Dodrill’s top SHTF bartering items:
Dan Sullivan’s note: remember that the bigger your stockpile, the more attention it will draw, particularly in times of need. Adequate protection measures need to be taken, you have to learn to keep your mouth shut about them as much as possible.
You also have to follow your own interest. So if you want to barter, for instance, duct tape, then the thing you need in exchange for it better be much more important / higher value.
It is also a good practice to barter with those you know rather than seeking strangers. Start hoarding these items, and learn how to negotiate like a pro today, not after a disaster happens. And be sure to pin this article to your favorite Pinterest board so you can come back to it!
If you want to print out this list, you can open this PDF checklist here, and either print it directly, or save it on your computer.
Bethany Hayes is a mother of three kids who has a small, suburban homestead. When she isn’t homeschooling or gardening, she might be focusing on building up their homestead or preserving the harvest.