10 of the Best Bartering Items if the Grid Goes Down

P. Henry
By P. Henry December 10, 2014 14:09

10 of the Best Bartering Items if the Grid Goes Down

If we have an event similar to the nationwide power outage portrayed in American Blackout, there is little doubt that we will eventually have widespread panic, looting and rioting by people who either don’t care or are driven to criminal behavior because of fear or need. The duration of the hypothetical scenario in American Blackout was only 10 days, but for events lasting longer as in a societal breakdown caused by an economic collapse, we could be looking at years of chaos. With no formal way to purchase anything using what would at that time be worthless paper, people would need to revert to bartering.

I have discussed potential risks with bartering in the past that I still feel would be valid, but assuming that barter was the only form of commerce you could use I wanted to write down my thoughts on what I felt would be the best bartering items to have on hand. If you could stock up on prepping items now with an eye toward a future without money, what would be the best items to have on hand for barter with someone else?

Before I get into that, let me quickly explain what bartering is to those who don’t know. Bartering is simply exchanging goods or services for other goods or services. It is trading without using money. An example of this is I have a neighbor who has a large and productive garden and he has tons of beautiful vegetables that he grows like nobody’s business. I on the other hand have chickens that lay a good number of eggs each day. He has vegetables and my garden is lagging this year. I have eggs and he doesn’t have any source of protein. In a barter situation, I could negotiate with him some of my eggs for some of his vegetables. We would both work out an equitable amount of each (vegetables and eggs) and trade. The terms would be up to us and I would be free to set my prices as low or high as I wanted. My neighbor would be able to do the same.


If the grid goes down, bartering may be how you conduct business.

This concept isn’t new and bartering was actually the way people purchased things for a very long time. Bartering continues to this day, but you can’t go into a Wal-Mart and say, “How about I cut your grass for all these groceries?”. Bartering would work best in small communities with people who know each other I think. Of course outsiders would be able to barter too, but then we get into that risky part of bartering I spoke about in my other post.

Bartering isn’t limited to goods. Services in the form of work or skilled trades can be bartered too. If we had the same grid-down economic collapse scenario I was talking about and my neighbor needed his roof repaired on his house. I could barter my carpentry skills for those vegetables too. One issue I can see coming up quickly in a long term catastrophe would be services of a more personal and physical nature. When you have nothing to trade but your body, I can see very bad things happening and this isn’t a plot from a movie either.

What am I trading for?

Now, we know what bartering is and how it’s done, but before you start stocking up on items you intend to use for barter, you have to ask yourself what you want to barter for? If you have barter items, the implication is that you would trade these for something you don’t have. If you are already planning to trade for something you don’t have, wouldn’t it make more sense to get that item you want instead of purchasing bartering supplies? Maybe that doesn’t work for all things and you would rather be safe than sorry. OK, I understand that, but the supplies listed below aren’t probably going to get you big ticket items. If you plan to barter for guns or ammo, you better have something very valuable to the people you expect to trade with.

  1. Food – This one along with some of the others is a tough one. There will be people without food and I know that decent people will part with something of theirs that you want for food. Maybe if someone is desperate enough, they will barter a weapon for a big chunk of food to feed their family.
  2. Water filters – Clean water is so simple, but immensely important. Disease is one of the quickest killers in any type of natural disaster. People in Haiti quickly succumbed to disease in the quake of 2010 because they had no clean drinking water and sanitation was a major problem. Having some simple water filters like LifeStraw or gravity fed systems like the PointONE could be highly valuable.
  3. Ammo – This probably goes without saying, but ammo will be more valuable than even Gold I think if we really live to see TEOTWAWKI. The supply and pricing is still not back to the levels we enjoyed a couple of years ago. I don’t know if they ever would, but I can always use a little more.
  4. First aid – Antibiotics – Medicine is hard to stock up on unless you have a very understanding doctor. Fortunately, there are sources for antibiotics you can take advantage of now and stock up before the hospitals are overflowing with people.
  5. Toilet Paper – Feminine napkins – One of the first small wins in my quest to convince my wife that stocking up on some things wasn’t crazy. All she had to picture was not having some of life’s necessities on hand and that changed her mind about stocking up.
  6. Candles – Candles are cheap and you can store them just about anywhere and forget about them. I have a box in my supplies and these provide light and potentially warmth to someone who has nothing.
  7. Batteries – Another no-brainer. If you have devices like radios, flashlights, walkies-talkies you will want to have batteries on hand. Bonus if these are rechargeable like Sanyo Eneloop.
  8. black outPropane – Small propane canisters like the kind for camping grills or lanterns are relatively cheap and could make an excellent barter item.
  9. Alcohol – Cigarettes – I don’t know how long cigarettes would store. If you kept them in a freezer they might last longer, but I wouldn’t devote a lot of space to something I can’t use, although I have said that if zombies take over the world I will probably take up smoking again. Alcohol on the other hand has a few uses. Buy small pint bottles and these may enable you to barter for something really needed if all other sources are gone.
  10. Books – Resource books and even fiction books. Without our modern distractions, a good book will be welcome to someone who has the time to chill out or who needs to learn something.

What about toiletry items for hygiene and cleaning up? I have heard others talk about that and I am sure someone would want those if the situation were ever so dire that people valued getting clean more than eating or protection but I think that is of limited value.

What other ideas do you have? What if anything are you stocking up on to use as barter?

This article first appeared on ThePrepperJournal 


P. Henry
By P. Henry December 10, 2014 14:09
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  1. dusty December 10, 14:53

    This Is under you food but I don’t think people think about I myself have added veggie seeds to my bug out bag they are light and take up almost no space and will produce you the food you need I added tomoatoes ,carrots , peppers and cucumber and also your basic herbs rosemary , dill , and Basil with those you can make almost any meal fit for a king and honestly you can barter good meals another seed I am adding is going to be the tobacco plant

    Reply to this comment
    • Tina August 22, 18:23

      Beans and legumes are a good item to add also. Good protein.

      Reply to this comment
      • Nev August 18, 23:35

        No, cigarettes won’t store well, but, the better way is to buy tobacco loose in a tin. I make my own now with a little rolling machine. I buy rolling papers and filters online. This way I can afford my habit and can use the * good stuff* ( American Spirit organic tobacco) at a fraction of the cost of packs. for bartering I would divide the tobacco into small baggies with some rolling papers.
        The Dollar Store is a wealth of potential barber items: small sewing kits, led keychain flashlights, travel sized OCT medicines ( think: Tylenol, Motrin, Pepto Bismal…), Hydrogen peroxide, wasp spray ( for personal defense), dental care items, powdered milk and other food items.

        Reply to this comment
        • Connie September 21, 00:35

          Yes it is! Dollar tree also has some out of the way products to fill a secure tub with odds and ends you can use.

          Reply to this comment
    • Connie September 21, 00:28

      Got two of ycanisters with 5000 seeds each. Then start saving from fruits and veggies. Gotta think bout soil, sun and water when you garden

      Reply to this comment
    • crazysquirrel February 19, 16:14

      Some problems with growing your own food –
      1) most people do not own land and would have to ‘squat’ to grow anything OR give up a good portion of their food to the landowner
      2) Unless you know how to do proper crop rotation, the soil can be quickly depleted and augmentation would be required – fertilizer would be hard to get after a couple of years.
      3) One would have to post a 24 hr guard on even young plants – animals (including zombies) will try to take whatever they can get. And of course you must babysit for insect damage and such. Plus watering issues if you do not get enough rain.
      3) Once you harvest, how do you store the bounty? Most have no idea how to do it.

      If you are a nomad (due to no land ownership), it is hard to grow crops.
      Sure a couple of grow bags might work, but those can get heavy after a while.

      About the biggest worry is that someone, some thing, or the government will take your stuff.

      FYI: Ancient Egyptians used to use blood as a fertilizer along with animal dung.

      Reply to this comment
  2. karpac January 3, 13:58

    i got 2 different water filters, i plan to barter clean water. they bring water from a nearby lake, i clean it, and keep a percent of it.

    Reply to this comment
    • Eddiew April 28, 19:00

      Wow! Great idea, I have a second too, and thought to help someone by giving it to them! This is a much better deal, and it helps many more people!! Thank you!!

      Reply to this comment
    • EddieW October 25, 23:55

      Question??? Has anyone figured out a way to make your dentures work, when their is no Polygrip??
      Be really hard to get enough extra!!

      Reply to this comment
      • InkBlott June 27, 16:22

        my dentures have been worn day n night for upto two full weeks, were only removed for cleaning then immediately put back in. the gums by nature formed themselves to the shape of the inner denture. Hence, I no longer needed poli-grip or any other gooie substance

        Reply to this comment
        • Tricky August 8, 08:25

          beeswax…and Karaya gum, tracagamth gum powder, and peppermint oil..man you could do good helping people with their dentures..lol

          Reply to this comment
      • Tricky August 8, 08:24

        beeswax…and Karaya gum, tracagamth gum powder, and peppermint oil..man you could do good helping people with their dentures..lol

        Reply to this comment
  3. Keneke November 17, 01:58

    I believe that salt should be considered a high priority item to stock.people have to have a certain amount of it, it has many uses such as preserving food, and until the SHTF it is dirt cheap, so you can stock extra to use as barter. In addition to Hains iodized sea salt ( to get the Iodine I need) I like Real Salt for all the extra trace minerals.

    Reply to this comment
    • EddieW April 28, 18:46

      I don’t use much salty, so have to take Kelp tablets, to be sure to get enough Iodine. A friend told to quit eating salt, I asked him what the doc told him to take to get the iodine? ZERO!! Nothing!! I told him about Kelp!!

      Reply to this comment
  4. efzapp April 20, 13:10

    I think you should NEVER barter ammo. The person may come back with his gun and barter for your life and take everything. Nope, my ammo is mine.

    Reply to this comment
    • lion tamer February 7, 04:02

      And why can’t they come back and barter for your life and take everything even if you aren’t bartering ammo? The product you are bartering makes no difference if someone gets the drop on you and wants to take your things.

      Reply to this comment
      • EddieW April 28, 18:49

        You are 100% on about that!! That goes even for the danger of helping others with your food…Hard, but about necessary to do that!!!

        Reply to this comment
  5. Labienus October 21, 18:46

    I prefer my 10

    Basic medical supplies
    Herb books
    Spices (including salt and pepper)

    Reply to this comment
  6. Annie November 27, 17:50

    Just saying, off the top of my head, if “It” hits the fan and people are stressed and want to get away from the real World for a bit, then I was thinking about cannibus.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Cj November 28, 02:37

    I have a bit of a different list.
    1 Salt- for preservation
    2 Toilet Paper-
    3. Medical supplies (especially bandaid and neosporine, and aspirin)
    4. Drinking alcohol – for medical as well as pleasure
    6.clothing- also sewing notions
    7.Books-good knowledge and entertainment
    8.Soap-for hygiene, laundry, and dishes
    9.Honey- never spoils and great health and cooking benefits
    10. Experience -having knowledge of gardening, tool repair, beekeeping, animal care, etc might be invaluable.

    Reply to this comment
  8. papawpaul January 29, 17:22

    The climate will turn immediately colder. No new co2 will translate to longer, harsher winters. 10 most important trading items.
    1. coats
    2. sweaters
    3. blankets
    4. fuel
    5. lanterns
    6. preserving salt
    7. canning supplies
    8. chickens
    9. rabbits
    10.seeds, seeds, and more seeds.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Barbie January 29, 17:47

    All these are good ideas but my job requires cross country travel. I’m not able to stock very much I my home as every 3 months I’m on the road again.My van is packed with clothing, uniforms,pots pans.,(more pots than pans as I can cook on the bottom of them and inside them) sewing machine dehydrator and other necessary stuff. Ive got some #10 cans of food. But need easy and small to pack. Any ideas? I’ve made several different pull bottle survival kits, hoping to learn decent fishing skills this year… Thanks

    Reply to this comment
    • Tina August 22, 18:32

      You have a dehydrator so dry some of your food and store with a seal-O- meal and then you’ll have plenty of dried food to eat. You can dry potatoes, veg’s anything and you can do it on the road just buy what ever is on sale. Remember not to over dry.

      Reply to this comment
    • Matt March 25, 16:26

      How about noodles? Like ramen, very cheap. And rice, not just white rice (which you should have) but also packs of knorr and such. Only .50-$1, take up very little space, only require water, nutritious and better tasting than plain white rice!

      Reply to this comment
    • Tricky August 8, 08:28

      Maybe its time to quit that considering the circumstances…protect your family ya know?

      Reply to this comment
  10. epplebear February 7, 06:45

    Seeds should be heirloom seeds.You can save seeds from heirloom seeds where you cant from other seeds.Condoms are a good thing to stock up to. Will hold about 1 gallon of water if put in a sock of other cloth. Keep guns an other items dry. Tampons to put in gun shot wounds to stop bleeding,help start fires .

    Reply to this comment
    • Doc March 25, 14:29

      Forget the idea of tampons to put in gun shot wounds. that old idea has been proven false and dangerous since tampons swell and are excellent sources of infection and can come apart when trying to remove them or work their way inside teh body and becoming the foci for life threatening infections. You won’t find any up to date medical source advocating that today.

      Reply to this comment
    • Linnie October 25, 19:07

      Do NOT put a tampon into any wound! Sounds like a good idea but when you try to remove it, the bleeding will start again and threads left inside could cause infection.

      Reply to this comment
    • Spiffy January 5, 05:19

      Stock cayenne pepper to stop bleeding fast and keep simple respiratory infections at bay.

      Reply to this comment
    • Bill Paine February 25, 05:27

      Never ever insert a tampon into a gunshot wound ! Case in point –
      Johnny Yates, PMC Small Arms/ First Aid Instructor (2015-present)
      Answered Dec 15
      Don’t stick tampons into gunshot wounds please.

      It just soaks up blood it doesn’t apply direct pressure to the wound your goal is to not soak up the blood that is already spilled outside the cardiovascular system (What’re you gonna do put it back in?) but to stop the bleeding altogether (Blood goes round and round air goes in and out and any deviation from that is a bad thing). Second if you put a tampon into the gunshot wound and then don’t tell the physician about it (In a combat environment you won’t see the physician who takes your casualty) and they go to X-Ray then they won’t see it and pieces of it very well may get left inside someone’s body causing sepsis which is why Combat Gauze/ QuickClot has a blue line down the middle of it making it visible on X-Rays it’s also why hemostatic agents now are a long 3m long ribbon rather than a powder like they used to be so that surgeons can get it all out in one foul swoop rather than having to continuously irrigate and manipulate the wound causing further nerve damage. Quick Clot or Combat Gauze whatever brand you get is already issued in your IFAKs there’s no need for a tampon, it doesn’t do shit that something else in your kit already doesn’t do. It’s unnecessary and an unsafe improvisation by some tactical timmy who fuooed the good idea fairy.

      Tampons are not a hemostatic agent that promotes clotting, it’s just a bunch of cotton that just soaks up blood (That it does very well) and manipulates the wound unnecessarily. You can use ’em for nose bleeds or to start fires, or use them for what their intended use is really for.

      Reply to this comment
  11. John Knoll February 8, 03:40

    A “nuke” as us baby boomers know is old history. I’m trying to get up to date on a “Feriday” cage. Heard about EMP’s?. Get some “Heritage Seeds” and a shovel.

    Reply to this comment
  12. T-Bone February 12, 15:42

    What people forget is when your medications run out then so dose your life if you are dependent on such things. So the strong survive. Food and water count but so dose those meds.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Fishunter March 26, 01:44

    I believe you should add Bic Lighters, fire proof matches, fire starter products, etc.

    Reply to this comment
    • EddieW April 28, 18:56

      I live in a high rise, and there is thrown out tons of lint from our 10 dryers!! I filled a couple of ziplock bags of it! I’ve heard of adding Vaseline, but haven’t done it…I tried a fire starter tool, and ignition first try!

      Reply to this comment
    • Gary November 29, 18:30

      Dryer lint is a good fire starter

      Reply to this comment
  14. SherBear April 5, 00:05

    You don’t want people to know how much you really have. Presenting them with pre-measured, small quantities is wiser than rolling out your bucket of dried milk or taking them into your storage or even letting see you enter & exit your storage. 1) Baggies. Freezer quality are sturdiest. If you’re bartering for a small quantity of anything (rice, sugar, etc) also good to help you measure. Pre-load several baggies of various items. Keep these handy. Not in primary storage.
    2) small “to go” sized packets of salt, pepper, sugar, sweet/lo… Usually find them in bags of 100 or more for just a few dollars.

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  15. SherBear April 5, 00:23

    More Americans have a sugar addiction than tobacco addiction. Leading up to hurricane Irma water and candy aisles at Target pretty much emptied simultaneously. Many Americans will experience sugar withdrawal. And it will be especially hard on children. Bartering a bag of M&M’s or chocolate chips might be something to think about.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Tommy April 11, 01:29

    Those #10 cans of food have a shelf life. Get a water purifier and dehydrated meals. Those will last 10-12 years, they are not as bulky and don’t weigh near as much for your van to carry around. “Mountain House” meals are the ones I prefer. I have carried those on many hiking trips and they are pretty palatable.

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  17. E. May 16, 06:50

    Pantyhose have numerous uses besides keeping legs warm [like the NFL do]. Straining liquids, stretchy rope, etc. Clear plastic wrap too, for covering large wounds from infection, like burns or sucking chest wounds. Lots and lots of baggies, all sizes. Lightweight carry and storage. Aspirin. Lipstick and condoms. For emotions, depression and stress in us humans.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Californian October 25, 15:00

    Ah you all forgot about all the people with opiate addictions. An excellent barter item!

    Reply to this comment
  19. misslou April 12, 23:15

    White rice is a good breakfast food, don’t cook it until it is dry but leave it creamy and add sugar/

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  20. Grandpa August 14, 01:00

    Thinking of trade items, consider clothe diapers and plastic panties for babies and zinc ointments for rash. Disposables will quickly run out of stock. Also in Wisconsin there is a store called Dollar Tree which sells small wood matches in ten packs for one dollar. There are 32 matches in strike on the box for a total of 320 matches. Easily traded one box at a time. With ten dollars that is 3200 matches.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Jim B August 23, 18:47

    I Have read all the former post and some are great for the short term survival but what about when all the store shelves are empty and jobs are useless because money is worthless. That’s when people are going to get desperate and yes even dangerous especially the city folks who are spoiled to being able to buy everything they need or want that suddenly find themselves without anything. They will be leaving those cities in search of food. This is when things will get worse for those who know how to live off the land and have what is necessary for survival like ammo small gardens other survival skills they don’t have. Granted most of us will be willing to share but when you are faced with hundreds and you don’t have enough to feed them all you yourself are in danger. How far are you willing to go to protect what is yours from those who intend to take it for their own short term survival?

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  22. fuzzy1949 December 18, 23:37

    Reconsider what you say about barter items. Two items I would never trade or give someone else, ammo and alcohol.
    Ammo, the first thing the person will do is load their gun and use it to kill you and take what you have stored. Plus you must think about your families safety. With you dead whats to stop this murderer from making your sweet wife and kids into slaves or worse.
    Alcohol: What is to prevent the person from getting drunk and killing other people (including you and your family) ?
    A little common sense goes a long way. Learn everything you can, knowledge will not weigh you down.

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  23. Harv February 4, 17:41

    All the dry tinder you could ever want. The dollar stores have those little inch and a quarter hand twist pencil sharpeners in 12 packs. Break off a dry pencil sized twig from a tree and use the sharpener on it and you can make all the tinder you will ever need from the shavings.

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  24. PAPA JOE March 8, 21:26

    For those of you who believe, A small bible can be packed in many locations.

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    • OntheRight AndInFaith March 20, 15:44

      I purchased 100 new testaments in English and Spanish to have for whoever will take one.
      Preparedness is essential but Knowing the God for our Eternity is uncompromisingly Vital!

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