Survival Skills Blog & Off The Grid Guides

Priceless Bartering Chips: Part 1


Any survivalist that’s worth his salt has a stockpile of things he or she has identified that they may need to survive a natural or man-made disaster. However, it is extremely important that you realize the value of maintaining a barter store as well.

When things go south, particularly in an economic collapse where the dollar is nearly worthless, a number of non-monetary goods will be more valuable than a fistful of dollar bills.

It’s also important to recognize that no matter what we do we could never store enough of every item to account for every scenario for an extended period of time. What we can do however is keep some items on hand to use as bartering chips with friends and neighbors that will help to plug any unforeseen gaps in our preparations.

Imagine a neighbor with a large garden and some chickens trading half dozen eggs and some squash for a box of ammo, or a small bottle of Vodka. Who got the better end of the deal?

The truth is, they both profited by trading something that held little value to each person for something that was more valuable.  Not all bartering situations will be mutually beneficial but this is the best you can hope for.

I have read many “Complete Lists” of survival and bartering items over the last few years and frankly, I am sick of most of them.  The main problem with these lists is that they are just that, a list.

They spout lines of text and tell you that you need these items… But WHY do you need them?  I have compiled my own list of items below and included why and how they can be used after a crisis.

Consider stocking up on these items. Even if you have no plans to use them yourself; they are inexpensive now and will be worth more than you can imagine to others later.

16 Items to stockpile now that will be priceless later

1.      Cigarettes: I hate smoking.  I can’t stand the smell of them. Having said that, I do recognize that after a crisis situation many others who have a physical and mental addiction to nicotine will be cut off from their access to cigarettes and this increases the intrinsic value of a cigarette exponentially and makes it one hell of a bartering chip.

One caveat to this is that factory made cigarettes, much like most other things in life have a limited shelf life of around two years give or take.

To store them for the longest possible period keep them in the freezer in an airtight container.  In a grid down situation you should probably offload these first as people will be immediately clamoring for creature comforts, but will soon be forced to wean themselves from the habit as they become harder and harder to come by.

If you have the land and the ability you could also learn to grow your own fresh tobacco.
Although tobacco farming is not easy and the horror stories that I heard from my stepmothers failed tobacco farm will keep me from learning that trade.

2.      Alcohol: Alcohol will be one of, if not the chief bartering commodity in a post SHTF situation.

Aside from being used as a temporary escape from the reality of whatever crisis you may find yourself in alcohol has a vast amount of alternate uses.  Anything above 40 proof will ignite with the smallest spark and makes fire starting a breeze.

If you have low sugar liquor, you can use it as an antiseptic to treat wounds. It is also a mild pain reliever that can treat anything from a toothache to the flu and while they will not cure the ailments they make them a bit more bearable.

Home brewing kits have been made widely available thanks to the gain in its popularity    Becoming a home brew master is a fun skill to have and in any situation where alcohol is worth more than paper money is a very handy and lucrative ability indeed.

A few key things to note include the fact that in the U.S., most states permit home brewing, allowing 100 gallons of beer per adult per year and up to a maximum of 200 gallons per household annually when there are two or more adults residing in the household.  Legally, you are restricted from selling any home brewed beer.

As far as distillation or “moonshining” goes, Owning or operating a distillation apparatus without filing the proper paperwork and paying the taxes carries federal criminal penalties.  I do not agree with breaking the law in order to further yourself.

When I speak of home brewing and home distillation, I am strictly speaking in terms of a WROL situation.  With that being said, if you would like to look into home distillation, there is an absolute ton of research and books available to get you started.  I have not delved to deeply into the world of a ‘shiner,’ but I have read some of the reviews of the top books available on Amazon and found that  “The Home Distillers Workbook” is a fairly good beginners guide.

3.      Antibiotics and Medicines:  I am by no means an expert on medicines, but I do know that people will need it, and having a good amount of ibuprofen and Tylenolavailable will put you in a much better spot than being without.

There are also many alternative methods of obtaining medicine such as using fish antibiotics for human use. While this is technically illegal, if you want to hone your survival and alternative first aid skills, you should purchase The Doom and Bloom Survival Medicine Handbook.

This handbook is a guide to staying healthy is situations where help is NOT just around the corner.  Since its first publication, it has occupied the #1 Amazon Bestseller spot multiple times in both the Survival Skills and Safety and First Aid categories.

4.      Sanitation and First Aid Supplies: Proper sanitation is a major element in survival.

During normal times, a small cut that is quickly bandaged and cleaned will usually heal in a matter of days.  Alternatively, in a situation where you don’t have anything to properly clean yourself, a cut or even a small scrape can quickly become infected and drastically reduce your efficiency.

Your body will already be taxed from the stress of being in survival mode, so anything that can be used to keep it in tip top shape makes it a very efficient commodity.

I am not saying that you need to hoard enough first aid supplies to fully stock an emergency room, just have enough for yourself and a few extra that you are willing to part with.

The next time you are eating BBQ or chicken wings, let the server know that you are extra messy and see if you can score some of those moist towlettes. They are free, last indefinitely, and could be very valuable in a SHTF scenario.

Also consider stockpiling some rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.  They are cheap, small, and last a long time.  Peroxide can be used to treat water as well as your wounds, and alcohol can be used for fire starting as well as cleaning a work surface.
Another good thing to stock up on is feminine hygiene products.  Tampons can make a rudimentary straw or fire starter and the cotton batting can be used for cleaning wounds as well as rifles and shotguns.  Feminine pads and lines can be used as a makeshift bandage for larger wounds.

Neosporin is also an important item to keep around both for personal use and in a barter situation.  It will help stave off infection and has a decent shelf life of around 24 months according to the manufacturer.  Unopened it may last much longer, but you take a risk using anything past its expiration date.  I recommend storing antibiotic ointments in your refrigerator to help prolong the shelf life on it, unless it is otherwise stated on the packaging.

5.      Bullets:  If you decide to stock guns, be it for home defense or hunting, you first need to make sure you are trained and know how to properly trained in their usage.

After you have the appropriate training, it is obviously a necessity to have a decent store of ammo representing all calibers of the weapons you own. After all, a gun without ammo is just a glorified club.

My personal choice for guns is a good old .22 caliber long rifle and a .22 caliber pistol that takes LR rounds.  The reasoning for this is that the .22 is the most commonly available and cheapest rifle round on the market.

While you may not have the knockdown power of a shotgun you can easily carry 20 rounds of .22 caliber ammo inside of a single shotgun shell and if you are accurate enough, you don’t need a lot of knockdown power to take out small game.

Every prepper has his or her own recommendation for what firearm to keep, this is mine.

Whatever gun you choose, it’s a good idea to store extra ammo in common calibers (9mm, .22, .38, 12-guage shells, etc.) to use as a potential barter item.  You will still need to initially focus your purchases around what you intend to keep, but having options will help you in the long run.

Click here to read part two of this series

Click here to skip to part three of this series


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  • Pat Keller says:

    Aloha, why did you stop with five [5]? You stated there were
    16 items you were listing. Then you only listed five. What is
    with that?

    Please complete your list.

    Pat Keller
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    • Joe says:

      Hi Pat,
      I stopped at 5 because the email ran a little long and I wanted to make it easier to digest, Keep a look out for my next newsletter on Monday, I will put more in that one, I just keep thinking of things to add to each item and want to make sure I cover my bases as much as possible. Make sure you subscribe to my email if you haven’t already.
      thanks again

  • KELLY LOMAX says:

    Love your newsletters! Thanks for the partial list WITH the explanations!

  • Great Grey says:

    Sorry, but I have yet to see any of those moist towlettes. That last indefinitely,most I have had have gone dry in 3-4 years.

    • ChewyBees says:

      Anything packaged with the potential of drying out / expiration, should be at a minimum plastic ziplocked, or maybe even vacuum sealed to boot. Like a fine cigar, there is nothing wrong with prolonging the life of moisture in an item with a sealed container and a humidifying agent. In fact, the gels and other humidifiers for cigars would work awesome for anything, as they are safe for exposure then consumption.

  • KAHR50 says:

    Buy rolling papers, tobacco and a rolling machine – way cheaper and easier to store and less likely to be stolen – not convenient to make your own. Sure they are filterless, but who cares – they are for the smoker, not you.

  • Carrie says:

    I appreciate you keeping the lists short and giving explanations.


  • Kristin says:

    When I drank I used to buy those home winemaking kits you can pick up for about 9 dollars- just add grape juice. All it is is an air release valve such as used in home aquarium air lines- that fit over a grape juice bottle. Add yeast, wait 24/48 (or longer) hours- voila, grape wine.

    The bag tobacco and roll your own idea is wonderful.

    The web or telecommunications grid could be hampered, go out, OR be “severely restricted” ahem. Maybe some sites branded “hate speech” could suddenly disappear. Find your local ISPs dial up numbers and how to log in, should hispeed lines go down. Learn how to use wireless routers to create a “mini web” that can span miles, using daisy chained wireless routers from location to location a la “ad hoc” type set up.
    Download and save helpful SHTF type sites to use in case the comm grid goes out. BOOKS! how tos, gardening, medical books are very useful.

    One could set up an “emergency” analog TV station easily, that can be broadcast to an apartment complex, school, or neighborhood (look up easy instructions on youtube etc, uses VHS player, amplifiers) also useful if telecom/CATV goes out.

    Personally- now this is completely off topic- but I see the REAL SHTF situation may occur verrry gradually- the social order of things slowly decaying, so that while we wait for sudden destruction to happen, it’s in actuality slowly falling apart around us like a frog boiling.

    • ChewyBees says:

      True about the last part, the gradual decay. But when the bottom falls out of the economy (ie they have nothing left to squeeze out of the populace, then a giant avalanche of public services and entitlement programs will end in a couple of weeks time.

      Check this vid out, it is an hour long, but every minute is awesome:

  • Steve says:

    I think that the most priceless by far is having the skills and tools to create goods and services others will desire. Just to pick on one thing, alcohol; bottles of alcohol are easily thieved and if you have horded it, it may put your life in danger. On the other hand, having the skill to brew your own from raw ingredients cannot be taken away from you and makes your continued existence more valuable. Same thing goes for ability to grow your own commodities, cook, weld, build, make your own weapons, etc. So I would much rather invest in greenhouses, welders, steel stock, seeds, hand pumps, solar panels, wood working tools and the knowledge to use them.

    In a collapse the commodities will soon be used or thieved and eventually be replaced by low tech substitutions. Knowing how to create your own tech will be very very important.

  • janey says:

    @ Kristan. You sound like a very wise lady. You seem to be well versed on many subjects. I wish I lived next door to you.

    And for you Joe. I thank you. Good ideas. I have tobaco seeds, a home made still, and yes I know how to use it, and even tho I am old, their are washable sanitary pads. I have them for my daughters for when tshtf.

  • Becky says:

    My brother is heavily into the Primitive Pursuits movement in NY, learning how AND teaching others. Google “Primitive Pursuits” to see what comes up…. Last summer’s P.P.Day involved (among other things) building friction fires with hand drills and bow drills (his specialty – he can start a fire in under 10 seconds!!!); constructing and using a high-efficiency, low-emission rocket stove made from native materials, which cooks a whole meal using a few little sticks or other burnable material; making cordage (thread, string, rope) from plant or animal fibers; making bows & arrows and learning how to use them; how to filter water to make it potable; tanning hides and making leather; making bark bowls, boxes and buckets; carving wooden spoons and other utensils; basketry and mat-weaving; etc. The really NEAT thing? This was being taught to the public by ordinary people who knew how to do it, and little kids were there in DROVES, lapping it up, as were their parents!

    Brother is into winter and foul-weather survival camping, too, learning how to find or create weather-tight shelters, build fires in soggy and windy conditions, catch & kill game, creating spears, axes, knives, scrapers and other tools from bone, antler, shell, stone, wood, or whatever.

    That, to us, is a true ‘survivalist,’ being able to survive with nothing but your bare hands, and maybe a knife if you’re lucky enough to have one. A lot of people have lived quite well off the land, without ANY modern conveniences. I have a feeling we’d better learn how to do it again.

    When you don’t have the money to buy all the stainless steel this & that, or the cute little stove that goes on a propane/butane bottle…. or if you are away from home without all your stockpiled stuff and can’t get back to it when the SHTF, it’s a whole lot better to know how to live off the land without ANY amenities. Cartoons to the contrary, smart squirrels don’t keep all their nuts in only one hollow tree, where a bear can wipe them out in one marauding visit.

    I hadn’t done any heavy research into doing any of the Primitive Pursuits before I moved here, although it had been an interest since I was a child. My main self-education over the past 20-30 years has been in edible & medicinal wild plants, and some edible fungi. Knowing the herbaceous plants, woody vines, shrubs and trees around you – both wild and domesticated – what they look like in all seasons, where to find them, parts to use, and what they’re good for, will go a long way toward keeping you alive. (Or carefully serving up a bowl of something toxic to your captors, giving you time to escape….? )

  • ChewyBees says:

    A truckload of tampons and pads might be a bartering agent on the level of cigarettes and bottles of vodka. You only have so many months of T-shirts and towels, and based on my own families existence, women do not “stock up” on these things, but go until it runs out. It is a necessity, as there are only so many T-shirts and towels to go. Sorry to be so direct, but it is the complete truth. And the use as a medical pad is totally relevant.

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