> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Prepping on $40 a Week: Food Storage Week 3 & Barter Goods



Prepping on $40 a Week: Food Storage Week 3 & Barter Goods

Guys and gals, we're almost at the end of this series! Hold on tight.

So for the past couple weeks, we've put together a simple, low-cost food storage from rice, beans, and some assorted canned goods and shelf stable stuff. It's not glamorous, but it's a month of shelf stable food for $80. The rice and beans will provide the calories, carbs and protein you need, and with the addition of some oils and the assorted canned goods, you should have adequate fats, too.

Unfortunately, you'll be lacking in many other vitamins and nutrients. While it probably won't kill ya, we're going to add a multivitamin to the mix to alleviate any problems that might come from eating rice, beans and canned stuff for a month straight (aside from boredom).

The least expensive multivitamins that I have found come from Costco...the Kirkland brand. They come in big ol' bottles of 500 tablets. If you don't have a Costco membership, don't fear, you can buy 'em on Amazon for about $19. The price at Costco should be a few bucks less - around $15.50. That's dirt cheap for quality vitamins - the Wal-Mart brand is more than twice as expensive.

Of course, you probably won't need 500 multivitamins unless it's a really bad apocalypse, or if you're spreading 'em around a large family.  Don't worry, though, multivitamins can make good barter material.

Others will be eating much worse that you will, and vitamins will become pretty desireable things in an extended emergency, which is the kind where barter comes into play. If your teeth start falling out, you'd be willing to trade quite a bit for a handful of vitamins.

Certianly, multivitamins are not the end-all of barter goods, but we want to have 'em on hand anyways, so why buy in quantity.

So, the multivitamins will eat up $15-$20 of our budget this week.

The rest, we're going to roll into barter goods. The best kind of barter goods, in my opinion, meet the following criteria:
  • Useful if you don't barter them away--something you will use/consume
  • Inexpensive in normal times
  • Hard/impossible to reproduce post-collapse
  • Lightweight
  • Long/indefinite shelf life
  • Stuff that the average household won't have in quantity
There's no one "right" thing to stash for barter, and really, a lot of it will depend on your individual circumstances. You should diversify your barter stash, too--if you have 500 lighters but no one wants lighters, you're outta luck.

Here's a short list of ideas: lighters, matches, cheap candles, all kinds of medical supplies, vitamins (got 'em!), batteries, cheap knives, tarps, cordage of various kinds, heavy grade garbage bags, fishing hooks & line, rat traps, needles and thread, work gloves, small propane tanks, N95 masks, small candies, chocolates, spices, non-hybrid seeds and the old stand bys of alcohol, coffee and tobacco.

Food and ammo can work, too - but may not want your trade partner knowing that you have a surplus of either, and there's concerns about having bartered ammo used against you. Sugar, honey, and other sweet things would be in high demand.

One special mention item is calcium hypochlorite, which is usually sold as pool shock. It's shelf stable, and can be used to purify water in large quantities (like thousands of gallons). This EPA page has the how-to. If you can't find the right stuff in local stores, Amazon has 6 pounds for $27 shipped.

Here are a few barter item deals - feel free to share others in the comments section:
  • 50 lighters for just over $14 shipped
  • Boxes of matches from the local grocery store - get 'em in match books or smaller boxes for easier trading. Usually around $2-$4 for 500.
  • My DIY survival candles
  • 100-packs of tealights from Ikea - if you can survive the rest of the store
  • Baby wipes from Costco - not just for the babies! Much more effective and multipurpose than ol' fashioned TP.
  • Amazon has some decent, dirt-cheap knives that would make good trade bait or handouts - here and here for two examples that come with firesteels!
Also, keep in mind your skills and current equipment--ser. You should have a Sawyer water filter that will be good for a million gallons of water - properly set up, you could be filtering drinking water for several households, bottling for trade, etc. That's huge. If you're decent at sewing, you might want to make up some simple bags/packs (or have the knowhow and materials to do so). Got a smoker in the backyard? Make sure you've got extra wood, spices, etc. just in case. You get the picture.

Why do we care about barter? Well, you can't plan for everything, and there are some things you will forget, run out of or break and need to replace. You will probably also need help from others at some point--even if it's just for an exchange of information--and they might want some encouragement. Even if you have everything you could possible every need for the apocalypse, sometimes you just want to improve morale or make a new friend.

Got any favorite barter items? Disagree with something? Let us know in the comments sections.


  1. One suggestion is to search for local places where government surplus items are sold to the public. All the knifes and stuff that TSA confiscates end up there. I saw cheap multi-tools for just a dollar, and leatherman stuff for $3 and $10, if you're interested in better quality. Could be useful for barter, or just to have some extras.

  2. What is the expiration date on multi-vitamins?

  3. You covered most of the good barter stuff. that said, throughout my life and especially in the last decade I started keeping any and all odds and ends ammo that I found, or was given, or bought at a junk sale. I have ended up with a large ammo can full of the stuff, and some are popular but of no use to me, like 40 cal, 44 magnum, 223, 45 colt, 38 special, I mean I have a lot of it, so that is the base of my barter, I also laid out a plan with my children on how that barter could be conducted, really that is a scary barter item. So we would barter ammo, but only while two of us stood guard locked and loaded, and the person getting the ammo would not be allowed to load any weapons with it till the barter was done and we were secure. I also have a lot of small silver coins I collected for years, dimes, nickles and quarters. personally I would not barter my food, water or medical, that is something you will always need sooner or later and it may just not be available at any cost.

    another item over looked is knowledge, it can be bartered if you are an expert at a particular, very needed craft, profession etc. like dentistry, medical care, gun smith, etc...

  4. Recurved BoomstickOctober 25, 2012

    Protein/ weight gain shakes also pack a lot of nutrients and calories. I'd wager coffee, tobacco products, alcohol, and other "habits" would be in demand, as well.

  5. Depending in the length and severity of the "disaster", don't fail to consider (paper) books as trade items. Yardsale "how to" books, Dollar Store kid's books and various "devotional/inspirational/religious" books will probably be excellent "trade bait".

    I definitely agree about skills, and especially the grills/smokers. I have 3 backyard smokers that are "coming along with me" and I'm slowly learning to do "traditional Old World" cured sausages and hams, etc. If the food is good enough, the neighbors might well be willing to go a bit out of their way to be sure I stay alive to make more.

  6. Diversification and a skill sets as a base are important. Also bear in mind that some supplies will be abundant if looted, at least in the short term. Depending on where you are, old skills and equipment make a very tradeable skill set - such as a horse and plough, milling and threshing, fencing / dry stone walling...hard skills to put together after the SHTF, and if you are really good, then your skill set becomes your niche