Times have been tough. The old world you knew before is long gone, replaced by a harsh cruelty you never dreamed could happen. People are scattered. Cities are crumbling. Infrastructure is entirely non-existent. It has been 18 months since the government collapsed and several attempts to stabilize it or create a new one failed, and with them went the last vestiges of an organized economy. Bartering eventually becomes a major factor — but how?

In the early stages of any long-term crisis, cash will still play a major role in how people buy and sell things because people will believe that those pieces of paper still have value. The first to go will be credit and ATM cards, as the lack of electricity prevents their use, and following any large-scale governmental collapse is paper money. But for a while, a couple of months at most, as long as a person has a wad of bills in his pocket, he can still buy things from the ignorant and from those who don’t understand how economies work.

Now, as you stand in the crumbling ruins of a deserted grocery store, you realize paper currency is just a quaint relic of a bygone era. If you don’t produce what you need yourself, you either go without it or find someone who has it and is willing to trade for it.

Bartering Essentials

There is a standard list of needs a person must fulfill to survive any calamity. Food, shelter, fire, water, medicine, and protection are the broad-stroke bullet points of that list, as those categories must be satisfied and replenished when they run out. Otherwise, the odds of your survival will be lower. Given that, the extra gear you accumulate can be used to trade for the consumables you deplete yourself.

Remember, the value of a single item relies upon the law of supply and demand: the scarcer an item is, and the more people want it, the more valuable it becomes. So, when knives are in short supply, knives become much more valuable. The trick is figuring out what things are essential in a survival situation, and the most obvious are the things that expire quickly like food.

But that poses a problem. Storing an extra loaf of bread with the intention of trading it down the road won’t help because it will last no more than a few weeks. But bags of flour and grains will last a few years. The longer something lasts—like sugar, honey, bouillon cubes, and salt—the better it can serve you in the future when you want to trade for vegetables or fresh eggs.

People have vices, needs, habits and urges. Take advantage of that. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol addiction can be a double-edged sword, however. On the one hand, their desperation might be great enough for spirits, cigarettes, and coffee that they might be willing to pay a high price for them.

On the other hand, these same addictions might be so powerful, that they’d be willing to commit crimes to satisfy them. In the photo gallery above are categories of things you should hoard to use as bartering tools. They not only fulfill various needs in people’s lives but can also last a long time if stored properly.

This article originally appeared in ‘Survivor’s Edge’ Summer 2017. To pick up a copy, visit

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