You Need to Be Thinking NOW About Bartering

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Bad news concerning the supply chain just keeps coming. The Organic Prepper published an article on the Russian fertilizer export ban not too long ago. We also covered the fires engulfing major food distributors in the U.S. Shanghai, the world’s busiest port, has been locked down, with no end in sight. And, inexplicably, Union Pacific has mandated a 20% volume reduction for its freight cars that should be moving fertilizer around the country this time of year.

Add to this the apocalyptic drought in the Western U.S. and rampant inflation, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the thought of what will happen this growing season. However, it’s still early in the growing season, and it’s still too soon to despair.

But we should be planning for a rough couple of years ahead.

Bartering will come back with a vengeance. The dollar may not be the world’s reserve currency that much longer. Between pumping trillions of dollars into the system over the past two years and trying to use the dollar to isolate the Russians, even CNN admits the dollar is in trouble. Our government is far too interested in centralized digital currencies for my personal comfort.

We need other options, and sooner rather than later.

Some of us have been fortunate enough to have lived in the same place for more than a couple of years. Networks of trustworthy friends and neighbors are invaluable. Some people (like myself) have a small amount of acreage, which means that I have a variety of homesteading endeavors to choose from. I’ve been bartering with neighbors for years. Right now, one of my neighbors is running an extra freezer for me in exchange for my daughter helping to take care of his horses. If you live in one area for a long time, these kinds of arrangements often just sort of fall into place.

We also live close enough to the edge of suburbia that we have farmer friends. Labor laws in my state have changed recently, making it far more expensive to hire seasonal workers. (Does it ever feel like someone is trying to destroy agriculture?) Some friends and I are tentatively planning bartering arrangements for the fall when it’s harvesting and processing time. Twenty years ago, I would never have promoted working off the books. These days, it seems like you have to.

If you have the option to develop some kind of a working relationship with a farmer, that’s great. But other bartering options exist as well for people living deep within the concrete jungle.

Urban and suburban dwellers can do the same sort of thing, albeit on a smaller scale.

If you have a suburban yard, you may be able to grow quite a bit of your own vegetables to get you through the year. And you may be able to grow all the ingredients for certain specialty items, such as pasta sauce. When I lived in the suburbs, that’s what I did. You may be able to swap extra pasta sauce in exchange for eggs with a neighbor who uses their yard for chickens. Or you may have another neighbor that grows everything for pesto or another neighbor with berry bushes or fruit trees.

I’m always astounded at the amount of fruit that falls to the ground and gets wasted because people don’t know what to do with it. If you have a fruit tree, use it!

If you don’t have a canner or freezer space, most fruit (other than citrus) dries well. I have a neighbor with apple trees. This year, I ran out of canning lids, so I couldn’t preserve them as apple sauce. Instead, I sliced them thinly, put them in a dehydrator, and then vacuum-sealed them. I’m keeping most of them, but I’ve tried a few, and they came out wonderfully.

What about all the half-rotten stuff on the ground? Chickens love it if anyone in your circle of friends has chickens. It can also go into the compost heap and become fertilizer for next year’s vegetable garden.

You need to pay attention to the current world.

I don’t want to wind up like North Korea, where they have a government-mandated “poop quota” for each household. No joke. North Koreans have been starving for years. Even in the good years, they could not afford much fertilizer. When they closed their borders due to Covid, they also stopped importing fertilizer. Now, if North Koreans don’t turn in enough household feces, they cannot enter markets. Many countries have implemented Covid passes; the North Koreans have poo passes. The fertilizer shortage is real, and this is what will happen farther down the line if we don’t pay attention now.

I would much rather grab a shovel and pick up rotten fruit than poop in a bucket and turn it into my local government official. The United States is rich in natural resources. We’re all being affected by inflation and supply chain woes, and I don’t know if any of us will be able to avoid some serious lifestyle changes. However, reducing waste and developing frugal habits may soften the blow. If you are even remotely interested in growing some of your own food, now is the time to start.

But of course, many people don’t have a yard, and many people also don’t have a green thumb.

It doesn’t mean you’re lost.

Clothes may have to start lasting a lot longer. If you’re handy at mending, you will become valuable.

I speak from the heart here—I love all things relating to gardening and raising animals, but I’m hopeless at the crafty stuff. I look at a sewing machine, and it breaks. I have to get my kids to do knots for me. It’s absurd. I’m also ridiculously short and need dress clothes altered to fit properly. But I have food! I know I’d be willing to trade food for help keeping clothes mended.

This isn’t just about looking nice. Proper clothing will become a more pressing need as time goes on for those of us living in colder climates. Look at your clothes labels. They overwhelmingly come from Asia. It takes a lot of fuel to ship things from Asia, and fuel prices are skyrocketing.

High fuel prices will also make it more expensive to heat our homes. I live in wool-long undies for 6+ months a year because my polar bear children love having the house at 65. That’s a choice we make, but that choice may disappear within the year. A lot of people may have to keep their houses much colder simply because they cannot afford the fuel. This means more layers of clothing, which means more of a need for people who can keep clothes patched and wearable.

The ability to fix things, in general, will become more valuable.

We live in a landfill economy. That has to change. Supply chain issues are already making life difficult, and it will only get worse. I go to the same garage regularly because my son has a 20-year-old car that is difficult. The shop mechanic was telling me he’s had a hard time finding parts for vehicles less than ten years old. He’s got one vehicle with only 40,000 miles on it that is currently unusable because of parts shortages. Skillful vehicle maintenance will become more and more vital.

Your life is changing, whether you want it to or not.

A lot of people still spend their days doing their one job and then going home and streaming videos all evening, assuming that the inflation is transitory and peaking and that if everyone just complies hard enough, things will go back to 2019. It won’t happen.

Think about what you’re already good at.

Most of us have fun things we do on the side. My hobby farm (which is quite productive) started off as a little garden back in my suburban mom days, something mostly to entertain myself and my children when they were infants and toddlers. Then I realized how much money I was saving.

I don’t know how much time we’ll have before things get really bad. Maybe there’ll be one cataclysmic event. Maybe we’ll just keep on Fabian’s Third-Worldization pathway. Either way, we should soberly assess our abilities and assets.

We should not act out of fear.

When I got started with the hobby farm, I would jokingly tell people that I wanted my own food supply in case of a zombie apocalypse. And it’s come in handy the past couple of years! But I have heard a lot of, “Well, that’s fine for you, but I refuse to live in fear.”

Prepping isn’t living in fear.

It’s the sober realization that modern life has been based on a complex network of supply chains and support systems that have not received necessary maintenance and are now approaching a collapse. Nothing lasts forever. The Roman Empire didn’t last forever, and the American one won’t either. But we have the choice between waiting for the Visigoths to sack our homes and lead us all into slavery or proactively developing our own systems of creating and obtaining necessities while we still can.

And bartering will become more and more a part of that.

(Make sure you check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to home canning so that you have something to barter with.)

To barter, you need something to barter with.

Some people with money set aside have been stocking up on commodities such as gold and ammo. I have also met people stockpiling more unusual things, such as first edition signed books, spices, and fine art. If that works, good for them.

Personally, I don’t have enough money lying around for that kind of thing, and I’m willing to bet most of our readers don’t either. But most of us have skills that we can continue to refine. The modern Visigoths waiting in the wings to turn us all into slaves may be able to sack our homes, but they cannot take what’s in our heads.

Most of us by now are familiar with Klaus Schwab’s prediction that “By 2030, you will own nothing, and you will be happy.” There are some spectacularly powerful and arrogant people that see the masses as little more than fodder for experimentation. However, intense central planning has a bad track record. For reference, read up on Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and keep in mind that Hitler only controlled Germany for 12 years. Whatever evil they have planned, it won’t last forever.

Life will be harder for a while, and we need to move forward in that knowledge.

I don’t live in fear because I know that I’m doing everything possible at this phase of my life to give myself and my children a variety of options. That’s all any of us can do, whether we’ve got a farm out in the country or a garage in the city. Work on your skills and maintain your friendships. Find out who will deal honestly and in good faith with you. Surround yourself with people that are good for your mental and spiritual health. Know that you’re doing the best you can.

About Marie Hawthorne

A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her. 

Picture of Marie Hawthorne

Marie Hawthorne

A lover of novels and cultivator of superb apple pie recipes, Marie spends her free time writing about the world around her.

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  • alcohol, tobacco, chocolate, coffee, coca-cola, matches/lighters, duct tape, vitamins, pocket knives, batteries, isopropyl.

    • unless you are producing alcohol(wine from fruit trees) or growing your own tobacco they are poor choices as you are advertizing your wealth and may become suject to robbery

      • don’t flash how much you have, just show the bare minimum. and selco says don’t be the guy who has something, but be the guy who knows where to get something.

    • Been thinking about bartering for some time.

      Reading from war-time diaries and such, chocolate and coffee are better for bartering, just because just about anyone will appreciate them, while alcohol and tobacco aren’t of interest to everyone.

      Lighters (and lighter fluid) will make better barter items than matches, because matches can go damp and spoil.

      Disposable razors and blades are better for barter than pocket knives, both because they are sharper, and because they go blunt quicker, so people need more of them.

      Rechargeable batteries will make for more valuable barter items than non-rechargeable ones, though probably having some of both will be useful.

      • “alcohol and tobacco aren’t of interest to everyone”

        those who want them will really want them.

        “matches can go damp and spoil”

        they’re very very cheap ($2.50 for a thousand) and you can barter two or three at a time (divisibility) if called for. keep them in prescription medicine bottles.

        “Rechargeable batteries will make for more valuable barter items than non-rechargeable ones”

        recharging rechargeables will be better long-term.

      • “Lighters (and lighter fluid) will make better barter items than matches, because matches can go damp and spoil.”

        For my personal use, I’ve bought about a dozen Zippos at yard sales, and a bunch of small Bic style Clipper Lighters that you can re-fill and replace the flints. Thought about buying tons of them to barter, but instead bought about a thousand lighter flints. You can get lighter flints by the bag full, as well as Clipper Lighters on Amazon.

        Selco has talked about refilling Bic Lighters with propane, but I don’t know how exactly. There are a lot of video on Youtube, but most seem sketchy and dangerous. Not worth the trouble to me for $1 item.

  • Excellent article. We don’t know how long until cash is withdrawn and everything goes digital, but it’s not long. Likely within a year or so. Bartering will be key, with food, ammo, tools, etc more important than precious metals.
    But most importantly, I encourage people to look to Jesus Christ as their hope. He is coming soon for those who belong to Him, and we will escape the worst that is coming. You only need ask Him to forgive you, and receive Him into your life. Your life’s biggest decision.

    • I’d like to think the Rapture will take place according to Daniel and Revelations before SHTF so I am trying to educate myself on these signs and prayerfully weeding out what I must do for my family.

      • there is no such thing as rapture…the bible CLEARLY tells you that you are going to be in the middle of the storm, jesus himself said you’d be persecuted. i dont know who is helping you study the bible but they arent doin a good job.

        • Erick, Jesus is indeed coming back for the church and we will be caught up to meet Him in the air. What we don’t know for sure, is if that will be pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation or post-tribulation. You’re absolutely right, that those who live Godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. We should be ready for anything. Much better to be (especially) spiritually prepared to go through it, than to be caught with our lamps untrimmed.

          • You’re right, Carla – the Rapture of the Church is an absolute truth, and taught in scripture. Jesus gave us His promise in Revelation 3:10 that His bride will not participate in His Seal, Trumpet and Bowl judgments. And why would we? The Church is not subject to judgment and condemnation as we have been washed in the precious blood of the Lamb of God.
            The Rapture is Pre-Trib, as taught in scripture. Those final 7 years are the 70th Seven (Daniel chapter 9) which are specifically for Israel. The Church had no part in the first 69 Sevens, and we have no part in the 70th either. Comfort one another with these words! Maranatha!

  • Recently took a blacksmithing class, bought an antique anvil, and a new small propane forge. I also have a small 110 (low power) welder with LOTS of wire. Right now, I’m experimenting and playing with everything, but after the collapse of the system, I plan to barter blacksmith work for what I need. I also have an old charcoal type forge, but need to get it up to speed, and get/make a blower and charcoal maker. I also have about a 100,000 BBs to barter with kids for small critters like pigeon, squirrel, rabbit, etc. (or really anything) based on the meat on the animal. At an average of 50 BBs traded per animal, 100,000 BBs could bring in 2000 animals for the stew pot for less than $100 of FRNs I used to buy all the BBs.

  • Just traded a 2 year old filly to have a new 12X36 slaughter and processing building framed (labor cost). I’m trading two lambs and a finished hog for the electric work (labor, wire I own the breakers and panel already). The welding work I’m having a buddy do in exchange for slaughter and process of two of his hogs.

    Everybody felt great about the trades and each side felt they got the better side of the bargain.

    If I can get the insulation guy to bite on a trade I’ll have the thing completely done for the lumber and concrete bill alone.

  • Tooth brushes and bar soap for those who can’t get in the future. Salt is the most important barter item. You need it for health reason. Also for preserving food and adding flavor.

  • We’ve been working on growing our own food and selling at the local farmers’ market of which I am on the board. I have been saving heirloom seed and plan to share a lot of that seed and starter plants to neighbors who have skills and items that my husband and I don’t have.
    At my age, I don’t worry about clothes anymore. I have plenty. However, I have started stocking up on underwear and socks lately.

    There is a clothing surplus around the world. If you doubt that, look up how there’s a used clothing market in Africa and clothes are dumped in the desert in Chile. If there isn’t another item of clothing made for the next few years, I don’t think we’ll have a shortage of clothes for a long time. If you have young children, consider picking up clothes from thrift stores or begin now trading hand-me-downs with friends and family as the children grow out of what they are now wearing.

    • “underwear”

      a frequently neglected item, but using underwear will make your outer clothes last longer.

    • “heirloom seed”

      it should be mentioned how important this is. many modern seeds are modified or crippled to not produce a next generation – they’re one-and-done, so you have to buy from the seed source again. but “heirloom” seeds are not crippled or modified, they will produce crops that will continue to produce more crops.

      • AKA Baker Creek Seed Company. Good prices, great varieties, all heirloom. Great germination rates too. Not inflated for the “benefit” of preppers or fake seed like is so often seen on various online markets.

  • Scissors, tweezers, nail clippers, needles and thread (strong, or even surgical filament). Heavy duty buttons and clothing hooks, elastic. Fishing line and hooks. Sharpening steel for knives. Bulk spices: kosher and regular salt, peppercorns, Italian seasoning, taco seasoning. Aluminum foil and ziploc baggies. OTC meds: aspirin, tylenol, ibuprofen, immodium, antacids, vitamins, burn/insect bite/itch/numbing/antibiotic/antifungal/sunscreen creams, sleeping pills, cold and cough meds. Coloring books and small packs of crayons (people will do a lot for a little gift for their kids), small rubber balls. Laundry detergent pods. Pony tail elastics. Whistles. Mylar blankets.

    The possibilities are endless…

    • Lorraine, great list! I would add: eyeglasses repair kits, how-to books, solar sidewalk lights, petroleum jelly, hand tools (non-electric), scythe (for cutting weeds). I’ve seen boxes of hand tools go for a couple of dollars at the end of an auction. Good place to stock up on them.

  • Only thing I don’t agree with is people storing spices being wrong. Spices have been used as currency and for barter for years

  • A very excellent article.

    “This year, I ran out of canning lids, so I couldn’t preserve them as apple sauce.”

    Contrary to popular wisdom, canning lids are 100% reusable.

    Here are two links to articles on SurvivalBlog with the first article on years of personal experience with reusing canning lids as well as commercial pickle and salsa jars, and the other on the scientific reasons why it can be done with 100% success. At the risk of self aggrandizement, if anyone knows of a more meticulously researched, well-informed article on the subject, please post a link!

  • I have been reusing canning lids for years some as many as 4 times. The trick is to not bend them when removing them . It’s pretty basic, either they seal or they don’t. I have 90%+ success on used lids sealing.

  • Wanted to post again and share something I’m working on.

    I’ve started building a barter network within my circle and hope that the folks I’ve been successfully building this up with expand this networking themselves within their circles.

    For example, there is a farrier close by that I have been trying to secure as my full time professional. He hasn’t taken me on because he consistently told me he already has too many horses to work with his father. In desperation, I had a mutual aquaintance of ours with me on Thursday. This person vouched for me and, finally, I got in. And boy, am I relieved! There is nothing like watching two pros consult with one another and work, forge and fit hot iron on heavy horses.

    Of course during all this I took time to talk with the father in this duo about all the goings-on with the world financial instability. Hearing his opinion and mine were in line with one another I risked asking him: “when this all falls down how many customers outside your community do you stand to lose?” His answer: “Same as you. Most all of them.”

    I immediately followed his answer with another question: “would you be open to trading working on my draft ponies for payment in silver?” Immediately his face lit up, he smiled and said, “if you have it for trade, I have a use for it and will need more, so, yes. I will do that.”

    Part of prepping is practicing and organizing valuable trade partners before you need them, not when you need them. Trading or bartering in desperation is the worst scenario imaginable.

    • ~Jim,
      Great observation.

      We just recently made a barter deal with a friend, down the road.

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