19 Cheap Items that Will Be Valuable when SHTF

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One of the biggest things that hold people back from starting with disaster prepping is that prepping is too expensive

Yes, stockpiling an entire year’s worth of disaster supplies can take a big toll on your budget if you try to buy everything at once.  However, I truly believe that creative thinking is one of the most important prepping skills.

When you think outside of the box while prepping, you realize that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on supplies.  For example, you could stockpile cheap items and use them to barter for necessities like food and water.

None of us knows what will happen when the SHTF during a disaster situation.  We can only do our best to imagine possible outcomes and prepare for the worst.

In a SHTF situation, the following 19 cheap items will likely be in high-demand.  So you should consider stockpiling them along with your everyday preps so you are prepared to barter for anything you need during a SHTF disaster.

1. Fish Antibiotics

As I talk about in this post about the Disaster Problem No One Wants to Talk About, disasters almost always lead to disease outbreaks due to the crowded, unsanitary conditions.  Antibiotics will be needed to combat diseases.

Most doctors won’t write a prescription for “just in case” antibiotics.

However, you can legally buy fish antibiotics and keep them as part of your disaster preps.

Here’s more info on How to Buy Fish Antibiotics.

2. Lighters and Matches

With the grid down, people will need to heat their homes and cook with fire.  And what do you need to start a fire?  I couldn’t find any stats on how many people have matches and lighters at home, but I’m guessing that most people are severely under prepared.

Lighters and matches are very cheap and take up little space, thus making them one of the best cheap prepping items to stockpile.

3. Female Hygiene Items

My wife started using a menstrual cup a long time ago, so we don’t have to stockpile female hygiene items.  Most women don’t use one of these though, so they are going to need lots of pads and tampons.


4. Disinfectants

Disasters cause disgusting, unhygienic conditions.  Disinfectants will be in high demand.  I’d recommend stockpiling bleach because it is cheap and can be used for disinfecting water.

See How to Disinfect Water with Bleach here.


5. Batteries

Batteries are a bit pricier, but worth stockpiling because they will be so valuable.  Note that batteries will be virtually worthless if an EMP disaster strikes because all electronic devices will be fried.  Consider using a Faraday cage for your important survival electronics.

For other types of disasters, consider getting rechargeable batteries and adding a rugged solar charger to your preps.

solar charger
Nekteck Solar Charger


6. Cooking Oil

As someone who goes backpacking frequently, I can tell you how much of a difference a bit of oil makes to meals.  I carry a small squeeze bottle of oil to add to my meals.  It makes them taste better, prevents food from sticking to the bottom of the pan, and also adds important dietary fats.

7. Face Masks

Remember 911? People are still dying from the terrorist attack because of asbestos and other hazardous materials they inhaled.  A simple face mask (aka respirator) would have prevented many of these deaths.  N95 face masks are very cheap, take up little space, and will be very valuable when SHTF.  Put some in your bug out bag and keep extras stockpiled at home. Read about N95 respirators for disaster prepping here.

8. Pain Killers

Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, and aspirin will all be necessary for reducing pain that comes with disaster-related injuries.

Don’t forget about tooth pain!!!  I’ve talked to a lot of war and disaster survivors and one thing they mention is that dental hygiene usually goes to hell in SHTF situations.  Tooth pain is hellish.  I’m betting that people would trade you buckets of food for some cheap tooth gel!

Recommended readingPreppers Emergency Dental Kit

9. GI Medicines

All first aid items are going to be in high demand after a disaster.  However, GI problems are the most common ailment after disasters (from the unhygienic conditions and drinking untreated water).  If you are going to focus on one first aid item to stockpile for bartering, make it GI meds. Here is a decent list of OTC GI medicines.

Recommended reading – Homemade Diarrhea Remedies


10. Plastic Tarps

Plastic tarps are one of the most diverse and useful survival items.  There are many uses for tarps, like making shelters, boarding up broken windows, and collecting rainwater.

11. Vinyl Gloves

You’ll need heavy-duty gloves for sorting through rubble and debris.  But those super cheap nylon gloves will also be important for treating wounds, changing bucket toilets, and much more.  You can buy entire boxes of gloves for just a few dollars.

12. Candles

For bonus points, stockpile string for candle wicks and make your own candles out of used wax.

13. Sewing Kits

You can get mini sewing kits at the Dollar Store.  These will be important for fixing clothes, backpacks, tarps, and sleeping bags. The needles in the kits can be used for all sorts of things from removing splinters to sewing up a wound (in extreme cases).  Note that I use dental floss instead of thread for sewing because it is waterproof and stronger.  But those cheap sewing kits are still great for bartering.

14. Toilet paper

This one should be obvious.


15. Water Purification Tablets

Water Purification Tablets are great SHTF barter items because they are so small.  You can carry them in your Bug Out Bag and use them as currency.

16. Bullets

In addition to stockpiling bullets, you might want to learn to make your own ammo.  For more on that, read How to Find Ammo when SHTF.


17. Sterile Bandages

You can make your own bandages (here’s a PDF on How to Make Your Own Cloth Bandages).  But most people won’t think to do that.  So stockpile lots of sizes and types of sterile bandages.

18. Socks

This is a commonly overlooked survival item.  I’ve talked to some people working with refugees and they say that everyone is in desperate need of socks and shoes from walking so much.  Stockpiling shoes is a bit more difficult, but you can buy cheap socks and barter them when SHTF.

19. Knowledge

This isn’t exactly an “item,” but don’t underestimate how valuable knowledge is!

When you know how to do things like make your own bandages or candles, brew your own alcohol, grow your own food, or fix a generator, you will be able to barter your skills for whatever you need.

More important, survival knowledge allows you to become a valued indispensable member of a community.  Learning survival skills costs absolutely nothing and your skills go with you everywhere.

So start now before it is too late!

Are you stockpiling any of these items? Let us know in the Primal Survivor Facebook group!

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I’m Jacob Hunter, founder of Primal Survivor.
I believe in empowering people with the knowledge to prepare and survive in the modern world.

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  1. I am surprised you left out soap. I know of a woman who used soap for barter in Germany in WWII. Small bars don’t take up much space, don’t spill and can even work if broken.

      • Anytime I stay at a hotel I always grab the small toiletries they have for free. I use them in my travels and have a couple shoe boxes full of soaps, shampoos, lotions and even a couple small sewing kits.

  2. I have been saving used bleach bottles for years, one rinse and you have a free one gallon sterile water container , used pill bottles are great for holding kitchen matches

  3. Duckt tape, zip ties, ziplocks, heavy duty foil, sponges, 5 gallon buckets, medium duty chain, rope, peanuts, bleach for drinking water (4 drops per gallon)

  4. Chlorine loses strength very quickly. Be sure to watch expiry dates and contact the manufacturer if in doubt. No point in having useless stuff in your trade goods or even worse, in the things that you are counting on to survive. Javex/Clorox recently changed the strength of the solution and weakened it so look for current advice on how much to use. I couldn’t get that info from the manufacturer and they suggested your local health department. I haven’t called them yet so I don’t know if they know anything yet. Good luck.

  5. I have a tiny brilliant flashlight that needs only about 1 squeeze per week or so. Likewise a survival small windup SW/FM radio + flashlight. Small multi tool is vital. Cant do without my micro geared folding Brompton UK bike that has been round the world with me; & I can strap on a suitcase where it sits on a piece of angle iron + elastic hooks. Micro folding electric + seat is even more useful as it has 50km per charge & 20km/h speed, providing you meet powerpoints every so often.

  6. Learn skills like hand spinning yarn, knitting, crochet, hand weaving, cooking w cast iron cookware, making an outdoor oven, & speaking of the turnshoe variety. Add a protective brush on some or buy what ballerinas use on their dance shoes.
    There’s also a way (I haven’t tried it) to add a rubber type protector.

  7. Great list to start… just a couple of comments.
    Bleach degrades over a few months, pool shock is a dry powder that you add water to make bleach and make LOTS!
    Batteries are based on a chemical reaction and should be fine after an EMP.

  8. Did not see toilet paper on list ? I have 10,000 jumbo rolls charmin ultra! Is in your opinion is this enough?
    They are dry packed in barrells (mouse proof) I hope!
    No experation date on Tp . So good there. Snould be able to trade by sheet after shtf !
    Lots of red ass by week four! Quite a bit already!
    Please don’t squeeze the charmin!

  9. We have purchased 3,55 gallon drums blue, They have been cleaned in sterilized and filled with water and some bleach and dated, so have Most of everything ready to go including a fishing hook with nylon line in case needed 4 stitches We have a medical bag with iodine alcohol, puroxide , Almost everything you mentioned above Even hand sanitizer it contains alcohol you can use it to start a fire with if need be also generator, fuel,tents Also wool blankets socks and hat Remember will will keep you warm, Thanks for all the information you’ve given us.

  10. Love your post. Added some things i need to work on. But one thing i have started stock piling is alcohol, the drinking kind. Im not a drinker but everyone i know is pretty much a drinker. It has multiple use. Such as sterlizing wounds, pain relief. I have a tote full of the tiny bottles.

  11. Stockpiling pool shock is so much better than stockpiling bleach. Bleach will lose 20% of it’s strength at around the year mark and then 20% each year after that Chlorine based pool shock (Calcium Hypochlorite) can be used to make many gallons of bleach and takes up much less space. Mix 2 level Tablespoons of Calcium Hypochlorite (pool shock) to 3 cups of water to make bleach. Use 8 drops of bleach to disinfect a gallon of water.

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