What are critical survival commodities and how do they affect you? First there are many things that are commodities today that will not be survival commodities like computers, and other consumer electronics.
But what are they, I think a good definition might be “any necessary consumable material that because of it means of production or because of its high rate of consumption will become hard to find after the end of the world”.
Critical survival commodities may not be rapidly identified as such because they do not fit in to that category before the end of the world some may be waste or recyclable that go away to some factory to be turned in to new product. Let’s look at some critical survival commodities in this article.
Understanding the Post-SHTF Economy
Many preppers are worried only about accumulating the items they can directly help them in a crisis or post-shtf situation. This is eminently reasonable, as being equipped with the right tools when you need them counts for a lot. However, there is more to be concerned with in a long-term survival situation then just having the things that you need.
A long-term survival scenario that occurs as a result of or concurrently with a societal collapse is pretty much going to implode the economy as we know it.
There is no guarantee that an official currency will be worth much more than kindling. However, there is an older and more permanent way to do business with your fellow man, and that is through bartering and useful goods and supplies.
Naturally, what is trash to one man might be treasure to another as the old saying goes. It is worth gaming out this scenario ahead of time so that you might make informed decisions about what sorts of materials you can stockpile as part of a well-rounded survival plan.
You might not be able to eat it, shoot it or wear it but you very well could trade with it, and through trade you can better reinforce your own supply lines.
Though you can ostensibly trade and just about anything, assuming you can find a buyer for it, there are several categories of goods and materials that are likely to be held universally desirable. It is these that you should stock up on, or have a plan for acquiring, before any of the others.
Waste Fat and Oil
Used up fat, oil, grease and other lipids, collectively called waste fats or waste oils, might sound like the last thing on Earth you want to accumulate, especially in the context of a survival situation, but they have an important role to play as a precursor ingredient for the refinement of biodiesel and other fuels.
That disgusting grease trap at your local fast food joint might be a problem that people pay good money for others to solve and carry away for them, but it might be a gold mine for you if you are able to obtain the contents and know how to process it into useful goods.
Beyond biodiesel, fats can be processed into soaps, fuel oil, lubricants and other substances. Although typically involved and lengthy, many of these skills are entirely within reach of the average prepper so long as you have the stomach to work with the raw materials, the right chemicals and a little bit of time.
Considered developing these skillsets now, and figuring out where you might be able to obtain waste oils and quantity and you’ll be able to generate useful resources when people need the most and are willing to pay for them.
Batteries are a consumable resource that, while ubiquitous and freely available today, will turn into a vanishingly scarce commodity in the aftermath of a major event.
Entirely reliant on a distributed, intricate and fragile supply chain to both source the raw materials and fabricate the cells themselves, this is one item that will become truly precious during the aftermath.
Obvious options include common sizes for everything from flashlights to handheld radios but more esoteric and perhaps more profitable options could be everything from common sizes for firearm optics to the tiny cells used by hearing aids and watches.
Be warned, most batteries self discharge, and alkalines especially discharge at a prodigious rate. You can offset this tendency by rotating your battery supply religiously if you are keeping them on hand in bulk, or invest the extra coin into lithium cells which lose their charge very, very slowly.
This way your cells will still be comparatively fresh and usable, meaning sellable or tradable, when you need them.
22 Long Rifle Ammunition
This might seem like a strange inclusion on a list of post-shtf commodities, especially considering you likely already have a substantial stash of .22 LR on hand.
What is so new, innovative or mind-bending about that? I’ll tell you reader; if anything you and everyone else are probably dramatically underestimating just how common guns that chamber .22LR really are.
It is quite literally the most common round in the United States, if not the world. Handguns and rifles alike chamber it, and because these rounds are so small, so light and so affordable at least comparatively to their center fire brethren you can amass truly humongous quantities in a relatively small space.
And sure, you can buy .22LR by the brick or bucket now, hundreds of rounds at a time, but at one point in our shared, potential future it too could become incredibly scarce. Selling this ammo off 10, 20 or 50 rounds at a time could net you a tremendous return on your investment.
Preppers are always concerned about food and with good reason. Do they have enough on hand? How long will it keep? How will they prepare it and at what cost in fuel and other resources? Cost per calorie also factors into this logistical equation, and in that regard you can hardly do better than bulk, raw grains.
Compared to other survival centric stables you might accumulate in quantity bulk grains are easy to store, easy to handle and can last a very, very long time so long as you are cautious to keep them dry and keep pests away from them.
It is also an easy matter to portion them out and transport them, making them an ideal commodity in the post SHTF economy.
Now, the question of where you’ll get the grains from ahead of time is likely dependent on your locale. If you live in the “Breadbasket of America,” you’ll quite literally be able to pick this stuff up for pennies. Otherwise you’ll have to spend a little bit more and purchase it by the bucket or sackful.
Lead & Brass Cases
Guns are definitely the weapon of our era, but they do precious little good without ammunition to feed them. Just because commercial ammo supplies run out does not mean all the guns will go quiet in the aftermath of a society toppling event, but they will definitely be winding down.
However, individuals who have invested heavily in their firearms centric skill set will likely know how to reload, or hand load, their own ammunition. Others will depend on more rudimentary single shot muzzle loading firearms.
What both have in common is that they will need raw components to keep their chosen firearms operational. Bullets are almost invariably made from lead, and it is easy enough to create your own bullets from molds if you have the raw material. Loaders of ammunition for modern firearms will also need cases, made from brass.
Having scrap lead in the form of recovered, fired bullets, fishing and tire weights and other sources on hand will allow you to deal to these people, while brass cases can be had by the barrel load from virtually any shooting range.
Finished steel, brass, and copper bar stock and plate
We won’t immediately be heading back to the Stone Age when society topples. We will, however, almost certainly be heading back to an industrial age or pre-industrial age level of technology and societal cogitation.
In this era, metal was still incredibly valuable and used for many things and accordingly having finished metal stock on hand, of prime quality compared to the scrap now littering our streets, and could be an easy way to deal with those who have need for it for other purposes.
Steel, brass, copper and aluminum in various forms and shapes could prove to be valuable and durable fodder for trade.
Admittedly this is not something that everyone will be able to make use of, but everyone is likely to know someone who can make use of it for various purposes. Being ready to help these people with quality metals that they seek is in your best interest.
The biggest drawback to keeping metal stock on hand is, obviously, the size and weight attendant with storing it. Keeping it in a garage or outbuilding makes it more vulnerable to threat, and moving large quantities of it will prove to be troublesome or impossible without large and capable vehicles.
No prepper needs to be told how important quality tools are when it comes to survival, and though other people might not understand this maxim now, you can rest assured that they will learn the hard way in the aftermath of a major event.
All manner of cutlery and tools will be valuable in the post shtf economy, especially manual tools that do not require any fuel or electricity to operate. Carpentry tools, mechanics tools, tools of all kinds and most especially good knives and reusable tableware.
Sewing and Knitting Supplies
America and indeed much of the West has become a replacement culture, meaning things that become damaged, go bad or wear out are generally thrown away or otherwise consigned to a landfill instead of being repaired. Unlike our grandparents and great-grandparents, who would have found such an ethic unthinkable in their era, modern life has made such a culture possible for us.
It won’t be possible for much longer once society collapses and the intricate gears of commerce break down entirely.
Before long, if you are unable to repair something that becomes worn or damaged it will simply continue to degrade or be useless. Things will be used up before they are discarded, and you’ll be able to get a lot more use out of something, clothing especially, if you can keep it in good repair.
Accordingly, the basics of clothing and other textile repair and the form of sewing supplies will be precious. Things like needles and quality, modern lightweight thread will be very difficult to fabricate or even impossible to fabricate for most people and will be in high demand.
You probably have plenty pieces of metal around the homestead right now, that have accumulated over the years. Someone, at some point, might need some of them, and be willing to give something else in exchange.
The value of a gun to survivors of the collapse will be obvious, and it should be entirely obvious to you. People who don’t have guns might well part with anything or everything they have to get one if the threat is real enough to them.
If you have a stash of common firearms to service these eager customers, so much the better. An old saying says that there is a shoe for every foot, and it follows that there is a gun for every need, but you are probably best keeping the most rudimentary and affordable guns on hand along with ammunition to go with them if you plan on trading in them post collapse.
I hope that I don’t need to tell you that being regarded as an arms dealer will skyrocket you to the top of many people’s hit lists when it comes to targets for raiding and looting so make sure you are prepared to protect your patch and your supplies accordingly.
This might not be the best commodity for those who are not part of a large and entirely trusted group or family. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t stockpile guns and ammo, but you definitely shouldn’t advertise them as wares that you deal in under the circumstances.
Salt is universally desirable, both as a seasoning for food and in most cases containing a vital nutrient, but also for its properties as a preservative. You can likely depend on most modern forms of food preservation, namely refrigeration and freezing, going the way of the dodo except in the coldest climates.
That means that you and everyone else will be forced to turn to other methods of preservation if you want to keep your precious food stable and edible for longer.
The best part about salt as a commodity is that it is extremely cheap, plentiful and easy to transport, at least it is right now. Anyone who brings a container to you can purchase according to their means and take their salt away with little fuss or muss.
Lye is another fundamentally useful material in a post shtf environment, beneficial for soap making, agriculture, first aid and in a few instances the preservation of food. Although not as universally desirable as salt it has nonetheless been a staple in these many regards for quite a long time.
Why is another commodity that can be purchased for pennies right now, and there’s little reason that you should not have a sizable quantity on hand both as part of a well-rounded disaster preparedness and long-term survival kit but also as a potential bargaining ship when it comes time to trade.
The utility of alcohol as a commodity should not be underestimated. Liquors have long been used and abused as a method of coping with stress, and the social aspects of sharing a drink together, and celebration, commiseration or condolence does not need any explanation. You might not agree with it and you might not be a drinker yourself, but this does not mean you cannot capitalize on others desire, or even need, for a drink when times are tough.
Strong liquors and perhaps wine are going to be your go-to options here. Whiskey, tequila, vodka and other spirits will find ready acceptance among those who like to imbibe and can be easily stored with no special requirements while remaining shelf stable pretty much indefinitely.
Tobacco is another vice with virtually universal appeal, and even though its popularity, at least in the west, is greatly diminished from its peak in decades past it is by no means completely extinguished, and those who have come to rely on other, modern sources of nicotine will quickly and ravenously revert to the original source easily enough.
You might choose to acquire cigarettes as universally accepted trade fodder, especially among those who are currently or formally of hardcore professions like law enforcement, the military and much of the medical field, or could opt instead for loose tobacco to maximize storage space while attracting those who used tobacco in other ways.
Sugar, like salt, is a greatly beloved seasoning of food that has just as much utility in a variety of recipes but most particularly for baking. Like salt, it can also be used as a preservative.
Practically, many people are pretty much addicted to sugar even if they would never admit it, and it has potent mood boosting capabilities. Don’t underestimate the morale improving qualities of a sweet treat in times of trouble!
Accordingly, common sugar could be stockpiled as a commodity for sale and trade in the aftermath of a crisis. It is not easy to grow in most climates and harder to harvest, and considering that modern processed food that is so rich in this sweet stuff is going to evaporate pretty much overnight it should be a pretty easy sale.
Soap is yet another convenient, ubiquitous but nonetheless critical item that we all take for granted today only because of a highly complicated supply chain that makes it available at pretty much every single store throughout the land.
As you already know and has been discussed at length previously, this supply chain is incredibly fragile and will snap meaning that if people don’t want to make soap the old fashioned (read “difficult”) way they’ll need to buy it while they can.
You don’t need to do anything fancy here. Liquid soap ready to go in pump dispensers or traditional bar soap will serve the purpose fine and practically sell itself after people have been without it for a time. Make sure you save some for yourself!
In this context, luxury items are anything that makes modern life nice and pleasant, but that you don’t strictly have to have when living in the newer, crappier world post event.
If you have soap you don’t really need shampoo and conditioner, but shampoo and conditioner can make your hair a lot nicer and certainly smell good! It stands to reason that somebody would be willing to pay for that under the right conditions.
Consider also things like prepackaged snack foods, be they salty or sweet, perfumes, lotions and other vanity items. You never know what someone will be willing to part with to put a smile on the face of someone they care about.
Typical hygiene items like deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, body powder, floss, feminine necessities and more might well be worth their weight in gold when people have gone without them long enough.
These are items that are affordable, easy to store and easy to transport and that definitely commends them as a commodity you can stock up on ahead of time and, as a bonus, you still definitely need these things yourself so even if they aren’t selling like hotcakes you can console yourself with the knowledge that your bathroom routine will not be interrupted for the duration!.
In the aftermath of any apocalyptic or society crumbling event worth the name medical supplies will be consumed at a geometric rate, and likely will not be reproduced and anything close to replacement speed, or even a fraction of it, under the circumstances.
When someone is dealing with an injury or illness having the right tools and supplies can make all the difference, especially when genuine medical expertise is going to be extraordinarily limited or rationed.
Things like gauze, bandages, slings, antiseptics, medicines, hardware like IV bags, syringes and pretty much everything you can think of will be incredibly precious to those who require them, either in a professional context or for personal use.
As always, make sure you are obeying all laws on procuring anything that might be questionable before you start to stock up.
You can participate in and thrive during a post-shtf economy if you have the right commodities to trade with. Items that will be useful in the resulting paradigm shift that occurs due to economic collapse are your best bets. The items we have shared on the list above are some of the best across all domains.