19 Critical Survival Commodities to Stockpile

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.

stockpile items water bleach salt toothbrushes and more
stockpile items: water bottles, bleach, salt, toothbrushes, snap-blade utility knives, hot sauce, dried beans, peanut butter, garlic and onion powder, cyalume lightsticks, powdered juice, lighters, winter gloves and more

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.

rechargeable batteries and chargers
rechargeable batteries and chargers

Batteries

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.

oatmeal in glass jars
oatmeal in glass jars

Grains

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.

Cutlery

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.

Scrap Metal

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.

Guns

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.

table salt in bowl in a box and in salt shaker
table salt in bowl in a box and in salt shaker

Salt

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

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.

Alcohol

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

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 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

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

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!

“Luxury” Items

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.

Hygiene Products

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!.

Medical Supplies

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.

Conclusion

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.

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8 thoughts on “19 Critical Survival Commodities to Stockpile”

  1. I suppose if we’re talking about everything collapsing at once – but Argentina has no warlords trading .22. My adivice for trade goods is to go to a flea market in your area and see what moves – add food and some ammo to that and you’ll have things you can make a profit on in ANY disaster (personal or national economic) and not just a zombie apocalypse. After Katrina, a couple set up shop in a bar and traded alcohol for water and food and even money. every survival situation won’t be the end of everything.

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  2. Everyone mentions guns and ammo. Make sure you have cleaning supplies for the firearms, oil, solvents, etc. You are not going to go a long time without maintenance on your weapons. You may want to talk with a gunsmith about the firearms you have, and what are ‘likely to fail’ parts you should have spares for.

    Sharpening stones are cheap now. They won’t be after TSHTF.

    Hand tools – Powered tools won’t last long. Saws, hammers, screwdrivers, vise, carpenter’s square, nails, and PRACTICE using them.

    As noted above – plywood – you can, and probably will have to, cover windows or doors after riots, if it comes to that.

    Most important: Never give up. The most important ‘commodity’ will be perseverance and persistence.

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  3. Used motor oil can be used to heat a home. Mother Earth News had an article 40 years ago about how to build a waste oil heater.

    Firewood is cheap right now and if stored correctly it can be stored for years. After SHTF it will be harder to get and more expensive.

    Sugar keeps forever if you keep it dry (it keeps if it gets damp too but clumps). We take sugar for granted but it was a sought after luxury just 100 years ago and would be again in a post SHTF world.

    Motor oil and tires: My parents went through the great depression and WW II and both of these essentials were hard to get. Admittedly in a total grid down situation you may not need tires but Motor oil is still useful.

    Tarps are always useful. I check Harbor Freight sales regularly and they have all kinds of tarps. They have many other essentials too. Add a few packages of 6 mil plastic sheeting.

    Canning jars and lids; Walmart had 12 quart jars w/lids for $6 this week.

    Books; I buy books at Goodwill and take them with me on long trips. I love to read but with so many other distractions (TV, internet, movies, etc.) I don’t find the time. When these things are gone a good book will be a pleasent distraction.

    Rechargeable batteries and a solar powered charger.

    Dutch ovens and a little practice before SHTF.

    Charcoal: Not necessary by any means wood will work just fine. But last fall after barbecue season I bought 80 lbs of the top brand charcoal at Walmart for $20. I can cook an entire meal in one pot using 3-6 briquits.

    A good tent; If the worst happens and you have to bug out you can in fact live in a tent even in the winter. It is easier with a good tent. Cabelas has some good tents. I have two. One is actually prepositioned (buried/cached) at my standard hunting camp, the other is packed and ready to go. It is NOT a backpacking tent but it will stand up to snow and wind and has a roomy interior. (my hunting camp is on private property. A ranch owner I know allows me to camp every year. I placed the camp within 100 feet of his property line which borders BLM land. Behind the 10,000 acres of BLM land is a national forest. If my friend suddenly decided to refuse to let me camp there I simply move a few hundered yards and I’m on public land. Not a perfect plan but a good one.)

    Toilet paper; A luxury to be sure but one we have grown accustomed to. Take a sheet of plywood and place it up in the rafters of an unfinished garage and you have 32 sq/ft of storage space. You can put a lot of TP in 32 sq/ft.

    Plywood; OSB (oriented strand board) is cheap. I can get a 4×8 sheet of 7/16″ (sometimes 5/8″) for under $6 at Home Depot. This stuff will be like gold post SHTF. You will hear people tell you it is no good for outdoor use. Well, they are right, except I have seen it used for years and years with no paint no covering of any kind and is still quite serviceable. Why pay $20 a sheet for the good stuff unless you absolutely must. ( built an open side lean-to for my firewood storage. Against the backwall are 12 sheets of OSB. They take up little space, can’t be seen unless the firewood is gone and will be there when I need them. My only regret is that I didn’t put more back there.)

    Ditto for dimensional lumber, especially 2×4 and 2×6. With some dimensional lumber and OSB I can build amost anything.

    Nails and screws.

    Cloth/material; My wife sews and has large and small scraps. Can be used for repairs to clothing and blankets and making clothes and blankets. Add a few inexpensive canvas painters tarps for heavy duty purposes.

    Rope/string/thread. Wire; thin and thicker steel wire for making repairs. There is an aluminum wire both poly coated and plain sold for clothes line that is highly useable for other things. Thin cable typically sold for dog runs etc.

    Sorry, kinda run on…

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  4. B, B, B, & B – that is our motto.

    Beans – food, water, preservatives (salt, mason jars, etc), seeds, arable land (doesn’t have to be your own if you think the neighbors will di di mau to a FEMA camp), cooking utensils (including solar ovens), vitamins, medicine, etc.

    Boots – clothing, footwear, tents, shelter, fire making tools (learn to make fire without matches), tools and hardware to support your homestead, towels, hats, gloves, etc

    Band Aids – I think this one is self explanatory, though intermediate medical training is also vital.

    Bullets – firearms, ammo, cleaning equipment, knives, tomahawks (really intimidating weapon), fixed e-tools (another really intimidating weapon, Russian Spetsnaz were masters at CQC with e-tools), and other ways to hunt game, control pests (including the 2 legged kind), and defend the homestead.

    .22’s are a good item to keep in your stash (I have 5 or 6 .50 cal ammo cans full of them), but .223 or .308 are much better for personal defense. It is not hard to fashion and carry a shield which will stop a .22. In the middle ages 2 grunts would carry a roughly 6′ square thick wooden shield with a crossbowman sandwiched between them, the archer would shoot through a small hole in the shield while being well protected from return fire, it wouldn’t take much of a leap into the 21st century to see a group of bad guys doing the same thing to approach a house defended with a bunch of .22 caliber weapons. It takes a pretty heavy piece of steel plate to stop a .308. Peace through superior fire power!

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  5. I am reluctant to even post this as it exposes my paranoia. I have on occassion slept in my woodpile. I have a three sided shed that holds about 6 cords of wood (when full). From their I can see my entire driveway, half of the front porch and all of the back of the house including the back door. The woodpile tends to be this years wood on one side and the dryer wood from last year on the other. This leaves a walk in area with enough room for a couple of people to lay out a sleeping bag if they wanted to. It also places me where I can see most of the approaches to the house and most of the “cover” someone might use to conceal their approach. I think if TSHTF I will slip out after dark each night to enjoy sleeping in the night air. Any bad guys would be expecting residents to be inside the house and would not be worried about the unattractive wood shed. If one or two bad guys approach I could effectively defend and ambush from this position and if a gang shows up I can more easily slip away before being seen.

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  6. Something to have which is not really a “currency” but produces currency is a still. Have a still and the associated tools and know how to use it. I’m not suggesting you become a full time moonshiner pre-SHTF (or even post-SHTF), but if you don’t know how to correctly separate the toxic components from your hooch, you’ll have a bad time if you drink it and maybe even a worse time if you sell/trade it. Alcohol makes a good cleaner/sterilizer, and a still also allows you to make other chemicals, including distilled vinegar, another good cleaner.

    In fact, with alcohol, vinegar, and water, you should be able to clean out even corrosive ammo fouling. A bit of motor oil and some shoelaces, and you’re able to clean and lube a firearm to an acceptable level.

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  7. I have to say Derek has a point, about booz. I store a couple cases of ” the good stuff” ( I tell my wife it’s for entertaining). An expensive bottle of whiskey can net you quite a bit in trade. I heard stories of people trading cases of beer for labor, after the big tornado out break in Alabama a few years ago. People will always want the comforts of ” the good life”. If you have that to traide it could be very useful.

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