Realistic emergency preparations had a very good article recently titled ‘Venezuela, and why Gold and Barter Items are Terrible Preps‘.  Here’s a brief excerpt.

People are shooting each other in the streets over food–not ammo, cigarettes, liquor, gold coins, silver coins, or any of the other crap that preppers love to stockpile “for barter when TSHTF.” That’s right, it turns out that good old-fashioned food is the only thing that you can actually eat in a collapse, and as worthless as the Venezuelan bolivar is right now, “sound money” is pretty much totally absent from all the discussions I’ve read of what the average Venezuelan is desperately worried about scoring when he wakes up every morning.

. . .

In a collapse, food is scarce and people are hungry. Nobody is going to trade you a box of .357 or a Gold Eagle for a chicken, because unlike the latter two things, chickens are edible, and the edible stuff takes priority.

. . .

As the Venezuelan collapse amply illustrates, you need to have your priorities straight, and a dependable source of calories should be at the very top of the list. Don’t get suckered into wasting money, time, and space on stuff you can’t consume but that you think someone will trade you a bit of their food for, because you’re certain to be gravely disappointed.

There’s more at the link.

That’s a very important point.  We need to prioritize our emergency supplies;  and right at the top of the list, before just about anything else, should be an emergency food supply for a realistic period.  ‘Realistic’ will vary depending on our circumstances, of course:

  • If you’re living in an area prone to natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, whatever) you’re likely to need emergency food supplies more, and more often, than someone in a quieter, less disaster-prone region.
  • If your budget is very limited, your ‘realistic’ emergency food supply will be a lot smaller than someone with extra money to spend on it.
  • If you’re preparing for yourself alone, or for a couple, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to build up reserves than it would be for a family of six.

Nevertheless, this remains good advice.  Stock up on the essentials first.  The rest can follow as and when time, money and other resources are available.



  1. From what I've heard, yes, food is important, but to those who have some, other comfort items become important – toilet paper, medical supplies, soap & shampoo, etc. Also important in a complete collapse situation is a way to cook it, particularly matches or lighters to start a fire.
    Keep in mind that while Venezuela is in rough shape, it is NOT in a total collapse situation like some have discussed could happen.

  2. In the case of Venezuela, I am going to disagree with one item: Liquor. I have solved more problems with a bottle of cheap rum than cash or other goodies. And that was with both the criminal element and the authorities.
    Most Venezuelans are basically functioning alcoholics and the threat of not finding booze, sends them into a frenzy. When Polar Brewery announced they were running out of basic materials to keep production of beer (most popular brand of alcoholic beverage in Venezuela) people took to loot their trucks to build their stashes.

    Also remember you will be dealing with military checkpoints and patrols manned by people that might have been fed more regularly than the people, but are not allowed to have booze and that is where that bottle of rum comes to play if you are stopped and feel they may decide to make you their bitch.

    Never underestimate vice when the SHTF. DT and withdrawn symptoms are nasty no matter the level of nutrition.

  3. Jonathan – along those lines, diapers and "feminine supplies" are really, really big deals if they are not available.


  4. My thinking is that it still early days. Either the Gov't will call for id or a new Gov't will call for aid. The most likely thru the UN countries and NGO will start to send food. That's when other barter items will play their part and trades will begin. Why stand in a line for a bag of rice when you can trade for it.

  5. I was recently told of another one – cigarettes. Even if you don't smoke, offering someone that does tends to form an instant friendly bond. This was told to me by someone that does smoke, and done convincingly enough that a carton of smokes has been added to my supplies list. And I've never smoked even a single cigarette.

  6. My wife has helped dozens of families plan for emergencies. Somewhere in our stash my wife has a #10 can of hard candy. She figures that even if you're reduced to eating freeze dried squirrel you sometimes need a treat. She has also advised women to put aside some type of birth control. A Jolly Rancher will only ease one kind of itch.

  7. Shelter, Water, food are the first. The bullets are to make sure I can keep my 1st three. Nothing more and nothing less. Alcohol would be good fro trade, since people who need a drink are a little nuts, but sanitary needs would not be for trade. I have used leave and thank you very much but I like TP better. Less rashes.

    we have about 6 months before it comes here.

  8. Bulk food in the US is almost unbelievably inexpensive.

    20lbs rice, 20 pounds beans, half gallon of oil, 6 cans 12oz chicken, six bags of pasta, two pack of red sauce, 20 lbs of flour, baking soda, etc- and spam- spam is 25% fat and you are going to want every calorie of it in a bad situation. Same thing with butter and lard- excellent source of calories. A few hundred bucks at costco or the like will buy an amazing amount of food. Some plastic buckets and dry ice will keep it . If you don't have the cash all at once, buy a few items every time. Try to buy stuff you eat anyway and cycle through it- the savings in gas alone to not have to go to the store for some minor item will add up.
    Buy plenty of salt, pepper, and other spices. Buy bulk sugar. If you have a cool dry place, buy extra onions , apples, and root vegetables. Can and freeze what you have available. And buy a 55 gallon plastic drum and fill it with drinking water and the recommended amount of bleach to disinfect. ($30 used).

  9. stockpile of some kind of meds allowing an easy "exit" if things get too damn bad.

    if it all goes to hell and it's never going to come back in my lifetime, I'd rather go quickly and quietly than have to fight to defend my dwindling stocks of food from the criminals and face a future without light, heat, toilet paper, or aspirin. (Because even aspirin goes bad after a few years). I'm single and I don't know anyone who would want to "adopt" me into their clan, so it would be really rough for me to survive in a shtf future. The single people will go first unless they can latch on to a group of other people.

    pessimistic, maybe, but I know what's bearable for me and what's unbearable.

  10. Peter,
    Your two embedded links are copies of the title and not URL's.

    Off topic, last I read Maxwell was stranded in space after his ship went all kablewy. Wasn't a final book planned in the saga?

    Excellent blog and books!

    Hank Curmudgeon

  11. @Hank Curmudgeon: Maxwell has many books left in the series. I've plotted them out until he reaches the rank of Vice-Admiral so far.

  12. Gold/ammo are terrible preps for a complete SHTF situation only if you don't have enough food/space to make food for the first 1-2 years. Beyond that unless you forted up in the truly ass end of nowhere the trappings of rudimentary civilization will start to reset. At which point gold, gems, and ammo become very acceptable trade goods. Moreover, you're going to want a shitton of ammo since if you are in a stable situation a minority of other people will want your shit and be willing to take it by force.

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