Bartering in a Crisis: Top 10 Coveted Items

With our simple guide to bartering in a crisis, learn how to barter the items that your neighbours will most covet when times are tough. 

It’s not surprising that many of us start to think about bartering in times of crisis, as we come to appreciate the value of life’s essentials when faced with supply shortages.

The COVID-19 crisis has given us a real insight into those things that are truly essentials. Seeds, canned tomatoes, bread, soap and eggs have been flying off the shelves. Along with many other “essentials” that aren’t exactly critical (toilet paper, we’re looking at you).

The great advantage to bartering in a crisis is that you can trade directly for the actual value of items. You also have the power to create your barter goods with your own two hands rather than rely on a pay cheque. And when times are tough, this can be a great way to make ends meet.

But what to barter?

Typically people avoid bartering because it can be inconvenient and awkward. People often place a greater value on their own bartering goods than those they are receiving. And so fear of a bad barter, or the need to decline someone’s lovingly crafted (yet unwanted) offer, can often deter us.

There are many bartering systems, but one universal truth. If you have something great to barter, it will always be in demand. So turn yourself into a bartering mogul with our top 10 most coveted bartering items.

Top 10 coveted bartering goods

bartering lemons


Valuable as a cleaning product, preservation aid and all round delicious condiment, when life gives you lemons, barter them!

Often a feature on Rough Trade groups, lemons are a particularly hot bartering item when out of season. So get yourself a tree that fruits year round like Eureka or Meyer if you think being a lemon farmer may be for you!

seeds of poppies, calendula and cornflowers


Just like Jack and his beanstalk, seeds can be a valuable investment. In times of crisis people start vegie gardens. A well stocked seed library is an asset not only for your own garden, but for others in times like these.

If you want to get into seed saving, subscribe to Pip Magazine – each issue features a comprehensive seed saving guide for a different plant.

Tomato Passata

We’ve been waxing lyrical about making tomato passata recently. But judging by the rate at which tomatoes have flown off shelves during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s fair to say Aussies love us a pasta napoli!

But it’s not all Italian – jarred tomatoes are delicious and impart an umami flavour to soups, curries and stews. They’re shelf stable, and will last in your pantry for as long as it takes you to eat them.


If you dream of your neighbours begging you to give them their daily bread, check out our sourdough tutorial!

Bread is another essential that is always in demand in difficult times. Revolutions have been started over the price of bread, so if you want some serious bartering power then it might be time to start on your starter.

barter soap


Ok, so we all know we gotta wash our hands. But over and above protecting us from viruses, lovely soaps are also a simple pleasure that people can enjoy in difficult times.

Making soaps takes a little skill, so most people don’t whip up their own. If you have the know-how, then a soap-making barter empire might be your true calling.

barter beer


When things are down, we also see an increase in downing grog. Not that we’d encourage over-imbibing to drown your sorrows.

But homebrew beer is delicious, and if you can make your own, you’ll be a popular friend. Bartering with your beer is also a great way for homebrew afficionados to get a return on their wares without having to negotiate the wild world of alcohol taxation.


Not only is it the nectar of the gods – honey is also a powerful medicinal aid. Handy for cuts and burns it’s also a helpful remedy for hayfever sufferers.

Honey is something almost everybody would be happy to barter for. The only difficulty is you may find it hard to get a satisfactory bartering price for your liquid gold. Find out more about beekeeping in our podcast here.


Packed with protein and nutrients, eggs are a great essential to have in your bartering basket. Chooks are also fun to look after and can make great pets (if raised by hand).


Anyone can grow a bunch of silverbeet or a handful of rocket, but most people don’t have a stash of enormous cabbages to offer from their garden.

Cabbages are handy for making delicious sauerkraut and kimchi and will certainly be in demand on the barter market.

pumpkins for bartering


Another great veg that people will always be happy to trade for is pumpkins. Delicious as they are, pumpkins also have an excellent shelf life, meaning that they can be stored in your “barter bank” and don’t need to be spent under pressure.

So what will you barter?

Let us know any other ideas you have or about any great bartering deals you’ve done in the comments below.

Like more articles like this one? Subscribe to Pip Magazine’s print or digital editions here.

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