Barter, Post-TEOTWAWKI: The Micro Store

I’ve been a faithful reader of SurvivalBlog and several others for several years. I have downloaded the archives onto my Kindle and am about halfway through those, too. I am simultaneously fascinated, entertained, and horrified by what I have read. I have learned a lot, been totally confused/overwhelmed by everything electronic, amused and entertained by the fascination with firearms and ammunition, and all over the scale on 1,001 other issues. Can anyone ever be “fully prepped?” Probably not, but we are all working on it or toward it. This article is about how you can simultaneously help other “survivors” while helping yourself. Let’s take a different direction and make you an entrepreneur for TEOTWAWKI. (This is going to be a point-counterpoint style article–I’ll take some heat, for sure, but debate is always good. And, we’re going simple with this article–It seems to me that simple is generally better than complicated).
 
A little bio first. I am not a kid. In fact, I am certainly older (65) than most of you reading this. Same wife (prettier than ever, confuses me even more today than the day we married) for 43+ years. Two grown and awesome sons, one a military academy grad/serving O-5, the other a major corporation marketing executive. (Even though I love to brag about them, OPSEC says stop now).
 
My military (23 years active/reserve commissioned officer, US Army) and civilian background (independent consultant) is leadership, operations, tactics, strategy, and senior executive staffing (and flying helicopters. I earned an MBA from a big-deal business school–you need one of those in my business for the credibility–but I believe I learned more about life as a tactical flight instructor at Fort Rucker than I have in business or graduate school). I know (“used to know” is more accurate, I guess; most of my weapons knowledge is dated, for sure) a lot about things that shoot (Infantry OCS–“Benning School For Boys”–grad in the 1960s, Vietnam combat vet, qualified on everything from the .38 revolvers to 81mm mortars and the 106mm recoilless rifle. I don’t think anyone has written about that last weapon in this space–It would be very useful against the “Golden HordeWTSHTF, wouldn’t it? The last of those are somewhere out west on avalanche-suppression duty). I am not a “gun guy,” but respect those of you who are. And, I hope (and predict) you won’t get a chance to exercise those skills WTSHTF. More on that in a minute.
 
I am a long term prepper. Guess what got me started? I have been a coin collector since I was a kid. Believe it or not, when I was a teenager (if you were very lucky and looked through enough rolls of pennies), you could find 1909 S-VDBs and 1914Ds in circulation. If anything will raise your awareness of the value of money/decline in the value of the dollar, coin collecting will do it. Watching the metals markets and buying/selling coins and metals have consistently made me money and continue to do so today. (Even with the recent “haircut” we have taken in the metals market, as my bullion dealer, who lost a lot more money than I have said: “A loss isn’t a loss until you sell.” Hold on to your gold and silver; the prices will certainly come back. Watch for the dips and add more as you are able. Jim–My pile of nickels is getting big).
 
Here’s a little “detour” on the subject of “junk” silver coins (I really dislike the term–They are a long way from junk, but we’re stuck forever with the inaccurate handle), but it relates to post-TEOTWAWKI commerce, so this is a good place to mention it. I’ll try to stay out of the weeds here. The U.S. Mint switched over to copper clad coins in 1965 (only a few collector [proof] coins have been made of silver since; these generally carry a numismatic premium over the “melt” value–too complicated to worry about here. Also, please do not ding me on the [latter] 40% silver halves. You and I know what they are, but why confuse the rest of the audience?), so you want pre-1965 dimes/quarters/halves in your survival stock. The metal changed, but the design of the coins did not–Roosevelt dimes, Washington quarters, and Kennedy halves are still being minted today, but in the debased (copper clad) metal. This gives you several choices. You can stock up on the old (pre-’65) silver coins in these designs or easily go one design back on the dimes and halves. Given the choice (and for a small premium over the Roosevelts/Kennedys), select “Mercury” (technically, “Winged Liberty”) dimes and “Walking Liberty” halves for your survival stock. When the time comes to “spend” (or accept) them, the older designs will be more quickly accepted (they exist in silver only, not clad); the others will need to be more closely examined (to make sure they are silver, not clad). If you are putting away silver quarters, you are more or less stuck with Washingtons, which replaced “Standing Liberties” in 1932–those are pretty scarce, have more numismatic residual value, and probably not as useful for trade (again, a little too complicated). I have purchased gold and silver for many years from Gold & Bullion Reserves of Panama City, Florida. Larry Lee (PNG member) is a class guy and they sell for less of a premium than many other firms. If you go for halves, you can generally purchase “Franklins” for the same price as Kennedys. I think the Franklins are the better choice, again because of the confusion associated with the Kennedys (silver, 40% silver–Why would anyone want those? Worth less than a silver quarter, takes up twice the space, and confuses everyone–or clad, worth roughly nothing). Enough on that. This little detour on silver will probably generate more arguing and quibbling than the rest of the article.
 
I got serious about preparing for disaster with Y2K, as I worried about the possible meltdown of every way money moves electronically. Like everyone who prepared seriously, I felt a little foolish after the non-event, but I also learned lessons that have served me and my family well, as we have faced several “glancing blows” and one direct hit of hurricanes since. We have wasted almost nothing we stocked–There are still a few odds and ends in the garage, but I have used almost everything over the years. I actually used a Y2K replacement toilet flapper in the last week (nothing to expire there). The emergency food we had stocked–a full year’s worth–made a nice contribution to the Rescue Mission (and tax deduction for us) after the fact. This provided a yearly model we continue to follow today–Win/win/win for the mission and freshness rotation/tax deduction for us. (Important record-keeping side issue: If you tithe to your church and you exceed this with additional contributions to other charitable organizations, be prepared to defend every dollar you have donated. The IRS is amazed and skeptical when someone gives away ten percent or more of their income. I have been audited every year for my charitable contributions since 2000. Save every receipt from every purchase and be sure to back this up with the charity’s receipt and your itemized list. This has managed to satisfy the Feds every year). 
 
Let’s set the stage for an opposing view of what I believe a “Post-TEOTWAWKI” U.S.A. will look like, at least around here. I see more order and goodness than many others who have written in this space. I believe the basic American instincts, beliefs, and attitudes of freedom, patriotism, fair play, charity, entrepreneurial spirit, and love of God and country (not necessarily in that order; rearrange as you see fit and continue with your own list) will ultimately trump the darker forces of chaos, violence, and evil–at least outside the major metropolitan areas and especially outside the Eastern “Megalopolis.” By my mind, those cities and suburbs are already lost beyond retrieval; God help you and your family if you live there and you have decided to “bug-in.” Nothing good is going to happen between Richmond and Boston.   
 
I live in a small metro area extremely conservative in nature, adjacent to a small military installation. I estimate there are several times more guns in my county than there are people–We have lots of “polite” people. If any community will organize itself to survive a societal meltdown, this will be the one. Even our power plant could be disconnected from the eastern grid and last for quite a while (even though their coal pile is limited by state law to 90 days’ supply). So, my perspective in this article is primarily for folks living in and around smaller and conservative cities, not the big ones. (Side message for those of you reluctant to move because you are clinging to “wonderful” schools around a major metro area–We bailed out of one of those “top” school districts in Dupage County, Illinois (a Chicago suburb) with young children 25 years ago. Both sons did well in the local school system. Our older son went to West Point. Our younger son recently finished his Executive MBA and was an academic scholarship and college soccer player as an undergraduate. It’s clear to me that the standards parents set at home are a lot more important than those prevailing in the local school system. Your kids will thrive, too, if you stay involved with them–set higher personal academic and behavioral standards than the local school system does, keep them busy and involved with the church, find and encourage them to participate in team sports, monitor their friends, and so forth. My mother used to tell me you can predict how well someone will do with their lives by measuring the quality of their friends. Members of our church used to tell us they wanted kids like ours–I told them we didn’t do anything that they couldn’t do. Helping your kids stand up to peer pressure is probably the toughest task parents can face–but the payoff is high).
 
Here we go. “It”–some sort of meltdown–has hit us: Here we are several weeks into some world-changing catastrophe. It seems to me the cause of the disaster matters very little; there are plenty of causes to bring about the crunch. Major cities on the East Coast have rioted/burned, thousands/millions are dead, survivors are hungry and streaming to the countryside. They are a long way from us. If a few stragglers make it here, they will almost certainly be absorbed (resort community with lots of absentee-owner condos–we are a “bug-out” location for preppers located in several major southeastern US cities), run off, or killed (there are plenty–plenty–of combat veterans here. This is a military and veteran community, remember? If you are still in the process of selecting a bugout, retreat, or relocation site, add that possibility (owning a summer resort condo as bugout location) to your calculations. (I recall from the SurvivalBlog archives someone predicting bad things potentially happening around military installations because of all the “under-employed” troops hanging around. I see no way “bad” things could happen–Anyone believing that has absolutely no experience in the character of young enlisted people currently serving (it’s high)–Our former and retired NCOs and officers will feed ’em, lead ’em, and put them to work protecting us).
 
Here are my predictions: The county Sheriff’s Department–augmented with plenty of volunteers, reservists, and community watch groups–has the violence tamped down and under control. It didn’t take long at all for a county-wide ad hoc system of emergency radio to replace the 911 system (FRS, CB, ham, and so forth). Cell phones are working for local calls. (Another side issue: In hurricane territory, you keep at least one “hard-wired” phone in the house–Phone service is sometimes uninterrupted when the power is down. Cordless phones stop working when the power is off. I also have a satellite phone for backup communications with the kids). Looters and violent offenders–there were a few–were shot. Somehow, that served as a useful deterrent. Several school buses parked across the roads into town/bridges into the county have controlled and limited access from the outside. Our very polite/well-armed deputies manning the roadblocks are letting all residents and property owners through (those absentee condo owners with proof of it). Others have to have a sponsor to vouch for them and come and get them–friends, relatives, and so forth. Those not making the cut are given modest rations of food, water, and fuel along with good directions down the road.
 
Stores are mostly closed/shuttered. Law enforcement is still functioning and robust. There are armed guards securing “Big Box” stores. We have a large marine gasoline terminal (delivered here by barge on the Intercoastal Waterway); also armed guards there. Some service stations are still operating on generator power (cash only–silver is best; prices are inflated), but no one seems to be driving much; the roads are almost deserted. There was some sporadic looting downtown (‘bad” neighborhood) and at a few isolated C-stores in the rural areas. Neighborhood watch groups organized pretty quickly, with neighborhood entrances manned and blocked. The churches were also quick to act, opening their food pantries (evidently, there was a lot more prep than anticipated and we learned important lessons on refugee feeding from Hurricane Katrina) and their kitchens. Our people are taking care of each other.
 
So. The situation is more-or-less stable …at least temporarily. We are living off stored supplies. Help is obviously not on the way; the feds and the state have their hands full elsewhere, big time. Imagine one of Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping points–Which way will this one go? Chaos or civilized adaptation?
 
If you believe (as I do) that commerce is one of mankind’s great civilizing forces–and, that it’s pretty hard to stamp it out–it seems to me that all preppers have an important additional duty of using their entrepreneurial skills to help tamp down possible violence, help the less-prepared survive the crisis, and all the while improve their and everyone else’s chances of surviving (even prospering) from the turmoil. I think a great way to do this would be through organizing your thoughts and actions now to operate a modest retail operation for barter, trading, and sales of useful and essential items for the general population. Let’s call it your “Micro Store.” Any prepper should be able to do this at some level.
 
My initial thought was to create a modest “template”–sort of a basic stocking list–of essential stuff in reach to just about every prepper, probably a footlocker or two of inventory that would be easy enough to move around by cart or hand truck and that would provide a rate-of-return of about five times the investment required to put it together, all the while helping out those who need what you have put away (and would be willing to pay for what they need).
 
I’ve looked at lists, lists of lists, made my own list and lists of lists. Thought about/thrown out lots of ideas. I decided to approach this as I would a project for one of my consulting clients.
 
I also consult for other consultants and have learned that elegant, complicated recommendations to clients often wind up in the bottom desk drawer and unexecuted, so I decided to (try to) keep this modest analysis as simple and as easy to execute as possible. The answer to the first question is actually the toughest. At the high end extreme, you would be the WTSHTF version of a Wal-Mart–not very practical–space, transport, security, costs, and so forth push us to smaller, more conservative strategies . At the low end extreme, you would have a few extra items–things you overbought/excess to personal needs–from your prep stock to trade for things you forgot or used up. With some analysis, we can obviously do a lot better than that–You are an entrepreneur as well as a prepper, remember?
 
Even though you might ultimately develop into a post-TEOTWAWKI retailer (as an ongoing business), I am not going to try to chart a path to that; that would be far beyond the interests of most of us and this article. Instead, I see several other things we might accomplish with a barter strategy (in no particular order–assign you own weights to these)–
 
–Through individual leadership, add to community/neighborhood stability. Trading is one of the key human behaviors separating us from the animals. Along with farming, trading helped civilize the world.
 
–Help other people. However well/poorly your neighbors have prepared, there will be things others need that you can stock up on now to exchange (sell/trade/barter) later. In a voluntary exchange of any goods, both sides receive utility. More on this later.
 
–Leverage your position and help yourself. For the entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to sell/trade goods for more than you paid for them. We call this entrepreneurial gain. Typical retail markup is 100-150%. In a SHTF situation, your potential markup will be somewhat higher than that, but beware of price-gouging; it could undue all the goodwill you have created.
 
The leadership issue is an interesting one. Who will be first to set up a trading table out at the wide spot on the highway? You will, if you are prepared. Customers will come and other traders will follow. Competition is good, not bad. Remember the story of the two lawyers in town? One lawyer starves, two prosper. (Before anyone challenges me on the security issue: Yes, I believe in securing both yourself and your stock. I will do that, too–I have the firepower–but that’s a subject for someone else. This article is about trading, not security). Once we have a little trading area established, it should gather momentum to everyone’s benefit.
 
Let’s start breaking down how to leverage your “wealth”–shooting for your entrepreneurial gain–without trying to replace Wal-Mart, remember? What do we want to sell, trade, or buy? Again, several thoughts–
If you really want to attract customers, I suggest you should think about selling and trading and buying–all three. Here’s why–
 
–Selling generally means accepting some sort of currency for your goods/services. Let’s assume paper currency has lost its value. You have silver coins (if you are a regular SurvivalBlog reader and don’t have some pre-’65 silver at this point, you can stop reading), but your neighbors–customers–probably do not have much of it. So, be prepared to buy something from them and pay them with your silver. This will start the money circulating process that will lubricate the wheels of commerce we are hoping to achieve.
 
–Trading/Barter is also useful, but there are two ways to do this–one as a trader, where two people exchange things of equal value for personal consumption or use, the other for ultimate resale (keep thinking as an entrepreneur). The best example I can think of here is the used book store–The customer brings in two books to the store and the store trades back one. The extra book is your entrepreneurial gain. You can trade it again or sell it.
 
So, what should you stock in your little store? My selections might differ from yours, but it seems to me these are the important factors to consider what to “stock”–
–Small, compact items with high value/utility make sense: Useful, in demand, painful if you don’t have it.
–Relatively inexpensive. I think small ticket items make more sense than big ones–You’ll be less of a target of opportunity and will create less resentments among your customers. This strategy is about the little things, not about dealing in used tractors or horses.
–Limited amounts. You’re not Wal-Mart and will need to haul this stuff to your sales location and haul it home at the end of the day. I will assume a “normal” inventory might be a footlocker’s worth you can put on a hand truck or a garden cart (or maybe the bed of a pickup truck). You’ll keep most of your inventory locked up somewhere else for economy, ease of transport, and security.
 
“The List.” I have scratched my head for years to come up with this. No one has a monopoly on good ideas, though–Feel free to add to the list and disregard whatever you do not agree with–
 
1. Alcohol. Let’s get the sin out of the way first. As a regular “Gentleman Jack” aficionado, I have a case (plus) in stock for personal use. Yeah, I know. They say a man’s taste in whiskey, cigars, and women gets more expensive as a function of age. Big bottles take up too much space and they will be too expensive for regular commerce, so I think a case or two of miniatures (like you see on the airlines) makes more sense. If we can get these into circulation, I think some will use them as money. Pick your poison. My local liquor store was willing to sell me a case of regular Jack Daniels minis for $138 and a case of Absolut brand vodka (I think the ladies would probably prefer that over the Jack) for a few dollars less.

2. Coffee. Yeah, I know. The sooner I stop drinking coffee, the better (even if there are multiple, medically peer-reviewed studies illustrating clearly that drinking coffee in moderation is actually good for you. Whatever). I’ll stop drinking coffee when I can’t get any more, so my basic stock is a case of beans. Coffee has to be one of mankind’s ultimate comfort foods and will be in high demand WTSHTF, whether it is addictive or not. You might want to put away a case or two of instant in small jars for sale/barter/trade, but I think some single service packages (the little pouches that will make one cup) make more sense. I’ve seen these in the warehouse stores–200 Maxwell House instant one-cup pouches per case for about $30. Get a couple of cases, at least. Sales price–three pouches/cups for a silver dime.

3. Tobacco products. I thought about leaving this off the list (because of the stigma and the general nastiness) but reconsidered after I recalled something from graduate school. This came from an MBA econ course: Do you know what the hottest, most in demand trading item in WWII prisoner of war camps was? It was cigarettes. Not chocolate, not canned food, not coffee. True, times have changed, but there are still plenty of smokers who will want their nicotine fix as long as they can get it. And, they will pay for their smokes. In the big cities, cigarettes are already being sold one or two at a time–This is the model I see post-TEOTWAWKI. A carton or two will be enough for you to stock. Sell two or three cigarettes for a silver dime. (You can store them in plastic bags in the freezer to keep them fresh if you want, but my sense of this is that stale or fresh won’t make much difference to dedicated smokers.)

4. Ammunition. There is so much content concerning ammunition already on SurvivalBlog, anything I might add would be redundant or under-whelming, with one exception. We are loaded up with squirrels in my neighborhood–We jokingly refer to it as “Southeastern U.S. Squirrel Headquarters.” (Hickory, oak, pecan, pine, and an invasive species the locals call “popcorn” trees–you should see those little suckers shuck the pinecones and the mess that makes when they go for the seed kernels–support a huge population). I have killed several hundred with my trusty single-shot air rifle–Good for making me feel better after I see them stripping the baby grapefruit off the tree–but not dependable enough for the stew pot. They replenish themselves faster than I can pop them. When I was a kid, I had a bolt action Mossberg .22 I could load up nearly a full box of .22 [CB] “caps” or about half a box of “shorts.” I wish I still had that little rifle. Caps and shorts would be great for squirrel hunting in the neighborhood–safer than “longs” or LRs, a lot less noise, and less expensive, too. Why not put away a couple of bricks of those for trade/squirrel hunting (and the rats that will be eating everyone’s garbage)?

5. Lantern mantles. I learned about this one the hard way from backpacking and canoeing trips–You cannot ever have enough of these (if you have propane lanterns) because they are so fragile after you “burn them in” they are always disintegrating when you move the lantern around. And, there’s nothing so frustrating as a lantern, plenty of gas, and no mantle to make it work. I’ve probably used a hundred or more over the years and can detect absolutely no difference between the no-name cheapies and expensivo Colemans–They all work the same and they all break the same. Wal-Mart has cheapies for $.44/each. Get 50 or so, sell for a silver dime each in your store. (At the current rate of about 24:1, that’s a good one for you). You might also want to stock a couple of dozen lamp wicks.

6. Miniature bottles  (1/8 oz.) of Tabasco sauce. We are very likely going to be eating a little differently when TSHTF; Tabasco will make about anything that isn’t sweet taste better (or at least cover up/camouflage the taste of raccoon or possum or whatever was in the trap). You could buy a case or two of the little bottles sold at the grocery store, but miniatures are a better choice. Here’s a great example of how a little research can make a huge difference in the price of your inventory. Google “Tabasco miniatures” and you’ll get over 100,000 hits, ranging from $1/bottle to case prices. I found my best price for the 200 piece case at www.foodservicedirect.com (no personal financial interest in this; I’ve bought from them several times–Good service; extremely competitive prices). You might also want to stock a case each of mustard, ketchup, and soy sauce individual packets–All available at the warehouse stores; cheap. Sell two/three for a silver dime.

7. Toothpaste and dental floss. The little “travel” tubes are perfect for sale/barter, but they’re too expensive to buy that way. I asked my dentist buddy to get me a case of each.

8. Beano. I love beans–every way you can think of, but especially homemade soup (navy beans cooked with ham left on the ham bone)–but starting with the second day, I am deep into intestinal distress and paying the price. Big time. So, I generally stay away from beans–I even get double rice instead of the refried beans when we eat Mexican. When TSHTF, we (you, me, and everyone collectively) will be eating a lot more beans than usual; my guess is that there are plenty of folks who will suffer with the beans for a while, until their “systems” reset. Get at least a dozen bottles (and you might even split them up into smaller quantities).

9. Antacid tablets. My aging stomach needs a couple of antacid tabs before bed, or I risk a bout of acid reflux. On the bean/rice/squirrel/raccoon (etc.) diet, I’ll be going through a lot of antacids and I’ll bet your neighbors will, too. Load up on these–I suggest at least a dozen jumbo bottles of 200 or so per bottle. These are cheap; no need to go for the expensive Tums–the store brand is fine and costs much less. Repackage your tablets into 25 per baggie for a silver dime (three for a quarter). Yeah, you could go with a stock of Prilosec (now OTC), but these are a lot more expensive than store brand antacids.

10. Salt and pepper. Pepper we can live without (okay-we’ll suffer, but we’ll make it. Without salt–We die). Interesting observation here–Even those folks who think they live just fine without salting their food are getting plenty of it from processed foods. The cravings will get intense when we’re all eating unsalted beans and rice. Recommendation here is to buy a case of the s&p picnic sets at the warehouse club store and a case of bulk packed (food service) salt. Tell your “customers” to bring their empties back for refill or just bring the household salt shakers.

11. Chapsticks. It’s cold outside in the winter and everyone will be outside more. There is nothing more miserable than needing a chapstick and not having one. These sell for $10/dozen at Sam’s Club. I think they would be worth a silver dime each post-TEOTWAWKI. Stick to the brand name on this one–I’ve tried substitutes, which have all managed to disappoint.

12. Rechargeable batteries. This is a good one. I remember this suggestion from Dr. Gary North’s web site as we were prepping for Y2K (seems like yesterday): Buy enough rechargeable batteries for as many neighbors as you can afford (say four AAs and four AAAs each) AND a solar-powered charger for you. Here’s the deal: Give away a basic set–charged up–to whoever wants one. You’ll trade a freshly-charged set for a depleted set. That will keep your customers coming back and thinking about your “store.”

13. “Free lunch.” This is another good one. Consider this your “loss leader” and a promotional strategy to attract customers. As you get your “store” started (the first week, maybe), offer customers a “free lunch”–a tasty bowl of chili beans or spicy noodles and a drink of “bug juice” (that’s the red Kool-Aid)–for the first 25 customers or so as a promo strategy. After a few days, you can transition to a paid lunch–a dime or quarter in silver (recycling some of that silver change you put into circulation by buying from other merchants and from your customers).

14. The “bug juice” is another good idea. The water we filter/boil/purify may not taste so good and a sweet drink will be big, especially with the kids. I just priced these at the grocery store–packages (unsweetened) of cherry Kool-Aid are $.27/ea. and make two quarts. I bought 100 packages (compact; takes up very little space for the value). Your post-TEOTWAWKI sales price might be a silver dime for three or ten for a quarter.

15. Butane lighters. These are so cheap at the wholesale clubs and so profitable to sell (probably in high demand, too)–$7.95/100–get a couple bricks of a hundred/brick. Sell individual lighters for a dime each or three for a quarter. These are in the cigarette “cage” at Sam’s Club. The clerk told me they are one of the favorite purchases of “C-store” owners, because they sell for $1 each at retail (we wish we could get that markup on everything, no?).

16. Books. After all these years, I remember a great line from a book–I think it was from Pat Frank’s novel Alas, Babylon–“Any book same as cash.” This will be a guaranteed money-maker and/or barter item; people will be desperate for
reading material and will come to your store again and again if you keep plenty of books in stock. Trade two-for-one. Sell paperbacks for a silver dime, hardbacks for a quarter. The absolute best way to build your stock now (other than saving your already read books) is by hitting garage sales. Get your best deal by offering to buy all the books at a site–You’ll get the best price that way. This strategy will probably work for DVDs, too (if your “customers” were smart enough to figure out how to keep their laptops charged up).

17. Pool shock. This might very well be your major contribution to saving the human race. As you might be aware, more people have been killed by waterborne disease than all the wars of history. In a grid-down situation, we do not lose just water purification, we also lose sewage treatment (and your neighbors will be polluting everything). This combination will be deadly. You have many options for purifying water, but a “belt and suspenders” approach will be the best bet to stay healthy–Use multiple strategies to protect yourself. “Pool shock” is calcium hypochlorite, a dry powder, sold in one pound packages for swimming pool sanitation. This chemical is remarkably effective at sanitizing water. “Recipes” I have seen online state that a grain or two will sanitize a gallon and that a pound package will treat 65,000 gallons (I’m not sure about that part–My pool is about 12,000 gallons and I use one package of shock/week. Use a fifth of a bag, then drink from the pool? Maybe not). In any event, you can buy this stuff at about any Big Box or pool store or online. I think I would give it away rather than sell it–A one pound bag is about $5. My last case (24 bags) was about $50 at Sam’s Club. A case would be a great investment to help out the neighborhood. If you wanted to, you could easily repackage smaller quantities for sale in baggies for a dime a bag. (If you want to do something cool now, type out some simple instructions now on how to use the shock to sanitize water–you could easily fit a dozen of these on one piece of paper–then, print out 25 copies. Store your instructions with your shock “stock.” When the time comes and you are ready to repackage shock into baggies, cut up the pages and put one set of instructions in each baggie).

18. Hand sanitizer. Another potential life-saver. With certain clean water shortages, hand sanitation will be a big issue and an important way to prevent the spread of disease and infections. This is a two-step sale: Purchase a bulk package of small hand sanitizer bottles at one of the warehouse clubs. Sam’s has these–25 2 oz. bottles for $19.95. Your cost is $.40/oz this way. Sell those for a silver dime each (or maybe three for a quarter). Also buy several large bottles–two liter dispensing bottles of their private-label version (same stuff–thickened ethyl alcohol–as the branded product)–for $7.95. Your cost works out to $.118/oz. Use the big squirt bottles to refill your customers’ little ones at two or three for a silver dime. This will be a great deal for everyone. (As I learned on the SurvivalBlog web site, this stuff burns like sterno. Even though I have plenty of other fuels to heat/cook/boil water, you couldn’t go wrong by putting away a dozen of the two-liter bottles).

19. Mice/rat traps and poison. This one should be obvious–When the garbage piles up, the rodents will respond to the “stimulus,” too. We fight a constant standoff with the critters in my neighborhood (can’t seem to get to those that live in the woods–unlimited and undisturbed population)–and that’s without the bags of garbage stacking up. We use a lot of the glue trays, but traps will last; the trays are single-use. Sales price–a dime for a mousetrap, a quarter for a rattrap. Poison is problematic–It will kill the rodents, for sure, but pets/kids, too, if they should get into it. I would leave poison to the professionals, to be safe.  

20. Sunscreen. Again, everyone will be spending a lot more time outside. Around here, even leathery beach people need sunscreen. This is a great dollar store purchase. Several of our local dollar stores have SPF 15 and 30 in six and eight oz. bottles for a buck. Get a couple dozen bottles; sell for a silver dime each. 

21. Bike tire repair kits. As soon as the gasoline supply chain fails, all sorts of old bikes will be dragged out of garages and basements. Many (most?) of these will have flat tires and few folks will have tube repair kits–but you will. Again, check the Big Box stores for kits–a couple of bucks each. You might want to get a dozen; sell for a silver half. Bring your tire pump to your micro-store and offer “complimentary” air.

22. Insect repellant. Living in near-jungle as I do, this one has special significance. I go through a number of Off spray cans every year working in the yard. With all the extra time we will be spending outside hauling water, gathering firewood, manning our Micro Store, and so forth, the bugs will be eating better than anyone. Check your local dollar store for deals on repellant. Price accordingly.

23. LED headlights (for your head, not your car). If you are any sort of camper and haven’t yet discovered these, let me state for the record they are as cool as sliced bread. What an amazing supplement to the flashlight! Not only will they light the way around a dark, grid-down house, they also make great book lights. No flame, making them safe for everyone to use, anywhere. Here’s the most interesting part– most non-campers and non-preppers don’t have any, for the most part. This makes them a great sale/barter item. I’ve seen discussions of different brands in this space, which mostly miss the point. They are now so cheap (check the dollar stores and buy a couple of dozen), you can throw them away when they break. I’ve got an expensive one and a bunch of Chicom cheapies; all work fine. The LEDs last forever (nothing is forever, but I’ve yet to lose even one to failure); the on-off switch looks like the first thing to break. I would stay away from the ones with “button” batteries and go for the ones that take AAs or AAAs. Depending on your cost, they would sell for about a silver quarter each or a quarter and a dime.

24. Sta-Bil or Pri-G. Consider this liquid plutonium. Get at least a dozen of the small bottles (treats five gallons of gasoline); sell for a [silver] quarter a bottle.

25. Hard candy. Another great promotion item–Get a couple of bulk jars at one of the warehouse clubs and give away candy to the kids (or to the parents to give to the kids) when they come to your store. These will bring everyone back sooner. A plastic jar of 200 “Atomic Fire Balls” was $6.95 at Sam’s (the boys love these) and a similar size jar of Gummi Bears was $7.95.
 
Those are the most important items I can think of (remember our selection criteria and those things I think will move the best), but here are a few others. Seeds; you didn’t need me to suggest that. 2 cycle oil (for the chainsaws). While you’re at it, how about a fist full of files for chainsaw sharpening? Fishing gear. I didn’t put that on my list, because just about everyone around here is already stocked for salt and fresh water, but it might be useful where you are–A little assortment of small hooks and such might be a good seller if you have some bodies of water around. Make up some little fishing kits in sandwich bags for a silver dime. Batteries. Candles. Condoms. Pain relievers (a big bottle each of store-brand aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen to dispense a few pills at a time as needed). Diarrhea tablets. Disposable razors.  I thought about adding P38 can openers–www.sportsmansguide.com actually has a case (100) of these for twenty bucks (and there are plenty of other sources, too). Notice I have gone light on the med stuff (outside my expertise; there are plenty of good suggestions elsewhere on this site), ammo, and food (I’ll let my fellow traders take care of those).
 
Wrapping up. For several hundred dollars, any prepper can assemble and stock a “micro-store” that will help everyone survive until (or if) civilization recovers. Do it now. May God Bless you and keep you. Good luck with your entrepreneurial endeavors.

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