Being self-sufficient will mean you will have to change the way you do business. You will no longer have money in your wallet, ready to swap for consumable items, such as rice, fuel and other food items. Instead, you will have to use your imagination and set up good relations with your neighbours, your village store and local small holders.
The main thing to consider when swapping and bartering is how much to give away. If you give away too much, you will force yourself to buy items later on, that you have grown and sold, or given away. This is counter-productive; only give away your surplus goods.
Where to Start
To start with the system of swapping and bartering, you need to be very sure of what you have to offer and what you are intending to get out of it. If you grow your own vegetables, what do you expect to have a surplus of at harvest time? Do you keep goats, chickens or a cow? If so, you are likely to have a regular supply of eggs, or milk, yoghurt and cheese that you could use to exchange for goods.
You should also work out what you need to exchange your goods for. If you have a small amount of money to pay for regular household items such as toothbrushes and tights, you may find it easier to use your cash budget to pay for these. Then you can concentrate your swapping commodities for items such as olive oil, eggs, milk and cheese (if you don’t make your own), and rice, pasta and cous cous, essentially you will need to swap your goods in exchange for basic items you can’t make yourself, or which are difficult and time consuming to make.
Choosing the Right Vendor
Once you have ascertained which goods you have to exchange for, on a regular basis or otherwise, you then need to find the shop vendor and pitch your proposed business relationship.
For example, you may wish to exchange a dozen eggs per week for a couple of loaves of bread, or keep the relationship open; one week you may have eggs, another week you may have cheese or a sack of potatoes. You could swap them for anything, provided that the vendor agrees: a daily newspaper, a box of chocolates, a bottle of olive oil or even a jar of jalapeno chillies. The choice is yours, and the shopkeeper’s.
Swapping with your Neighbours
You may also wish to swap items with your neighbours. Again, if you have cheese, yoghurt and milk, they may be interested in ‘buying’ them from you, or swapping them for items from their kitchen, a lift to the market once a week, even help at harvest time. Establishing a good relationship with your neighbours is good for lots of reasons.
Swapping with Local Smallholders
Establishing a relationship with other small holders is a good idea, especially if you are short of pace. You may have garlic cloves to offer in exchange for some shallots, or they may have too many strawberries, but have an eye on your potatoes.
Swapping and bartering are useful skills for the self-sufficient household. The fresh, organic food items you grow and make will be of high value to friends, neighbours and shopkeepers, and you should have no problems in obtaining the items you need to live comfortably.