How This Couple Saves Money On Groceries Using the Craigslist Bartering System

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Everyone knows that you can buy everything from a gently used bookcase to a city parking spot on Craigslist (among a number of other functions we won’t go into here). But did you know you could actually use it to save money on groceries every month? It’s true! All you need to do is learn how to use the Craigslist bartering system.

When one couple decided to tighten their budget, pricey fresh fruits and vegetables were the first things to go. But soon, Laura Hamilton discovered that by bartering household items worth anywhere between $5 and $20, she could get all the fresh produce she needed. She recently wrote about her experiences for The Penny Hoarder.

No Takers For A Nice Coat

How? Hamilton posted a coat with a small hole for $10 on the Craigslist app (it’s also available on Android). Though the coat was in otherwise perfect condition, she didn’t get a single hit after weeks on the site.

So Hamilton decided to change her tactic, and instead listed it in the Craigslist “free” category.

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Free Section For The Win

She described the coat, the hole, and then added, “Although this is free, if you had some food items to trade for it, like veggies, grains or vegetarian canned goods, that would be much appreciated.”

Hamilton was overloaded with responses. In only two days, people offered everything from bags of frozen vegetables to ripe fruit for the coat. Ultimately, she decided to barter the coat to a woman who worked at a local fruit stand. The coat with a small hole was bartered for a mix of whatever was left over at the fruit stand, and it turned out to be a ton.

Between the fresh bunches of kale, bags of heirloom carrots and organic pomegranates, she probably gave us about $18 worth of produce, almost double what I’d originally asked for in cash,” Hamilton wrote for The Penny Hoarder.

Amazed by the response, Hamilton employed the same strategy with a brand-new pair of $20 boots. Within a day, she received an offer from a man who actually offered to take Hamilton and her husband grocery shopping for whatever they needed. They couldn’t make the trip in person, so they just asked for some fresh tomatoes and “whatever else he wanted.”

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Here’s what they ended up with (prepare to be astonished):

  • 4 boxes of veggie pasta
  • 2-pound bag of apples
  • 11 cans of various mixed veggies
  • 1 box of oatmeal packages
  • 8-pack of applesauce cups
  • 1 jar of fancy mushroom wine simmer sauce
  • 2 pounds of vine tomatoes
  • 2-pound bag of colorful heirloom lentils
  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2-pound bag of mini cucumbers
  • 2 limes
  • Bouquet of flowers

Hamilton estimated the total value of groceries to be $56.50.


Now to be fair, if you use the Craigslist bartering system, you may not have exactly the same results as the Hamiltons did. They live in Seattle, which is incredibly population-dense and almost everyone has a car, making it easy to get around. Plus, you need to be a savvy Craiglist user. If Craigslist creeps you out, this may not be the grocery shopping plan for you.

$750 In Savings

Because they were bartering so much, the Hamiltons were basically able to stop grocery shopping entirely. That, plus the $180 in fresh fruits and vegetables they received, has saved them about $750 in a few months—all while cleaning out clutter from their home.

So if you have a junk drawer (or a ton of things you need to donate), try it out! What do you have to lose? Just make sure you follow basic Craigslist safety rules like using a secure email address, not giving out your phone number and meeting people in public places.

Happy bartering!

About the Author

Jessica Suss

An aspiring food and health writer, native Chicagoan, and nut butter enthusiast. Jessica is also the creator of BiteMeBlog, but don't call her a foodie More.

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