Prepping for Your Loved one with Autism: Food Storage for 72 Hour Emergencies

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In the last article, we reviewed feeding difficulties and philosophies as they relate to both prepping and special needs. Today, we will examine some of the difficulties that come with storing food for the limited and special diets of persons on the Autism Spectrum.

All of the following advice comes from my own personal experience. I am not an expert on food storage, but I’m a concerned mom who has thought a lot about how to provide food for my two special needs children during “Grid Down” due to a potential hurricane.

I suggested that you make some lists in my last article. Lets review:

First, work with your loved one to make a list of foods they feel safe eating.

Next, go down the list and highlight those foods that are shelf-stable.

Congratulations! This is the start of your 72-hour emergency food kit!

What is a “shelf-stable” food? This is a food that does not require refrigeration and can sit on a shelf in your pantry, ready to eat. I like to store shelf-stable foods that are “open and eat” without the need to cook them. Preferably, I want these foods to be stable for at least 6 months. They are great for a 72 hour emergency kit.

What is a 72 Hour Emergency Kit?

The purpose of a 72 Hour Emergency Kit is to get your family through the first 3 days of a disaster. These kits usually have a lot more than just food. They can be quite extensive. There are several articles, books, and YouTube videos that provide exhaustive information on how to create a full kit, but this article will focus on food to store for special needs individuals. I included more resources at the end of this article.

Here are some examples of shelf-stable food storage for my oldest child:

*Ritz Crackers Low Salt – plain

Prepackaged Peanut Butter Crackers

*Breakfast Cereal Bars

*Oreo Cookies

*Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal – dry

Graham Crackers

I starred the items above that my youngest child also eats. Additional food items that my youngest eats are listed below:

Goldfish Crackers


Mini marshmallows

Chips Ahoy cookies

Is this enough food?

As you can see, this is not a large list of foods. However, in addition to these foods, they both eat semi-stable foods that would last on the counter for a few days like bananas, peaches, and apples. Fresh fruit will last about 72 hours, so I’ll include that on my list here.

My youngest will also occasionally eat canned chicken and rice and canned Spaghettios with meatballs. However, these two foods are not reliable “safe foods.”

Considering the small number of shelf-stable safe foods listed here, you can imagine how challenging it is to stock up for even a three-day emergency. Protein is a particular challenge.

What about protein?

There’s very little protein on my children’s lists. However, I store shelf-stable ingredients to make more protein-rich foods. I’ll be covering this in another article where we review how to store more perishable foods in their shelf-stable ingredient forms.

My oldest does eat peanut butter which is a great source of protein. My youngest will occasionally eat canned foods with protein in them. We’re working on introducing more shelf-stable proteins.

What about new foods?

We are consistent in our efforts to introduce new foods to our children. Sometimes they try them; sometimes they don’t. Rarely, they will eat new foods. 99% of the time, they do not eat the new food. That’s the way it goes. We have come a long way. Now, they will tolerate new foods on their plates without a meltdown!

In addition to our efforts as parents to introduce a new food, both children have feeding therapy incorporated into their overall therapy plans.

We continue to introduce new foods, especially ones that I can add to their list of shelf-stable foods. We are trying to introduce shelf-stable proteins and are having some success. We are trying packaged pepperonis and Vienna sausages. You never know until you try! The keys are kindness, patience, and gentleness. We put it on their plates, but they choose whether or not to eat it.

How do I keep a 3 day supply?

The same principle that we talked about last time, “store what you eat, eat what you store,” is still the same here. Buy the same food items, but keep a back stock of at least three days worth of shelf-stable items.

That’s your 72 hour food supply!

You’ll have to do some calculations here. Observe how much of each item your loved one consumes per day and then make notes. This way, you are able to calculate how many packages/servings make up a 72 hour back stock.

Can I afford to do this?

Some of the foods my children eat are very specific brands and therefore a bit pricey. It gets even more expensive if you’re buying the small packages like ones labeled “lunch box” size versus the larger containers. I take larger sized containers and break them down into smaller mason jars to keep things like crackers from going stale. Sometimes I do buy lunch box sizes, but those are specifically for my Bug Out Bags. I’ll cover more about that later, but if you’re interested here’s an article on how to evacuate with a nice checklist included: Emergency Evacuation Checklist: Are You Prepared to Bug Out Fast?

My family has a very limited income. Most of our income is spent paying for my children’s full-time therapy. Not much is left over for food, much less stocking up our pantry.

Believe it or not, this is where stocking up can actually SAVE you money!

Yes, you read that right.

If you buy more than one of an item when it’s on sale, over the next couple of weeks, the money you would have spent on paying full price is saved!

Let me give you an example:

My child eats goldfish as a safe food. I watch for sales and specials on this item. I know what is a good price and a rock bottom sale price because I watch the sales papers and my receipts each week.

A regular price for a medium size bag of the crackers in my area is about $2.50. Overpriced is anything $3.00 and above. Rock bottom is anything $0.99 or below.

You can do this too! Just make a list of the prices on that SAME list you already made with your loved one and compare as you shop each week. Add coupons to the sale prices and you’re in business!

If you’re interested in saving more money this way, this is called “couponing.” Yes. I have been and still am an extreme couponer. I love it! It saves me so much money.

If you’re interested in learning more about coupons, check here: Money Saving Mom

Also, check out The Organic Prepper’s tips on how to save money here: 30 Frugal Living Tips: Small Changes That Result in Big Savings

Be sure to track your inventory.

Keeping track of what you have on hand is important. I write the expiration dates on each of the items that I put back for storage. I use a large black marker. I put the oldest items in the front, the newer items in the back. I do this especially for my boxes of Ritz Crackers because I buy in large quantities when they are on sale.

I’ll include more on how I’ve started storing away ingredients to make the more perishable “safe foods” for my children in my next article. Stay tuned and keep prepping!

Here are some additional resources that will help you build a kit.


Why (And How) EVERYONE Should Make a Survival Shelter Plan (+ Printable Checklist)

10 Things You Need in Your Cheapskate Survival Kit


Be Ready for Anything

The Preppers Hurricane Survival Guide


“How to Survive a Hurricane” by City Prepping:

“How to Build an Emergency Two Week Food Supply” by City Prepping:

What do you think?

Do you prep for someone who has special needs? Do you have any tips to share to make prepping easier? Do you have a family member with difficulty eating a variety of foods? What are your loved one’s safe foods and how do you plan to store them? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

About Jenny Jayne

Jenny Jayne is the mother of two wonderful boys on the Autism spectrum and is passionate about Autism Advocacy. She is a novelist who writes Post-apocalyptic fiction and a freelance writer. Her first novel is coming soon to Kindle eBooks near you. Her guilty pleasures are preparing for hurricanes, drinking hot coffee, eating milk chocolate, reading romances, and watching The Office for the 50th time. Her website:

Jenny Jayne

Jenny Jayne

About Jenny Jayne Jenny Jayne is the mother of two wonderful boys on the Autism spectrum and is passionate about Autism Advocacy. She is a novelist who writes Post-apocalyptic fiction and a freelance writer. Her first novel is coming soon to Kindle eBooks near you. Her guilty pleasures are preparing for hurricanes, drinking hot coffee, eating milk chocolate, reading romances, and watching The Office for the 50th time. Her website:

Leave a Reply

  • Hi Jenny, thanks for this series.
    As I may have mentioned in my reply to your first post in the series, my GS will only eat one brand of lunchables. We tried making our own, even serving them in saved containters from said brand. It didnt work. I am curious if you have tried home made versions of your kids safe foods and how that worked out for you.
    I am also concerned about GS gettin enough healthy protein. So I look forward to your post on that.

  • One problem with this list, apart from none of it really being organic, is there’s no allowance for storeable safe fluids despite the high proportion of dry and sugary foods you appear to feel are necessary.

    You’re going to need a lot of fresh water to wash all that down, some way to prevent major tooth decay, and maybe some way to deal with wild hyperactivity.

    Canned vegetables and fruits are shelf-stable and come in their own broth. The only problem is the weight that comes with the water, but this is shed as the cans are used up. If you’re packing separate water, you can calculate how much is made up for by canned broth, and either pack less dedicated water or have a cushion for other needs.

    A gallon of water per day per person is a lot of weight. Despite the mobility implied by a 72 hour bag means, the article seems to be hopeful of bugging in, not out, or hoping to find water on en route, even though potable water will be the most in-demand item in a bad scenario as everyone and their dog is going to be cooking ramen noodles. If your kids won’t drink, then you need a container to store leftover water for safe reuse by reheating or even a life straw.

    If you need to pack processed sugars and separate the water, you’d be much better off looking at WWI and WWII recreationists for ration kit ideas for yourself and your little soldiers. Then upgrade as practical. The old generation GIs packed chewing gum for dessert, for example, which nowadays can be upgraded to a xylitol gum which can help protect teeth far better. You can skip the cigarettes, unless you find candy ones.

    You can’t fully anticipate every 72 hour scenario, but two or three bags of Chips Ahoys cookies are done in a day of nervous boredom. Whatever ‘safe’ foods you’re exploring for your children… stay away from Doritos and Mountain Dew… that’s food for a whole new spectrum.

  • Having reviewed the article series so far, well, admittedly not being a parent or familiar with special needs limits my experience base. Low income is familiar and generally even generic labeled snack sweets are luxury items. Fortunately, knowledge is still free on the internet.

    “Store what you eat, eat what you store” is a good prepper and survivalist ethos. However, special needs kids usually means special diets, and the Hippocratic ethos says “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Oreos have little medicinal value.

    For the most part store-bought processed foods are not the best start point for seeking ‘safe’ special needs foods, except to find appealing safe food forms to engineer home versions made from fresh ingredients. Industrial processed foods will invariably carry generally accepted autism-unfriendly inflammation-causing ingredients; dairy, gluten, corn/soy, sugar, and artificials.

    The fake food industry deliberately makes its foods addictive. Canada’s CBC did a surprisingly good summary of the triumvirate of sugar, salt and fat deep scienced to hit the bliss point of our taste buds at the expense of being real food. Like movies or TV, industrial food is all about the special effects (FX), not the real thing. (The Science of Addictive Food, CBC)

    The example of goldfish crackers, for example. Everything from colour to crunch is engineered to be addictive. There are homemade versions, but store bought goldfish are problematic to natural food advocates. Despite the removal of artificial food colouring in 2010 from official goldfish, some parents continue to have concerns.

    Read the ingredients, and you will find autolyzed yeast, an MSG analogue that supplies the glutamates without the sodium. Glutamates are kind of like sugars; they are naturally occurring and the body does use them – in tiny controlled amounts. Its not advisable to consume excitotoxins in purified, concentrated forms. As in, heirloom sweetcorn = good, high fructose corn syrup = bad. Cane sugar = good, (sort of) white sugar = bad, (in excess) even though white sugar is often sourced from cane.

    Industrial foods are engineered to be addictive; kids will go for them and autistic kids no different in this respect. Even normal kids should be severely restricted from mini marshmallows; these little pills of artificial colours and corn syrup are not generally used in strict natural organic autism diets.

    On the bright side, salt, sugar and fat can be found in healthy forms and placed in home made combinations closer to nature’s best intentions.

    Long-term storability is a problem with many homemade foods, but in a 72 hour bag, years-long stability is far less of an issue.

  • Everybody settle down, y’all. Yes, we all know Oreos and Goldfish aren’t healthy and that a steady diet of processed food is a disaster waiting to happen-but this is for a 72 hour kit. Autistic kids under high amounts of stress are going to demand comfort foods, and if her kids want Oreos and Goldfish, so be it. It’s calories. It’ll keep body and soul together.

    Jenny, you keep doing what you need to do for your babies, and don’t let anybody get you down for doing it. My son used to live on frozen pizza and fried chicken. He’s now 16 and eats everything-and he’s a pretty good cook to boot, lol. Just keep involving the kids in as much food preparation as possible, and eventually they’ll get curious enough to try new things. (Though don’t be surprised if they come up with some weird ideas about what they consider “good,” lol. My son has created absolute horrors in the kitchen, and liked them-as in, a blueberry and white pepper sauce on salmon. Ew.)

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