Vacuum packing and sealed storage

Capt. Mike

An extension of food shelf life for both fridge and dry goods can be found with the vacuum sealers "as advertised on TV." Foodsaver is the most widely distributed brand. Yes, I detest those info-mercials and didn't buy one for years because of it. But they are now available at Wal-Marts and the like. Since they require AC and would take scarce storage space, they probably aren't practical to take with you in the woods. But they do work! Not as quick & easy as that doofus on TV makes it look, but manageable. They are readily available at discount & wholesale club chains. The <$100 units work just as good as the fancy -- just less bells & whistles and packaging add-ons.

Vacuum sealed food lasts considerably longer, both in the fridge and dry. Plus they tend to pack smaller. This makes them good candidates for at least the intial stock of camping goods.

You can vacuum any frozen item and, though it will still thaw in the fridge, will now last many days longer than the original store packaging. I vacuumed a couple of Venison tenderloins that stayed fresh-as-new in my fridge for over a week whereas 3 days is pushing it in the Westy fridge. We routinely vacuum our WI cheese and it doesn't go green for months. The difference in freezer life for vacuumed products compared to factory or store packaging is a couple years, not months. One factor might be that the vacuuming removes much of the excess moisture so ice crystals don't form up like in much packaging.

;) However, I caution & repeat the manufacturer's warning that this is NOT a substitute for hermatically sealed cans (you can't seal while the food is still at bacteria-free temps). Nor can you substitute vacuum packing for foods that require refrigeration. It may come pretty close for non-refrigerated foods, though.

You will also not be able to vacuum liquids or foods containing liquids like stew. But a good trick is to freeze the liquids in a shaped container like Tupperware, pop out of the container, then vacuum seal the frozen product. Nice little blocks that extend life in the Westy fridge double or triple. They can even be heated in the bag.

It also allows you to custom-size packaging for space and servings. Vacuum 4 hot dogs instead of a full package of each. Vacuum individual or meal-size servings of cereal, salad makings or snacks. Tired of taking the whole can or jar of something you only need a dab of? Vacuum pack the small portion needed.

Vacuum packing extends far beyond food items. Vacuum laundromat size portions of detergent. Great for weatherproofing spares like batteries & film. We carry a limited number of spare parts like generators for the Colemans and a couple of car parts. These can be vacuumed to make them weatherproof and safe for roof rack storage. I routinely vacuum hunting spares (including an emergency ration of toilet paper) and this would apply to any camping gear that you don't want exposed to the elements or plan to take on hikes.

Vacuuming clothing that isn't expected to be used for some time will reduce pack size considerably. Examples might be the 'just in case' extra underwear, sox or shirt.

You can even vacuum items that are at risk for leakage so you don't find the sticky mess at the bottom of your cabinet or bag. Finding your oatmeal flavored with Tobasco might not be too tempting. Bad example; how about Oatmeal flavored with dishwashing soap?

The manufacturer advertises attachments to vacuum jars and other containers. Haven't gotten into that, so won't comment. We try to avoid using containers that have to be brought back, which is another great advantage of the vacuum bags. The bags are reuseable (you loose about an inch in length each opening) but it takes a lot less room to carry the used bags home than an empty Tupperware. Bags are available prepackaged but we prefer the rolls (2 sizes) where we can custom-size our own.

Try one; you'll constantly find yourself adding uses around the house and it opens many new possibilities to your camping trips.


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Capt. Mike

:p Almost forgot one of the most important of all . . .

Another place to vacuum pack is your first-aid kit. Vacuuming items will both retain freshness & seal from contamination or moisture. Same for spare toiletries & medicenes.
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Capt. Mike

Not vacuum packing, but a trick my cousin-in-law taught me this winter. They live in the northwoods of WI so tend to buy in larger quantities since there isn't a Kroger down the street and they might get snowed in for a few days.

Where would we be without Ziplock bags? To most of us, roughing it now means we've run out of Ziplocks.

My cousin keeps a box of straws in the kitchen. When he is packaging something in Ziplocks for the freezer, he puts a straw in the corner of the Ziploc, start the seal almost all the way across, gives the straw a suck to get most of the air out, and then quick pulls & seals the bag. I have to admit, it seems to work better than my method -- squeezing it on my stomach until I mess up my shirt.

Of course it may have some drawback! He was trimming and repackaging a bulk chicken buy so I asked him if he was sucking all the Salmonella out! He gave me a look that was half-way between "You're gross," and "I hadn't really thought of that."

Capt. Mike

One of the reasons I've advocated vacuum packing is an empty tupperware takes up almost as much room as a full one (yes; some stack). There are, however, freezer containers from the baggie people like Glad & Ziplock that are so inexpensive, they could be used and then thrown away. Maybe not as everyday practice at home, but for the few you might take on a camping trip. Not a great solution but an alternative.

Note: The Foodsaver can seal other types of bags, though not with the vacuum feature. You can seal most snack bags so this might be an opportunity to downsize portions you carry with you.
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Capt. Mike

Foodsaver quality drops

I ran into trouble with my 9 year-old Foodsaver this hunting season. On the first deer, we had trouble getting it to pull a vacuum before sealing. I fiddled with it and by cleaning the seal gasket, could get another bag or two before having to repeat.

We decided it was time to retire the old one and get a new one, perhaps with some of the deluxe features. First attempt was an upright, the V3440. It was supposedly automatic, just stick in the bag edge. Wrong! First it was nearly impossible to feed the bag past the seals and trip arms. Then it would seal before vacuuming. All the roll dispensers and fancy features are useless if it doesn't vacuum seal the food. Fortunately, we decided to pay the extra of local retail so we had an immediate return route.

Next we tried a more advanced flat model, the Game Saver Sport. Pretty much the same results. I kept having to get the old one out, so last deer, I washed the gasket and did a little experimenting with flattening the bag edge and always keeping the channel side up and it sealed without much difficulty. Thus #2 got returned also.

What is frustrating is I called FoodSaver and they said a new gasket was not available -- they don't stock parts for "old" models. But the gasket on the V3440 deluxe was exactly the same part. I should've swapped gaskets before returning it as fee for the aggrevation and wasted bags, but didn't think of it. I wrote customer service about it but their own email rejected it.

Anyway, we're back to the using the old original :eek: with a cleaned gasket and some operating techniques I discovered. It finished vacuum sealing the production from a pretty big buck and is still going.
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Capt. Mike

Caution; vacuum sealer bags not compatible.

I've had friends who have purchased vacuum sealers of other brands and tell me the bags are not compatible. I can't verify which and what the problems are, but use caution. Bags are expensive and we have accumulated a pretty big inventory. I'd hate to scrap that if a new sealer wasn't compatible. Last year we put up 196 lb. of venison, much of it vacuum sealed. That's a lot of bags! By the time hunting season rolls around again, I have a draw full of empties!
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