Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Vacuum Sealing for Long-Term Food Storage

Tess Pennington
Ready Nutrition
February 17th, 2013
Reader Views: 1,976

sealed-300x225Vacuum sealing is a revolutionary way to create a food pantry. We know that food cannot stay fresh forever, but with the right tools, we can most certainly prolong it.

This sealing method was introduced as a new way to extend your existing food sources. There are two types of vacuum food sealers: counter top models and handheld ones. Counter top sealers claim they are more durable and offer stronger suction and sealing strength, but they’re more expensive than handheld food sealers, and they take up more space.

Vacuum sealing is a type of packaging called Reduced Oxygen Packaging, also known as ROP. This type of packaging process greatly slows down deterioration of food sources by reducing atmospheric oxygen, and creates an anaerobic environment that  limits the growth of aerobic bacteria or fungi, and prevents the evaporation of volatile components. Through this storage method storage times of refrigerated foods, dried foods and frozen foods are extended by creating a hermetic seal similar to the seal that occurs during the canning process.

Vacuum sealing is often used in combination with other packaging and food processing techniques. Please keep in mind that vacuum sealing is not a substitution for the heat processing of home canned foods, nor is it a substitution for the refrigerator or freezer storage of foods that would otherwise require it.

Pros

One of the best aspects of this storage method is that it is extremely economical. Sealed foods last 3-5 times longer compared to conventional storage methods. As a result, foods maintain their texture and appearance longer. Further, because this vacuum sealing food can last longer, food can be purchased in bulk  and divided into individualized or smaller servings.

Sealing your food can also be used in conjunction with other storage methods. For example, you can vacuum seal dry goods and then as an additional barrier, seal the vacuum packed goods in a heavy duty Mylar bag. See an instructional video here. Many preppers also use vacuum sealed pouches to make smaller and more usable food storage amounts and then store it into 5 gallon pails with a gamma lid. This way, all they need to do is unscrew the lid, reach in and grab the desired amount of food stuff and then screw the lid back on. Another way to store food using vacuum sealed foods is in the freezer. Freezer burn is eliminated, because foods no longer become dehydrated from contact with cold, dry air.

Here are some additional reasons why vacuum sealing is an effective and cost saving form of storage:

  • Non-food items are protected from oxygen, corrosion and moisture-damage. For example you can vacuum seal unused oxygen absorbers, matches, socks for bug out bag, medication, emergency forms, etc.
  • Vacuum sealing conserves space for food storage.
  • Moist foods won’t dry out, because there’s no air to absorb the moisture from the food.
  • Dry, solid foods, such as brown sugar, won’t become hard, because they don’t come in contact with air and, therefore, can’t absorb moisture from the air.
  • Foods that are high in fats and oils won’t become rancid, because there’s no oxygen coming in contact with the fats, which causes the rancid taste and smell.
  • Insect infestation is eliminated due to a low oxygen environment.
  • Meat and fish will marinade in minutes, because as air is being removed from the canister, the pores of the mat or fish open up and allow the marinade to penetrate.
  • Seal dehydrated foods and dried herbs for longer term storage.

Cons

As effective as this food storage method is, it is not without its downside. The most serious mark against this storage method is that if you are storing perishable items, there are dangerous bacteriaassociated with vacuum sealing perishable goods.

Another downside to vacuum sealing is the bags are not completely impervious to air, so after a couple years, they begin to leak. When leaks occur, the opened seals allow oxygen, insects and other enemies of your food to enter. However, if you plan to use the barrier method when storing your food, then you are taking added precautions to prevent this from occurring.

Further, if you are storing bulky food items, or foods that have sharp corners, during the oxygen removing process, these sharp corners can puncture the bags. Therefore, special care must be used when packaging certain foods.

Storing Vacuum Sealed Foods for Long Term Use

Like all food storage methods, stay organized by labeling the food contents and the date it was packed. Some preppers who are prepackaging store bought foods, such as Bisquick, will cut out the directions on the box and add it to the vacuum sealed pouch. To stay organized, many preppers use large plastic bins to store their sealed foods in. This keeps your preps orderly and easily accessible.

Although some believe this to be unnecessary, adding oxygen absorbers in the vacuum sealed bag along with the food before sealing will increase the long term storage time. The reason why many do this is when you vacuum seal, there can still be some air caught between grains of softer foods that you can’t pull as strong of a vacuum on. Adding oxygen absorbers to long term dry goods, and dehydrated foods remedies the trapped air in between food items and guards against natural elements.

Like all food storage methods, eat what you store and store what you eat. You want to have the foods on hand that your family normally eats.

When freezing packages of liquid foods, many have run into the problem of liquid getting sucked back into the vacuum contraption. You can avoid this in one of two ways:

  1. One is to fill the vacuum bags and freeze them without sealing. Seal once the contents are solid and they won’t leak into the guts of the sealer.
  2. Another way is to refrigerate the dish until it’s thickened – some sauces will almost gel when cold – then you can fill bags and vacuum pack. And finally, you can freeze in temporary containers and then slip the blocks of food out and repackage and seal. I’ve tried all of these things at various times.

To conclude, vacuum sealing your food and non-food preps is an economical and extremely effective way to save money and maintain a varied food pantry. Further, it can be used in conjunction with other food storage methods, thus creating a multi-barrier system for added protection from natural elements. If you plan to use this method, be sure that you follow the suggested ways to protect your food.

This article has been contributed by Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition. Subscribe to Tess’ Get Prepped Weekly Newsletter for more emergency preparedness tips, homesteading ideas, and insights. As a subscriber to her free newsletter you’ll receive the latest updates from her 52 Weeks to Preparedness Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Planning Series. It’s well worth your time, and oh, did we mention it’s totally free?

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Contributed by Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition.

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  • Allen

    I see nothing mentioned here about using canning jars and a vacume sealer. We store our sugar, powdered milk and other items in glass jars and use a vacume sealer with attachment to evacuate the oxygen.

  • http://www.stickerice.com/ Stick E Rice

    Its pretty awesome to do this, but the thing that’s bad is when restaurants start doing this to cut costs. Then its just gross.

  • Ed Mithe

    I use my sealer all the time. I save empty soda bottles, mostly 2 LTR bottles fill them with rice, beans what ever…I tape the lid on without screwing it down then I suck all air out and seal. Then I go to Sam’s, I get empty icing buckets from the bakery, wash them out then place the newly sealed items into the buckets, I put the lid on, then I put tape around the lid edge and a list of the contents on the side then store. I fill these buckets with can foods as well and seal, So in short, my sealer with buckets makes for great preps.

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