You probably know that a vacuum food sealer can save you money by keeping food fresher for longer.
But did you know that a vacuum food sealer can keep food fresh for up to 5 times longer than non-vacuum sealed food? (And maybe even longer than that in a freezer?)
And, that a vacuum food sealer can pay for itself in less than a year by 1) cutting down on food waste and 2) enabling you to buy more food on sale and in bulk?
And that it can make you a better cook, to boot? (Well, it can at least help you add some intense flavors to your food.)
And, that the average American family of four can save up to $2700 a year on food by having a vacuum sealer? (That statistic comes from the FoodSaver website, but as an avid vacuum food sealer fan, I'm sure it's true. In fact, I think it could be even higher than that, especially if you're buying in bulk, using your sealer for fish and game, and/or storing your own home-grown fruits and veggies.)
And, that the average American family of four can save up to $2700 a year on food by having a vacuum sealer? (That statistic comes from the FoodSaver website, but as an avid vacuum food sealer fan, I'm sure it's true.)
1. Buying in Bulk
Buying in bulk is what most people think of when they think of a vacuum food sealer. For good reason: a vacuum sealer makes buying in bulk a no-brainer.
The larger the quantity, the cheaper the food. For meat in particular, the price per pound can be less than half what you'd pay for a small package of meat in the grocery store.
Bonus: Buying in bulk can reduce your carbon footprint, as well, because even though you're using plastic bags to freeze your food, the food has less packaging up front. Plus you're making fewer trips to the store. Plus, if you have a sous vide machine, you can cook food right in the freezer bag, especially if you season before freezing. (If people ever pooh-pooh your bulk freezing because of "all the plastic," counter with that one--it'll shut 'em up in a hurry!)
2. Easy Freezer-to-Table Meals
Not only can you freeze bulk food purchases for long-term use, you can also freeze whole meals.
This means that you can make several meals at once, freeze them, and use them as needed, for those nights you don't want to cook, are sick, or want to make meal prep easier for less-culinarily-gifted family members. (And again, a sous vide setup makes heating frozen meals incredibly easy.)
This works really well for soups, stews, and casseroles in particular.
Sure, you can do this with zip-top bags and Tupperware, but the freshness won't last nearly as long. So you can wait to eat the meals until people actually want them (and don't view them as leftovers).
3. Extending the Life of Leftovers
When you have actual leftovers (not enough to keep for another meal), a vacuum food sealer makes it possible to keep them in the fridge up to a week longer than you can in other storage containers. Keeping the air out keeps the freshness and moisture in, so leftovers keep longer and taste better in vacuum-sealed containers.
This frees you from the decision to "eat or throw" within a few days. And, it keeps leftovers as good as the day you made them.
This is especially true for beef, which I never liked warmed over until I started storing it in a vacuum-sealed bag. It makes a huuuuge difference in the flavor.
If, like me, you've never liked the taste of warmed-over steak or pot roast, try vacuum-sealing it: It tastes like you just made it.
4. Extending the Life of Dry Goods
You can use vacuum food sealers to extend the life of pantry goods like:
- Dry beans
- Corn meal
- Baking products (baking soda, baking powder, prepared baking mixes, etc.)
- Dry pudding and jello mixes
- Coffee (both ground and whole bean)...
...and pretty much any other dry pantry item you can think of.
So you can now buy pantry goods in bulk, too. This can add up to a lot of savings!
Buying dry goods in bulk can cost up to 80% less than grocery store prices.
5. Extending the Life of Spices
I suppose spices are a dry pantry good, too, but they deserve their own category. Why? Because spices are very, very expensive. (If you've ever tried to figure out what spices cost by the pound, you know exactly what I mean.)
Keeping air out is paramount to keeping spices fresh. So a vacuum food sealer can keep spices fresh for much longer than their original containers (or any other type of container, for that matter).
With a vacuum sealer, you can buy spices in bulk--saving you lots and lots of money!
Of course, you don't want to get too crazy with spice buying. Even vacuum-sealed spices are going to start losing flavor after awhile. But for spices you use frequently, buying in bulk and vacuum-sealing makes a lot of sense.
You may not have ever thought to buy spices in bulk. Where can you even find spices in bulk?!
Here are a few ideas:
- I go to a little gourmet deli to get most of my spices now. Although their prices aren't great on a lot of things (that's not why you go to a gourmet deli, after all), they have a wall of bulk spices and the prices are un-be-liev-able. Not only that, they're fresh and pungent and there's a huge variety; everything you could want in a spice store.
- Co-ops and natural food stores often have bulk spices (as well as bulk grains, beans, and other dry goods).
- You can also find bulk spices in a regular grocery store. Sometimes they're in the baking aisle, right next to the regular spices, but more often than not they're in some out-of-the-way corner of the store where you wouldn't think to look. In one store, I found them in the meat department; in another, they were in a tiny sort of partial end-cap in frozen foods!
The grocery store bulk spices aren't going to come in terribly large quantities (maybe twice as much as a bottle in the baking aisle), but they're going to be much, much cheaper. Even if you don't buy enough to vacuum seal, you can pour them into the bottles you have at home and reduce your carbon footprint a little bit.
- Spice stores like Penzey's (although this is not a money-saving option).
- Big box stores like Costco--but their selection is typically very limited, and the spices come in large plastic containers.
- Amazon--here's a list of bulk spices available on Amazon to get you started (I'm sure you can find more if you search).
Buying spices in bulk can add up to huge savings. But be careful not to buy super large quantities of spices you rarely use--even vacuum-sealed, they're likely to lose their pungency faster than you can use them up.
6. Extending the Life of Bread Products
I like to have bread in the house even though we don't eat a lot of it. I started keeping it in the freezer years ago, but this was a less-than-ideal solution for driving to the store every time I needed bread, because the freezer dries bread out. (Not as much as the refrigerator, but still.)
At least, it does if it isn't stored properly. If bread products are vacuum-sealed, they stay almost as fresh as the day you bought them. So now I keep bread, buns, pie crusts, and a few other products in the freezer. This makes for quick, easy meals like sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers (I keep pre-made hamburger patties in the freezer, too) when cooking a big meal isn't an option.
You do have to be careful when vacuum-sealing bread products, though: freeze them first, then vacuum seal them. Otherwise, the pressure from the sealer could crush them.
Tip: To store bread and bakery products in vacuum bags, freeze them before vacuum sealing. Otherwise, the pressure of vacuum sealing will crush them.
7. Eliminating Freezer Burn (Making Food Usable Even if Past Its Prime)
Well, this is the core value of vacuum-sealing, and the reason why most people buy vacuum food sealers in the first place. (Sous vide-ing is now the second-most-popular reason.) Keeping air away from food eliminates freezer burn on pretty much everything you put in a freezer.
Sometimes, though, the value of this goes beyond just the freezer burn. Have you ever found a package of food deep in the depths of your freezer that you forgot about? If it's not vacuum-sealed, you'd better hope you had the presence of mind to label it because it will probably be un-identifiable. (Label, label, label--never, ever forego labeling a package that's going in the freezer!)
However, if it's been vacuum-sealed, there's a good chance you'll not only be able to identify it; you'll also be able to eat it--and enjoy eating it.
I have eaten roasts that have been in the freezer for more than 4 years. Not only did they have no freezer burn at all, but the taste was the same as much fresher meat.
The same is true for bread products, which can get crusty and/or soggy if not vacuum-sealed for long-term freezing.
A vacuum food sealer takes care of all of those issues--for an indefinite amount of time.
However, even if food is past its prime (or even if you just don't want to take the chance), vacuum-sealed food is still usable, whereas badly freezer-burned food is not.
You can use old meat in stews and soups, old bread as croutons or bread crumbs or in bread pudding...
A vacuum sealer really helps keep your options open with very old frozen food.
Always, always, always label everything before you put it in the freezer: type of food, date, and even weight/quantity if applicable. You will almost certainly lose track of some of it, and you will congratulate yourself later for being so clever.
Did you know that you can marinate vacuum-sealed food in a fraction of the time it takes to marinate non-vacuum sealed food?
It's true. The removal of air and the pressure inside the container causes the marinade to penetrate food faster and more deeply than non-vacuum sealed marinades.
Many vacuum food sealers come with accessory ports for use with marinade containers, and some chamber sealers (like the VacMaster VP112S, my personal favorite chamber sealer) have a marinade function (no accessory port required).
How does this save you money? Well, you can marinate and tenderize cheap cuts of meat, making them more tender and flavorful--and you can do it in a hurry, so if you're late making dinner, you still have several options besides calling for takeout.
Cheaper. And healthier, too.
Most accessory port hoses are universal, and will work with all types of vacuum sealers that have an accessory port. This means you don't have to worry about which brand you buy.
9. Increasing Storage Space (So You Can Buy More Bulk Products)
Vacuum-sealed bags are nice and compact. If you seal them well, you can even get them to lie flat. They take up less space than other storage containers, which makes room for more storage.
I like to seal dry goods, then keep them in storage crates. Stackable crates can make for even more room.
Making more room means you can buy more bulk products and save even more money.
You can create more storage space by vacuum sealing. Not just food, but other items in storage, like seasonal clothing, yarn, fabric, etc.
10. Sous Vide Cooking
If you have a sous vide setup (check out the Joule on Amazon; it's fabulous), your vacuum sealer can save you even more money.
Sous vide is best known for its temperature precision and the stellar, evenly-cooked steaks it produces. This alone is reason to have one. But it's also great for reheating leftovers, thawing frozen meat quickly (because of the circulation, it's much faster than just a sink), and holding food at a constant temperature before serving.
This means that you can do freezer-to-table cooking, and store food (if you're careful) in the same bag for freezing and reheating the leftovers.
I freeze steaks with a small amount of oil and seasoning, then just pop them into the sous vide straight from the freezer. While it cooks, I can prepare the rest of the meal or just go do other things.
It's fantastic; a real time-saver. (One of my favorite Nathan Myhrvold quotes is that sous vide "frees us from the tyranny of the clock." So, so true.)
I love sous vide for these purposes. Maybe even more than I love it for its precision.
A vacuum food sealer and sous vide cooking go hand-in-hand--and make cooking and reheating super easy.
11. Meal/Smoothie Prepping
A lot of people like to do a lot of meal prepping on Sunday for the week ahead. A food vacuum sealer makes this an even smarter thing to do because it keeps that chopped produce a lot fresher than other containers will. You can prep:
- Salad ingredients
- Smoothie ingredients
- Chicken, hamburger, and other meats for salads, soups, stews, and other mains
If you're already doing this, you'll be amazed at how much fresher these ingredients stay in a vacuum bag than they do in other storage containers. If you're not doing it yet, a vacuum food sealer might entice you to start.
If you like to prep meals in advance, a vacuum food sealer will keep ingredients fresher.
12. Protecting Non-Food Items
You can use your vacuum food sealer for non-food projects, as well. It's great for:
- Protecting valuable documents
- Protecting valuables like coins and jewelry from tarnishing/water damage
- Keeping household items safe from water damage
- Protecting camping gear from rain and water damage (matches and maps, for example)
- Keeping toiletries safe from "explosions" when traveling by air.
This list is limited only by your imagination. Office supplies! Yarn and fabric! Books! Seeds!
A vacuum sealer machine has a lot of uses for non-food items, too.
How Much To Spend on a Vacuum Food Sealer
When people first take the plunge, they typically don't want to spend a lot of money. What if they hate it? Never use it? Don't have a good place to keep it?
It's understandable that an entry-level option should be cheap. And if you spend less than a hundred dollars on a sealer that lasts for a 2-3 years, you really haven't lost anything. It's a good way to get your feet wet with vacuum sealing.
However, keep in mind that a vacuum sealer can save you a couple of thousand a year on food, both by buying in bulk at lower prices and in less food waste. So even if you spend several hundred--even if you spend $1,000 or more!-- you're going to come out ahead--assuming that you use it. (And I can't imagine anyone not using a vacuum food sealer once they own one!)
Vacuum Food Sealer Options
There are 3 types of vacuum food sealer: handheld/nozzle sealers, edge/channel sealers, and chamber sealers. Each has its pros and cons.
See these related articles for more details:
...but wait, there's more: check out the Vacuum Sealer menu at the top of the page to see even more articles.
Which Vacuum Food Sealer to Buy
Here are three of my favorite vacuum sealers. Whether you want to go cheap or go all out, these are three of the best options out there. (And if none of these suit you, see my other articles for more choices.)
Best Nozzle Sealer: Oliso Pro
Best for: Leftovers and short-term storage.
The best vacuum food sealer for leftovers and other items you'll want to open and re-seal frequently is the nozzle sealer (also called a "handheld" sealer, although not all of them are handheld). The bags are designed for re-use: most of them have zip seals and don't need to be cut open. Nozzle sealers are small, weighing just a couple of pounds, so they're easier to store than other types of vacuum food sealers.
The Oliso Pro is one of the most powerful nozzle sealers out there (and, at around $150, one of the most expensive ones).
- Small and easy to store
- Bags can be re-used several times and are dishwasher safe
- Excellent for leftovers (because the bags are re-sealable)
- Most are inexpensive (less than $50).
- Because they're so small, they tend to have weak pumps
- Can have trouble creating a heavy duty, long-term seal
- Not the best for long-term storage
- The Oliso Pro is as expensive as many edge sealers
- Most don't get great reviews from users. The technology may not quite be there yet.
Buy the Oliso Pro on Amazon now!
Best Under $100: FoodSaver FM-2000
Great for: Long-term storage, dry foods, accessory containers, and saving money on bags.
If you want to get into vacuum sealing for less than $100, the FoodSaver FM2000 is an excellent choice. Even with a Starter Kit (includes a few gallon bags, a few quart bags, one roll of bags, and an accessory hose for the accessory port), the FM2000 runs less than $65.
See the FoodSaver FM2000 with Starter Kit on Amazon.
Even though this is an entry-level priced sealer, it has an accessory port, which allows you to seal canisters and marinade containers.
But the greatest feature of the FM2000? It uses up to 40% less bag than other sealers (including other FoodSavers). This means you can buy fewer bags (and edge sealer bags are expensive), and you're leaving a smaller carbon footprint.
Definitely a win-win.
Oh, and another great feature: The FM2000 comes with a 5-year warranty.
The FoodSaver FM2000 is also an Amazon best seller. It has hundreds of customer reviews and an average rating of 4 stars.
For a more detailed review, click here.
- Uses up to 40% less bag to seal (saving you money and plastic waste)
- Excellent price
- 5 year warranty.
- Like all edge sealers, not good for liquids and very wet foods.
Buy the FoodSaver FM2000 on Amazon now!
Best Under $200: FoodSaver V4440/Weston Pro-Advantage
FoodSaver V4440--Best for Accessories
Great for: Everything. Does long-term storage (edge sealer), short-term storage (nozzle sealer), and has an accessory port to vacuum seal canisters and marinade containers.
The FoodSaver V4440 Series is a 2-in-1 vacuum food sealer: an edge sealer with a handheld nozzle sealer included. There are a few different models, but the V4440 is the least expensive of them, and they all have pretty much the same features.
If you want the easiest-to-use sealer available, or one with all the bells and whistles, this is the sealer for you. Bagging is almost completely automatic: just insert a bag in the channel and watch it go.
Want something easy to use? Check.
Want something for resuable bags? Check.
Want an accessory port for canisters and marinating? Check.
Want a 5-year warranty? Check.
The FoodSaver V4440 is one of the best-selling sealers on Amazon, with hundreds of reviews and an average rating of 4.5 stars.
For a more detailed review, click here.
- Fully automatic bagging
- Built-in storage and cutter for rolls of bags
- Handheld nozzle sealer included
- 5 year warranty.
- More expensive than most FoodSaver models, but with the same quality pump
- Buying two types of bags can get expensive
- Big and bulky--might be hard to find counter and/or storage space.
Buy the FoodSaver V4400 on Amazon now!
Weston Pro-Advantage--Most Powerful Vacuum Pump
Great for: An all-around powerful, durable edge sealer.
The Weston Professional Advantage vacuum sealer doesn't have all the extras of the FoodSaver V4440, but it has one thing the FoodSaver sealers lack: a very powerful vacuum pump.
FoodSavers don't disclose their vacuum pump's power, claiming it is a proprietary secret. But people have tested them--you can see videos of this on YouTube--and found the pull to be, well, weak compared to other sealer brands.
All the Weston sealers have specifications, so you know exactly what you're getting when you buy one. The Weston Pro-Advantage has a 210 Watt motor that pulls 23 inches of mercury. This is a stronger pull than what most people are finding with their FoodSaver testing.
The Weston Pro-Advantage also has an accessory port, as well as a durable stainless steel housing. It's a little better built and a little more powerful than a comparably-priced FoodSaver, even though it lacks some of the automation.
For a full review on the Weston Pro-Advantage, click here.
- Accessory port for canisters and marinating.
- At around $180, a fairly expensive edge sealer.
Buy the Weston Pro-Advantage Edge Sealer on Amazon now!
Best Overall Vacuum Food Sealer: VacMaster VP112S
Great for: All-around sealing, durability, and sealing liquids and wet foods.
The VacMaster VP112S is the only chamber sealer on the list, but in my opinion, it's head-and-shoulders above edge sealers and nozzle sealers. Chamber sealers are more powerful than edge sealers (and of course nozzle sealers, too), they're more durable, and they're designed for heavy, continuous use--most edge sealers require a cooling-down period between seals, but this is not the case with chamber sealers.
The biggest difference between chamber sealers and edge sealers, though, is that you can seal liquids in a chamber sealer--no freezing or other workaround necessary. This is because the pressure is completely equalized inside the chamber, so liquids don't get sucked up into the pump.
What sets the VP112S apart from other chamber sealers is that it is specifically designed for home use. So it weighs less-- at about 45 pounds, it's about half the weight of other chamber sealers. It also has a folding lid that you can use underneath an upper cupboard--the only chamber sealer I know of with this feature.
Furthermore, it has a 12-inch sealing bar, while the standard length--for both edge sealers and chamber sealers--is 11 inches. This means you can use larger bags. (That might not seem like a lot, but it could be the difference between, say, sealing a whole chicken and having to cut it into pieces.)
The VP112S has the same heavy-duty internal components as the more expensive VacMaster VP210, but is more convenient to use. It's the perfect chamber sealer for the home user.
The VP112S is VacMaster's best-selling model, and at about $450, is an excellent price for a chamber sealer.
- Can seal liquids with it!
- 12-inch sealing bar (standard is 11-inch)
- Fully functional beneath a cupboard
- Lighter weight yet just as durable as other chamber sealers.
- At about $450, it's a big up-front investment
- Its bulkiness might not work in a small kitchen.
Buy the VacMaster VP112S Chamber Sealer on Amazon now!
I hope I've convinced you that you need a vacuum food sealer. It's one of the best investments I've ever made for my kitchen, and I bet you'll think so, too.
Do you have any thoughts or opinions on vacuum sealers? Anything important that I've forgotten? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!