Using a Freezer Effectively
Avoiding Freezer Burn
What Foods Don't Freeze Well?
I want to protect the food I put in my freezer, especially the meat I buy in bulk when there are loss leader sales. I am thinking of purchasing a vacuum sealer, but as I have very limited counter space, I wonder if I will use it enough to be worth the cost and hassles of trying to find a place to use it. Has anyone figured the cost/benefit of using a vacuum sealer?
I have a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer and a very small kitchen. My sister gave it to me because it took up too much room in her kitchen. Her kitchen is at least twice as big as my kitchen with more than three times as much storage. I keep mine on a shelf in the closet, and pull it out when I want to use it.
I recently defrosted my chest freezer. It was the first time in several years. I had to throw away a laundry basket worth of food because the freezer burn was so bad. I've had the vacuum sealer for about three years, and the only vacuum sealed item I had to throw away was a package of meat that had lost its seal. The rest of the stuff I threw away had not been sealed that way, and some of it was much newer.
If my sister ever wants her vacuum sealer back, I will immediately order a new one. From reading forum groups about sealers, I would probably buy a Maxima, which is made by Tilia. It gets the best review. I'm very pleased with the FoodSaver brand also, but heard the manufacturing might be different now. I would research it on the web if that time comes.
As the owner of my third sealer (two vacuum styles), I would say no to freezing food in a vacuum bag. In my experience, when food was frozen for long-term storage, sealed bags had a good chance of unknowingly breaking their seal when moved in the freezer, letting air inside the bag and causing frost and freezer burn.
Instead, find a butcher shop (yes, they still exist) and ask to buy one of their big rolls of freezer paper (I pay $25). Using a utility knife, slice into the roll and you will have a perfect size sheet, lay your meat in the corner, shiny side up, and tightly fold. Repeat with a second sheet and seal with freezer tape. Using a marker, write the content and date on the package. This package can last up to one year, without freezer burn.
The vacuum style bags can be washed and reused, but this is not recommended when raw meat was stored inside. Be careful vacuuming bags when sealing anything wet. Moisture can get vacuumed inside the motor. I love my vacuum sealer for jars or dry goods but not for wet food.
Last year, after much consideration, I decided to purchase a vacuum sealer. I searched locally and online, and finally found a good deal on a Tilia FoodSaver in the clearance section of their website. It came with a very generous selection of rolls of bag material and pre-made bags, one of their canisters, and even free shipping.
I purchase meats when they're on sale, like boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless pork chops, freeze them separately and then put them into the bags and seal them. They suggest pre-freezing anything wet like soups and stews, or even somewhat juicy like raw meats, to avoid moisture getting sucked into the vacuum. I never have to purchase these meats at full-price, never have to run out at the last minute to buy them, and don't worry about freezer burn.
I also use the bags to store and freeze things like chocolate chips, shredded cheese and coffee beans when I find a great sale. I like to freeze my homemade meat sauce in one-meal-size bags, and I do the same for soups and chili. (I put the cooled food in the bag, fold the top over and secure with a rubber band, then freeze solid before sealing).
Other uses are making an ice pack with water and rubbing alcohol (will freeze slushy and pliable to fit around an injury), keeping extra matches, toilet paper and socks dry for camping in case you get wet, and sealing your liquid toiletries before a trip to avoid leakage in your suitcase.
One thing to remember is that the bags are reusable, unless they contained raw meat or were heated in the microwave or boiled, and they can be resealed many times after cutting them open (you lose about an inch each time). The sealers can also reseal Mylar potato chip bags and also special canisters.
Here are several things to consider. First, unless you only plan to freeze in smaller bags, look for a sealer wide enough to work with the gallon-size bags. Secondly, look for the option of stopping the vacuum process manually on more delicate foods so you don't end up with crushed cake or crackers. And third, I've heard that the store brand bags aren't as thick and sturdy. To save money, look for a good deal on the brand name bags on the company website or eBay instead.
If you purchase bulk quantities of meats or other perishable foods and/or cook large pots of soups, sauces and such to freeze, a vacuum sealer might be worth considering for convenience and money savings.
I have been using Reynolds Handi-Vac for almost three months now. I find it to be a great alternative to the bigger and more expensive vacuum sealers. I can reuse the bags if I wish by washing and drying them. Lettuce and crackers stay so fresh in them. I have used them for all of the meat that I put into the freezer. Our kids are grown and gone, but I still buy large packages of meat to save money and break it down for my husband and me.
It runs on batteries, but I haven't had to replace them yet. I didn't want my counter space reduced by the size of the sealer machines. With this, I can store it a drawer, and the cost of buying the bags is much less than throwing out spoiled items and freezer-burned meat.
Kathy from GA
I haven't taken the time to figure out my savings from using my vacuum sealer, but it must be considerable. We are a two person retired household. Not only do I vacuum seal things I put into my freezer for a long time, but also I use the sealer just about every day. I have it on my counter in a small kitchen with limited counter space, but every time I open a bag of frozen vegetables, chips, cookies, crackers, etc., I use the sealer to reseal the bag without the vacuum. I never throw away these bags of partially used things because I keep them fresh. Go ahead and get the vacuum sealer. You'll be glad you did. It has been one of my best purchases!
I have done the math regarding vacuum sealers, and we've saved enough to cover the cost of it and then some. My vacuum sealer is a very simple model. It was about $60 online with no bells or whistles. It's not too large, and it's easily stored in a cabinet. I do not use it everyday. Typically, I use it after a big purchase of sale meat or produce. It gets quite a bit of use at the end of the summer when I get produce at a great price from the farmer's market. I buy enough (of freezable items) to get us through the winter.
It's just my husband, infant daughter and me, so we needed something that would let us store those great deals for longer than most. We simply won't go through 10 pounds of chicken in a month's time, and I wanted to avoid the freezer burn that can build up when you freeze something for several months. I also do not purchase the pre-made bags. The rolls of plastic are much cheaper than pre-made bags, and I get them from Bed, Bath & Beyond, using their 20% off coupons. I reuse them if not used to store meat.
Lisa in Charlotte, NC
I just got the Pump-N-Seal, and I love it. It takes up very little room and works perfectly every time. Their website is at http://www.pump-n-seal.com/.
I have a home vacuum sealer, and wanted it for the very reason the reader does. I've found that if I try to seal anything with any moisture in it (pork chops, chicken, lunch meat, raw ground beef), I either have a hard time getting a good seal, or it looks sealed, but when I check after it's frozen, I find it's not airtight. I've tried putting paper towel in the bag to absorb some of the moisture with limited success.
Before I got my sealer, I liked the idea of being able to seal canning jars with it. I don't can, but I love to store dry goods in canning jars. I've found that you need a new sealing lid each time you seal the jar. Once the seal has been broken, you can't reuse it. So, it's not great for things that you're into fairly often, but it wouldn't be a problem if you're storing for a long period of time and then planning on using in a short time period so you don't need to re-seal the jar.
I store my sealer in the basement, and I can't say I use it very often. I think plastic wrap and good old freezer bags are probably just as good as the vacuum sealer. My mother-in-law loves hers, but she basically uses it for cheese, which, being dry, doesn't have the moisture problem. She doesn't use it for meat since she had the same problem I did. Plus, the vacuum sealer bags are quite expensive.
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