When it comes to emergency preparedness, a vacuum sealer is a truly useful tool and its applications are limited only by your imagination. While many people will use it just for bagging food, this ingenious device can be exploited to accomplish a multitude of preparedness tasks.
Exposure to air can cause food to spoil and the presence of oxygen allows for the growth of bacteria and mold. Most foods contain oxidizing enzymes that lead to spoilage if exposed to air. Vacuum sealing is a method that was initially developed to help families preserve their leftovers and diminish the national food waste. Since vacuum sealing helps your remove air from a plastic bag or container and seal it closed, there are many items that can benefit from these properties.
How does a vacuum sealer work?
Basically, a vacuum sealer needs to do two major things: remove the air from the package and seal it properly. If you use it correctly, you should end up with an airtight, waterproof, vacuum packed item. One thing worth mentioning is that there are two ways to create the vacuum. The first one, called external sealer implies placing one open end of a plastic pouch into the sealer which will suck all the air out of the package. The second, known as vacuum chamber sealer implies placing the entire package in a large chamber from which the air is removed. Commercial external sealers clamp down on the open end of the plastic bag, encasing just the end while the rest of the bag rests outside of the machine. In the chamber there is a small port installed through which the pump extracts air. Once all the air is extracted, the plastic bag is sealed by a metal bar that melts the plastic. There is no point discussing about chamber sealers since these machines are large, heavy and very expensive.
The bags designed for vacuum sealers play also an important role in having an airtight package and they come in various sizes and forms. We have the pouches that open on just one end and we have the rolls that are open on both ends. There are also the zipper bags that have a zip lock opening system and these are used when you need to have frequent access to your items. Some of the bags available on the market can also be boiled, so make sure you get the ones that fit your needs.
Using a vacuum sealer to preserve your food
These ingenious devices can help you avoid freezer burn, wilted and spoiled food. In the long run, you will save money by reducing your food waste. Most preppers I know prefer to use a vacuum sealer to seal food supplies bought in bulk since it prolongs the life of the foods and it protects it from critters. Here are their tips when it comes to sealing your food:
Don’t stuff the bag. You need to leave several inches of space at the open end of the bag so that the machine can make a good heat seal. Leaving space is also required when you want to open and reseal the same bag multiple times.
Frost the wet items before sealing them. Sealing drippy or wet items can cause a mess and it can also affect the integrity of the vacuum seal. If you need to vacuum said items, you need to freeze them for an hour or two before doing the operation. If you have items that aren’t too moist you can place a paper towel between them and the open end of the pouch and seal the paper towel in with your items.
Soft items need to be frozen as well. My wife loves berries and she now stores large quantities for future use. The problem with storing fragile foods like berries is that you will eventually crush them during the sealing process. She learned that freezing them will help store them properly and here is how she does it. She starts by spreading them out on a cookie sheet so that they’re not touching and she keeps the sheet in the freezer for two hours. Before sealing the berries, she makes sure there aren’t any clumped up in a frozen block because air pockets will form and the vacuuming process will be compromised.
Wrap the pointy foods with a paper towel. When sealing dried foods with sharp edges like nuts or pasta, you will need to wrap them in a paper towel to prevent the plastic bag from being perforated. This will also prevent small bits being sucked out during the sealing process.
Keep the powder or the grains in the original package. Most powdery foods already come in plastic bag so it is better to leave them in their original package if you plan to seal them using a vacuum sealer.
Blanch your veggies. If you want to vacuum seal your veggies, you will need to blanch them before doing the sealing operation. Blanching vegetables prevents the development of the enzymes responsible for the browning and loss of flavor. The article bellow will teach you more about blanching vegetables.
Recommended reading: How to blanch vegetables for long-term storage
Using a vacuum sealer for other preparedness tasks
When people buy a vacuum sealer they fail to see its full potential and as I’ve said previously, they will use it just to preserve food. If you are preparedness-like minded, you can find many uses for it and here are just a few of my tips:
- You can use it to seal prep meals (either fully or partially).
- You can store guns and ammunition, safe from corrosion. If you have a cache supply or if you plan to make one, make sure you vacuum seal all the items that can be affected by corrosion.
- Preserve key survival gear for later use, gear that you plan to hide in environments where temperature and humidity can’t be controlled
- Keep matches and tinder dry and ready to use, regardless the environment you’re in
- Preserve currency (cash or precious metals) for your home cache
- Protect first-aid supplies from, dirt, moisture or contamination
- Preserve barter goods. I know quite a few people that use a vacuum sealer to store their cigarettes and tobacco.
- Safeguard important documents
- Keep clothes dry and clean if you’re the type of person that isn’t afraid to get wet when going hiking
- Store and protect your favorite book or your survival library
In case you are wondering what to buy, I can recommend the following two vacuum sealers: the FoodSaver FM2100, the one I currently own and the Weston Pro-2300, the one I plan on getting during the next Black Friday.
Just like the other tools you own, make sure to take care of your vacuum sealer. Clean it regularly and maintain it as per the manufacturer’s instructions if you want to use it for various preparedness tasks. I can guarantee that this is a really useful tool and once you get the feeling of it, you will tend to vacuum pack anything within reach.
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