When most people start prepping, they go on a buying spree. I know we did. There were just so many things that we needed that we didn’t have. We started buying things that I thought we’d never had any use for before — things that weren’t on our radar before we became aware that the lifestyle that we enjoy right now might not always be available. We bought long-term storage food and stackable water storage containers. We bought hand crank powered appliances such as a radio, grain mill, and lights. We bought a couple of knives that we had no intention of using in the kitchen or dining room. And we still have a list of wants and needs that’s as long as my arm.
Acquiring all of these new tools and necessities is fun and exciting, but one of the keys to prepping is preserving the things that you already have to protect them and make them last longer. A great tool that I’ve found for helping to preserve stuff that I want to keep is a vacuum sealer.
I’m sure you’ve seen the infomercials on TV for these things. They show you how the vacuum power is so strong it can crush a beer can and they deliver the long awaited good news that now you can buy a big block of cheese on sale at the warehouse club store and vacuum seal it so it won’t go all green and fuzzy on you. All of this is true! It’s also a great prepping tool. Two of the worst enemies of preservation are air and moisture. A good vacuum sealer can help you with both of those problems, opening up a nice range of prepping applications.
- Most obvious is the fact that you can use it to keep your everyday food fresh for a longer period of time. Use vacuum sealed plastic bags to keep meat, cheese, or any kind of dry food fresh longer, especially if you freeze it. One of the biggest benefits pointed out in the vacuum sealer infomercials is that sealing your food means that you save a lot of money because you’re not throwing away food that has gone bad. Saving big money on food means more money to spend on preps.
- Many vacuum sealing systems have an optional accessory that lets you vacuum seal canning jars. This opens up a whole new realm of possibilities, including vacuum packing wet foods. You can’t use the regular vacuum sealing plastic bags for wet foods, but now you can put them in a jar and vacuum seal them for longer freshness.
- Preppers are known for having a stockpile of the gallon-sized #10 cans of dehydrated or freeze dried food. In the past, you once you opened a big can you had to use it up quickly to keep the food from going bad. Now you can vacuum pack the leftovers in canning jars. The shelf life of food in a vacuum sealed jar is only five to ten years, far less than the 25 years for an unopened can, but hey! — you’ve already opened the can, so you’re going to use the contents sooner than that anyway. Keep it fresh for years by vacuum sealing it in canning jars.
- Freeze dried entrées are good, but they’re really expensive, and many of them are loaded with sodium or other ingredients that you might not want. You can save money by assembling your own entrées from individual freeze dried and dehydrated ingredients and vacuum sealing them in canning jars. When you assemble your own meals, you can customize the recipes to your personal taste and dietary requirements. There is a wonderful website run by a lady who calls herself Chef Tess that has many good recipes for putting up meals in vacuum sealed jars. Highly recommended.
- In case of an emergency, I want to be able to share what I’ve stored with others. I’d rather be able to give someone a couple of jars of entrées that I’ve vacuum canned than a bunch of dehydrated ingredients that they wouldn’t know how to use. These meals in jars are very simple to prepare. For most of them, you just add the contents of the jar to boiling water and simmer for 25 minutes or so. This is a great option for sharing your food with others.
- When times get tough, you can also use food as a bartering item. It’s so much better to be able to barter a meal in a jar than ingredients to make a meal – easier for you and whoever you’re swapping with.
- The bad news about canning jars is that they’re breakable and relatively heavy. No one is going to go backpacking with quart-sized glass jars of entrées. The good news for all you bug-in types is that canning jars are reusable. If you’re careful when you pry the lid open, both jar and lid can be reused over and over and over again. Take out half of what you’ve sealed in a jar and seal that bad boy once again.
Are you catching the vision for this? Let me widen it just a little. While not a prepping application, we also love meals in jars as our homemade quick dinner option. Having one of those days when the last thing you want to do is cook dinner? You know – one of those days when fast food or eating out is so tempting it’s about all you can do to steer your car toward home instead of the nearest establishment that will put food in front of you. Knowing you can go home, put some water on to boil, change into comfy clothes, grab a jar and throw the ingredients in the boiling water, relax for about half an hour in your comfy clothes and favorite chair and then enjoy a tasty dinner curbs that temptation.
Vacuum Packing Other Items
OK, like I’ve said, food preservation — both short-term and much longer-term — is the first and most obvious use for a vacuum sealer. What else can I vacuum seal?
- Vacuum seal important documents or books in plastic bags (again, not a prepping application, but we’ve vacuum sealed Sandy’s grandmother’s Bible that has all her personal notes in it – what a treasure!)
- Vacuum pack your medications and first aid supplies, either in bags or jars
- Personal sanitation supplies
- Tools or small parts
- Matches and fire starting supplies
There are much larger bags that you can buy (“Space Bags”) that allow you to vacuum pack clothing, blankets, pillows, etc. The vacuum sealing process squishes these items so that they take up a small fraction of their normal space and keeps them dry to boot. Once you open the bag, the air fluffs your stuff up again and it’s back to normal. These space bags are generally reusable, whereas the smaller food vacuum bags are generally not.
Vacuum sealers really suck – sometimes that’s a good thing. Put one to work in your prepping plan.