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I have an older Foodsaver Compact II. Here are some things I have found out while vac-packing:

Make your bags long enough to reuse. I make the bags I put 3 lbs. of rice in 5 marks long, which is plenty to enable reuse, and in the odd chance that the seal's no good for some reason [sometimes the seals get too hot and melt a bit] and I lose vacuum, I can then re-seal the offending end because I still have enough to work with.

If you plan on reusing bags, keep meat and non-meat separate so that you don't transfer any bacteria between the two. Wash your bags inside and out with hot soapy water and rinse them in a large bowl with hot water and a bit of vinegar to get the soap out. Dry them thoroughly using some gadget like the bag dryers shown here: http://www.naturalrainwater.com/order_rainbarrel.htm.

If you've sealed something that has liquid with it like chicken breasts, treat the packaged item, before and after freezing and before using, just like a package of meat from the store and wash your hands after handling it.

Put a large bay leaf or two small ones in with any grains or beans and freeze the packed stuff for 48 hours. Also works for flour.

At the end of the roll, sometimes you may find you can't use the last two or three feet because the sealer can't get a good vacuum. I have an old bag sealer I use to do the tail end of the bag piece, then vacuum seal the other end, cut off the size bag I want, and continue until I'm out of usable bag.

The bag sealer's fine for the smaller bags but not the larger, wider ones, so I do two passes with it, crossing the seal lines in the middle, making them as close to a straight line together as I can.

Because I may not use all of a bag of lentils or split peas or whatever that I've purchased [not in a position to buy bulk right now, so it's pound bags at the grocery store on sale], I leave them in the bag, puncturing a small hole in one corner, and vac-pack them intact, but again, with a bay leaf. That way, when I take the bag out I still have both the directions and the original bag that I can seal up with a twist tie if I don't use all the contents at once.

I put my FoodSaver on the edge of the counter over a drawer and put the bag to be sealed in the drawer to keep the contents at the bottom. If the bag's too short to reach the FoodSaver, I put something underneath it to raise it up.

Older FoodSavers sometimes get too hot to seal. This is normal; what I usually do with mine is fill a bag, seal the bag, and then I don't run into problems. If I do a bunch at a time like chicken breasts or hamburger, I seal each one and then take a break every four or five to let the thing cool down a bit.
 

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WOW! Thank you for these wonderful tips BrowserCat!
I sure would never have thought about using my sealer on store bought bags of rice and beans. Looking forward to giving that a try.
:thumb:
 

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Bump...

Is there something that you can do to keep from losing the vacuum from sealed bags? Sometimes when I think I've got a good seal, the bag will begin to "unseal", sometimes immediately and I can redo, other times maybe a day or two later. Does anyone tape? Maybe folding the bag over and taping with duck tape. Do you think the glue on duck tape would break down the plastic? I saw a video on using oil in the zipper of the zip bags to keep any air from getting through that area but I can't figure out how to keep a good seal using just the vacuum seal bags. Any advice?
 

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Is there something that you can do to keep from losing the vacuum from sealed bags? Sometimes when I think I've got a good seal, the bag will begin to "unseal", sometimes immediately and I can redo, other times maybe a day or two later. Does anyone tape? Maybe folding the bag over and taping with duck tape. Do you think the glue on duck tape would break down the plastic? I saw a video on using oil in the zipper of the zip bags to keep any air from getting through that area but I can't figure out how to keep a good seal using just the vacuum seal bags. Any advice?
"Before certain indiviuals start Flaming Vacuum sealing for long term storage I am not trying to convert anyone away from Mylar. I am just giving My experiences and advice for anyone that is just starting out with Vacuum sealing."
You mention above zippered vacuum bags. I am going to guess that you are using the hand held vacuum sealer that Ziploc has put out. If so I haven't heard anything but bad reviews from family members that have tried these for dry storage. I believe they might be good for freezing meat and vegetables. I have been using the Seal a Meal type vacuum sealer for as long as I can remember and have experienced very few problems w/it. The main thing when using the large cut your own bags to size type of system is to allow no more than 3 inches of empty space between your material you are sealing and the end of the bag. Everytime I vacuum seal any dry goods I leave the sealed packages on the work counter for 4 days before I pack them to ensure they maintain their seals. This may be a problem for some w/limited space but I have a 12' X 3' counter top reserved just for this purpose. I have had very good luck with Vacuum sealing. We are eating this year cornmeal,Flour and Rice that was Vacuum sealed in 2004. It is all in how you handle the original packaging of the dry goods. I have also eaten Top Ramen noodles from 5 years ago that were vacuum sealed and there was no noticable staleness. I have included some pics from a bucket of foodstuffs Vac sealed 2 months ago. They are still holding their seal. Again it is all in how you process the material.

Semper Fi !
Chris
 

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Thanks WoodUSMC...
do you ever lose the seal? This was my first experience with the seal a meal so I know there's a learning curve...but...2 or 3 out of 10+ bags??? And they seemed to be well sealed at the beginning, only losing the vacuum slowly over the next 5-10 hrs. Is that just something that we deal with or do you think it's the learning curve and it will get better. I'm assuming you leave it out for a few days to make sure it holds the seal/vacuum - right? Thanks again. I'll get busy practicing again tomorrow...lest I'm stuck at the votin' place all day

ETA...as for flaming the vacuum...I will start using mylar when able to place order ($$$) so for now, the seal a meal is what is available (it's borrowed) and I have wheat to put up. I won't be putting up the entire 50 lbs of wheat in the same bag as it seems to me that it would be silly to have so much to have to open at one time. Better to be in smaller batches so as not to expose them when it's time to break them out. IMHO
 

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I have both a Foodsaver vacuum sealer and one of those little hand held jobs from ZipLoc. The Ziploc ones ALWAYS end up losing the vacuum seal. I've found that the BEST use for them is to use them to help suck the excess air out of store packaging of things like the Bob's Red Mill grains and cereals (they ALWAYS have a bunch of air in them) prior to vacuum sealing them. Rice, beans, flour, sugar, etc I always vacuum seal by putting the packaged products into the vacuum sealer bags. One thing that seams to help maintain the seals better is that I usually double seal the bags. I do the first seal, then before cutting the back off, I pull it down a fraction and seal it again.
 

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Thanks WoodUSMC...
do you ever lose the seal? This was my first experience with the seal a meal so I know there's a learning curve...but...2 or 3 out of 10+ bags??? And they seemed to be well sealed at the beginning, only losing the vacuum slowly over the next 5-10 hrs. Is that just something that we deal with or do you think it's the learning curve and it will get better. I'm assuming you leave it out for a few days to make sure it holds the seal/vacuum - right? Thanks again. I'll get busy practicing again tomorrow...lest I'm stuck at the votin' place all day

ETA...as for flaming the vacuum...I will start using mylar when able to place order ($$$) so for now, the seal a meal is what is available (it's borrowed) and I have wheat to put up. I won't be putting up the entire 50 lbs of wheat in the same bag as it seems to me that it would be silly to have so much to have to open at one time. Better to be in smaller batches so as not to expose them when it's time to break them out. IMHO
kellinga I think everyone has problems in the beginning! It takes a little getting used to and learning what to look for. 2 or 3 out of your first time using it? You are doing good! The longer you use it the better you will get. I am now averaging 1 or 2 seal leaks in about 100 packs. Thats the reason I mentioned leaving the sealed goods on work counter for 3 to 4 days. The few that I do have loose seal I reseal.The main thing is to keep it clean. I have 1 for meats and 1 for dry goods. That way I don't risk cross contamination. The main thing with getting a solid seal is keeping the heating strip clean! I had found that with corn meal or flour if some gets on the heating strip it won't properly transfer the heat to complete the seal. maintainance is the key in using this machine. Mine gets cleaned and disinfected at the end of a day of use. Hope this helps! Any other questions feel free to PM me.

Chris
 

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Some great background info. and tips here ! I have one of the big honking Tilla units and I am very pleased with it. Also does a good number on bulky items like marsh mallows and toilet paper :)
 

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"Before certain indiviuals start Flaming Vacuum sealing for long term storage I am not trying to convert anyone away from Mylar. I am just giving My experiences and advice for anyone that is just starting out with Vacuum sealing."
So why not vacuum seal your Mylar bags? I use a retractable nozzle vacuum sealer that works great with Mylar bags.

Look at this site where a guy built a vacuum system for a couple hundred dollars capable of vacuum bagging the entire hull for his sailboat:

http://www.rutuonline.com/html/vacuum_systems.html

Think what could be done with something like that in the garage. :D:
 
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Vacuum sealing.

Here are some samples of the vacuum packed Mylar bags I have been doing:

First, vacuum packed spaghetti in 3.5 mil bags. These aren't good for really long-term storage but will extend the 2 year shelf life to 5+ years. We had to form boots from scrap bag material to go over the ends of the spaghetti to keep from poking holes in the bag. You can see the outline of the boots.


Spaghetti in 7 mil bags. These bags are thick! No worry about poking through at all. Because of the weight of the material, they don't suck up like the thinner bags but they are very well vacuumed as well. All also have 100cc of oxygen absorbers. This spaghetti should be as good in 30 years as it was the day we packed it.


Here's some playing cards we sealed. We also have coloring/activity books and crayons. You gotta have fun, after all. We used oxygen absorbers and desiccants on opposite sides of the package.


This one is egg noodles. This we didn't vacuum. Instead it is just sealed with the impulse sealer but includes 200cc of oxygen absorbers. This creates a 22% vacuum in the bag by eliminating the oxygen without crushing the contents.


Rice packed in a 4.5 mil bag. These are medium weight but still very strong. By flattening the rice with my palm before packing the packs are flat and stack well. We also added 100cc of oxygen absorber. These packs are as hard as bricks - as long as the vacuum holds up.


Elbow macaroni. See how tightly it is packed? You can see the outline of the noodles. Because of the dead space in macaroni compared to spaghetti, we added 200cc of oxygen absorbers. These packages are rock hard and very light. We've used 5 year old vacuum packed macaroni. It was as good as new.


Dried vegetables. We bought frozen vegetables at the grocery store and dried them. Much cheaper than buying canned dehydrated. There's probably 4 lbs of frozen vegetables in this bag which, as you can tell in the pictures, contains much less volume than 4 cups of rice.


Our three vacuum machines. In front is the Seal-A-Meal. In back is the retracting nozzle vacuum sealer that works for Mylar and other non-channel bags. On the right is the Reynolds battery powered unit.



This is the best 100 dollars we have spent for doing vacuum packing. How many times do you want to shape a bag to make it smaller or to use rolls for the Seal-a-Meal? Since those sealer strips get so hot, you have to wait 30 seconds between seals and then after 10 or so you have to wait 10 minutes or more. Otherwise you burn up the sealer or at least burn up your bags. This unit is an impulse sealer. It gets hot instantly and cools off virtually just as fast. You can make or form bags as fast as you can feed them and do it all day long. That leaves the precious duty-cycle limited vacuum sealers to do what they do best: vacuum seal, without slowing them down by using them for non-vacuum tasks.
 

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I just got a Seal a Meal and LOVE it. I've done my rice & sugar so far. And if I run out of ammo, I now have something to throw at the bad guys!
 

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wow thanks for the pics and all. Very good to see.
 

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the girls have used the vacum packed bags of diff foods for the bob bags
also i have vacum packed bath and hair and shaveing soaps in the bags for stowage in rubbermaid stowage tubs
also have packed cloths and other access items into bags for stowage as need
 

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I just got a food sealer but I can't get the air sucked tightly out of the mylar bags. If it is sealed with air left in it, is it still OK? Is the retracting nozzle the attachment that comes with the sealer?
 

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I just got a food sealer but I can't get the air sucked tightly out of the mylar bags. If it is sealed with air left in it, is it still OK? Is the retracting nozzle the attachment that comes with the sealer?
The sealers you can buy at Wal-Mart or similar places will not vacuum Mylar bags or any other bags except what are called "channel bags". The term channel refers to the ridges which make an air channel. That allows the air to evacuate the bag under suction even though the rubber seal is pressing on the bag. Non-channel bags press completely closed under the seal. That's the purpose of the nozzle, to extend beyond the machines seal during the vacuum time and then to retract out of the way during the heat seal time.

To get a nozzle sealer that can vacuum Mylar and other non-channel bags, check out Sorbent Systems at http://www.sorbentsystems.com/sinbosealer.html.

Just don't order any bags from them. I don't want them to be out of stock when I order more :D::D::D:
 
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I just packed up the Food Saver for my husband to return to the store today. Last night I ordered the sealer from Sorbant Systems. Thanks. Also, being a newbie, I enjoy reading about everyone's success' (and failures) at things. Can anyone tell me what kinds of oils I can use to make bread? I'm trying to get a years worth of food stocked up and have so much to learn! Susan
 

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I just packed up the Food Saver for my husband to return to the store today. Last night I ordered the sealer from Sorbant Systems. Thanks. Also, being a newbie, I enjoy reading about everyone's success' (and failures) at things. Can anyone tell me what kinds of oils I can use to make bread? I'm trying to get a years worth of food stocked up and have so much to learn! Susan
I wouldn't send the Food Saver back. You'll want both for different tasks. For instance, the nozzle sealers don't do well with liquids. I usually freeze mine first anyway, but my Seal-a-Meal will do them without freezing if I want. Also, the channel bags seal more consistently. I almost never have to redo one of those but I do redo about 2 out of 10 of my Mylar bags. The nozzle sealer is just more finicky.

So, like I said, and like my posted pictures show, I have and use both.

Your question would probably be a good topic for a new thread. Oils and fats are the toughest thing to store after fresh foods. The problem is keeping a year's supply for disaster circumstances when you're not using it at the same rate now. You'll end up wasting a lot. Try some powdered butter or shortening. That might help. Also, pack whole powdered milk rather than non-fat milk.

Vacuum pack some shortening or lard in Mylar or channel bags and it will last about 2 years if you bought it fresh. I have heard that rancid fats can make you sick so it's not just a matter of palatability.
 
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