Wow! What can I say. I LOVE my FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer. I purchased it this summer as well as the Excalibur Dehydrator and have used them together to add another method of preserving food for storage.
I dehydrated peaches, pears, mushrooms, summer squash, tomatoes, apples, mangoes, and broccoli, and then sealed them in the FoodSaver bags or canning bottles and put them into my storage in the basement.
It will even seal canning bottles if you purchase the attachment (pictured below). It doesn't take the place of actually canning the food, but works perfectly for dehydrated foods, brown sugar, coconut, spices, etc.
Many have asked questions about vacuum sealing food, the shelf life, and the use of oxygen absorbers with sealing.
So let's address a few:
If you are sealing dry food products, such as macaroni, rice, beans, etc., there will always be small spaces between each piece. I would recommend placing an oxygen absorber package in the container to help remove any residual oxygen that may be trapped inside or around these types of products (like macaroni) and not removed during the relatively quick vacuum process. This is especially important for long term storage.
The use of O2 absorbers is your choice. The smaller the food particles, the more unlikely it is that you will need O2 absorbers (see above question). I personally don't use 02 absorbers in any of my vacuum-packed foods.
As for the shelf life, it does depend on the food type and the environment of your storage area. The cooler the storage area, the longer the shelf life. Check this list of some food types and their shelf life.
If you are dehydrating food yourself, vacuum sealing will give most foods a shelf life of 1-2 years, again, depending on the food type and the temperature of your storage area.
It is not necessary to use dry ice along with vacuum packing - not in the bags and not in canning jars - as they basically do the same thing: extract the oxygen from the container.
There are three elements to consider when packaging food for long term storage: oxygen, moisture, and microorganisms (spoilage or illness-causing bacteria). So for long term storage, we need to minimize all three with whichever method is best for a particular food product.
Canning: Best for liquid foods or liquid containing foods. Canning eliminates oxygen (vacuum seals) from the food and kills microorganisms with heat. Since the food has moisture/liquid, the heat and vacuum seal protects the liquid food products and allows us to store them without refrigeration or freezing.
Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried: Dehydrated (dry foods) and freeze-dried foods are excellent to store long term without refrigeration or freezing as long as the oxygen is removed and the moisture content is low. This can be accomplished with a vacuum sealer, oxygen absorbers, or dry ice (depending on the type of container used).
It is important to remember that vacuum sealing is not a substitute for foods that normally require refrigeration or freezing, nor is it a substitute for canning or dehydration. It is just a method of packaging food products that prolongs its shelf life.
For instance, you would never vacuum pack uncooked meat and store it on a shelf somewhere. It still needs to be frozen or refrigerated. But turn it into jerky or cook it and then dehydrate it, vacuum seal it and then it can be stored on the shelf - for quite some time.
Here's the jar sealer I mentioned above. It works so slick! There is one that fits regular size canning jars and another for the wide mouth. I bought the wide mouth because I read a lot of reviews and several people mentioned that the regular size didn't work very well.
Well, I purchased the regular size anyway and found that it doesn't work as well. The solution (I also read in the comments) is to use two lids, putting them both on the bottle, then attach the jar sealer, and it seals just fine. The extra lid can easily be removed when the first lid is sealed.
To seal, just fill the bottle with the food, put the usual Kerr or Ball lid on top, push the attachment onto the bottle, over the lid (or 2 lids for regular-mouth bottles), attach the small plastic hose (comes with the sealer) to the top of the attachment and the other end to the correct spot on the vacuum sealer and turn it on to vacuum and then seal. Wait until both the vacuum and the seal lights go off before removing the attachment. Done.
Why am I only reviewing only the FoodSaver vacuum sealer? It is the most popular brand (right now) and I've researched and read many positive recommendations and reviews.
But the main reason I recommend this sealer is that I have used it — a LOT — for everything including dehydrated foods, meat, vegetables and fruits for freezing to prevent freezer burn, nuts and seeds in jars, and everything I can think of that would benefit by preserving with this method.
Go ahead and read any reviews you can find — you'll see what I mean. Then come back here and buy one for the best price.
DISCLAIMER: This article contains affiliate links but I purchased my FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer with my own money and was not asked to review it.