A month ago, my wife and I decided to take the plunge and purchase this deluxe FoodSaver model. For those of you unfamiliar with FoodSaver, it's the brand name of a device that allows you to store food in vacuum sealed bag. This allows many foods to stay fresh two or three times longer than it would have ordinarily. I've seen prices range from $20 (typically used on Craigslist) to $200 (the fancy model that we bought). However was this a good financial decision?
In the month that we have had it, we've used quite extensively. I particularly like marinate meats with the marinator. Instead of waiting a couple of hours or overnight, it takes around 20 minutes to get the most flavorful beef and chicken that I've ever had. Fresh produce from the local farmers' market tastes exceptional even after a month of storage.
We've used FoodSaver so much that I often joke that we'd use it to preserve half-used ketchup packets. We quickly learned that using bags for every little thing gets expensive. You can do a few things to get the most out your FoodSaver:
- Buy generic bags at Wal-Mart. These are much cheaper than FoodSaver brand bags and work as well.
- Use bags over again. Each time you use a bag, you lose a few inches for the clearance in sealing. This limits the amount of time you can use a bag.
- Better than Wal-Mart, considering buying generic bags on Ebay. We found a deal for 100 of the gallon sized bags for $30 (including shipping). We find that we can cut the gallon size in half and use it as two bags.
- Buy re-usable canisters, marinators, and jar sealers. You can get many uses of these and they are environmentally friendly. We started with the marinator right away and have added a couple of canisters. I often store four or more different foods in the marinator placing each item in an open ziplock bag.
To get back to the original question, let's break down the numbers. We spent $180 for the FoodSaver itself. I estimate that it should last between 5-10 years - that's just a best guest. That comes out to $18 to $36 a year. We should be able to get a year (or longer) out of the $30 bags we bought. The cost of electricity is pretty negligible. This brings the yearly cost to between $48 and $66 a year. Whether it pays for itself depends on your individual food usage.
FoodSaver can possibly save you money by preserving the food you have and/or allowing you to buy in bulk, but that might not be the best reason to buy it. For our family it's best used as a like a Tivo... to time-shift your cooking, improve the quality of your food, and free your mind from thinking about expiration dates. While we don't currently have a chest freezer, I imagine this would make a great complement to a chest freezer for once-a-month or once-a-week cooking.
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