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.
Do you re-use your bags? I know FoodSaver recommends it and I’m curious if the generic bags re-use as well.
Umm…I missed the second point and I see you do re-use your bags. So, let me rephrase the question: do the generic bags re-use as well as the FoodSaver ones? And is cutting them in half the best way to re-use them? Or would using the gallon bags and continuing to cut them down make more sense?
Lazy Man says
The generic ones can be re-used just like the official FoodSaver (or even the Wal-Mart) ones. You’ll probably get the most use out of cutting the gallon bags down over time. However it really depends on what you are saving.
If you are going to use the food as one serving, I like to cut in half. However sometimes, I’ll cut a big block of cheese into many single servings bag them loosely in sandwich bags and put those together in one gallon Foodsaver bag. When I want a new block of cheese, I simple cut open the gallon size put out a sandwich bag of cheese to use and reseal and freeze the gallon bag. Between the freezing and the FoodSaving, I bet the cheese will last a year before going bad.
Another point, don’t re-use ones used to store meat. It might just be raw meat that was mentioned in the manual, but to be extra safe, I don’t re-use ones that have cooked meat as well.
I use my foodsaver almost daily, but not for the bags. I keep my espresso beans (it takes me a good month to go through a whole pound) in one of the small canisters, along with the scoop. It keeps the beans very fresh.
Thanks for the tips. We just bought ours for largely the same reasons you did: preparing and preserving food ahead of time. We kept preparing large portions of things like pizza sauce, chicken broth, corn and hated the frost bite that arose quickly with normal freezer bags. So, I’ve really enjoyed it so far.
I’ll save my money and use the “suck the air out of the bag” method. Then again, I just spent way too much on a Tempur-pedic bed, but if it works (lets me sleep), it’ll be worth it’s weight in gold.
You can also buy rolls of the bag material which you can cut to whatever size you need, sealing one end with the food saver before you put the food in, then using it like a bag. This seems to be economical for us because then we always are using just the size we need.
When you show at Walmart your not being frugal your just screwing your community and its workers out of money. I am all for saving a dollar but not at the cost of my personal integrity.
Jenn @ Frugal Upstate says
I love my foodsaver! I personally use the canning jars with the jar attachment to store leftovers. I might not feel like eating more of that casserole in the next 2 days-and typically would have thrown it out. But with the foodsaver I can save it and eat it next week etc.
I also use it a lot for preserving my garden produce. You can take fresh, uncooked green beans and seal them in without cooking and then freeze them. You can’t do that with regular ziplocks. .. .
Another nifty gadget that came with my model (which is probably 5 years old) was a wine cork. I LOVE that because you can open a bottle of wine, just pour a glass or two and then vacuum seal it without wasting (or over imbibing).
We’ve been curious about the FoodSaver ourselves. We’ve postponed buying one until we get into the next house where we’ll have a freezer and can make better use of it. These tips on where to get bags will come in really handy. We saw them at Sam’s for about 140 and thought we could easily use it enough to justify that price.
My bag reusing tip:
As Lazy Man pointed out, each time you reuse a bag, you lose a few inches. I’m positive they designed the product to do this on purpose so they could make money selling bags/rolls, similar to printers and ink.
Anyway, my tip:
I only use rolls, and make my own lengths as needed. After I wash the used bag in the dishwasher, I seal the 4th side. It’s a rectangle, right? So the side I seal is the longer side. Then I cut across the very top of one short side to make a new opening, because it gives you the clearance you need in the machine.
I often use the newly created “sideways” bags for individual meal portions. If I do that, I make an extra seal down the center, thus creating two long skinny bags. Then, when I’m ready to defrost only one bag, I cut only that side off without messing up the sealed other side.
I like to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth!
Got hooked on vacuum sealing food to prevent spoilage and freezer burn many years ago with an old Foodsaver Vac550 model that I bought after seeing it’s infomercial. I think back from around 1989 or so. I do think that a Foodsaver does save money. With that said, I haven’t had good luck with upgrades of Foodsaver machines. I had given my Vac550 machine away to my sister and upgraded to one that had a bag cutter, more automated, more features but had problems with bags leaking. Presently, I’ve found the machine that I love. It’s called a Vacupack. A manual machine but a real workhorse. The machine is pretty expensive (about $275 brand new), yet does everything I want. Ironicly, reseaching it’s history shows that at one time the Vacupack was actually invented as the original Foodsaver back in 1984. So things have gone full circle for me and as the saying goes, “everything old is new again.”
penny pinching single says
I have a foodsaver that was given to me for helping someone move that they bought brand new still in box but never used for at least a couple of years. I save money with my food saver by buying the Ziploc Vacuum bags when they are on sale and use coupons to maximize my savings. This works out for me but it is important to cut the bags just below the ziplock part and cut the vacuum circle of the bag off first and seal along the side that was cut.
Melissa @ Fresh Food Guides says
I agree that after buying the foodsaver, I can cook at my suitable time and serve my family at morning, when I get super busy getting ready for work and getting my kids ready for school.So, that is not a luxury item but a need for my household.
Sue Sheriff says
I sure that Vacuum Sealers save my money because I have a foodsaver v3240 vacuum Sealer. I didn’t believe that a product at the low price can help me a lot when keep food fresh, but I got a mistake. Now I totally trust the quality of this machine.