Choosing the Right Bags –
If you are thinking of buying a food vacuum sealer, you should also consider your choice of vacuum sealer bags. Unfortunately, you can’t use any random plastic bag in your vacuum sealing appliance. Far from it.
On the contrary, each brand of vacuum sealer comes with its recommended supply of bags – often produced by the same manufacturer and coming with patented technology.
But do you really have to buy specific vacuum sealer bags for specific vacuum sealers? Or can you swap and change for cheaper, generic alternatives?
The short answer to this is that for many vacuum sealer models, the make of bag is not as important as the brand advocates would have you believe. There are a number of cheaper products on the market that do the job just as well. However, the important thing to note is that these bags are still sold as (and labelled) vacuum sealer bags and not as general use plastic bags.
Even so, there are a number of things to be aware of when buying vacuum sealer bags and we’ll run through the main points below:
Vacuum Sealer Bags Vs Vacuum Bags
It might look like wordplay, but get confused between these two and you will regret it.
Basically, vacuum sealer bags are specially designed food storage bags made to use with a food vacuum sealer. Importantly, they are BPA free and ideally FDA or equivalent approved.
Vacuum bags are also for storage, but are not for storing food. These bags are the large plastic bags that you can pop winter clothes into when the warmer weather comes. You use your regular vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of them and create a vacuum for safe and efficient storage until winter comes again. You really should not be vacuum packing a side of lamb for the freezer in these.
Admittedly, if you do a search for vacuum sealer bags, you will find that they come under a variety of names: vacuum seal food storage bags, food sealer bags, vacuum seal food bags and food vacuum sealer bags are all common terms.
This is because different manufacturers and sellers have their own branded product and advertise it under their own particular take on the name. No matter – they are all vacuum sealer bags. But just double check the description of the product before you buy, to be absolutely certain that you are not looking at clothes storage solutions by mistake!
All the big vacuum sealer manufacturers, from the FoodSaver and Crenova ranges through to the GERYON and MYRIANN machines offer pre-cut vacuum sealer bags. In fact, when buying a food vacuum sealer, 9 times out of 10 it will come with some kind of ‘Starter Kit’ which includes a selection of the manufacturers recommended vacuum sealer bags – which are usually made by them.
Pros of pre-cut bags:
- Pre-cut vacuum sealer bags are convenient. They are ready to use immediately. They are closed on three sides with one edge left open so that you can place food in the bag and then vacuum and seal it. If you are new to vacuum sealing, they are a great product to start with as all the guesswork is done for you.
Cons of pre-cut bags:
- Pre-cut vacuum sealer bags are expensive. You are paying for the convenience that makes them so appealing.
- They also lack versatility. What we mean by this is that the vacuum sealer bag size has already been decided for you. Consequently, you may find that when requiring to vacuum seal only a small portion of food the pre-cut bag is considerably bigger than required. With other options, like vacuum sealer rolls, you can tailor the bags to your specific needs. Having said all this, most Starter Kits include a range of vacuum sealer bags of various sizes and often roll bags as well.
Vacuum sealer roll bags come as a large, continuous tube of food grade plastic which is open at both ends. To use, simply seal one of the open ends closed, measure out the size of the bag needed and then cut it (most vacuum sealers have a cutting blade built in for this purpose). Then proceed as you would with any other vacuum storage bag – fill, vacuum and seal.
Pros of sealer roll bags:
- You save money. Vacuum sealer bag rolls cost less than their pre-cut cousins. You can also tailor them to the exact size that you need, which means less waste. In fact, you’ll get more bags out of the same amount of plastic that you’d find in a box of pre-cut ones.
- Less waste is good for the environment.
Cons of sealer roll bags:
- More fiddly and time consuming than using the pre-cut vacuum sealer bags.
Handheld Vacuum Sealer Bags
Handhelds are slightly different to the other members of the vacuum sealer bag family. The compact size of handheld vacuum sealers means that they suck the air out from around the food through a special valve that fits the mouth of the vacuum sealer. As a result, you can only use these devices with specifically designed vacuum sealer bags, complete with matching valves.
Pros of handheld sealer bags:
- Reusable. Because the air is sucked out through a valve, there is no requirement to heat the edges of the bag. Instead food is placed in the handheld vacuum sealer bag by opening a zip-locked end. This means that items can be removed the same way without cutting open or damaging the bag. This makes the bags reusable.
- Can be economical. Whilst the cost per bag can be comparatively high as you are locked in to buying specially made handheld vacuum sealer bags, if you wash them out and reuse them, they offer surprisingly good value for money.
- Sustainable. Again, if you are happy to wash and reuse the bags, you are moving away from the environmental horror of single use plastics.
Cons of handheld sealer bags:
- Lack of choice. You are locked into buying vacuum sealer bags that fit the valve on your appliance. They are all pre-cut, so there is no flexibility in the size of the bags, beyond what the manufacturer offers you.
- Can be expensive. The lack of choice means that you may have to buy the bags recommended (and no doubt made) by the manufacturer of your particular handheld vacuum sealer. If you are lucky, there may be a cheaper, generic option on the market, but this is not always the case. If possible, make sure before you buy. If you are not keen on washing and reusing, then inevitably you will be quickly going through comparatively costly bags.
Whichever type of vacuum sealer bag you end up buying, there are a few tips which will help you to get the most from your vacuum sealing. If you are interested in learning more, read more here.
Be sure to do your research before you buy a vacuum sealer machine. Don’t just look at the features and reviews for different models; also check the information on compatible vacuum sealer bags too.
Remember that the bags are an ongoing expense, so the manufacturers of the appliances are keen to trap you into continued expenditure on their patented products. Flashy technology can be a good thing, but it often comes at a premium.
You need to be able to source a regular supply of vacuum sealer bags that are compatible with your machine (this is especially important if you have a handheld device which needs a valve), at a price you are happy with.
If you are comfortable paying for the quality and reputation of branded vacuum sealer bags, then great. However, we recommend that you look into cheaper, readily available, more generic options and save yourself a few dollars.
And if you’re on a particularly tight budget take a look at this video below. It’s a handy hack for turning cheap freezer bags into vacuum sealer bags. Perfect if you’re prepping food in bulk for the upcoming zombie apocalypse 😉