Food preparation and cooking at home is usually a fair bit easier than done while camping. What if I told you that food could be prepared and cooked at home, and then made ready in minutes when camping?!
A few months back we purchased a Dometic Vacuum Sealer from Snowys for $159. You simply add the food into special plastic bags, and it sucks all of the air out of it, leaving your food nice and sealed with no air for the nasties to breed in. It runs off 12V and 240V, and is fantastic.
We purchased this specifically for our 3 month trip away into the Northern Territory, but it is used for almost every camping trip we head away on including fishing trips.
What other brands can you buy?
Dometic is not the first place to bring out a 12/240V vacuum sealer. However, they are a well known and reputable brand, and for $159 you can't go wrong.If you are looking at other brands, you can get them from Australian Direct, Chef, and 4WD Supacentre. I can't comment of the quality of those other than the Dometic ones, but I have heard good things about the Kickass ones from Australian Direct.
Why are vacuum sealers so good?
Ease of camping
With a toddler in tow, cooking tasty and healthy meals every night is a push. Instead, Sarah made some amazing meals at home and we vacuum packed them into portion sizes for 2 adults and a toddler. Now, most people don't vacuum pack entire meals (although you could do); they do sauces, marinated meat, cuts of meat, bolognaises, curries and what ever tickles your fancy, and then cook or prepare the remaining part of the meal at camp.
Obviously, we don't do this for every meal, but it is amazing when you come back from a big day of exploring this great country knowing you have a tasty and healthy meal that can be ready in 10 minutes with limited effort.
Less dishes, washing up and water/LPG consumption while camping
A simple meal is a lovely pasta; make the sauce at home with all the goodies in it and the vacuum seal it. When it comes to making the meal at camp, you cook some pasta up, dunk the plastic vacuum sealed bag in with the pasta and it warms up while your pasta is cooked.
Drain the pasta, cut the bag open and tip it into your saucepan, and you have an amazing meal prepared and ready to eat in only a few minutes. You only have one saucepan to wash, and life is good.
If you are just warming something up, we often boil a pot of water, put the bag in until its hot, and then eat. You then have a pot of clean, boiled water ready for dishes once you've finished eating!
Make your food last longer
Beyond the convenience of doing this, Vacuum sealing is done as a preservation process. Removing the air from your food means that many bugs aren't able to survive and as a result the food lasts substantially longer.
You can use this for anything from meat to cheese, vegetables and fruit. For those who are into fishing (and actually catch something!) fish that is vacuum sealed quickly after being caught will last and taste the best, by a country mile.
When you vacuum pack food, its shelf life in the fridge pretty much doubles. If its in the freezer, you can get months out of it without the worry of freezer burns.
Better use of space
On our trip up north, we took some 35 odd meals (out of around 80 dinners) either partially or fully prepared. We comfortably fitted that in a 55L freezer, along with a heap of other food. Vacuum sealing removes all of the air, and you can make the packs into what ever shape you want without the risk of them popping (like glad bags!).
There was very little air gap in our freezer between food because of this, which means the freezer works less hard and you can fit more in.
What do we use the vacuum sealer for?
- Steak, portioned into the right sizes for a meal (sometimes marinated)
- Chops, portioned as above
- Butter chicken sauce, cooked and ready to go after warming and making rice
- Pasta sauce (cransky sausage, garlic, cream, zucchini, mushrooms, chicken stock powder etc)
- Bacon, portioned and ready to go (no more wasted or freezer burnt bacon!)
- Chicken breast marinated into meal sizes with several different marinades - delicious over the fire
- Potato and leek soup, cooked and ready to go
- Spaghetti bolognaise mince and sauce, ready to go without the pasta
- Freshly caught fish, after filletting for long term storage
- Cheese (cut a big block into several pieces, so there's no wastage)
- Sausages and hamburger patties, portioned into the right size for us
Your butcher can do this
If you don't have a vacuum sealer, but you still want some of the benefits of having one, get your food from the local butcher, and they will portion and vacuum seal it for you. We did this many times before buying our own, and its great. The only downside of course is you can't do it while away (like when you catch fish, or want to se-seal a bag of chips!).
For runny food, freeze it first
We had some fun and games trying to vacuum seal foods that were runny - thing bolognaises, sauces and soups. You can do it, but its awkward and requires bigger bags than necessary. The easy way is to pour the runny goodness into a bag, freeze it in the freezer and then vacuum seal it. No more spillages!
If you've been looking at a vacuum sealer, we'd highly recommend one. It doesn't get used exhaustively, but is used enough to make it well and truly worth it.
Over Easter next year, we are away for 11 days and plan on taking 95% pre-prepared food, as we will have a toddler and a very young bub. For me, if you aren't comfortable when camping then its not enjoyable, and pre-preparing good food to take camping makes things that much easier.
Do you have a vacuum sealer? What do you think of it? Can we borrow some great recipes from you?! Leave a comment below!