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Camping is a great way to lower stress levels while surrounded by beautiful nature. But cooking while you’re camping can be exhausting and time-consuming.

To solve this problem, you can use vacuum-sealed (Cryovac) meals while camping. You can use this method to pack pre-cooked meals for your camping trip.

Vacuum sealing meals refers to packing food in a plastic bag, then taking out all the air with the help of a vacuum sealer. This process helps the food last longer as there’s no oxygen for any parasite to grow.

But how to prepare vacuum-sealed meals for your next camping trip? This article goes into detail about all the aspects of vacuum-sealed meals.

So, let’s not waste more time and dive right into this topic.

Is Vacuum Sealing Safe?

As mentioned, vacuum sealing (for meals) is packing food in a Ziploc or plastic bag and sucking out all the air within. It’s then thermally bonded to stop the air from seeping inside.

Vacuum sealed meals last longer and are always safe to store and eat without causing any side effects. Since no oxygen is inside the packet, it stops the growth of food-spoiling bacteria & fungi.

Except for a few, you can vacuum seal most food items for your next camping trip. Here are some:

Apart from this, you should also keep your cooking area clean & hygienic to prevent any food contamination. A dirty or unsanitized kitchen can support the growth of anaerobic bacteria.

These types of bacteria can grow in low-oxygen or no-oxygen environments. If they get inside your food, even vacuum-sealing won’t stop it from spoiling.

Follow these simple practices to keep your food contamination-free:

  1. Always clean your hands before cooking with a hand wash or sanitizer.
  2. Use paper towels to dry your hands before touching the food or dishes.
  3. Clean & sanitize your utensils before you cook the meal.
  4. Cook your food properly. Undercooked meals can still have harmful bacteria in them.

Apart from these practices, certain food items shouldn’t be vacuum sealed. I’ll discuss them in detail at the end of this article.

Shelf Life of Vacuum Packed Meals

Cryovac (vacuum-sealed) meals last for a longer time than normally-packed meals. A few items, such as meats, can be safely stored in freezers for 2-3 years after vacuum sealing. Curries or cooked meals can also last for several days without spoiling.

However, this time frame varies according to the food you’re vacuum-sealing. You can’t expect to store cooked food for such long periods.

But since you’ll be using these meals for your camping trip, you don’t have to worry much about shelf life. Prepare and vacuum-seal them 1-2 days before your trip for best results.

This is because you won’t be able to refrigerate them all the time, which can cause spoilage. However, you can use a small cooler.

To avoid any issues with your vacuum packed meals, try to use them within 7-8 days, or the food can go bad.

How to Vacuum Seal Your Meals? (Step-by-Step Process)

Prerequisites

Before you embark on the vacuum sealing journey, you’ll need a few things to start with:

  1. A good-quality vacuum sealer. You can find one at a nearby store or can order online from Amazon (or your favorite online shop)
  2. Food-grade & BPA-free storage vacuum bags. These bags are safe for storing food items and can be thermally sealed.
  3. Selecting the food items you’ll be vacuum sealing. Not all food items can be vacuum sealed. So choose your meals carefully. Consult the last part of this article for items that can’t be vacuum sealed.
  4. Plan your meals according to the number of people, camping duration, and storage conditions. This will help you organize your food, avoiding any wastage.
  5. If packing raw fruits and vegetables, do so a few hours before you leave for the camping trip.

Now that you have all the needed things and knowledge, let’s prepare vacuum sealed meals for camping.

Pre Cook the Meals

Since your main goal is to save time while camping, you should pre-cook all your food. Before cooking, clean & sanitize your kitchen and utensils properly.

Now prepare all the essential meals like meats, pulses, rice, veggies, pasta, etc. It’s better to do this a day before camping, as cooking can be exhausting.

You can also prepare curries and stews for vacuum sealing. However, you’ll need to freeze liquid meals and cut them into slices for packing.

Try to cook light & healthy meals, and use oil & spices in moderation. You don’t want a bad stomach while enjoying your camping trip.

Let the Cooked Food Cool Down

After you’re done cooking, place all of it near a table fan for cooling down. Putting piping hot food inside vacuum storage bags is not advisable.

Hot food emits a lot of steam & moisture. If you vacuum seal it hot, the moisture inside can quickly spoil the food. So, it’s best to let all the meals cool down and then seal them.

Pack in Vacuum Storage Bags

Pack the food in the storage bags when it has cooled down completely. Ensure the bags are clean, have no leakage, and are made of food-grade plastic.

Divide the meal into portions considering the number of people and total camping time.

One portion should have enough food for a single meal, not more or less. This’ll help you save food, and you won’t have to reseal the packets, as nothing will be left after eating your portion.

Make different portion sizes according to your preferences. Start placing them inside the storage bags.

Vacuum Seal the Packets

Now comes the central part of vacuum sealing the pre-made packets. Firstly, read the instruction manual for your vacuum sealer.

Different vacuum sealers have different instructions, so you must be aware of the one you’re using. But no need to worry if you’re confused. I’ll list down the basic instructions.

  1. Place the opening of the storage bag inside the vacuum sealer.
  2. Fix the packet in place by closing the sealer from the front.
  3. Press the ‘Vacuum + Seal’ button (may vary depending on the model) to extract out the air and thermally seal the packet.

Some models have a single button for both vacuuming & sealing, while some have two different switches. So, adjust according to your vacuum sealer.

You can vacuum seal your food items twice for extra security. Keep the sealed packet in another bag and vacuum seal it again.

Refrigerate and Use While Camping

Your food packets are now ready to go camping with you. The only thing that’s left is to freeze them. This has two different benefits:

  1. A few anaerobic bacteria can still seep inside and destroy your food, as they don’t need much oxygen to survive. However, they’re prone to freezing temperatures. Freezing the packets will kill the anaerobic bacteria, if any are present.
  2. Freezing vacuum sealed foods increases their shelf life by two to three times. So your meal will be fresh longer than usual.

After leaving the packets overnight in the freezer, take them out just before you commence your trip. If possible, get a small cooler and put the food packets inside it. This’ll keep it frozen & fresh for your entire trip.

Whenever you want to have your meal, pour out the ingredients of a packet in a saucepan and heat it. You’ll have a tasty, healthy, homemade dinner in no time.

You can also boil water in a boiling pot and put the whole packet inside. After a few minutes, remove the package and pour the ingredients directly into your plate.

Benefits of Vacuum Sealing Meals for Camping

Saves Time & Fuel

Since you’re cooking in bulk at home, you’ll save a lot of cooking fuel. There’s no need to buy a ton of propane cans, as you would only need the stove to heat the food.

Apart from fuel, you’ll also save a considerable amount of time that would have been wasted in cooking, cleaning, and washing several dishes while camping.

It’s better to spend some extra time in your kitchen beforehand rather than cooking full meals on the trip. You can use your spare time to explore your surroundings and enjoy your camping experience.

Saves Food

If you follow my advice of packing portion-sized meals in each packet, you’ll save a lot of food. Only heat the packages that you need at a time.

If some food packages are left after your camping trip, you can use them after returning. You can even store them in the freezer for later use.

More Space

As we know, space is the primary problem while packing your camping equipment.

Vacuum sealed meals have little to no air inside them, which causes them to shrink in size. Instead of one packet, you can store multiple in the same space. Stack the packets one over another, and you’ll have ample empty space.

You also won’t have to carry a lot of propane cans, different ingredients, and utensils. This’ll further save space, and you can bring other essential items.

Longer life

As there’s little to no oxygen inside the food packages, there is significantly less chance of decay. Due to this, your meals will remain fresh for a long time.

If you freeze the vacuum sealed meals properly, their shelf life will be extended by 2-3 times. So you can camp for days without worrying about what to eat.

Customized Food Choices

Vacuum sealing lets you eat better while you’re out of your home. You get the chance to cook all your camping meals at home. It can be anything you want.

Need a healthy option? Vacuum pack salads, green vegetables, or boiled meats.

Going on winter camping and craving some spicy food? Pack some Asian cuisines.

On top of that, vacuum sealing is known to preserve nutrients in your food for longer periods. So there is almost zero nutrient loss.

Other than that, you’re also safe from ready-to-eat or canned meals. They contain various preservatives that can harm your body and its system.

Less Waste

With vacuum packed meals, you don’t have to cook heavy meals at your camp. So the only waste you’ll produce is the storage bags or any food leftovers.

Since you’re packing single-meal-sized bags, it’s less likely that there would be any leftovers.

Vacuum Sealing Tips & Tricks

As you can see, vacuum sealed meals can help you eat cleaner and better in so many ways.

Whether you always use it for camping or want to try it out for the first time, these tips can help you:

What Food Items Shouldn’t be Vacuum Sealed?

Some of the food items that we use in everyday life are not suitable for vacuum sealing. When preparing vacuum sealed meals for your camping trip, exclude such items.

Anaerobic bacteria, as discussed before, develop rapidly in low-oxygen environments. If they infect your meals, you can get sick badly.

It’s hard to detect whether your food is infected with anaerobic bacteria. Like typical food-spoiling pathogens, they don’t leave visible traces such as discoloration, taste/smell decay, or texture change.

Always keep your kitchen and edibles clean to prevent such bacteria from entering your food.

Also, remember to hard freeze your vacuum packed meals before you use them. Extremely low temperatures can kill these types of anaerobic bacteria.

1.  Soft/Wet Cheese

Soft or wet cheeses have a lot of natural moisture inside them. This can be a breeding ground for several types of mold. So, you should avoid vacuum packing them.

These include mozzarella, blue, ricotta, brie, goat, and other soft cheese.

However, it’s perfectly fine to vacuum seal hard cheese. You can even store them for months in your freezer.

2.  Few Vegetable Types

Some raw veggies shouldn’t be vacuum packed. These include:

  1. Raw Onions and Garlic: Onion & garlic emit gases on their own. The process continues even after vacuum sealing them, which can lead to quick spoilage.
  2. Cruciferae or Brassicaceae Vegetables: The veggies in this group include cabbage, broccoli, arugula, cauliflower, bok choy, radish, kale, and Brussels sprouts. These also emit different types of gases, so they can’t be packed raw. However, you can blanch them, then vacuum seal them if necessary. Just make sure they’re cooled & dried.
  3. Raw Mushrooms: Mushrooms ripen faster in the absence of oxygen. Hence, they can go bad within a day. It’s better to cook them first for vacuum-sealing.

3.  Whole Apples and Raw Bananas

Whole apples shouldn’t be vacuum packed. In fact, this holds true for any fruit. Packing them whole can cause fast degradation.

Instead, cut the apples into slices, and then you can vacuum seal them. Dip the pieces in lemon juice before packing to avoid discoloration.

Similarly, packing raw bananas is also a bad practice. Bananas, just like mushrooms, ripen faster in low-oxygen environments. If you want to pack raw bananas, freeze them before vacuum sealing.

Vacuum Packing Meals without a Vacuum Sealing Machine

Are you really eager to start preparing vacuum sealed meals for your next camping trip but don’t have a vacuum sealer?

No need to worry; you can do it without a vacuum sealer.

Here’s how:

  1. Use a Vacuum Cleaner: Pack your meals in Ziploc bags and close them, leaving a little opening at the end. Place the vacuum cleaner pipe at the opening and suck out all the air.
  2. Using Water: You can also use the power of water pressure to vacuum seal. The only thing you need is a small bucket full of water. Check the following video to understand the process in detail.

Conclusion

Vacuum sealed meals are a great boon for your camping meals. They’re safe to use, save time and resources, and let you enjoy your camping experience.

It’s not so tough to prepare vacuum sealed meals if you have a vacuum sealer at home. Just prepare your meal, cool it, pack & seal it, and then freeze them for later use while camping.

So, worry not, and be ready to prepare vacuum packed meals for your next camping trip. 

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