Pros: Affordable. Easy to use.
Cons: Effective for short not long-term use. Replacement bags sometimes hard to find.
Being single I sometimes find myself purchasing larger food items that I want to break down into smaller servings. I love eating the frozen chicken nuggets, chicken egg rolls, fish sticks, and even the Oscar Mayer turkey franks but my problem is that even if they are purchased in resealable bags they tend to get freezer burn rather quickly, like overnight.
About 2 or 3 years ago I began looking into the vacuum seal storage centers. I was checking out the larger ones that sit on your counter and resemble a laminating machine. I kept thinking I would invest in one but just couldn't bring myself to the point to sink in that kind of money. Then one day I was at Target and spotted the Reynolds Handi-Vac Vacuum Sealing System. It was regularly priced at $12.99 but was on sale for $7.99 during the holidays. The starter set came with the battery-operated vacuum seal, 3 quart-size bags, 6 AA batteries and a small instruction manual.
When I got home I pulled out a bag of chicken tenders and counted them out and placed them in the bag. I sealed the bag almost completely shut and then pressed out as much air as I could before sealing it the rest of the way. There's a little blue dot up top and you lay the suction apparatus on the handle of the vacuum sealer on that spot. Then you press a little blue button and it begins to suck out the air. When it has good pressure you can see it pulling the bag tight and as it gets tighter it begins to cling to whatever is in the bag. A problem: You grip the Handi-Vac and it begins to hurt your hands. Sometimes I would have to manipulate the bag to see if I could still see air chambers and then press the button and remove more air. It wasn't as easy as 1-2-3 but it was effective.
The Reynolds Handi-Vac bags have an area where you label the contents and date. In the top corner is a line and it is recommended that you not fill beyond this line. I was using this system on a regular basis. The refill bags came 20 in a box for about $5.00. I could wash and reuse the bags if all I had stored was dry type foods but if I stored vegetable soup or what have you then I didn't try to reuse the bag. I noticed on several occasions one little mishap. If I tried to store soup or on one-occasion steaks for my brother; the vacuum would suck so tightly that it would push the juices into the air chamber. The air chamber is removable so it wasn't a really big deal but it was more disgusting than anything.
My personal experience: I have known the Reynolds Handi-Vac bags to stay airtight and keep food fresh for over a year. The problem is this: I can see which ones are still airtight but I'm not really quite certain if I want to eat the stuff! I have read various reviews through the years and some say they have stored meats and pie fillings, etc. for one or two years and when they broke the seal it was still fresh as ever. Well, chicken nuggets and fish sticks aren't that expensive so my thought is probably to chunk what I have and start over. My other experience is that over time some of the bags seem to start absorbing air. I just looked thru the Reynolds Hand-Vac bags and saw two bags of fish sticks; which were obviously stored at the same time. One bag is still airtight and the fishsticks are still lined up. The other bag has air in it, the fish sticks have been moved around a lot and I can see the freezer burn. So obviously the bags are relaxing over time and as they do they begin to lose their effectiveness. But if you catch it quick enough you can reopen the bag and reseal/vacuum it again!
This system requires a lot of batteries (6) but tend to last pretty long. I've had my system for almost 2 or 3 years and have only replaced the batteries once. You have to use a small Philip’s head screwdriver to open up the battery compartment.
The problem came about a year ago. Reynolds quit manufacturing the system and thus, it was virtually impossible to buy more bags. Then one day I was surfing Amazon.com and came across the bags. So, I began paying a little more because I also had to pay for shipping. I guess Reynolds got a lot of heat about this. Why would you manufacture a really good vacuum seal and then not make the bags available after some time? Reynolds coupled with Debbie Meyer and is now selling it again. It's a little pricier because her company is selling the kits with 2 Handi-Vacs and a larger quantity of bags. You can also find the extra bags at HSN.com, Amazon.com and other websites.
About a year ago I switched to the Ziploc Vacuum Freezer Pump, stay tuned to see why.