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How To Seal Food into a Mason Jar with a Vacuum-Sealer Hand Pump

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Preview: Learn about this inexpensive way to seal food into Mason jars with a vacuum-sealer hand pump. Watch the video to make the process easier to understand.

Have you ever wanted to try sealing certain foods inside a glass jar instead of using so many plastic bags?

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a heat process so perishables (like lettuce and fresh veggies) must still be refrigerated. Non-perishables like nuts, cereal, flour, etc., can be stored in the pantry. Either way, your food will last longer than normally expected.

jar of lettuce and all supplies needed to vacuum-pack it cheaply

Many people tell me they are curious about vacuum-packing chopped lettuce but don’t have or can’t afford a vacuum-pack machine.  A few months ago, I was elated to learn it can be done with a portable vacuum-pack machine costing much less. But now I’ve discovered something even cheaper, thanks to my blogger friend Vicki.

Do I have to buy a full-size vacuum-seal machine?

Ziplock sells a hand pump that will vacuum-pack a glass jar of chopped romaine quite inexpensively.  It comes with 3 vacuum-sealable Ziplock bags (useful for storing big chunks of cheese). It can be found in the same area as aluminum foil and plastic wrap.

In addition to the pump, you will need a thumbtack, electrical tape, and a clean glass jar.

Regarding the jars, use a glass canning jar or a repurposed glass jar (such as one spaghetti sauce or jelly might come in) with a screw-on lid. Some twist-on lids may also work if they form a tight seal.

Note: New to the idea of vacuum-packing prepared lettuce? See this post for more details about the why and how-to of this technique.

How to create a vacuum in a jar for less:

poking a hole into lid with a thumbtack
Use a sharp thumbtack to poke a hole in the lid.
Covering the pin-prick hole in the metal canning lid with electrical tape
Cover the hole with a SMALL piece of electrical tape.
removing air with a vacuum-pump
Pump vigorously while holding the bottom of the pump securely against the lid.

How do I unseal the jar?

The easiest way to open a sealed jar is to peel off the tape. Doing this will immediately break the seal.

Or, you can strong-arm the lid if you have substantial muscles.

How long will the seal hold?

It’s a good idea to check the seal occasionally while the jars are in the fridge to ensure the seal holds. Do this by bouncing your finger quickly on the lid. If sealed, it will not move.

When the seal is broken, the flat lid will move up and down slightly and make a noise. Re-vacuum with a new piece of tape if you aren’t quite ready to eat the contents.

Of course, the sooner you discover the broken seal, the better.  In general, the large vacuum-pack machines make a stronger and more dependable seal.

What if the jar won’t seal?

  • Try a smaller piece of electrical tape.
  • Tape too tightly adheres to the lid before you start to pump. Remove and replace with a light touch.
  • Make sure there are no cracks in your hand pump. (This actually happened to me when I first tried this technique leading me to believe it wouldn’t work.  Glad Vicki encouraged me to give it another try.)
  • The lid may not be sealing the jar completely. Twist-on lids are the most frequent offenders.

How to vacuum-seal Mason jars with a hand-pump:

If you already have the wide-mouth attachment, you can avoid putting holes in your canning lids by using it with Mason glass jars.

using a wide-mouth attachment to seal the jar
Place the flat part of the lid on top of the Mason glass jar, then cover with the large-mouth attachment.
using Ziplock hand pump with large mouth FoodSaver lid adapter
Center bottom of hand pump over the hole in the top of the attachment. Pump until the air is removed and the flat lid is sealed. Remove wide-mouth attachment and cover with a collar.
lettuce that was vacuum-sealed in a repurposed spaghetti sauce jar 8 days ago. no brown edges
This lettuce was chopped, dried and vacuum-packed in a re-purposed spaghetti sauce jar with a hand pump. Eight days later, the lettuce has no brown edges and is crispy and ready-to-eat.

Happy Salad Eating!

P.S.  The blue writing on the hand pump rubs off on your hands in an amazingly quick and annoying way.  You can see in the pictures how half of the writing is already gone. Coat the plastic barrel of the pump with vegetable oil and then use a paper towel or a little scrubby pad to remove it.

What would you like to read next about vacuum-sealing lettuce?

An Amazing Way To Make Chopped Lettuce Last Longer
The Lettuce Experiment
Which Vacuum-Pack Machine Should I Buy to Vacuum-Pack Lettuce In a Jar?
Yes, You Can Use a Handheld Vacuum-Pack Machine to Seal Lettuce In a Jar
Is a Plastic Knife a Substitute for Vacuum-Packing Lettuce?
What Happens if I Vacuum-Seal Lettuce and Vegetables Together?

This is a really old video, but if you are a visual learner, it might help clarify this technique.

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: paula at

Hope to see you again soon!

Updated February 2020.

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