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How To Vacuum-Pack Lettuce for Less

Learn about this inexpensive way to vacuum-pack lettuce for less using Mason jars, a thumbtack, electrical tape, and a hand pump. Watch the video to make the process easier to understand.

Addendum as of August 2018:  Unfortunately, since I first published this post, the price of the Ziplock hand pump has increased. It has not been spotted in grocery stores for a long time. Luckily, you can still get it on Amazon here.

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 Vacuum-Seal Chopped Lettuce into 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 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.

Have you tried salad in a jar my way yet?

The hand pump is a good way to try the whole “vacuum-sealing-lettuce-into-a-jar” concept if you don’t already own a machine.

You can also do this with Mason glass jars with two-part lids.  See the video above for a complete demonstration.

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 Glass 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.
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.
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.


Pin the picture below to save for later.

How to Vacuum Your Salad-in-a-Jar on a Budget - cheaper alternative to buying a vacuum-pack machine

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.


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    Hope to see you again soon!
    Paula

    p.s. Questions or suggestions? Email me: paula at saladinajar.com.

    Updated February 2020.

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    doug williams

    Sunday 13th of September 2020

    You can also use 2 liter coke bottles with the electrical tape. I've kept dried corn for over 5 years, and it is still sealed! ( I use the corn for seed and also to grind for grits and cornmeal. Sealing keeps out insects and moisture.)

    Paula

    Sunday 13th of September 2020

    Hi Doug,

    Really, a 2-liter coke bottle? I guess you are punching a small hole in the plastic lid. Right? I'm so impressed the bottle is still sealed after 5 years. That's absolutely amazing. I sure would like to try some of your home-ground grits. I bet they are delicious! Thanks for sharing the tip.

    Mary

    Sunday 28th of July 2019

    Thanks for the great idea for lettuce. I’ve been using Food Saver system for over ten years. I seal just about everything: crackers, cereal, cheese, chips, snacks in their own packages. It keeps these items fresher longer. For items with waxed paper packaging I count to 4 then stop the process. Going the full time seems to be too long. Cheese and other snacks like chips I let it seal the full time and then cut off the top when ready to use. I seal cut veggies, hotdogs, cold cuts in mason j

    Paula

    Sunday 28th of July 2019

    Hi Mary,

    It sounds like you've got the whole vacuum-pack thing down. Thanks for adding your ideas.

    Douglas Edwin Bartz

    Saturday 8th of July 2017

    Can you purchase the big #10 cans and put them in smaller jars? If so, how long can they be stored?

    Paula

    Saturday 8th of July 2017

    #10 cans of what? Vacuum packing is only for non-perishables or food such as produce that will be refrigerated even after vacuum-packing. In others words, vacuum-packing will not substitute for heat-processed canning. Vacuum-packing will help prolong freshness in perishables when refrigerated or frozen. This is VERY IMPORTANT to understand. I don't want you to get sick.

    tehzeeb

    Monday 20th of March 2017

    holy cow this thing worked ...

    M. Copeland

    Thursday 28th of April 2016

    Fast & easy to use it! Saves time and makes freezing food in small portions so very easy!