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My vacuum sealer is one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I vacuum seal fresh fruit to extend the life by at least two weeks, often much longer. I vacuum seal meat before I freeze it, to stave off freezer burn, which keeps it perfect for six months to a year. I could go on and on about how my FoodSaver saves our food bill, but today, I want to tell you the useful ways I use a FoodSaver that have nothing to do with food!

But first, two general vacuum sealing tips:

CONVENIENCE

I've learned through trial and error that for my vacuum sealer to work at maximum efficiency, it must be handy. It cannot be stuck in a cupboard or on a pantry shelf. If I have to make the smallest effort to get it out and plug it in, I stop using it because I forget or because it's such a hassle I skip using it "just this one time."

My FoodSaver has to sit on the counter with nothing obstructing it -- always plugged in and ready to go. And the bags have to be equally handy. I keep them in the drawer below the counter where FoodSaver resides.

REUSING BAGS

When sealing items I know I will use repeatedly (take hamburger buns, for example -- I seal a dozen but then open the bag to remove the number I need and then reseal it), I make sure to start with a larger-than-necessary pouch. This way, you can open by cutting off the seal and then reseal at least another time or two.

When storing dry goods, if a bag becomes too small for your original intended use, simply reuse it for another item. The bags don't have to be trashed after one use. You can also wash bags and dry them thoroughly to use for other food storage.

JEWELRY

If you do not wear jewelry regularly, vacuum seal it -- costume jewelry as well as finer pieces. It keeps these precious possessions clean, sparkling and at their peak of beauty. And when you're ready to wear a piece, no polishing or cleaning required. It's ready to go.

I use a Mason jar and the FoodSaver jar sealer for my jewelry. It's easy to pop off the lid and then quickly re-seal.

SILVER

I vacuum seal anything that tarnishes that I do not use on a daily basis, such as sterling silver flatware, silver trays and bowls. By removing the air, the items do not tarnish because the enemy (oxygen) has been locked out. This protects my silver items from harsh polishes and protects my time. I hate to polish silver.

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COINS

All of my commemorative coins and other collectible coins are safely vacuum sealed. This protects their integrity and collectible value. Because the bags are clear and I seal them in a single layer, their beauty remains visible.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have precious antique photos sealed for protection. Note: I do not vacuum the air out, however. Instead, I use only the seal function. The vacuuming process can cause the transfer of the photo to the plastic. Instead, I press out as much air as possible and then press Seal.

DOCUMENTS

Open oxygen is the enemy of old paper, especially newsprint. By sealing family heirlooms, birth certificates, precious documents and even newspaper and magazine clippings, I'm protecting their longevity.

WATERPROOF

I use my FoodSaver to create waterproof pouches for money, maps, matches and more for camping or emergencies.

PASSPORTS

I vacuum seal our passports before putting them into the safe. This keeps them dry and mold-free (lots of moisture can show up inside a locked and sealed safe, which is why just about everything in our safe is vacuum sealed).

AMMO

Ammunition needs to be kept dry. There is no better way to do that than with a FoodSaver. Simply take a FoodSaver bag, fill it with loose ammo and then vacuum seal it. Store it in your bug-out bag or ammo cans. You can also vacuum seal a pre-filled magazine.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary a Question." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To find out more about Mary visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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