I'm replying on a couple of fairly old posts here...
There was a comment upthread about desiccated coconut never going moldy. Not true! I live in the tropics. Ask me how I know.
Because of where I live (Malaysia), nothing is available in big bags. The largest bags of sugar and flour are 1kg (2 pounds), the largest bags of beans & lentils are 500 grams (1 pound). Many products like factory-made cakes, cookies, other sweets come in 30 portions to a container, each portion individually bagged - it's all about humidity, mold, ants, and cockroaches and the like. I keep my sugar, flour, and other ant-attracting products in air-tight containers which are then put in the cupboards. It takes up more space, but we don't have as many pest problems doing it this way. Pests are a major consideration in the tropics.
I struggle with produce freshness. I buy my produce to last the two weeks between grocery shops, but within a week and a bit the unused stuff is starting to go bad and I end up throwing it out if it's unusable. The second week is usually all the veggies I've frozen because that's all I have left, but I would love to be able to have more fresh produce the whole time. In my fridge I use the vegetable box and the meat box to store my fresh produce. Maybe I just need to start getting produce I know will last longer.
Cauliflower always goes bad within the first week. I've tried storing it whole in the veg box, pre-cutting, pre-cutting and pre-washing, is there any way to make it last longer? It happens no matter what grocery store I go to, I've tried 5 in the city and it happens with all of them (I wondered if Safeway's was just not the freshest).
Going to buy produce every week is not an option for me.
We do this, too - buying produce about every 10 to 14 days. I buy a mix of leafy produce all the way to potatoes and carrots. I generally cook things according to what goes bad the soonest. So spinach, cabbage leaves, or other leafies sooner; cauliflower in the first 5 days; beans in first five or six days; potatoes, carrots, squash, hard cabbage at the end. We still get a variety of food in, but we have minimal spoilage, too. We hate spoilage. Spoilage is the enemy and must die. Also, I stack the veggies in the crisper in that order - the hard stuff, which is also the stuff that stays good the longest, at the bottom, the quicker spoiling stuff at the top. That helps to keep things in check.
Veggies that freeze well will end up in the freezer if I bought more than we can use before it goes bad. Bags of bell peppers are always useful. Or pickle it. Cabbage made into sauerkraut, cukes into fridge pickles, red peppers into pickled peppers or homemade sambal oelik, and so on. We like homemade pickles a LOT. Also, I make my own mayo and mustard. Cheaper and better.
Also, tomato paste - I don't know about the rest of you, but I *never* use up an entire can at one cooking session. I've heard of tubes of tomato paste, but I haven't seen those where I am. Instead, when I open a new can, I'll use what I need, stick the rest in a zip-loc bag, lie it flat so it's thin, and freeze it. Then break off bits when I need it.
I make almost everything we eat from scratch. We have a lot of dietary requirements and foods we have to avoid (religious reasons as well as allergies & sensitivities), so cooking from scratch is a better way to control that rather than trying to read all the labels, which is only possible in the store (we do the vast majority of our shopping online and have it delivered) and only when the label also includes an ingredient list in English, which doesn't always happen. So, yeah, cooking from scratch. Which is something I've been doing since I was a wee kid anyway.
Cooking from scratch means that I keep all the pantry essentials on hand - flour (of however many varieties), sugar, baking powder & soda, dried legumes, and so on. I make bread and, because the husband likes bread for breakfast and because he likes it fresh and I spoil him, I make a batch of bread every 10 days, portion it out, freeze nine portions and bake the one. Then every evening, take a frozen lump of dough out of the freezer to thaw and do its second rise, then bake it first thing the next morning. Bread dough freezes very very well.
I don't meal plan. The way things are here, not everything is available all the time, so I order what I order and find out what I'll be getting when it arrives. Meal planning just doesn't work here. But that's where a well-stocked pantry comes in - I have enough flexibility with that to figure out a use for just about anything.
I use a pressure cooker. I could have gotten a slow cooker, but small kitchen means I could realistically get only one thing. So, pressure cooker. Dried beans with no soaking time are completely cooked in around 35 minutes. Tough old goat meat (which we do eat - curried) is fork tender in 35 minutes. I even use the pressure cooker to make rice using the pot in pot method - fill a small pot with the rice, water, salt, and butter, then that small pot goes into the rice cooker on a rack with water at the bottom for the steam. 7 minutes later, rice is done. The rice isn't cooked a lot faster than with a rice cooker, but it's fluffier than in a rice cooker and it's one less appliance on my already crowded counters. I use the pressure to cook potatoes, tough cuts of meat, legumes, pretty much anything that requires more than a few minutes to cook. It cuts the cooking time down to 1/3.
I do have a rice cooker, but use it mainly for larger amounts of rice, like when the husband's parents and brother and family are all here and we need to cook huge mounds of rice (they're all rice and curry people). Otherwise, that rice cooker is stored. But it's a fancy shmancy rice cooker that also does soup, congee, porridge, cake, and a bunch of other things. I've used it a fair bit for making soup. Toss all the ingredients on, switch it on, have soup an hour or two later. No muss, no fuss, no paying attention to it. If I want to add some softer veggies in, they can get tossed in halfway through. Or 2/3 of the way through. Whichever.
Induction cookers. Have any of you used them? I have a single-burner induction cooker and LOVE it. I bought it in Singapore a couple of years ago and use it every day for the vast majority of cooking. It's more energy efficient than any other type of electric cooktop or gas stove. It produces very little residual heat, so in the summer (where you are, assuming you have seasons - it's always summer for me) it doesn't heat the kitchen up very much. It's incredibly noticeable how little it heats up the kitchen. And induction cookers are at least as responsive as gas in terms of heating things up/turning the temperature down.