Andrew Akhaphong is a registered dietitian, precision nutrition sports coach and an ACTION certified personal trainer for Faribault Hy-Vee. He is a native of Farmington. He can be reached at or 507-334-2085.

Going further with food is the theme of National Nutrition Month for March 2018. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the goal is to encourage the numerous benefits of healthy meal patterns by finding alternative ways to be more sustainable, creative and becoming more aware of the relationships we have to food, the people and our community.

Many advocates of preventing food waste say about 15 percent of the food thrown away is enough to feed about 25 million people at a time. According to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw away more than 36 million tons of food in 2012. In that same year, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that to be approximately $165 billion worth of food annually.

What are skills we can use to be more sustainable and reduce food waste?

Know the terminology for food dates. Best by or use by states the promise of the best quality for the food product until that date. Sell by are the food manufacturer's recommendation to pull a product from the shelf for quality and food safety. Expired by or expiration date is when a product should be consumed or thrown by.

Optimize your refrigerator

Top shelf - maintains an average temperature of 45 degrees, ideal for butter and cheese. Middle shelf - maintains an average temperature of 39 to 41 degrees, ideal for fresh seafood, cooked meats, eggs, creams, soft cheeses and yogurts. Lower shelf - maintains an average temperature of 35 degrees and below, ideal for raw meats and chilled ready meats (such as deli turkey). Crisper drawers - high humidity for herbs, leafy and root vegetables; low humidity for mushrooms, peppers and fruits. The fridge drawer - condiments and beverages.

For more information on shelf-life and food storage, please

Reinvent the wheel

Save money by using substitutions for recipes using items already on-hand.

Use plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise for chicken salad or cream-based sauces. Turn stale bread into homemade croutons. Leftover pot roast into beef and barley vegetable soup. Save celery leaves/tops for a sweet and tender addition to stir-fries.

Shop the bulk bins. If a recipe calls for only 1/4 cup of bulgur wheat for example, do not feel like you have to spend a whole arm on a 1 pound bag; instead, see if the bulk aisle has it and shop for how much you actually need to save money and reduce waste.

Invest in being eco-conscious. Most counties will offer residents discounted equipment and education on composting and rain water collecting to protect the environment, save energy and resources.

For more information on how to be more sustainable and food conscious, contact your local county agency or agriculture/extensions department.