Hosting Healthy [on a budget]

This past week was Jeremy’s 31st birthday. If you have a healthy and selfless individual in your life, this is the post for you to read. I faced [[and ultimately conquered]] how to host a healthy get together and give a gift that keeps on giving.


A few facts about Jeremy: He adores time with his family, hates getting presents, prefers to give gifts instead, and pays very close attention to each and every ingredient in food, and loves marinated mushrooms. ❤

I’m awful at keeping secrets from Jer, so hiding birthday surprises is crazy hard. So I let him know that we had dinner reservations at a Milestone 229 [a swanky restaurant in downtown Columbus with a n appealing gluten-free menu] and would be heading there after we ate a few appetizers at home. What he didn’t know was that his sister, brother-in-law, brother, nephew, and cousins would be joining us!

I should have taken more photos, because everything worked out perfect! I themed everything around the feel of autumn. Warm colors and smells, and savory flavors. I updated our Wallflowers to the yummy smelling scents of Pumpkin Cupcake and Vanilla Chai. Picked up a few decorations from the $3 section at Target [a pumpkin, lantern, scarecrow and a wreath] to give our tiny place a warm autumn feel.

The Menu [Everything is Gluten-Free]

  1. Marinated Mushrooms [Jeremy’s favorite!]
  2. Tomato-Basil Soup
  3. Organic Tortilla Chips with Spinach Dip
  4. Mini Flatbreads [a sturdy gluten-free, organic cracker] with Applewood Chicken Sausage, tomato sauce and parmesan sprinkled on top
  5. Green Apple Slices with Cinnamon or a caramel



I did most of my shopping at Wal-Mart and Target. I picked up a 72 piece appetizer kit from Wal-Mart for only $7 and got tons of tiny dishes, plates and silverware, that we wouldn’t have to wash after!

I used mushrooms that were already marinated for Jeremy’s favorite appetizer. I placed 4 mushrooms on each plate alongside a fork.

I used the [Simply Balanced] Tomato-Basil soup [from Target & it’s gluten-free] – placed 1/2 cup of soup into a small clear cup and topped with finely cut fresh basil leaves.

I used a premade Spinach Dip due to lack of time, but here’s a great video on how to make healthy spinach from R.D. Susan Bowerman: – I then placed dip into a mini bowl and stuck in 4 healthy rolled tortilla chips [Simply Balanced brand from Target]

I also made mini flatbreads. I started with creating a healthy pizza/pasta sauce by mixing together { 1 can [Hunt’s] Fire Roasted Tomatoes + 1 can [Hunt’s] Tomato Sauce + 1 can [Hunt’s] Tomato Paste + lots of diced garlic + Italian Seasoning } – I placed 1/2 tablespoon of sauce on top of each cracker [Simply Balanced, Brown Rice and Chia Seed] and then used 2 chopped applewood chicken sausages [also from Target] that I briefly cooked on medium high heat to brown the sausage and finally sprinkled the top with a shredded Parmesan Blend. I placed the entire plate of mini flatbreads in the microwave just long enough to melt the cheese and served immediately.

Last was a green apple [Granny Smith], thinly sliced [3 slices per mini plate] and either topped with cinnamon or with a caramel candy.

Hot [non-alcoholic] Apple Cider Bar 

Jeremy had picked up fresh milled cider from the store and thought that an apple cider bar would be perfect! I set out the cider, alongside mugs, and self serve dishes with caramels, red hots, and cinnamon sticks…if you really enjoy other spices in your cider feel free to use Rosemary, Orange Slices, Lemon Slices, or even honey.

[Portion Controlled] Dessert & Wine

I made sure Jeremy knew that I had a special idea for us planned for post dinner. I had purchased a really sweet Raspberry Wine from Cooper’s Hawk [it seriously tasted like Raspberry Jam] along side a homemade label kit that was a chalkboard label. I skipped buying a card and instead wrote my Happy Birthday love note on his own personal bottle of wine and served it with Brownie Cake Pops. They were super sweet so the easy portion control in individual dishes were a great way to go!


Gifting Giving

Since I knew Jeremy didn’t want anything, but he has a generous heart, I gave him a challenge of doing 31 acts of kindness. I put together 31 challenges, in a small photo book so he is able to document and reflect on everything that he did in the 31 days. It included:

  • I started him off by anonymously vacuuming everyone’s rugs in our [indoor] apartment complex and buying air fresheners
  • [5] pre-packaged meals to give to homeless members in our community – each meal included a vegetable style soup, crackers, and clean drinking water
  • [5] Thank You notes to fill out
  • Books to donate to Nationwide Children’s Hospital
  • [5] $5 gift cards to various stores to either pass on to the person after him at the grocery store, buy someone’s coffee at Starbucks, or just to give a gift
  • [5] challenges to help someone take groceries to their car
  • Organize a shoe drive thru Soles for Souls
  • Organize a community clean up in Dublin
  • Organize a neighborhood clean up at our apartment and park
  • Set up the ALS walk in Columbus
  • Volunteer at the Mustache Dash to create awareness of men’s health
  • Make a clothing donation of winter clothes to out community
  • Volunteer with the Mid-Ohio Food Bank
  • Buy flowers for a stranger that needs a pick me up


These are the meal packs he now has in his card to give to someone asking for assistance.

Jerem’y birthday went great! Everyone arrived, we enjoyed a delicious array of appetizers and then out to dinner. At one point, I looked around and saw Jeremy’s 6 year old nephew sitting on his lap, and everyone chatting and laughing, and Jeremy grinning ear to ear – it definitely filled my heart with joy to see him so happy! Jeremy has an awesome family and it was so great to spend time all together! Best Healthy Birthday [EVER] ❤



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