Day 30!!! I’ve got news!

We did it! I still have $6 left from the $200 I stuck in my wallet at the beginning of the month. Keep in mind that I also went a couple hundred over budget stocking up during August (doing–ahem– crazy things like spending $11 on coffee creamer- yikes!) So really we probably spent $400 for September. But considering we usually spend $900, that’s a considerable savings. And the list on my fridge only has about 8 things on it. I might even delay my grocery shopping a few days, though my 10 yo daughter will pester me mercilessly til we go to the store again, such is her level of shopping withdrawal.

Not that I am cured of consumerism. Tomorrow I intend to order a new glass top for my range. I am still researching dishwashers, but will probably buy one of those soon as well, much to the delight of all my manual dishwashers children. And at this very moment I have this page open, per my friend Laura‘s recommendation. Doubtless there are other things I’ll be buying as well.

Today my sister stopped by with more booty–a big bag full of plums from her in-law’s tree. We happily dug into them at both lunch and dinner, and there are enough for several more days too, I think. Today also I dried some tomatoes in our dehydrator. I think I hope I am done canning for the year, but drying was a nice easy way to take care of a heap on the counter that were ripe and ready to use.

Meals Today
Breakfast: Hash browns, firfir (Ethiopian bread fried in tomatoes, onions, and spices), and apples
Lunch: pork and beans (I stashed them at the start of the month and finally used them today!), plus cream cheese crackers, and plums
Dinner: Tilapia, baked potatoes with sour cream and butter, and plums
Bedtime snack: Coco Loco Brownies–This recipe is guaranteed to take care of a chocolate craving. I was shocked to realized I had every ingredient except the nuts. That’s OK, I prefer not to spoil my chocolate with nuts.

Overall this month was less difficult than the first time I did 30 Days. It is partly because I planned better this time, and made sure I had the things I knew I would really miss badly if they ran out– things like coffee creamer and butter. But I still had some important realizations.

— First, a better understanding of the power of shopping with cash.
–Second, the importance of knowing your own personal bare essentials.

Essentials for us include pasta, oil, coffee, eggs, baking supplies, bread, onions, garden produce….the list is longer than that, but you get the idea. Basic ingredients for cooking. On the other hand, we don’t need frozen pizza and fish sticks and paper napkins and Coke and…well, a whole bunch of other stuff.

Knowing what’s truly essential to you is key to living happily with less. If you keep the true essentials around, you can delay that trip to the store…another day or another week. You’ll save money, and feel more comfortable in between trips. There were a few days this month where I wanted to buy everything in sight. But most of the month I felt pretty content, and I think it was because I always had a basic option or two in the pantry or freezer for meals.

and really, it’s not about deprivation. It’s about choice. Deciding not to blow all your discretionary income at the grocery store means you may actually have the freedom to spend some elsewhere.

I am going to have the chance to elaborate on that theme very soon because — BIG ANNOUNCEMENT– I am so excited! I just signed a contract to write another book. My first book, “A Sane Woman’s Guide to Mothering a Large Family” will be released next March and will be available for pre-order on Amazon after Christmas. You can see the cover on this page- — scroll 3/4 of the way down.

My NEW book, as yet untitled, will go into all the nitty gritty details of how I feed 12 people on $900 a month. There’ll be shopping pointers galore, as well as 200 affordable, kid-tested recipes. The manuscript is due in January, and the book is scheduled to release late next summer. I am going to be one busy girl between now and then. But I am really excited — and feel so very honored– to have been given this opportunity! I’ll keep you posted on progress.

Now, for all of you who participated in the 30 Days of Nothing: if you wrote a post summarizing your experience, would you please add the link to your exact post below? That will make it easy for us all to go around reading each other’s experiences. It has been an interesting month, hasn’t it? Thanks to all of you who kept me company. I enjoyed reading about your adventures.


  1. Oh, how cool! I have already added your book to my list at Amazon! I can’t wait to read it!

  2. THe book cover is awesome… it’s still got your old blog url on there from Is it too late to change it? 😀

  3. Love the new book cover! 🙂 I can’t wait to read it when it’s available.

    Looks like I’ll soon be owning 2 books by you! Congratulations!

  4. Tonight it is donuts and pizza for dinner. A night of gluttony after 30 Days of Nothing is just what my kids want.

  5. Congratulations on your new book! That is wonderful!

  6. Thanks for detailing your experience. We’re tightening down our budget (read actually following it) so I’m going to have to “make due” with what we have on hand more than usual. If you can do it with your family, I’m sure I can do it with mine. Thanks again! ~:-)

  7. I’m so excited! I’ve been needing something new to read…

  8. This is so exciting, Mary! YAY!


  9. Oh, my!! Big congratulatory hugs to you on the new contract! I cannot wait to read the first one and wait with anticipation for the second one. My mom, who regularly cooks for large crowds of kiddos, will love it!

  10. Heather, Yes, I’ve been promised that the URL will be correct on the actual book!


  11. Congrats making it through the month on $200 and BIG congrats on the new book deal!! So thrilled for you!

  12. Congratulations on the book(s)!!!! And you have inspired us to try the 30 days of nothing… the Husband and I talked it over and we are going to try for January. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

  13. Mary, thanks so much for sharing this experiment. I found your blog mid September thru Compassion, so I just today got to read the entire series of posts. Wonderful experiment, well written. I’ve been working on my own frugality for about a year, but you are inspiring!

  14. I have been inspired…I am going to do a 30 days of nothing challenge during October. I have enjoyed reading your blog this month and checking your updates.

  15. Yay! I’m so impressed with how you well you did. We’re on a lack-of-work enforced buy-nothing-except-the-essentials period of time, so I enjoyed reading your creative ways to make do. And I’m so interested in your books!

  16. Congratulations on making it through all 30 days! And I love the book cover. I can’t wait to read it!

  17. Oh what a wonderful blessing!

    I’ve been enthralled with your 30 days challenge and your desire to keep things simple. Simple can be a very good thing.

  18. Congratulations on making it through September and on your new book deal. I’m excited to see the final results! Thanks for your thoughts & inspiration this month. :o)

  19. Your new baby is so cute, all dressed in pink! Congratulations! How exciting to see all of that finally in print.

  20. Congrats on the book and the budget! Good Job! I also want to tell you that our family loves the Cheese Knife you are looking at. We use it almost everyday. One of my daughters will only eat cheese sliced by this knife. It’s well worth every penny.

  21. I am so excited to read both of your books.

    We didn’t participate in your challenge this time around, but I am planning on doing a grocery free month (minus milk, eggs, whole wheat flour, fruit, and selected veggies) in November. Wish me luck!

  22. Your book looks awesome, Mary. Congratulations!

  23. Wow, Two Books!
    Congrats! You deserve it. I could read you daily. Oh wait, I do.

  24. Thank you so much for doing this 30 days thing. It has been a great teaching topic this month at our house. I added my URL to Mr. Linky.

    Congrats on the new book deal!

  25. Thank you for making me more thoughtful of my spending!


  26. wow, mary! congratulations on the book! that is amazing news. so happy for you!

  27. Thanks for the daily motivation in September! I have posted my review of the month in your list of links. I am humbled by how little you were able to spend on your large family–it is just DH and me and I have learned so much about how much we REALLY need.

  28. Mary, that is so awesome! I can’t wait to read both books. I could definitely learn alot from you on economizing at the grocery store. Keep up the great work!

  29. Congratulations, Mary! You deserve a huge prize for making it!!!

  30. I’ve been lurking here for a while now and I’d like to say congratulations. You deserve to be very proud of yourself. You’ve worked very hard (kudos on all the canning!) and even had $6 left over! I hope you’ll buy yourself a very nice expensive coffee next time you’re at the coffee shop. You deserve the treat!

  31. Congrats on both books! That’s very exciting. I for one am sure I will pick up the one about frugally feeding your family! You are going to be one busy woman in the next few months!

  32. Congratulations Mary!!! What wonderful news!

  33. thanks for a great challenge! your discipline is inspiring. congrats on the new book deal!

  34. Just. could. not. be. happier. for. you.
    Sitting here smiling, Mary… thanking God for the good, good work He’s doing in you.
    Press on, sister!

  35. that’s just awesome! $200 in 30 days, with 10 kids and a husband. congratulations!

  36. Thanks again Mary! I’d like to do this again!

  37. Hi Mary,

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for awhile now, and discovered in talking with my cousin (3 bio kids, a set of siblings from Ethiopia, and two more older girls on the way) that he’s also read “just about everything she’s ever written.” I was hoping to pre-order your book for him and his wife as a late Christmas gift, but the original publisher’s link is long gone and I don’t think it’s up on amazon yet. I seem to remember the title on the publisher’s page being slightly different? (Just want to know how to search for it!)

    Thanks so much, and congrats on both books. 🙂


  1. […] (Now I am getting a hang of this linking thing!)  By the way, Mary over at Owlhaven has posted about her winning the 30 Days of Nothing challenge.  For September, she allocated $200 to be spent on groceries for her family of 10 […]